Veteran leader free agent targets for the Hornets

A few days back, Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak discussed the team’s need for a veteran player presence in the locker room. That seems like a bit of an indictment on the team’s current veterans like Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier, but regardless, it never hurts to have more good examples for the young guys to follow.

There are a couple of hurdles to overcome in the hunt for the ol’ veteran leader. First, the Hornets roster crunch is tight. They have 10 returning players under contract and will be adding at least Nick Smith Jr. and Brandon Miller from the draft class. Miles Bridges, PJ Washington, Dennis Smith Jr., and Kelly Oubre all have various cases to be retained as free agents. If the Hornets want to add a free agent veteran, they either have to trade away a couple of pieces are let two of those four players walk. Oubre and Dennis Smith Jr. seem to be the most likely candidates for that, though it’ll be particularly hard to watch Smith walk.

How the Hornets handle those departing players will determine how much money they’ll have to chase a free agent. They won’t have cap space in all likelihood, so it’s a matter of much money within the midlevel exception they’ll be willing to use. We’ll divide the options into two tiers; the budget ones and the pricier ones.

The Budget Targets

  • Danny Green. Green basically exists to be a veteran presence on a team at this point in his career. He returned late last season to play spot minutes for the Grizzlies than Cavaliers and showed that there’s still some gas in the tank. He made 43.2% of his 37 3-point attempts between both of those teams. He’s a defensive minded, unselfish player that would fit in perfectly as a depth wing that can knock down threes. Plus he’s a UNC guy.
  • George Hill. Hill is like the point guard version of Danny Green. He plays strong defense and knocks down outside shots. He’s a bit player at this point in his career, but he has what the Hornets should be looking for in a veteran locker.
  • Robin Lopez. If the Hornets elect to leave James Nnaji overseas of a year or two, they could use some more depth at the center spot. The younger Lopez twin hasn’t gotten regular minutes for a couple of seasons, but he can still be effective in small doses. He plays super physical basketball, grabs bunches of rebounds, and has a super fun and unguardable hook shot. Plus he seems like a good time in interviews and such.

The pricier options

  • Seth Curry. Everyone would love to see one or both of the Curry brothers in Charlotte. The Hornets badly need shooting, and what better way to get that then by getting a Curry in the short pants wearing #30. He’s a career 43.5% 3-point shooter and has some combo guard ability as a ball handler and secondary facilitator.
  • Torrey Craig. Craig doesn’t have a ton of NBA experience relative to the other guys on this list, but he played for a long time overseas before coming stateside. He’s worked himself into being a good shooter to go along with his above average defense on the wing. He’s also a local guy–he went to high school about an hour south of Charlotte.
  • Cory Joseph. Joseph has spent the last couple of years as the veteran presence on the rebuilding Pistons. He might be able to fit in the budget options, but his most recent contract was a little larger than those. He’s a solid player that’s a bit of jack-of-all-trades at the point guard position, where the Hornets could use some depth if Dennis Smith Jr is not retained.
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