The Charlotte Hornets 2015-2016 campaign just came to a disappointing end Sunday afternoon. The Hornets, who coasted thru the regular season to a 48-34 record, which is the fifth highest win total in franchise history, had a sensational second half to the season. The Hornets were led by Kemba Walker all season, who averaged 20 points a game. Kemba has raised his game every single one of the five seasons he has played in the league, and really took the next step of his game this season. The question on Kemba was if he could lead a team to a playoff berth, being the main focal point of the offense, and with Al Jefferson only playing in 47 games, Walker was finally able to play his game, and he thrived. One of the themes of the exit interview of the Hornet players was they all wish they would have had Michael Kidd-Gilchrist along for the ride. Kidd-Gilchrist only played in seven games, but averaged 12 points while battling shoulder injuries all season. If the Hornets can retain their nucleus of players, they will have a good shot at making a deeper run in the playoffs next season. Five of the Hornets top seven players have the ability to sign elsewhere, with the exception of Jeremy Lin, who can decide to accept the player option, or decline to sign a new deal in Charlotte or elsewhere.
The Hornets upcoming free agents
Al Jefferson, Center
Nic Batum, Small Forward
Marvin Williams, Power Forward
Courtney Lee, Shooting Guard
Jeremy Lin, Point Guard, (Player Option)
Tyler Hansbrough, Power Forward
Jorge Guttierez, Point Guard
The Hornets will definitely have some holes to fill, knowing it may be difficult to sign all the players that have expired contracts. There are many realistic option for the Hornets on the free agent market, here are the top three the Hornets could go after.
Hassan Whiteside, Center- Whiteside was one of the reasons the Hornets fell to the Heat. Whiteside is a strong post presence, but he does not take up as much space in the lane as Al Jefferson does. Whiteside is extremely athletic and can go and get almost any rebound, and as the Hornets saw, he can block almost any shot in his area. Whiteside hails from Gastonia, North Carolina, so maybe Michael Jordan can use the hometown trick.
Eric Gordon, Shooting Guard- Gordon was sneaky good for the Pelicans this season. Gordon averaged 15 points per game, but battled injury all season, only playing in 45 games. Gordon would provide an extra wing presence, which may not be there if Courtney Lee, or Jeremy Lin decide not to resign. Gordon was paid 15 million this previous season, but will most likely not be looking for that much, because of his injury past, only appearing in 70+ of the 82 games once in his career.
Harrison Barnes, Small Forward- Many believe Barnes may be a product of the system in Golden State, but by the end of June, he very well could have two titles to his name, and that’s something the Hornets could be missing. The Hornets did not have a single player on the roster that had even played in The Finals, much less won a championship. Barnes averaged 12 points, and 5 rebounds. Barnes is a restricted free agent, which the Warriors will be able to match whatever the Hornets, or any team offers for Barnes, but with rumors of the Warriors wanting to go after Kevin Durant, the Warriors may be able to let Barnes walk for cheap.
If the Hornets can keep their core together, get back Kidd-Gilchrist, and sign a mid-level free agent, they can make a serious jump in the log jammed Eastern conference. There is no solid number two team in the East, and with the right moves, the Hornets can solidify that spot for three to five years.