Whether or not Michael Jordan remains in his position as the Hornets‘ controlling owner through the current offseason, president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak doesn’t expect the team to get too aggressive on the free agent market this July, according to Steve Reed of The Associated Press. Kupchak anticipates the front office’s focus to be on re-signing Charlotte’s own free agents and making roster upgrades in the draft and on the trade market.
“Although we have a lot of financial flexibility, we don’t typically go big-game hunting with our free agent money,” Kupchak told reporters on Tuesday.
Kupchak, who has said repeatedly since arriving in Charlotte that the team won’t be active in free agency on an annual basis, said the day could come when that approach changes, but insists it won’t happen in 2023.
“Maybe one day we will get to the point where a marquee free agent would look at our team and we’re winning a bunch of games and he’ll say, ’Hey, that’s a place I really want to go,” he said. “But right now, I don’t think that’s realistic. We’ve got to do it through the draft primarily.”
Here’s more on the Hornets:
- Kupchak believes that the Hornets, who went 27-55 this season, would have won 40 games “if we had our team intact this year,” as Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer relays. He expects to enter next season with greater aspirations. “In the exit meetings, I made it clear that next year playoffs are our goal,” Kupchak said. “And I feel great. I do want to see this through. I don’t know if I’ll be sitting here 10 years from now. But I’d like to be sitting here a year from now, two years from now, three years from now and watching this team that our staff has put together perform. I think it’s realistic that next year will be a playoff (season).”
- One reason the Hornets didn’t have their team “intact” in 2022/23 was because Miles Bridges remained unsigned all season long due to the fallout from a domestic violence incident. While Charlotte may still end up re-signing Bridges, it sounds like it would happen sometime during the ’23/24 league year if it happens at all. “The NBA is conducting an investigation and that’s the status of the situation right now,” Kupchak said, according to Boone. “… Even when they complete their investigation there are going to be steps that need to be taken, whether that’s us or other teams. … Maybe there was some thought that somebody or us would sign him during the season. But that’s not possible. So, this whole issue will roll over to July 1st.”
- Kupchak also spoke in his end-of-season media session on Tuesday about a desire for LaMelo Ball to continue growing into a leadership role for the Hornets and expressed support for Steve Clifford, praising the job the head coach did in his first year back with the team.
- Dennis Smith Jr., who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, has hired new representation. Octagon Sports published a tweet this week welcoming Smith to the agency.
- Smith, P.J. Washington, and Kelly Oubre, all of whom are headed for free agency, each expressed interest this week in re-signing with the Hornets, Boone writes for The Observer. “I definitely want to be here in Charlotte,” said Washington, who will be a restricted free agent. “This is like home to me now, so this is where I want to be. I haven’t thought about being anywhere else.”
- In yet another story for The Charlotte Observer, Boone looks for silver linings in a difficult year for the Hornets, identifying five reasons why the team’s future could be bright.