The Charlotte Hornets have several tough decisions to make during the upcoming offseason. First, they need to pick up the team options on LaMelo Ball and P.J. Washington; those decisions are not difficult. Second, they need to match any offer thrown Miles Bridges’ way. Finally, they need to fill out the remainder of their roster.
This final task may be more difficult than it sounds. With Montrezl Harrell, Isaiah Thomas, and Cody Martin all set to hit the free agent market, the Hornets will need cap space to reconstruct their 2021-22 rotation.
Unfortunately, there is still one contract on the Hornets’ books that may interfere with their 2022-23 plans. Nicolas Batum, who last played for the Swarm in 2020, is guaranteed $9 million of Charlotte’s salary cap in the 2022-23 season.
While Batum has been on the books for the past two seasons, this is going to be the year where the Batum contract finally comes back to bite the Hornets. They need money in the worst way possible. Bridges needs to get paid, Ball is entering the two-year team option portion of his rookie contract, and three key rotation players are hitting free agency.
Batum was a good (borderline great) player during his first three seasons with Charlotte, but his contract was extremely player-friendly. One cannot blame Batum for taking such a player-frinedly deal. Now, however, the Hornets need to find a way to navigate this offseason with a substantial chunk of the salary cap going to a player that has not played for them in the past two seasons.
Thankfully, the Swarm have some young talent in Kai Jones and James Bouknight, who were both hardly in the rotation in 2021-22. With their raw potential and team-friendly contracts, the Hornets could find a way to incorporate them into the rotation next season.
This would not only give the players experience, but it would also give the front office the chance to re-sign Bridges to the contract that he deserves. Because of the Batum contract, the Hornets may have to wash the 2022 offseason away, but it will set them up with the capabilities to make big moves in the 2023 offseason.