Training camp is just a few weeks away, and it seems like the finishing touches have been made to the Charlotte Hornets’ 21-man offseason roster.
The offseason roster limit was bumped from 20 to 21 in the new CBA — guaranteed NBA contracts and Two-Way deals are included in the count. The Exhibit 10 and other non-guaranteed contracts available for use are not included, so teams can technically carry more than 21 players total during the summer. The Thunder are a prominent example of that, thus the recent release of multiple young prospects.
Though the Hornets have no functional cap space, they are well under the luxury tax threshold of $165.2 million. With the full Mid-Level and Bi-Annual exceptions, and a $1.9M trade exception, Charlotte can still make acquisitions. It’s unlikely to happen this late into the offseason, but we can hope.
I’d bet against RJ Hunter coming to camp with the Hornets at this point. If he were on a non-guaranteed deal similar to Frank Ntilikina, it would’ve been signed since it was rumored in early-August. The E10s were also filled without him last week. A deal with this little incentive for both sides could fall through for a multitude of reasons, so it wouldn’t be surprising if it never comes to fruition.
Here’s a look at where the roster stands now, with players on non-guaranteed NBA contracts in parenthesis when necessary.
GUARDS: LaMelo Ball – Terry Rozier – James Bouknight – Nick Smith Jr. – Frank Ntilikina (NGTD) – Amari Bailey (TW) – Jaylen Sims (E10)
WINGS: Gordon Hayward – Brandon Miller – Cody Martin – Bryce McGowens – Leaky Black (TW) – Angelo Allegri (E10) – Tre Scott (E10)
FORWARDS: Miles Bridges – PJ Washington – JT Thor
CENTERS: Mark Williams – Nick Richards – Kai Jones – Nathan Mensah (E10)
TOTAL: 21 PLAYERS (16 GTD/TWO-WAY (INCL. THOR), 1 NON-GTD, 4 EXHIBIT-10)
The vast majority of the Hornets’ roster are returners — the only potential newcomer to the early-season rotation is Brandon Miller. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some questions for us to be asking as the preseason steadily approaches.
- With Ntilikina being on a non-guaranteed deal with just a $200k buyout (and Mitch Kupchak mentioning that the 15th roster spot is “open” during the PJ Washington extension press conference), he’s far from a lock to make it to opening night. Who, or does anyone, claim that spot by then?
- It’s not really our concern anymore, but Kelly Oubre Jr. is “widely expected” to sign with Miami “if they eventually trade for Damian Lillard.” The best free agent on the market is almost certainly not returning to Charlotte.
- What happens with Théo Maledon? The Hornets have kept an open Two-Way slot and have a Two-Way QO extended. Does he take that Two-Way? Or maybe his deal gets converted to a minimum contract and he takes final roster spot? There’s also the chance he goes back to Europe and leaves the Hornets entirely. There has not been a single rumor regarding Maledon’s plans or free-agent status.
- Reminder — only players with less than four seasons of NBA experience are eligible for Two-Way contracts. If that spot were to be filled before the season starts, it must be by a player that has spent less than four years in the league.
- Here’s a shot in the dark; what about James Nnaji? The 19-year-old big man is under contract with Barcelona until 2028 and due for bigger role this season as Hornets legend Willy Hernangomez’s backup, and he remains unsigned draft pick that could be given a second-round rookie-scale deal. It’s almost certainly not going to happen given his developmental path, but frontcourt depth is a weak point on this roster.
- We all know the Hornets still need a backup point guard or third guard to keep Terry Rozier primarily in an off-ball shooter role. At this point, does it come via late-offseason signing, the in-house option of Maledon or Ntilikina, a trade, or not at all?
Here are a couple of other bits of news that have come out recently:
- Nick Smith Jr. seems to have changed his jersey number from 00 to 8. Great choice, as 00 is an utterly swagless number for a guard in my humble opinion.
- The Hornets will be honoring Baron Davis and Gerald Wallace as part of the 35th anniversary season celebration. Davis will be recognized on November 18 and Wallace will be recognized on February 10. It’s nice to see two Hornets/Bobcats greats receive the praise that they earned during their respective times in Charlotte.
- In conjunction with the 35th Anniversary, the Hornets are holding a “Top Jersey Tourney.” Fans can visit hornets.com/35th to vote for their favorite uniforms in Charlotte basketball history, beginning with a matchup between the 1994-97 purple pinstripe alternate and the 2004-09 white Bobcats home jersey. If any Hornets fan wants a Bobcats throwback event/jersey/night/etc., voting might be a place to start.