Hornets expect to be major players in free agency

Hornets forward Josh McRoberts averaged 8.5 points and 4.8 rebounds last season.

Sam Sharpe/Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE — When the Charlotte Hornets drafted power forward Dwight Powell out of Stanford with the 45th overall pick last week’s NBA Draft, he was immediately traded to Cleveland in what was perceived to be a ho-hum draft day trade.

But in reality, it was a perfect capsulization of what the Hornets are trying to do this offseason in free agency — be strong players.

The trade of Powell to Cleveland resulted in the Cavaliers taking on Charlotte center Brendan Haywood’s $2 million salary, which in turn meant that the Hornets are now $15 million under the salary cap.

NBA teams were allowed to start negotiating with free agents and restricted free agents on July 1, and are allowed to sign them on July 10.

Team owner Michael Jordan has made it no secret he fully expects to sign big-time quality players this offseason to improve upon Charlotte’s unexpected 43-39 season, which resulted in the franchise’s second playoff berth as the 7-seed. The Hornets were ultimately swept by Miami in the first round.

"I think we’ll try to improve on what we did last year," he said three weeks ago.

Jordan sees the signing and success of Al Jefferson, who was named to the All-NBA team this season, as evidence that players can reach great success in Charlotte.

"I think Big Al proved you can come here and make a big difference," Jordan said back in June. "Hopefully we can look at that and attract some other superstar."

Now that Charlotte has plenty of spending money, the question is, which players might they be interested in bringing to the Queen City?

The first priority appears to be forward Josh McRoberts, who has enjoyed the best success of his career with the Hornets the last season and a half. Jordan has made it no secret that McRoberts is very important to the team. As a result, he’s likely to double his salary and make close to $5 million. That would still leave the Hornets with some $10 million to spend on other players.

It was reported earlier in the week that Charlotte was interested in former Charlotte guard Shawn Livingston and had reached out to him. However, reports Tuesday night said that was all for nothing since he’s agreed to a three-year, $16 million deal with Golden State.

It’s no secret the Hornets need, at the very least, a backup point guard. Kemba Walker is a serviceable guard, but he’s also undersized and has struggled defensively. He shot below 40 percent last season from the field.

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford has made it very clear he likes tall players at each position, and that’s why the 6-foot-8 Livingston seemed like a logical choice. But with him out of the picture, the Hornets are still looking to sign a backup at the point.

The best of the point guard lot, and it looks to be rather slim, are Darren Collison (Clippers), Steve Blake (Warriors), and Patty Mills (Spurs).

However, the Hornets also need outside shooting in a big way. They drafted P.J. Hairston, a pure shooting specialist, but much more is needed for a team that was one of the worst in the NBA in deep shooting. It doesn’t help that small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has one of the worst shots in the NBA, so a strong shooting wing player is also on Charlotte’s wish list.

Of the wing players available, Luol Dang of Cleveland might be a possibility, and Lance Stephenson of Indiana has been mentioned as a slight possibility, though he seems unlikely to leave the Pacers.

The star of the small forward class is Chandler Parsons of Houston. He will become expendable should the Rockets manage to land Carmelo Anthony. If they don’t, expect Parsons, a restricted free agent, to be resigned by Houston.