The Charlotte Hornets are projected to have around $20-$30 million in cap space this summer. Signing a center is likely towards the top of their list of priorities, but they also have free agents of their own to re-sign.
Devonte’ Graham, Malik Monk, Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo, and Brad Wanamaker are all free agents. While Zeller, Biyombo, and Wanamaker can all be easily replaced, Graham and Monk played pivotal roles on the Hornets last season.
The two guards had vastly different seasons. Graham had a down year from his breakout sophomore season, while Monk bounced back from what had been a disappointing first few years of his career. Regardless, Graham is 26 years old and Monk is 23 years old, meaning there is plenty of room for each of them to grow.
With all that being said, both will enter restricted free agency this summer with an opportunity to make some serious money. Mitch Kupchak has some difficult decisions ahead of him. What’s the biggest offer the Charlotte Hornets should be willing to match?
Starting off with Graham, the 6-1 point guard will likely have some interest from various teams around the league. With his solid shooting and playmaking abilities, he would be the perfect sixth man for contending teams around the NBA. He could even slide into some starting lineups if they have the defensive presence to cover for his flaws on that end of the floor.
John Hollinger recently wrote an article for The Athletic detailing the “Top 20 free agents by BORD$ projections.” BORD$ stands for “Big Ol’ Rating Dollars,” and the article covers how much each free agent could get per year.
He lists Graham as the ninth-best free agent this offseason and lists his projected value at exactly $19,073,555. His reasoning behind the price tag is that, though teams may be wary of offering Graham a contract due to the likelihood that Charlotte will match, this could also have the opposite effect. If a team truly wants to pry Graham away from the Hornets, they could be willing to overpay for the point guard.
This would put the Hornets in a very odd predicament. On the one hand, Graham’s streaky shooting was somewhat inconsistent for them at times last year. However, when he did catch fire he often performed super well in crunch time for Charlotte.
Teams with enough cap space to give Graham a realistic offer include the Knicks, Spurs, Thunder, Mavericks, Heat, Cavaliers, Raptors, and Bulls. Of those teams, the Knicks, Mavericks, and Bulls would likely be the biggest threats to Charlotte. New York could start Graham and bring Derrick Rose off the bench, Dallas is always trying to put more shooting around Luka Doncic, and Chicago is on the hunt for a starting point guard.
Aside from that, there are some sign-and-trade options around the league. Teams such as the Pelicans and Lakers could be interested in a deal. It would all depend on what the Hornets got in return, though.
If Graham gets an offer that nears $20 million per year, the Hornets would likely let him take it in favor of exploring free-agent options elsewhere. However, if the number stays around $12-$15 million, they might consider matching it depending on how much Malik Monk gets offered.
Malik Monk’s situation is a bit more difficult to predict. He’s been very inconsistent up to this point in his NBA career, so his value won’t be as high as Graham’s. That being said, he does have the potential to grow into a solid player, so some rebuilding teams might be willing to take a chance on him.
Teams such as the Pistons, Cavaliers, or Magic might make offers that seem like an overpay to most Hornets fans. However, at the same time, his up and down shooting numbers will likely turn most teams away this summer.
Last season, Monk averaged 11.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists for the Hornets. He shot 43.4% from the field and 40.1% from three-point range. He had by far a career year in terms of efficiency.
At only 6-3, Monk doesn’t possess the necessary playmaking skills to play point guard but could be considered too short to play shooting guard. He also struggles on the defensive end of the floor at times, so that in tandem with his lack of size isn’t necessarily the most enticing combination.
Depending on the market, Monk could realistically earn anywhere from $8-$15 million in free agency. It’s a super wide range, but that’s just how unpredictable his value is. He’s shown little to no consistency over his first four years in the NBA, but a breakout season last year gave some hope that he could reach his full potential.
If the Hornets could bring him back for $8-$10 million, he could turn into the ideal sixth man for their second unit. If his efficiency numbers stay the same, that would be a steal of a contract. However, anything higher than that might be too much of a risk.
The reality is, the Hornets probably won’t bring both of these players back for next year. With the amount they are likely to spend at the center position, there simply isn’t enough in the budget to pay for two undersized guards.
With Terry Rozier and LaMelo Ball already signed for next season, there’s just no reason to prioritize re-signing them both. Rozier and Ball played well as the starting guards, so that lineup is unlikely to change. Whichever player they decide to sign will end up as the first man off the bench.
Who they re-sign will depend on who gets the biggest offer in free agency. If Graham receives a massive offer and Monk does not, they’ll probably end up bringing back Monk. The same can be said if it is the other way around.
The only way an issue would arise is if both guards get big-time offer sheets this summer. Then the team would have some tough decisions to make. Worst case scenario, neither player is on the team next year and the Hornets go out and sign a backup point guard for cheap.
That would also end up clearing up some cap space for the future, so maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. If Charlotte wants to maintain cap flexibility for the future so they can try to pair Ball next to another star, letting both guards walk could be a valid option.
It all depends on what direction the Hornets wish to go in moving forward and how many teams decide to make offers. It should make for a very interesting offseason, to say the least.