The curious case of Miles Bridges' future with the Charlotte Hornets

Will the Hornets decide to keep Bridges around or let him walk in free agency? It's arguably the No. 1 offseason question.
Apr 7, 2024; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges (0) celebrates
Apr 7, 2024; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges (0) celebrates / Scott Kinser-USA TODAY Sports

Miles Bridges didn’t suit up for the Charlotte Hornets for the entire 2022-23 season, and for good reason. Following a disturbing felony domestic violence case against his former girlfriend, Bridges was placed on probation for three years, which would include weekly counseling and narcotics tests.

Bridges returned to the floor after a year-long absence for the Hornets, which was met with very mixed fan affair. After many NBA fans rightfully asked why he was still allowed to play again, Bridges kept his head down and produced a career-best season in Charlotte averaging 21.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists on a 55.6 true shooting percentage.

So, what exactly does the future hold now for Bridges and the Hornets? Set to become an unrestricted free agent, Bridges’ on-court strengths could set him up for a large payday as a versatile scoring wing.

The question is, will Charlotte be the ones willing to do that? It’s a very fair question to ask, one that has merit to both sides of the equation.

First off, is this new ownership group sending the right message by potentially offering Bridges a lucrative extension, even after what happened off the court? Personally, it’s a quick answer on my end to say no.

On the court, though, Bridges does slide right into Charlotte’s long-term small forward slot alongside LaMelo Ball and Brandon Miller. If the Hornets also target a power forward in the draft to pair alongside a hopefully healthy Mark Williams at center, Bridges’ role in Charlotte would appear to crystalize.

Even with significant interest at the trade deadline from the Phoenix Suns, Bridges refused to waive his no-trade clause that went into place by signing his one-year qualifying offer. Instead of trying to chase a championship in Phoenix, Bridges stayed in Charlotte — maybe more as a financial play than anything else.

At his end-of-season media availability, Bridges made it very clear he wants to stay with the Hornets.

Apr 10, 2024; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges (0) tries to shoot over
Apr 10, 2024; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges (0) tries to shoot over / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

“I would love to be here, that's my plan,” Bridges said. “I love the city of Charlotte. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. You know the NBA is a business, but I grew up here. I've been here since I was 20. I've been through a lot here. The Hornets stayed down with me. They didn't have to.”

Charlotte currently projects to have around $20 million in cap space this offseason, which doesn’t include a potentially large salary coming in from the 2024 NBA Draft. Outside of the draft, Bridges’ future is the No. 1 question facing the Hornets.

With the market rate continuing to climb for wings, especially ones that can score at the rate Bridges can, he’s likely to earn a contract averaging at least $20 million per year.

Again, is that really worth it for Charlotte when factoring in the off-court problems from Bridges? If Bridges wants to take a hometown discount in Charlotte, it might make more sense to pursue a long-term reunion at that point.

“You don't see too many people finishing their careers off with one team,” Bridges said. “Steph (Curry) has been that model player for this generation. A lot of players move teams and I don't want to do that. I kinda want to be like Steph, Kobe (Bryant), and Dirk (Nowitzki) in that type of way. Staying with a team and winning with a team.”

Whichever path the Hornets decide to go down with Bridges, it will certainly bring a lot of eyeballs onto the situation. That’s the new reality for the Hornets’ high-flying forward.