With the end of the Bobcats era, the Charlotte Hornets are looking for a fresh new start with a revitalized franchise next season. Charlotte managed to clinch the seventh seed in this year’s Eastern Conference Playoffs, but with a hurt Al Jefferson their playoff run was cut short as they were swept by the two-time defending champions Miami Heat. With a potential coach of the year in head coach Steve Clifford, an All-Star candidate in Jefferson and an emerging young star in Kemba Walker, the Hornets are on the right track in becoming a successful franchise. But there are a few more tools that are needed to shape this franchise into prospective champions. Here are some potential free agents to pursue this offseason.
3. Danny Granger
Plagued by a knee injury, Granger will be looking to resurrect his career as an All-Star in this league again. With the Clippers, Granger does provide extra offense off the bench with his ability to shoot from beyond the arc, but I’m pretty sure coming off the bench for the remainder of his career is not a part of his game plan. The Hornets and Granger are sort of like two people who have been through bad relationships in their past who are both looking to finally achieve happiness. With a history of knee problems in the past, teams may be a little skeptical of signing Granger to a big deal which will give Charlotte the chance to snag the eight-year guard at a reasonable price. Currently, the Hornets have a good fourth-year shooting guard in Gerald Henderson, but he has struggled to really make a mark in this league at his position. Henderson is definitely a premier player in this league, but not as a starter just yet. With Granger, you’ll get a high volume veteran scorer who could definitely open up space for big man Jefferson. Granger may not reach All-Star stardom again in his career, but he will definitely become a problem solver for this franchise.
2. Marcin Gortat
Without a doubt Jefferson had one of the best seasons of his career this past year, finishing with 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds. The problem is that Jefferson is forced to work above his ability that is needed at the center position. The result was definitely shown in the beginning and the postseason when Jefferson was sidelined due to foot injuries. With an expired Josh McRoberts, Jefferson could slide to the power forward position, which will allow him to focus primarily on offense and leave the dirty work for a dominant center like Gortat. He is a young, solid big man who is not afraid of any contact towards him. Night in and night out, he is the type of player who could not only contest a lot of shot attempts in the paint area but possibly take a lot of heat off Jefferson. Their skills are extremely compatible and could impact Clifford’s system, with Jefferson’s all-around scoring ability meshing with Gortat’s knack for converting opportunities in the paint. The chances of Charlotte landing Gortat are probably slim after a great season with the Washington Wizards, but it’s definitely a good option for both parties.
1. Lance Stephenson
Looking past the circus antics, Stephenson is one of the most talented guys at the shooting guard position. Not known for strong leadership and profiled as a distraction for teams, Stephenson is definitely the spark plug that the Hornets need to move in the right direction. With the Indiana Pacers, Stephenson’s ability is a bit hindered in some ways because of the backseat role he has to play behind All-Star Paul George. Of course, he would have to do the same with Jefferson in Charlotte, but his offensive opportunities will increase. Part of the success for George is because of Stephenson’s ability to handle the ball very well, attack the paint and deliver prominent passes. In many games this past season, Charlotte seemed to be a little confused offensively on who else they would look to for scoring other than Jefferson and Walker. That person could possibly be Stephenson. The only problem Charlotte will have is actually placing the right price on Stephenson’s worth. With a much improved Charlotte defense, Stephenson will fit right in with his ability to harass defenders up and down the court — even the team that sent Charlotte packing in the first round.