- The Hornets officially announced Marlon Garnett, Nick Friedman and Norman Richardson as assistant coaches under head coach James Borrego in a press release. The team also promoted Jackson Simmons to head video coordinator.
- Borrego expects the Hornets to be fully vaccinated by the beginning of the season, Rod Boone of the Charlotte Observer tweets.
The 2021/22 NBA regular season will get underway in less than a month, so it’s time to start getting serious about predictions for the upcoming campaign and to resume an annual Hoops Rumors tradition.
With the help of the lines from a handful of sports betting sites, including Bovada and BetOnline, we’re running through the predicted win totals for each of the NBA’s 30 teams, by division. In a series of team-by-team polls, you’ll get the chance to weigh in on whether you think those forecasts are too optimistic or too pessimistic.
In 2020/21, our voters went 17-13 on their over/under picks. Can you top that in ’21/22?
As a reminder, the NBA played a 72-game schedule in 2020/21, so a team that won 41 games last year finished with a 41-31 record. This year, a club that wins 41 games would be a .500 team (41-41). For added clarity, we’ve noted the record that each team would have to achieve to finish “over” its projected win total.
We’ll turn today to the Southeast division…
- 2020/21 record: 40-32
- Over/under for 2021/22: 48.5 wins (49-33)
- Major offseason moves:
- 2020/21 record: 41-31
- Over/under for 2021/22: 47.5 wins (48-34)
- Major offseason moves:
- 2020/21 record: 33-39
- Over/under for 2021/22: 38.5 wins (39-43)
- Major offseason moves:
- 2020/21 record: 34-38
- Over/under for 2021/22: 34.5 wins (35-47)
- Major offseason moves:
- 2020/21 record: 21-51
- Over/under for 2021/22: 22.5 wins (23-59)
- Major offseason moves:
Previous voting results:
- Brooklyn Nets (55.5 wins): Over (63.2%)
- Philadelphia 76ers (51.5 wins): Under (70.0%)
- Boston Celtics (46.5 wins): Over (58.1%)
- New York Knicks (42.5 wins): Over (65.1%)
- Toronto Raptors (36.5 wins): Under (50.6%)
- Milwaukee Bucks (54.5 wins): Over (63.7%)
- Indiana Pacers (42.5 wins): Under (58.2%)
- Chicago Bulls (42.5 wins): Over (68.3%)
- Cleveland Cavaliers (26.5 wins): Under (50.5%)
- Detroit Pistons (25.5 wins): Under (52.6%)
- Utah Jazz (52.5 wins): Over (61.7%)
- Denver Nuggets (48.5 wins): Over (69.3%)
- Portland Trail Blazers (44.5 wins): Over (53.0%)
- Minnesota Timberwolves (34.5 wins): Under (57.1%)
- Oklahoma City Thunder (23.5 wins): Under (65.0%)
- Los Angeles Lakers (52.5 wins): Over (58.2%)
- Phoenix Suns (51.5 wins): Over (58.6%)
- Golden State Warriors (48.5 wins): Over (50.3%)
- Los Angeles Clippers (43.5 wins): Over (51.2%)
- Sacramento Kings (36.5 wins): Under (66.0%)
Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it seems likely to be a non-guaranteed pact that includes Exhibit 10 language. That would allow the Hornets to give Sneed a bonus worth up to $50K if he’s waived before the regular season begins and then spends at least 60 days with their G League team.
Sneed, who went undrafted out of Kansas State in 2020, signed a training camp contract with Charlotte last offseason and then was waived at the end of the preseason. He played in 13 games (23.3 MPG) for the Greensboro Swarm, the Hornets’ G League affiliate, averaging 8.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, and 1.8 SPG with a .360/.279/.875 shooting line.
With the signing, Charlotte now has a full 20-man offseason roster, including 16 players with guaranteed salaries, two on Exhibit 10 deals (Sneed and D.J. Carton) and a pair on two-way contracts (Scottie Lewis and Arnoldas Kulboka).
In order to set their roster for the regular season, the Hornets will have to trade or release at least one player with a guaranteed salary, but that move doesn’t need to be completed until mid-October. However, the club also reportedly agreed to sign Cameron McGriff to an Exhibit 10 deal, so more transactions could be coming during the preseason.
Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2021 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s offseason moves, examine what still needs to be done before opening night, and look ahead to what the 2021/22 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Charlotte Hornets.
Free agent signings:
Note: Exhibit 10 deals aren’t included here.
- Kelly Oubre: Two years, $24.6MM. Second year partially guaranteed ($5MM). Signed using cap room.
- Ish Smith: Two years, $9.225MM. Second year non-guaranteed. Signed using room exception.
- Acquired the draft rights to Kai Jones (No. 19 pick) from the Knicks in exchange for the Hornets’ 2022 first-round pick (top-18 protected).
