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Hornets Opt In With Zeller, But Not With Hairston

4:31pm: The team isn’t planning to pick up Hairston’s option barring an 11th-hour change of heart, a league source told Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). If so, the Hornets couldn’t re-sign Hairston next summer for more than the value of his option.

3:16pm: The Hornets have exercised their 2016/17 rookie scale team option on Cody Zeller, the team announced (on Twitter). The team has yet to announce its intentions regarding P.J. Hairston, who also has a pending rookie scale team option, seemingly a signal that Charlotte will decline that option. The Hornets face a deadline of 11pm Central tonight to opt in with Hairston. Zeller’s option is worth more than $5.318MM, while Hairston’s is in excess of $1.253MM.

“We are excited to keep Cody Zeller as a part of our core for another season,” Cho said as part of a press release from the team.  “We have been very pleased with Cody’s development on both ends of the floor and look forward to him continuing to expand his game as a member of our roster.”

Zeller, the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft, started about half the season for Charlotte last year, though his 7.6 points and 5.8 rebounds in 24.0 minutes per game from 2014/15 hardly justify his draft position. The 23-year-old’s scoring is off but his rebounding is up so far this season. He’s come off the bench in all three of Charlotte’s regular season games.

Hairston was the 26th overall pick in 2014, but unlike the more highly drafted Zeller, he’s started all three of Charlotte’s games this season, in part because of the absence of the injured Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The 22-year-old Hairston has put up only 4.3 points in 19.3 minutes per game so far this year, a slight uptick from the 15.3 minutes per game he averaged as a rookie last season.

The addition of Zeller’s option gives the Hornets only about $39MM in salary commitments for 2016/17, not counting the team’s three-year, $21MM extension with Jeremy Lamb. Agents and executives around the league reportedly believe the salary cap will go up to $95MM this summer. Charlotte’s cap figure for next year doesn’t include any money for Al Jefferson and Nicolas Batum, who come off the books at the end of this season, though it would still be somewhat surprising if Charlotte indeed elects not to pick up Hairston’s option. I considered both options as generally likely to be exercised when I took a leaguewide look at options in September.

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