The Charlotte Hornets have been eerily quiet throughout free agency so far, and it's not looking like that's going to change anytime soon. Charlotte has spent much of the last few days sitting on their hands as players that could help them are swept away by other teams. They watched as Marco Bellinelli signed a cheap and affordable contract with the Sacramento Kings. Then they decided to let C.J. Watson sign with the Orlando Magic even though there's a major need for a solid backup point guard with the likely departure of Mo Williams.
The Hornets don't have the room to sign players, and while they are over the cap, Charlotte can still sign players through use of the mid-level exception. The Hornets don't want to spend money on just anybody when over the cap, and are going to try to avoid the luxury tax as best as possible. One mid-level exception shouldn't break the bank for them.
In reality, the Hornets are being quiet with free agency because they're choosing to. Fans that have been eagerly awaiting announcements on Twitter are better off just punting the free agency process all together this season, because the Hornets are probably going to stay just as quiet as they have been so far. They might sign one or two players, but it won't be anywhere close to the active summer that Charlotte had the season before.
The reason for this has to do with the way Charlotte's contracts are set up, and the TV money that will cause a rapid growth in cap room right before the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Taking a look at the Hornets contracts over the next few years, 2016 is going to be a season where Charlotte is filled to the brim with cap room. Al Jefferson, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchirst, Brian Roberts, and Troy Daniels all come off the books at the exact same time. Now let's assume that Kidd-Gilchrist signs an extension for close to the maximum salary. There would still a huge amount of room and roster space that the Hornets will be left with.
This opening in cap also happens to be one year before the NBA and/or players can renegotiate the CBA on June 30, 2017, and takes place at the same time the NBA's new $24 billion TV deal comes into effect. At the moment, cap is expected to jump to somewhere between $80 million to $90 million in 2016, and into $100 million territory in 2017. For reference, the current cap is set at $63 million.
The effects of this cap jump are already being seen throughout this offseason. Role players like Jae Crowder and Al-Farouq Aminu are signing long term deals for $20 million to $30 million and cashing in on the expected cap rise early.
With all of this money being thrown around and players looking for giant pay days, there might be no better time for the Hornets to have cap room than 2016. The rise in cap naturally gives them more money to spend, and it also happens to be right before the even larger jump in 2017, but also an expected lockout. Charlotte can lock players into long-term deals with huge money right before a work stoppage, and the players they sign to new deals will naturally become steals when the cap hits $100 million.
Taking all of this into consideration, there is no chance the Hornets make substantial noise during this year's free agency. Not with cap space coming in during arguably the best possible season to have it, and definitely not in an offseason where the majority of players being signed for the mid-level exception want long term deals. Based on the way the Hornets have operated the last couple years, it's likely they're aiming to clear out a large chunk of their roster by 2016, and a long term deal would not be beneficial.
Any moves the Hornets do make this summer will likely come via trade for players already under a short term contract like Batum's. They want to keep that long term flexibility, and they can't do that in this current free agent market. For Charlotte, staying quiet might be the best possible plan for now.