Hornets Rumors

Kulboka Remaining In Spain Rather Than Joining Hornets

Lithuanian forward Arnoldas Kulboka is remaining with Spanish club Bilbao Basket for next season after receiving interest from Zalgiris Kaunas in his home country, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. The 22-year-old was selected by the Hornets with the No. 55 overall pick in the 2018 draft, but has yet to sign an NBA contract.

According to Donatas Urbonas (Twitter link), Kulboka’s agent Tadas Bulotas said that if not for the coronavirus pandemic, his client was planning to join the Hornets this year. As leagues take different approaches to COVID-19, the NBA offseason will no longer necessarily line up with the offseason for European leagues, complicating decisions for players looking to make the jump one way or the other.

Kulboka could potentially revisit the possibility of joining the Hornets in 2021.

Hornets To Reopen Practice Facility On Tuesday

The NBA is moving closer to having all its teams reopen its practice facilities for voluntary individual workouts, with the Hornets issuing a press release indicating they’ll make the Novant Health Training Center inside Spectrum Center available starting Tuesday.

According to Charlotte’s announcement, the club’s practice court is the only area that will be available to players and coaches, with the locker rooms, weigh rooms, and medical/training areas remaining off limits. The team also wants players only doing on-court activities (ie. shooting) that can’t be done at home.

The Hornets will also adhere to the rest of the NBA’s league-wide regulations on workouts, including allowing no more than four players in the facility at a time and conducting symptom and temperature checks on anyone entering the building.

With the Nets also announcing plans to reopen their practice facility on Tuesday, more than two-thirds of the NBA’s clubs will have done so as of tomorrow. We’re still waiting on the Bulls, Celtics, Knicks, Mavericks, Pistons, Sixers, Spurs, Warriors, and Wizards.

'Last Dance' Didn't Show Jordan's Lack Of Success As Team Owner

After the final two episodes of The Last Dance aired on Sunday, Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer writes that the second act of Michael Jordan‘s life in basketball has been “the polar opposite” of the first. While ESPN’s 10-part documentary series accurately portrayed Jordan as a wildly successful player on the court, he has been largely unsuccessful as a team owner since gaining control of the Hornets.

As Fowler acknowledges, a team owner doesn’t have nearly the same impact on night-to-night results as a star player would, but Jordan has been heavily involved in the Hornets’ personnel decisions. Since Jordan took over as the organization’s majority owner, Charlotte has just three winning seasons and hasn’t advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs.

Fowler wonders if Jordan has any more appreciation for former Bulls GM Jerry Krause than he did during his playing days, since the current Hornets owner could have used his own version of Krause since arriving in Charlotte.

Draft Notes: Jones, Stanley, Oturu, Reed, Nnaji, Combine

A pair of early entrants out of Duke have signed with agents who aren’t NCAA-certified, officially signaling that they’ll go pro and remain in the 2020 NBA draft. Tre Jones has signed with BDA Sports, according to the agency’s Instagram account, while Cassius Stanley has joined ISE Basketball (Twitter link).

Both Blue Devils prospects had been expected to keep their names in the draft, so their moves to secure representation don’t come as a surprise. Both players are ranked in the top 50 on ESPN’s big board for 2020, with Jones coming in at No. 33 and Stanley at No. 50.

Here’s more on the 2020 draft:

  • A couple more players on this year’s early entrants list have signed with agents and will remain in the draft. Minnesota big man Daniel Oturu has joined BDA Sports, per the agency (Instagram link). Meanwhile, DePaul’s Paul Reed has opted for Ron Shade of Octagon, tweets Evan Daniels of 247Sports.com. Oturu and Reed place 36th and 51st respectively on ESPN’s list of 2020’s top prospects.
  • Arizona forward Zeke Nnaji has had virtual meetings with the Pelicans, Wizards, and Hornets so far, and has one lined up with the Jazz later this week, says Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link). A possible first-round pick, Nnaji is ranked 34th overall on ESPN’s big board.
  • The NBA has sent teams ballots to vote on prospects they’d like to see participate in the 2020 draft combine, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The combine, originally scheduled to take place next week, has been postponed indefinitely, but the league still hopes to hold it in some revamped form, either in-person or virtually.

Pistons Notes: Wood, Rebuild, Practice Facility

The Pistons will hold Christian Wood‘s Early Bird rights this offseason and will have the opportunity to dip into cap room if those Early Bird rights (which would allow the team to offer about $10MM per year) aren’t enough to re-sign him. That should put Detroit in the driver’s seat to bring back the promising young big man, who enjoyed a breakout season in 2019/20.

However, as James L. Edwards III of The Athletic details, the Pistons figure to face some competition for Wood’s services on the open market.

