The Charlotte Hornets missed the postseason for the sixth straight season and need a good offseason after getting blown out in the play-in tournament for a second year in a row. 2022 NBA free agency is coming up this week, and the Hornets are in position to make some important moves.
The Hornets fired head coach James Borrego and were ready to hire Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson. After Golden State won the championship, Atkinson decided to remain on the Warriors' staff. The Hornets pivoted and brought back former head coach Steve Clifford, who will have the task of getting them back to the playoffs.
Charlotte has a solidified young star in LaMelo Ball to build around and some solid pieces alongside him, including a key free agent in Miles Bridges. The Hornets had an eventful draft night after entering the day with a pair of first-round picks, with one of those being traded away.
Charlotte may have found its franchise center by selecting Mark Williams with the 15th overall pick. Williams is a traditional big who can protect the rim at an elite level. He won Defensive Player of the Year in the ACC at Duke. He averaged 11.2 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting an efficient 72.1 percent from the field. Williams anchored Duke's defense with 2.8 blocks per game and will look to do the same at the next level. The Hornets have been seeking a long-term solution at center for a while, and perhaps Williams will be that guy.
In the second round, the Hornets selected guard Bryce McGowens. McGowens is an athletic guard with a solid all-around game. He is not an efficient 3-point shooter, which is what he needs to improve in the NBA.
These rookies will need time to develop but could be a part of the rotation next season.
Charlotte now needs to work on filling out the rest of the roster through free agency. With that said, here are two players the Hornets must sign in 2022 NBA free agency.
*Watch NBA games LIVE with fuboTV (click for free trial)*
Hornets 2022 NBA Free Agency Targets
2. Cody Martin
Cody Martin was a solid role player for the Hornets off the bench this past season. Martin is a young wing entering restricted free agency and should be retained by Charlotte.
In 2021-22, Martin recorded 7.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. He shot 48.2 percent from the field and 38.4 percent from 3-point range. He is a good two-way player who fits the timeline for this youthful Hornets bunch. Bringing him back shouldn't cost a ton, and they can match an offer sheet because of his restricted free agent status.
While Martin won't be the top priority, Charlotte should consider re-signing the 26-year-old.
1. Miles Bridges
The Hornets' biggest task this offseason is getting Miles Bridges back. Bridges had a breakout campaign in 2021-22, posting a career high in multiple statistical categories.
Bridges averaged 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.8 assists, providing stability and forming a lethal tandem with LaMelo Ball. Bridges was a reliable scorer for Charlotte while providing good defense on the other end.
The Hornets have been actively looking to shed salary in order to feel better about paying Bridges. Trading Gordon Hayward is an obvious way to do that, but it could be difficult to find a trade partner. It was reported that Charlotte wants to re-sign Bridges but may not want to match a max contract from another team.
While Bridges hasn't ascended into a superstar, he is the second-best player on the team behind Ball. The Hornets must keep him, and they really should do so at all costs. Remember, Charlotte can match any offer sheet.
The Hornets seem to have a bright future ahead. They don't have a ton of money to make moves, as they have multiple large contracts on the books. Until Charlotte is able to get off these big contracts, the only big moves require re-signing young players.
Bridges and Martin would both help the Hornets be competitive next season. Ball is a dynamic, growing star who will only get better over the years. Keeping Bridges and Martin around would be highly beneficial when it comes to making a postseason run next season.