Rich Cho, general manager of the Charlotte Hornets, confirmed today that re-signing Nicolas Batum is the team's "No. 1 priority" heading into the offseason, he said at an end-of-season media availability.
Cho acquired Batum last summer in a trade that sent Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh to the Portland Trail Blazers. His contract expires on July 1, 2016, making him an unrestricted free agent — and one that many, many teams around the league will make a pitch to.
"Nic definitely wants to be here," Cho said. "He’s grown to like the city. He just had a child and his family likes it here. We want him here, and he knows that."
Batum posted averages of 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.8 assists and two made 3-pointers per game this season in 35 minutes per game. His ability to handle the ball and initiate the offense played a huge role in Kemba Walker's newfound efficiency on offense.
With the National Basketball Players Association rejecting the NBA's cap smoothing proposal, teams will have unprecedented cap space this summer. Max contracts will be upwards of $20 million per season, which is what Batum is expected to receive.
Batum mentioned to the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell that he loved playing for head coach Steve Clifford this year, whom Batum says allowed him to play the way he wants to play for the first time in his eight-year career. Batum went so far as to say there's "unfinished business" to be taken care of in Charlotte.
So it sounds like the feeling is mutual — Batum wants to remain a Hornet, and Charlotte wants the same thing.
Cho said he wants to retain most of the Hornets' free agents — at a reasonable price, of course — to establish a sense of continuity, and re-signing Batum is without a doubt the most important task for the Hornets this summer.