- Acquired Mason Plumlee and the draft rights to JT Thor (No. 37 pick) from the Pistons in exchange for the draft rights to Balsa Koprivica (No. 57 pick).
- Acquired Wesley Iwundu (from Pelicans), the Pelicans’ 2022 first-round pick (top-14 protected), the draft rights to Tyler Harvey (from Grizzlies), and cash ($2MM; from Pelicans) in a three-team trade in exchange for Devonte’ Graham (sign-and-trade; to Pelicans).
- 1-11: James Bouknight
- Signed to rookie scale contract (four years, $19,151,216).
- 1-19: Kai Jones
- Signed to rookie scale contract (four years, $13,421,215).
- 2-37: JT Thor
- Signed to four-year, $6.64MM contract. Third year non-guaranteed. Fourth-year team option. Signed using cap room.
- 2-56: Scottie Lewis
- Signed to two-way contract.
- Arnoldas Kulboka (No. 55 pick; 2018 draft)
- Signed to two-way contract.
- Terry Rozier: Four years, $96,258,694. Includes partial guarantee in fourth year. Starts in 2022/23.
- Bismack Biyombo
- Nate Darling
- Devonte’ Graham
- Caleb Martin
- Malik Monk
- Grant Riller
- Brad Wanamaker
- Cody Zeller
Other offseason news:
- Exercised head coach James Borrego‘s option for the 2021/22 season.
- Hired Norm Richardson as assistant coach.
Salary cap situation:
- Went under the cap, used their cap room, then used the room exception.
- Carrying approximately $116.9MM in salary.
- $410,000 of room exception still available ($4.5MM used on Ish Smith).
Lingering preseason issues:
- The Hornets have 16 players on guaranteed contracts and will have to trade or release one to get down to 15 for the regular season.
- Miles Bridges is eligible for a rookie scale contract extension until October 18.
- Jalen McDaniels is eligible for a veteran contract extension until October 18.
- Cody Martin will be eligible for a veteran contract extension all season.
The Hornets’ offseason:
A year ago, the Hornets made perhaps the most stunning splash of the NBA offseason when they signed free agent forward Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $120MM contract. Hayward had an up-and-down first season in Charlotte — he played well, but injuries (which also marred his time in Boston) limited him to 44 games and sidelined him for the Hornets’ play-in game in May.
While the jury’s still out on the Hayward signing, the Hornets struck gold on their other major move of the 2020 offseason, nabbing LaMelo Ball with the No. 3 pick in the draft. Like Hayward, Ball missed some time due to an injury, but he displayed star potential when he was healthy, showing off incredible play-making skills and a more reliable jump shot than anticipated.
The Hornets ultimately lost that first play-in game and didn’t earn a postseason spot in the East, but the play of Hayward and Ball showed that the team has a couple key building blocks for a playoff squad — as long as they can stay healthy.
During the 2021 offseason, the Hornets once again had the ability to open up some cap room, but opted against taking another huge swing on the free agent market. Instead, having entered the summer looking to add depth at center and on the wing, Charlotte took a more conservative approach.
Rather than pursuing a top free agent big man such as Richaun Holmes or Nerlens Noel, the Hornets accommodated a salary dump, taking on Mason Plumlee from the Pistons and moving up 20 spots in the second round of the draft in the process. It was a nice piece of business for president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak — Plumlee’s $9.25MM cap hit is hardly onerous, given his steady on-court play. And his contract won’t be a long-term burden even if his production falls off this season, since it’s only partially guaranteed for 2022/23.
In the draft, the Hornets took advantage of James Bouknight‘s slide out of the top 10, scooping him up with the No. 11 pick. Then, when Kai Jones slipped out of the lottery, the Hornets sent a heavily-protected future first-round pick to New York in order to get back into the first round to select Jones at No. 19.
Using the No. 11 pick on Jones would’ve been a bit of a reach, and drafting him to be the primary center would’ve been overly optimistic. But getting him later in the first round for a very reasonable price (the pick the Hornets traded will be top-18 protected in 2022 and top-16 protected in 2023 before becoming lottery-protected in 2024) was a nice get, and having him come off the bench behind a veteran like Plumlee makes more sense for his development as a rookie.
After acquiring Plumlee and signing second-rounder JT Thor, the Hornets still had about $14MM in cap room available and used it to complete a pair of moves — one that added value in the short term and one that was more focused on the long term.
Most of the Hornets’ remaining space went toward signing Kelly Oubre, a solid wing whose market didn’t develop the way he hoped. While Oubre may have envisioned signing a deal in the range of the ones Evan Fournier and Tim Hardaway got (four years, $73-75MM), he had to settle for a two-year, $24.6MM commitment with only one fully guaranteed season.
