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How much is Nicolas Batum worth to the Charlotte Hornets this offseason?

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The biggest decision the Hornets have to make this summer is whether or not to bring Batum back — and for what price.

John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

What a great time to be a Charlotte Hornets fan. Right now, Charlotte sits in the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, Kemba Walker is on a middle-finger-to-the-people-who-picked-the-all-stars tour, and Jorge Gutierrez is a Hornet for the rest of the year (hip hip Jorge!).

As a result, it's easy to forget that this offseason, free agency is going to be crazy. Next year, we will have seven (eight, assuming Jeremy Lin doesn't pick up his player option) players going into free agency: Al JeffersonNicolas BatumMarvin WilliamsCourtney Lee, Tyler Hansbrough, Troy Daniels, hip hip Jorge Gutierrez, and (most likely) Lin.

The Hornets will have almost $40 million dollars in available cap space to play with this summer. Names like Kevin Durant, Andre Drummond, DeMar DeRozan, Dwight Howard, and Bradley Beal will be available in free agency, and it is intoxicating to daydream about a bunch of what-if rosters. Should the Hornets start campaigning for Durant like the Washington Wizards? No. (But just in case Durant reads this — #KD2CLT.) Charlotte isn't a big landing spot for top free agents so the chances of acquiring anyone I named above are slim to none.

For that reason, the amount of cap space the Hornets have is as terrifying as it is exciting. The Hornets are jelling nicely down the stretch. Do we really want to turn over the roster next year? For the right price, it's probably a good idea to bring back Batum, Marvin, Lee, and Pac-12 legend Jorge (okay, I'll stop now). But that brings us to a tough question. What is the "right" price? With the salary cap jump, I am not sure anyone really has the answer to that; however, let's explore this question with one player in particular, Nicolas Batum.

Batum has earned every penny the Hornets have paid him this year. This is the final year of the extension he signed with the Portland Trail Blazers back in 2012, one that was worth $46 million over four years. It is safe to assume he is going to get much more than that this off-season.

Many factors go into how much a player gets paid. The salary cap, position competition in the free agency class, comparable player contracts, state income tax laws, team success, and pretty much everything else you can think of can change the amount a player accepts in free agency. Let's tackle a few of those.

Comparable Contracts

The biggest factor, in my opinion, is how much other players similar to Batum are getting paid. This gets tricky with the new salary cap, but let's play with some numbers and see what happens.

The last offseason was nuts. We can take a look at several players' contracts to try to put in perspective what Batum would have gotten paid last year if he was coming off this season's play. Here is a small sample.

  • Kawhi Leonard - five years, $95 million
  • Jimmy Butler - five years, $95 million
  • Brandon Knight - five years, $70 million
  • Khris Middleton - five years, $70 million
  • Tobias Harris - four years, $64 million
  • Danny Green - four years, $45 million

I think we would all be willing to admit that we would rather have Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler over Nicolas Batum. Leonard is an NBA Finals MVP and Jimmy Butler is a two-time All-Star, a max deal would be a stretch. I think Khris Middleton is actually one of the better comparisons in the league right now. Below is a chart showing Batum's stats this season and Middleton's stats last season (before he got paid).

Points

Rebound

Assists

Steals

Blocks

Turnovers

Batum (2016)

14.6

6.4

5.5

1

0.7

3.2

Middleton (2015)

16

5.3

2.8

1.8

0.2

1.7

If the salary cap was the same next year, Batum would likely sign a similar contract of $14 million per year for five years. However, the salary cap is projected to jump from $70 million this year to about $90 million next year (using round numbers, because math). That is a 28.6 percent increase. If we apply that same increase to Middleton's contract from last year, it comes out to a five-year, $90 million dollar deal or $18 million dollars a year. Is Batum worth five years and $90 million dollars?

Position Competition

Another huge factor is how many other options besides you are available. If you don't think that is a big factor, then look at what Brock Osweiler just got paid. So, who are the big names that play (kind of) the same positions as Batum? Kevin Durant, DeMar DeRozan, Dwayne Wade, Bradley Beal, Harrison Barnes, Kent Bazemore, and Jordan Clarkson are the biggest names at the swing positions in the upcoming free agency class.

Let's tackle the easy ones first. Durant is not on the same planet as the rest of these guys. His max deal is a non-factor. Wade is not going anywhere, and neither is DeMar DeRozan. That leaves five guys at comparable skill levels: Batum, Beal, Barnes, Bazemore, and Clarkson. That's not many options to fill a really shallow position in the NBA. Of those players, Batum and Barnes will be the hottest commodities with Beal right behind them. Simple economics would say that low supply and high demand will increase the price. Is MJ ready to open his checkbook?

Other Factors

The Hornets are doing everything right to make Batum feel at home in the Queen City. The "Speaking French With Nic" segment is becoming more popular on Hive TV. The Hornets made a special t-shirt and donated the proceeds to relief funds after the Paris shootings in November. Head coach Steve Clifford gave Batum the keys to the offense. And maybe the biggest factor of all: the team is actually winning. The Hornets are right in the middle of the playoff race with the opportunity to keep climbing. People want to sign with winners. (Please be reading this, Durant. #KD2CLT)

All things considered, I think a five-year, $100 million deal is the right move for Batum. What do you think?