Edwards points to New York and Boston as two teams that could pursue the free-agent-to-be. A March report identified the Knicks as a potential Wood suitor — they could have plenty of cap room and a positional need if they decide not to bring back Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson. As for the Celtics, they’ll only have the mid-level exception available, but expressed interest in Wood at the trade deadline.

Edwards goes on to speculate that the Hornets and Pelicans may also be among the teams that keep an eye on Wood in free agency. Charlotte, in particular, will have a good chunk of cap room available and will likely be in the market for a big man with Bismack Biyombo and Willy Hernangomez set to reach the open market.

Here’s more on the Pistons:

  • Given the volatile nature of both the draft lottery and the draft itself, launching a full-fledged rebuild doesn’t come with any guarantees, and the Pistons’ decision to do so wasn’t as obvious as some believed, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. However, shifting into rebuilding mode was still the right call for the franchise, Langlois contends.
  • The Pistons likely won’t be reopening their practice facility until at least May 28, since Michigan’s stay-at-home order runs through that date, as Rod Beard of The Detroit News details. “We’re adhering to that,” head of basketball operations Ed Stefanski told Beard. “When the governor of Michigan will let us open the facility and the league is going to allow the players to come back if they want to, to get workouts. We have plenty of protocols to set in place already, and we’ll be ready when they’re allowed.”
  • In case you missed it on Monday, Blake Griffin shared a positive update on his recovery from knee surgery, suggesting he has “basically been cleared for a while now.”

Some NBA Teams Can Reopen Facilities May 1

6:35pm: Group workouts and organized team activities will still be prohibited, Wojnarowski adds in a full story. In areas where longer stay-at-home orders are in place, the league will try to help teams find other arrangements so their players can train.

5:17pm: The NBA will let some teams reopen their practice facilities to players beginning Friday, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The permission will only apply in cities and states where governments have relaxed their stay-at-home orders, Woj adds.

The league ordered all 30 teams to shut down their facilities effective March 20 in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Several teams had announced voluntary closures before that mandate was issued.

Georgia was one of the first states to begin relaxing restrictions, with some businesses reopening yesterday. Several players were asking their teams if they should find a way to get to the state to work out, according to Wojnarowski, but teams want to make sure their athletes are in safe, clean and controlled environments (Twitter link).

Wojnarowski cautions that the NBA’s decision doesn’t mean plans are in place to restart the season, but the league wants players to be able to safely return to their team’s gyms (Twitter link). A source tells ESPN that commissioner Adam Silver and the owners believe they need more time to determine whether the season can be salvaged.

A few writers examine how the decision will affect the teams they cover:

  • The Hawks haven’t heard anything official from the league, according to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic (Twitter link), and there’s no plan in place to begin using the team facility again.
  • May 8 is the earliest date the Hornets could reopen, tweets Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has issued a stay-at-home order for the state through then, with plans to begin phasing it out.
  • Michigan is under a stay-at-home order until at least May 15, so the Pistons have nearly three weeks before they can reopen, adds Rod Beard of The Detroit News (Twitter link).

James Borrego Discusses Hornets’ Roster Needs

The Hornets have outperformed preseason expectations in 2019/20 and played some good basketball in February and March, winning seven of their last 13 games entering the NBA’s hiatus. However, the club still posted an uninspiring 23-42 overall record, ranking 28th in offensive rating and 25th in defensive rating. As such, head coach James Borrego knows that upgrades are necessary heading into next season.

Appearing today on a conference call with multiple reporters, including Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, Borrego named a few specific areas that the Hornets will look to address in the offseason, including improving their performance on the boards.

“We need defensive rebounding,” Borrego said. “Even in that (effective late-season) stretch, where we were 10th defensively in the league, we were still very low in our defensive-rebounding percentage. That has to get better. That’s an area we will address.”

Borrego noted that the Hornets will need more rim protection, particularly if big men Bismack Biyombo and Willy Hernangomez head elsewhere in free agency. The second-year head coach also wouldn’t mind adding another play-maker to complement guards Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier.

“I think Devonte’ made a major step in (creating) for others and create his own shot,” Borrego said, per Bonnell. “We’re looking for that at the wing: A playmaker with size that can see over the defense, that can finish at the rim.”

Finally, while the Hornets placed in the middle of the pack this season in three-point shooting, that’s an area that Borrego essentially views as an evergreen need.

“In my system, we can never have enough shooting,” he said. “That’s something we will continue to address because that makes the game easier for everybody.”

