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Charlotte Hornets: Is it time to blow it up and have a full rebuild?

The Charlotte Hornets have become one of the least successful franchises in the NBA as of late. Is it time for them to blow it up and rebuild completely?

The Charlotte Hornets are in an extremely tough spot. With many variables heading into next season, the idea of blowing it up and completely rebuilding has arisen.

After back-to-back 36 win campaigns in 2016-17 and 2017-18, the Hornets were able to come away with a 39-43 record in the 2018-19 season. This was good for ninth in the top-heavy Eastern Conference, just shy of making the playoffs for the first time in four years.

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This offseason will be pivotal for the direction of the franchise, having the option of either standing pat and pushing for the playoffs again next season or starting a complete rebuild. In a market that doesn’t attract many free agents, the idea of improving the roster and continuing to make a playoff push will have to come through the draft or through trade. Both of these options may prove tricky as well due to Charlotte’s unique situation.

With the Hornets barely missing the playoffs, their lottery pick will more than likely be in the teens, making it difficult to draft an immediate starter. Although there are some exceptions, historically the franchise-altering rookies are taken in the top five picks of the draft.

Finding a trade that could push the Hornets roster to the next level will be tricky as well. They have several of the worst contracts in the NBA.

Marvin Williams, although a quality starter for Charlotte, will turn 33 this summer and will earn $15.0 million next season upon him presumably exercising his player option for next season. He produced a solid 10.1 points and 5.4 rebounds on 36.6 percent shooting from deep as a stretch four but is still very overpaid.

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Marvin Williams will opt in to his contract for next season https://t.co/SP4XparbeF

— At The Hive (@At_The_Hive) April 11, 2019

Nicolas Batum is under contract next season for $25.6 million after declining in offensive production every year since signing his new contract, averaging just 9.8 points per game last season. Bismack Biyombo, who appeared in just 54 games last season, averaged 4.4 points in 14.5 minutes per game and is entering the final season of his deal. Next season, he will be owed $17.0 million.

Cody Zeller, a former number four overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Hornets is due to make $14.5 million next season. Although a solid player for Charlotte, he has never lived up to the hype of being a top-five pick. Last season Zeller averaged 10.1 points and 6.8 rebounds, but only appeared in 49 games.

Former number two overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is coming off what may be the most disappointing season of his NBA career. In his first season ever coming off of the bench, he averaged 6.7 points in 18.4 minutes per game. Kidd-Gilchrist has a player option for the upcoming season and will be owed $13.0 million if he does opt-in.

The expensive contracts of Batum, Biyombo, Williams, Zeller, and Kidd-Gilchrist next season will combine for $85.1 million. With the estimated salary cap next season being around $109.0 million, these five players will take up 78.1 percent of the team’s salary.

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This is much too high, considering these same players combined only produced 40.6 points, 25.8 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game last season. These bad contract could be tricky to trade unless they can find a team that is looking for a large expiring contract. Even then, the return they would get probably wouldn’t be much.

Although the Charlotte Hornets are in an unpleasant position when it comes to free agents, draft picks and tradable contracts, perhaps the most important piece of their future is Kemba Walker. Walker is a free agent this offseason and has the option of either returning to Charlotte or walking for absolutely nothing in return.

If Walker were to make an All-NBA team, he would be eligible for a supermax contract with the Hornets. This would give Charlotte the ability to offer him a five-year contract worth up to $221 million. This gives them a huge advantage, as every other team would only be able to offer a max of $140 million over four years.

Kemba is an incredible player and has carried this franchise for several years now, but if the Hornets are going to rebuild, do they really want to offer a five-year deal to a player who will be 29 next season? This truly puts the Hornets and owner Michael Jordan in a tough situation.

Although it would be ideal to re-sign Walker to a new deal so you could potentially trade him down the road and get something in return, it could leave a bad look on the front office as it would damage their reputation in regards to player loyalty.

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It will be a tough pill to swallow, but the Hornets may be better off letting Kemba Walker leave in free agency and start with a clean slate. In the 2020-21 season, the Hornets will have much more cap space as well as the flexibility to do more things.

Behind their last two first-round draft picks Miles Bridges and Malik Monk, the Hornets could start over and would presumably be at the very bottom of the NBA for several seasons, resulting in high draft picks to revamp the roster.

If the Hornets were to completely start over, in a few years they could be looking at a brand new young core, much more manageable contracts, and potentially a whole new outlook on the franchise which could make it a more desirable free agent destination with the backing of Michael Jordan.

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