Some of what the Charlotte Hornets must to do to improve when the offseason kicks off have been covered extensively on this space. While there will be no easy fixes for a team that owns a 26-54 record at the time of writing, one area the Hornets will need to bolster in a huge way will be their offense. No other team has had more difficulties putting the ball through the hoop this season than the Hornets, ranking dead last in offensive rating, even worse than that of the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, and Detroit Pistons.
A lot of their shortcomings on that end of the floor seem to come from their inability to shake off the injury bug this season. All of the Hornets' most dangerous offensive weapons have missed considerable time due to injuries, the most important being LaMelo Ball, who endured a nightmare 2022-23 campaign with one ankle injury after another.
Other than Ball, even Terry Rozier, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Gordon Hayward have all suffered a rough go this season; a clean bill of health should go a long way towards elevating the Hornets to, at the very least, play-in contention for next season.
Even then, the Hornets should have a few opportunities in free agency to improve the talent base of the team. Charlotte may not be a huge free agent destination, but they could end up being an enticing landing spot for players looking to take on a bigger offensive role, similar to when Jerami Grant signed with the Detroit Pistons in 2020. Or perhaps the Hornets could entice a few restricted free agents to sign an offer sheet.
With that said, these are the three players the Hornets must target in 2023 NBA free agency.
Speaking of players who have chosen to sign with lottery teams before, Grant fits the bill as a two-way forward that should help the Hornets alleviate their scoring woes. Ever since deciding to spread his wings in 2020, Grant has upped his scoring output big time, which should lead to yet another huge contract when he hits the open market.
It remains unclear which direction the Portland Trail Blazers decide to take this offseason, which casts a huge doubt on whether Grant would even be available for the taking. The Blazers could very well decide to blow it up sooner than later given how stuck they've been in mediocrity over the past few seasons, and that could mean that they give up in their bid to retain the 29-year old forward.
If so, the Hornets could end up being the team that gives Grant the $30+ million contract he'll surely be angling for come July.
At the moment, the Hornets will find themselves around $3 million over the cap for next season, given their current cap holds. Freeing up the cap space to sign Grant outright could mean the departures of Kelly Oubre Jr., and PJ Washington, which definitely defeats the purpose of acquiring the Blazers forward in the first place.
But Gordon Hayward is in the last year of his deal, and he could very well find himself on the move sooner than later, which should definitely grease the wheels for the Hornets' bid to make a huge splash in free agency.
Cameron Johnson will surely be the most sought-after restricted free agent on the market, given his sweet-shooting ways and solid fit with any team. Not too often does a 6'8 forward that shoots the ball as well as Johnson does hits the open market, and at 27 years old, the Brooklyn Nets forward is right in the middle of his prime.
But those reasons are exactly why the Nets would fight tooth and nail to keep Johnson in town. Even then, anything can happen in restricted free agency, and the Hornets could very well make the Nets think twice with a fat offer sheet.
There is no denying the talent that Miles Bridges possesses. In his age-23 season for the Hornets, the forward out of Michigan State had future All-Star written all over him, averaging 20.2 points per game on efficient shooting splits for a team that made the play-in tournament. However, Bridges became the subject of a domestic violence controversy, effectively ending his 2022-23 season before it even had a chance to begin.
For the Hornets, losing a player as talented as Bridges isn't something they can afford, as justifiable as his absence from the team has been. And it sure looks like they are willing to give the young forward a second chance, if the reunion rumors that were spread throughout the season are to be believed.
While signing Bridges will come with its fair share of backlash (which, once again, is justifiable up to a certain point), the Hornets may not be able to resist taking a punt on someone who was once a rising star.