The Charlotte Hornets’ season is over, and they will go nearly nine months between regular-season games.
The NBA’s plan to restart its season, approved by owners Thursday, did not include eight of 30 teams, the Hornets among them. Those teams were all more than six games out of eighth place in either conference, the cutoff the league set for the restart, beginning July 31 in suburban Orlando, Fla.
The Hornets will go from March 11 until early December without playing a regular-season game. The NBA plans to begin the 2020-21 season Dec. 1, about six weeks later than typical for the NBA schedule.
The Hornets issued a statement Thursday, saying the franchise is disappointed not to be able to complete the season, but “understand and support the NBA’s plan.”
WHAT IT MEANS FOR HORNETS
— They finish 23-42 (.354), the eighth-worst winning percentage in the NBA this season. Based on Thursday’s NBA announcement, that will translate to the Hornets’ draft-lottery odds: They will have a 6% chance of receiving the No. 1 pick and slightly better odds of receiving the 2nd, 3rd or 4th pick.. The draft, draft lottery and combine have all been postponed. The draft lottery will be Aug. 25 and the draft on Oct 15. Typically, the Combine is the same week as the draft lottery.
— Three players on guaranteed contract this season — centers Bismack Biyombo and Willy Hernangomez and guard Dwayne Bacon — become free agents. Biyombo and Hernangomez were both in the rotation when Charlotte’s last game was played, a March 11 victory in Miami. Bacon began the season as a starter, but fell out of the rotation and was on assignment with the G-League Greensboro Swarm.
— Players can continue individual, voluntary workouts at the practice gym at Spectrum Center. The Hornets reopened the facility to players May 26 to a maximum of four players at a time. Thursday’s NBA announcement provides some clarity; players and coaches didn’t know whether they were gearing up for a season restart or preparing for off-season skills improvement.
— The Hornets will still have room under the salary cap when the NBA’s next fiscal year begins, but likely not as much as projected before the coronavirus pandemic suspended the season. Loss of games, and gate receipts once games resume without fans at Disney World’s Wide World of Sports, will cost the NBA more than $1 billion in lost revenue.
In February, Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak anticipated about $28 million in off-season cap space. However, that was based on the NBA’s projection then of a $115 million salary cap for each team. With league revenues plummeting, that cap number will likely fall. So while the Hornets will still be in an advantageous cap position, it won’t be as large.
That might not be a big issue, since Kupchak was never looking to make a major play in the 2020 free-agent class. Whatever cap space the Hornets have might be more valuable, as other teams try to avoid paying luxury tax next season. That could provide opportunity for trades, where the Hornets receive a draft pick in return for absorbing a veteran contract.
The Hornets took a hard pivot this season to rebuilding around youth after Kemba Walker’s departure for the Boston Celtics. Six players in their first or second NBA seasons accounted for 7,478 minutes, or 47% of total playing time. Only the Atlanta Hawks devoted more playing time to first- or second-year players.
— With top scorer Devonte Graham completing the second of a three-season contract, the Hornets could sign him this off-season to an extension under salary-cap rules. The Hornets are restricted in how much they can offer him now, versus waiting for his rookie contract to expire after next season.
— Guard Malik Monk is still suspended for violation of the NBA anti-drug policy. That suspension, announced Feb. 26, was not for a specific number of games or length of time but until he’s determined to be “in full compliance” with the league’s drug policy.
— It’s not yet clear when the Hornets could resume any group team activities and if off-season mini-camps would be allowed, to help mitigate the long layoff until training camp in November. It’s also yet to be determined if the league will reschedule a version of summer league in the fall (in late October after the draft), and how liberally the league would allow participation by veteran players.
— The Hornets will have their own first-round pick and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ second-round pick. They lost their second-round pick to the New York Knicks as partial compensation for the trade that acquired Hernangomez. If the Boston Celtics’ second-round pick is in the 54-60 range, the Hornets get it.
©2020 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)