Charlotte will enter the offseason armed with a lottery pick and will also be one of a small handful of teams that actually has cap room, increasing the team’s flexibility in free agency. While he didn’t identify any specific targets, Borrego said today that he’s looking forward to discussing the draft and free agency with president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak and exploring how certain players will fit into the Hornets’ system, as Bonnell writes.

Boone, Hollinger Examine Hornets' Future

  • Roderick Boone and John Hollinger of The Athletic take an in-depth look at the Hornets‘ future, with Hollinger suggesting that the team missed a chance to kickstart its rebuild by not trading Kemba Walker before he reached free agency. While there are fewer impediments on their cap than there were a year ago, Hollinger thinks the Hornets may still be a lottery team for a few more seasons.

Atlantic Notes: Randle, Durant, Prince, Walker

New Knicks president Leon Rose is open to dealing Julius Randle despite Randle being a former client when Rose was a player agent, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Rose would also be willing to shed Randle’s contract after next season, even though Randle has a partial guarantee of $4MM on his $19.8MM salary for the 2021/22 season. Prior to Rose taking over, the Knicks had discussions with Charlotte before February’s trade deadline involving Randle, who reportedly upset some teammates this season with his ball-dominant style.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Members of the Knicks organization last summer expressed confidence that Kevin Durant would have signed with them if he hadn’t suffered a ruptured right Achilles tendon in the NBA Finals, Ian Begley of SNY.TV reports. If that were true, Durant would have convinced Kyrie Irving to sign with New York instead of the Nets or recruited a different star to join him, Begley continues. The Knicks were not prepared last summer to offer Durant a max deal due to concerns from owner James Dolan regarding the injury. However, Durant has said publicly that he didn’t give the Knicks much consideration anyway, Begley notes.
  • Forward Taurean Prince took a step back this season and that could lead to a dilemma for the Nets, Zach Lowe of ESPN opines. Brooklyn gave Prince a two-year, $25.25MM rookie scale extension prior to the season that kicks in next season. He could have been a trade chip this summer in a package to bring in another star but it’s unclear what kind of value he has now, Lowe adds.
  • Kemba Walker would have remained with Charlotte for less than a super-max deal last summer but he knew that wouldn’t happen after meeting with Hornets owner Michael Jordan, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe writes. Walker may have stayed put if the Hornets had offered him five years and approximately $180MM. The Celtics emerged as the most likely destination because they were already a playoff team and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge had been enamored with Walker ever since the point guard’s days at the University of Connecticut, Himmelsbach adds.

2020/21 Salary Cap Preview: Charlotte Hornets

Hoops Rumors is looking ahead at the 2020/21 salary cap situations for all 30 NBA teams. Due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the NBA, it’s impossible to know yet where the cap for 2020/21 will land. Given the league’s lost revenue, we’re assuming for now that it will stay the same as the ’19/20 cap, but it’s entirely possible it will end up higher or lower than that.

Projected by oddsmakers before the 2019/20 season to be the worst team in the Eastern Conference, the Hornets outperformed those low expectations, holding the 10th spot in the East when the NBA suspended play, albeit with an uninspiring 23-42 record.

While this roster isn’t stacked with talent and Charlotte doesn’t have great odds to land a top-four pick in the 2020 draft, the organization is at least getting some money off its books this summer. In addition to getting out from under Bismack Biyombo‘s massive contract, the team also moved on from longtime Hornets Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams earlier this year. With Nicolas Batum‘s $27MM option for ’20/21 still on the books, the slate isn’t entirely clean, but the Hornets should finally have a little cap flexibility going forward.

Here’s where things stand for the Hornets financially in 2020/21, as we continue our Salary Cap Preview series:

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

Although they have less than $50MM in guaranteed money currently committed for 2020/21, the Hornets can expect that number to rise significantly when Batum officially opts in. Throw in Graham’s modest team option and a cap hold for their lottery pick and the Hornets are up near $83MM in guarantees.

Still, that’s not a massive number. Even after accounting for empty roster charges and a potential dip in the ’20/21 cap, Charlotte still projects to have $22-24MM in space to work with. And that number would increase if the cap does.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Room exception: $4,767,000 6

Footnotes

  1. Graham’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 7.
  2. Martin’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 15.
  3. McDaniels’ salary becomes partially guaranteed ($100K) after August 1.
  4. The cap hold for this pick will depend on where it ultimately falls in the lottery. Currently, the Hornets rank eighth in the lottery standings.
  5. The cap holds for Mack, Roberts, and Paige remain on the Hornets’ books because they haven’t been renounced after going unsigned in 2019/20. They can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.
  6. This is a projected value.

Note: Minimum-salary and rookie-scale cap holds are based on the salary cap and could increase or decrease depending on where the cap lands.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders and Early Bird Rights was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.