Oubre has been inconsistent from beyond the arc and isn’t an elite defender, so it wasn’t shocking that no teams were willing to invest big long-term money in him. Still, I expected him to get at least a couple guaranteed years in the $15MM range, like he did on his last contract. It’s a favorable price for the Hornets, especially if Oubre can hit three-pointers at the rate he did in 2019/20 (35.2%). He’ll join a pretty strong group of wings that includes youngsters Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington, and should provide some insurance if Hayward misses time again.
The Hornets used their last bit of cap room to accommodate a minor salary dump, taking on Wesley Iwundu‘s contract from the Pelicans. The acquisition was part of a sign-and-trade deal sending Devonte’ Graham to New Orleans — Charlotte netted a lottery-protected first-round pick in the trade and also received enough cash from New Orleans to cover Iwundu’s modest salary.
The Hornets could’ve comfortably re-signed Graham themselves, but Ball’s emergence, Terry Rozier‘s strong play, and the Bouknight selection lessened the need to do so. Faced with the possibility of not having enough backcourt minutes to go around for all the players who deserved them, the Hornets opted to move on from Graham, signing lower-cost veteran Ish Smith to provide depth as Ball’s backup at the point. Charlotte did well to land Graham with the No. 34 pick in the 2018 draft — perhaps the team can strike gold again with the first-rounder the Pelicans surrendered to sign him.
The last significant move of the offseason for Charlotte was a four-year, $96MM+ extension for Rozier, who had the best year of his career in 2020/21. It’s possible it will end up being an overpay, but Rozier has been terrific as a scorer (19.3 PPG), shooter (.396 3PT%), and play-maker (4.2 APG) since joining the Hornets.
Given how weak the 2022 free agent market looks, Charlotte would’ve faced stiff competition for the veteran guard next offseason if he kept up his strong play for another year. With no other big long-term contracts on the books besides Hayward’s, the Hornets were in a good position to commit to Rozier now without compromising their future flexibility too much.
The Hornets’ upcoming season:
After bottoming out in 2019/20, the Hornets appeared to be moving back in the right direction in 2020/21. That bodes well for the club’s chances of being back in the play-in mix in ’21/22 and perhaps even earning its first playoff berth since 2016.
Of course, it’s worth noting that a team’s growth isn’t always linear. Ball may struggle to take another step forward following his impressive debut. Hayward may battle more injuries. Rozier’s production may dip a little. Bouknight and Jones may not be ready to contribute right away.
Unlike a few years ago though, when the Hornets’ cap was loaded with big-money deals for the likes of Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Marvin Williams, missing out on the playoffs wouldn’t be a disaster for this Charlotte team. There are enough solid building blocks in place to feel confident about the organization’s direction, even if the on-court results are still up and down for another year. And if the Hornets do break through and return to the playoffs, all the better.
Salary information from Basketball Insiders was used in the creation of this post.
- The Hornets have added Norm Richardson to James Borrego‘s coaching staff, league sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). A former NBA player, Richardson has spent most of the last several years as a G League assistant in Erie and Fort Wayne.
- The Hornets also named a new G League head coach, announcing in press release that Jordan Surenkamp – formerly the head video coordinator in Charlotte – will coach the Greensboro Swarm.
McGriff played four seasons with Oklahoma State and went undrafted in 2020. He averaged 12.3 PPG and 6.6 RPG in his senior year.
McGriff played for Belgium’s Okapi Aalstar last season, averaging 13.5 PPG and 5.0 RPG. He was on the Hornets’ summer league roster.
Exhibit 10 contracts give NBA teams a chance to bring players to training camp and get a look at them without guaranteeing them a regular season roster spot or any real salary. If he ends up playing for the Greensboro Swarm, Charlotte’s G League affiliate, McGriff could earn a $50K bonus due to the Exhibit 10 language in his deal.
It’s no secret that the Sixers and maximum-salaried All-Star lead ball-handler Ben Simmons appear destined for a divorce via trade. Evan Sidery of Basketball News posits that the pending split could work out well on both sides of the deal.
Simmons, 25, is a three-time All-Star and an All-Defensive Team staple. His offensive limitations have often confounded his teammates, coaches, and fans in Philadelphia. Sidery notes that, though Simmons may have been initially projected as a Magic Johnson-esque oversized point guard, he now appears destined to become more of a Draymond Green type, a pass-first point forward who can defend anybody.
Sidery suggests that the Sixers would benefit from moving on from Simmons, too, should they acquire a new guard with more scoring punch in a trade. Such a player could help create spacing against All-NBA Philadelphia center Joel Embiid.
