The moves are continuing to trickle in, now that free agents have been allowed to officially consummate contracts for nearly a week. Most recently, Lance Stephenson has agreed to a three-year, $27 million pact with the Charlotte Hornets, and sharpshooter Mike Miller spurned a reported three-year, $12 million offer from the Denver Nuggets to join Lebron in Cleveland on a two-year, $5.5 million deal.
Stephenson is an intriguing fit with this up-and-coming Charlotte squad. He’ll play in the back court with Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Gerald Henderson. The Hornets also have Gary Neal under contract for another season. They should make the playoffs again in the Eastern Conference after squeezing in as the eighth seed this year and being demolished by Miami.
The question is whether or not Charlotte has put a ceiling on their potential, as their best player (Al Jefferson) will turn 30 during the upcoming season and has yet to prove that he can be the top option on a true contender. The offer sheet for Gordon Hayward was matched, and there isn’t much else in the way of star power on the roster. This year’s first round draft pick, Noah Vonleh, has seemingly unlimited (and largely untapped) potential, but likely won’t be a star-caliber player immediately.
That said, Charlotte could easily contend for a top-six seed in the East this year. Depending on potential break-out seasons from young players like Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist, and even Stephenson, they could ultimately exceed modest expectations. Without an unexpected break-out year, however, they won’t be significantly better than they were in 2013-14.
The Miller signing with the Cavaliers isn’t a shock in any way, but turning down a three-year deal at his age is a bit surprising. Throw in the fact that is not clear that the Cavs are suddenly an Eastern Conference favorite, and Miller is taking a bit of a risk from a financial standpoint. It’s possible he’s betting on a Cavs promise to acquire another superstar (Kevin Love?), but as the roster stands it’s likely a top-three seed, but far from a championship favorite with San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and others lurking out west.
Nothing new on the Love front, other than AP’s Jon Krawczynski suggesting that trade talks between Golden State and Minnesota have been re-kindled during Summer League. Krawczynski went on to say that the Warriors are still not budging on Klay Thompson being included, and the Cavs aren’t including Andrew Wiggins. Therefore, nothing is imminent.
Flip Saunders has thus far played his hand correctly in potential Love talks, and here’s hoping that he continues to hold firm in his demands.