The Charlotte Hornets last made the playoffs in 2016 after a great run through their post-all star break schedule. They’d end up losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Miami Heat (which still hurts). However, the team looked promising for the future according to the front office. A lot of players got paid that summer and the Hornets dished out some serious money to many of their players.
It turns out everything about the 2015-16 season was a big mistake that the Hornets have literally paid for. Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lin, Courtney Lee, Marvin Williams, and Al Jefferson were free agents at the time after great contract years for all of them. Lin, Lee and Jefferson all decided to walk and get paid elsewhere (and they certainly got a lot of money that summer). The Hornets decided to re-sign Williams to a four year $54.5 million extension that summer. However, this story is more about the veteran shooting guard acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers via trade in the summer of 2015.
Nicolas Batum was once again the Charlotte Hornets highest paid player and he’s been that since he received his 5-year, $120 million contract extension in 2016. The Frenchman has under performed that contract for the the past three seasons now after a tumultuous 2018-19 season. His contract is currently the albatross of an already depressing cap situation for the Hornets. So, what is it that’s caused Batum to not live up to the (lofty, to be fair) expectations of being the highest paid player on an NBA franchise?
Batum played the second most minutes on the team and yet he was the teams sixth leading scorer. He wasn’t even the highest scoring French player on the Hornets this past season because Tony Parker (yes, he played for the Hornets and averaged 9.5 points per game) had a higher scoring average. Parker also averaged more assists per game in significantly less games and minutes played. From 2013-2018, Batum averaged 5.3 assists per game and it went down to 3.3 this past season despite no real change in minutes.
He also had 42 games where he didn’t reach double figure scoring in 2018-19. Batum had the same amount of games scoring 20 or more points as he had zero point games (three of each). At times, he was too passive than he already was this season shooting the ball although this was his most efficient season percentage wise with the Hornets. The veteran shooting guard shot 45 percent from the field and just under 39 percent from three on four attempts per game. However, because his field goal attempts went significantly down this past season, it resulted in his worst scoring season for Charlotte at 9.3 points per game.
This was supposed to be a different Batum under new head coach James Borrego and a new style of play. Instead, it felt like more of the same and that’s where they each share the blame. Batum’s lack of making an impact on close games cost the Hornets so many of those. Borrego’s lack of trust in his young players (until it was too late) plays a part in this as well. The most harsh truth of them all is that the Hornets are in no mans land because of the awful contract Batum is on.
No team in the NBA would trade for him unless they didn’t look at his contract details. With the Hornets current free agent situation, the front office will most likely have to bite the bullet on his deal. They’ll also have to eat it on the rest of the terrible contracts that run through next season. Five different players (assuming Michael Kidd-Gilchrist picks up his $13 million player option) will make at least eight figures next season: Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Cody Zeller, Marvin Williams, and MKG.
At this point, Hornets fans will have to root for Batum to find a way to rise up next season. It seems unlikely, but the NBA is the league of that sometimes. With Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb hitting free agency, Nicolas Batum will likely be the Sound of Silence for the immediate future of the Hornets.