There’s more out of the Eastern Conference:
- Despite trading away an intriguing backcourt talent in Devonte’ Graham, the Hornets ultimately improved their depth this offseason around incumbent leaders Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier and LaMelo Ball, opines Zach Harper of The Athletic. The club’s new regular rotation additions James Bouknight, Kai Jones, Kelly Oubre, Mason Plumlee, and Ish Smith all appear poised to know their roles for a team hoping to qualify for the Eastern Conference playoffs in 2022.
- Spencer Davies of Basketball News has mixed feelings about the Pistons being so quick to move on from Sekou Doumbouya, the No. 15 pick in the 2019 draft, who was sent to Brooklyn in the DeAndre Jordan trade. Davies opines that the 6’8″ forward has an intriguing ceiling, and could have carved out a rotation slot on a still-rebuilding Detroit club.
- On the Nets‘ side of the equation, the club’s young new versatile forward Sekou Doumbouya could offer promise as a future rotation player, writes Chris Milholen of Nets Daily. Across the final nine games of his 2020/21 NBA season with the Pistons, Doumbouya averaged 10.7 PPG and 4.8 RPG, in 27.0 MPG.
Terry Rozier sees big things ahead for the Hornets after signing his $96MM contract extension, writes Jonathan M. Alexander of The Charlotte Observer.
“Last year we were right there, had our foot in the door, but things got taken away from us due to injury,” Rozier said on Wednesday. “But I think we’re heading in the right direction and I’m just glad to be a part of this.”
Rozier, a career point guard, was moved to shooting guard after coming to Charlotte and responded with the best season of his career. He’s excited for the team’s future, especially going into year two playing alongside LaMelo Ball.
“I think it’s going to be real scary,” Rozier said. “I think it’s great that we’re friends off the court. That’s a plus for us. Real cool friends, like my brother. He just had to get his feet wet last year, and I think he’s ready to show people what that name is about.”
Rozier and team president Mitch Kupchak are also in agreement that the goal for this season is a playoff berth, and even potentially a series win.
We have more news from the Hornets:
- Rozier has reasons to be pushing for the team to start experiencing playoff success beyond just on-court ambitions. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter), if the Hornets reach the second round of the playoffs in any of the 2022/23, 2023/24 or 2024/25 seasons, and Rozier plays at least 70 games that year, the fourth year of his extension becomes fully guaranteed.
- According to Michael A. Scotto of HoopsHype, center Nerlens Noel had interest in the Hornets before ultimately re-signing with the Knicks, Scotto said on Wednesday’s episode of the HoopsHype podcast. Scotto says that playing alongside Ball as a pick and roll partner was a primary point of interest for the athletic big man.
- In the same episode, Scotto adds that given the potentially dry 2022 free agent market, it could behoove Miles Bridges to try to lock down an extension with the Hornets this offseason. He’ll have until October 18 to get something done with Charlotte.
- The Pelicans sent $2MM to the Hornets as part of the Devonte’ Graham sign-and-trade, reports Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. The Hornets also received a lottery-protected 2022 pick from the Pelicans in the deal.
AUGUST 24: The Hornets have officially signed Rozier to his extension, the team announced today in a press release.
“In his two seasons with the Hornets, Terry Rozier has been an instrumental part of our team,” president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “Terry is a highly competitive, tough and talented player that has continually improved all aspects of his game. He has provided leadership and an infectious work ethic that has been a tremendous benefit to our younger players. Terry is an important member of our young, talented team and we are thrilled to have him as a member of the Hornets organization for years to come.”
The deal, which locks up Rozier through the 2025/26 season, is guaranteed and is for the maximum amount the Hornets could have offered before the 27-year-old reached free agency, according to Charania. That means it’ll start at about $21.49MM in 2022/23 (120% of Rozier’s $17.91MM salary for ’20/21) and will be worth approximately $96.26MM over four years.
Acquired by the Hornets in the sign-and-trade deal that sent Kemba Walker to Boston in 2019, Rozier had enjoyed the two best seasons of his NBA career in Charlotte. In 2020/21, he established new career highs in PPG (20.4), APG (4.2), and FG% (.450), among other categories.
Rozier has also become a reliable threat from beyond the arc, knocking down 39.6% of his 7.5 three-point attempts per game in 132 total contests for the Hornets. He shot three-pointers at a lesser rate (35.4%) on a lesser volume (3.5 attempts per game) during his four years with the Celtics.
Rozier’s play and the emergence of Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball made the Hornets willing to part with Devonte’ Graham in free agency this summer. Rozier and Ball will lead a talented backcourt that also includes free agent addition Ish Smith and 2021 lottery pick James Bouknight.
A total of seven veteran players have now agreed to contract extensions since the new league year began, with Rozier joining Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Julius Randle, and Marcus Smart. Three players – Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – have also finalized rookie scale extensions, as our tracker shows.