Top free agent targets still available for the Hornets

Last night marked the official open of the NBA offseason as teams were permitted to ‘start’ negotiations with players. While most of these deals can’t be made official yet, it’s very rare that anything will change. A lot of notable free agents like Kyrie Irving, Draymond Green, Khris Middleton, and Jerami Grant returned to their old teams while Tyrese Haliburton and Desmond Bane signed huge extensions. The most notable player to change teams was probably Fred VanVleet, who signed a massive three year contract with the Rockets, and Bruce Brown signed a big contract with the Pacers.

A number of high profile role players have switched teams as well in what was a pretty busy day all things considered. But notably, neither of the Hornets’ two big restricted free agents got a bite on the open market. Cap space is quickly drying up around the league, so chances for them to sign an offer sheet are dwindling. That means the Hornets have a chance to bring back both on reasonable deals.

If that’s the case, the Hornets should be willing to use their full midlevel exception worth about $12.4 million to bring in a veteran free agent to fill out the roster. They can use all of it or a portion of it, or they can split it up among multiple players. Here are a few notable names still on the market the Hornets should be exploring.

  • Russell Westbrook. This signing would certainly be divisive. Westbrook caught a lot of heat for his play with the Lakers for the last couple seasons, and it was probably deserved. He’s not the player he used to be and he’s struggled with accepting that at times. However, he’s highly regarded as a leader in the locker room and has shown he can flourish in situations where he’s not surrounded by as much star power like when players are out or when he’s playing with bench unit. He’d come here knowing it was for a bench and leadership role, though he’d probably prefer to chase something bigger.
  • Eric Gordon. Gordon languished on the rebuilding Rockets before getting short-term stint with the Clippers to end last season. He’s also on the radar of contending teams, so he’d be a tough get for the Hornets. However, he’d bring some leadership along with outside shooting and scoring ability that the Hornets could use off the bench.
  • Will Barton. Barton is coming off a bad year with both the Wizards and Raptors after spending several years as a key contributor for the Nuggets. He plays on the wing, where the Hornets roster is a bit crowded already, but he brings solid all around play on both sides of the ball.
  • Mason Plumlee. Just kidding. Or am I?
  • Patrick Beverley. The three-time all defensive team point guard would bring some tenacity that the Hornets are currently missing. He won’t score much, but he’ll be a pest defensively and bring a bunch of energy to the floor. He was a key part of the run to the playoffs by a young Timberwolves team in the 2021-22 season. The Hornets are in a similar situation and could try to capture the same spark that Beverley brought to that team.
  • Jeff Green. Green has already played for 11 teams and is one of the last remaining Seattle Supersonics in the league. He just won a title with the Denver Nuggets and appeared in every playoff game during their championship run. He’s a four or five at this point in his career, so he can bring some versatility with his veteran acumen and championship pedigree.
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