Reassessing the Hornets' free agent needs after the draft

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Hornets address some shooting needs on draft night, but what does their roster still need this summer in free agency?

With the draft behind us, the Hornets' front office can narrow their sights to focus on free agency. First, a few notes on Charlotte's salary cap situation:

  • The Brendan Haywood trade to Cleveland is not yet official and will not be until July 10, when the moratorium that decides the salary cap is finished. That's the same reason free agents can agree to sign, but cannot actually sign until that date.
  • The current cap situation is this: Charlotte's total team salary for the upcoming season is about $42.1 million.
  • The salary cap is expected to rise to $63.2 million.
  • Charlotte's cap holds are about $20 million. Cap holds will constrict their cap space until some of their free agents are renounced. Luke Ridnour, who will likely be renounced, has a cap hold of about $8.2 million. Chris Douglas-Roberts, Jannero Pargo, D.J. White and Anthony Tolliver have cap holds of about $1 million each. Josh McRoberts' cap hold is a little over $5 million.
  • When a free agent with a cap hold is renounced, they no longer count against the cap, but the team could still re-sign them if they have cap space or an exception other than Bird rights. Josh McRoberts has Bird rights, which would allow Charlotte to exceed the salary cap to re-sign him.
  • There are also cap holds for first round picks. Vonleh's is about $2.1 million and Hairston's is a hair under $1 million.

I figure the Hornets will try to maximize their cap space by renouncing all but McRoberts and mayyyyybe Chris Douglas-Roberts. That puts their team salary including cap holds at about $51.1 million headed into the first day of free agency.

The Haywood deal should add a bit of breathing room. When July 10 rolls around and the deal is officially completed, the Hornets won't have his guaranteed $2.2 million on the books and will instead have Alonzo Gee's unguaranteed $3 million. Should they waive Gee, that should put their team salary for 2014-15 right below $48.9 million. That would give them $14.3 million. That assumes that the Hornets want to keep McRoberts' bird rights in case they need to bump themselves over the cap, and that they want to keep Chris Douglas-Roberts as a reserve guard/forward. With three shooting guards, it might not be likely, but they could re-sign him to be a backup small forward.

Depth chart

Key: Bold = guaranteed, italics = traded, unbolded = unguaranteed

PG: Kemba Walker

SG: Gerald Henderson - Gary Neal - P.J. Hairston

SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - Jeff Taylor

PF: Cody Zeller - Noah Vonleh - Dwight Powell

C: Al Jefferson - Bismack Biyombo - Brendan Haywood

Needs & Desires

The first roster need we probably see is for a backup point guard. I'd expect a veteran player here to add some experience to the backcourt spot.

Free agent ideas: Shaun Livingston, Devin Harris, Grievis Vasquez, Kirk Hinrich. This kind of depends on how much you think defense and shooting matter here. Livingston and Harris are not great three-point shooters. Vasquez isn't a good defender. However, with the amount of shooting the Hornets' shooting guard depth has now, maybe you don't need the backup point guard to be a terrific shooter. Vasquez's defensive shortcomings are probably outweighed by his shooting and passing ability. Hinrich offers defense and can run an offense, but his jump shot isn't good anymore and his age raises questions.

The Hornets could also use some small forward depth. I'm not sure they want to look for a starter just yet.

Free agent ideas: Chandler Parsons, Luol Deng, Gordon Hayward, Trevor Ariza, Danny Granger, Marvin Williams, Caron Butler, Mike Miller, Richard Jefferson, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Anthony Tolliver, and more! This is a grab bag. The names toward the beginning are starter-quality players, while the ones in the back are backups. As Jeff Taylor tries to recover from his Achilles tendon injury, the team will definitely need a backup. That could be Tolliver or Chris-Douglas Roberts again, or they could look to upgrade. The money could allot for some more talented shooting here, but will they have to give way on the defensive end to get it?

Charlotte seems determined to re-sign Josh McRoberts as their starting power forward. They've got his bird rights to sign him even if other free agent signings put them near the cap, and they've communicated to him how much they value him even after the drafting of Vonleg, so his return seems likely. All that said, it wouldn't surprise me if he left for a better situation or a bigger contract.

One major question that could be resolved is whether the Hornets want to stand pat with Gerald Henderson as their starting shooting guard. As seen above, they have three shooting guards on the roster already, so that would pack them pretty full. But should a trade happen that could free up a roster spot there, maybe the Hornets look at Lance Stephenson or someone else.

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