Dream Signing: Charlotte Hornets
Like many of the teams in the league, the Hornets payroll situation is awful. They are nearly maxed out and only won 36 games last season. Yikes! The good news is trading Dwight Howard to the Nets gave them a little breathing room. It was also announced today that they are not picking up Treveon Graham’s qualifying offer. That’s a tough loss as Graham was a solid role player for the Hornets last season, but that opens up another $1.7 million of breathing room. For a team like the Hornets, every dollar counts. Now they are a little over $11 million away from the luxury tax.
The new regime of Mitch Kupchak and James Borrego have made it clear that they are focused on shedding more payroll and developing their young players. Expect a trade this summer from the Hornets to shed some salary. Kemba Walker has been in rumors for months, but unless the Hornets are blown away with an offer, I think he stays. Keep an eye on Michael Kidd Gilchrist as a likely trade candidate.
Ideally, the Hornets are looking for another veteran ball handler to capably back up Kemba Walker. We all know how awful Michael Carter Williams was last season, and I doubt the Hornets bring him back. To add talent, the Hornets will most likely use one of their exceptions the mid-level exception, bi-annual exception or the trade exception from the Brooklyn deal.
Like the Wolves, they may be interested in Seth Curry, but I think the Hornets should look at Elfrid Payton. The Suns didn’t pick up Payton’s qualifying offer which paves the way for him to become an unrestricted free agent. The Hornets could take their time, see what the market looks like for Payton, and then sign him to a short-term deal: one or two years for about $6 million per year.
The upside is high with Payton. He is still young and improving. So far, he has been with Orlando and Phoenix, not exactly the most nurturing environments. As a backup who sometimes can play with Kemba, I think he will thrive. The talent is there. Payton can pass, is an excellent rebounder for his position, and has some defensive potential. He still needs to get better at shooting, and his motor is a little hot and cold, but the tools are there.
Charlotte needs to take some flyers on young players with upside, and Payton is the ideal candidate. If he doesn’t work out, they can let him go in 2019. For Payton, it is an excellent way to get his value back up and test the waters again in 2019. A backup point guard who can’t shoot may scare Hornets fans after the Michael Carter Williams disaster, but trust me, Payton is an upgrade. A backup point guard who can average 12 points, six assists and five rebounds per game is a steal. I may be higher on Payton than most, but I think he would be an excellent pick up for the Hornets, and they can likely get him at the right price.