Can the Charlotte Hornets take the next step in 2016-17?
Charlotte had its best season since gaining re-entry into the NBA in 2004-05. The Hornets went 48-34 last year, which was a 15-game improvement over the previous season, and finished sixth in the Eastern Conference. Charlotte lost to the Miami Heat four games to three in the first round of the playoffs, marking the third time the third straight time the Hornets have lost in the first round, but at least they won a game this time around.
Charlotte was good on both ends of the court last season, finishing ranked 11th in scoring (103.4) and ninth in scoring defense (100.7). The truth is the Hornets were actually better than those numbers indicate, as they had the ninth best offensive rating (107.1) and eighth best defensive rating (104.3), per Basketball Reference. Charlotte also finished with the fewest turnovers in the NBA with just 12.6 a game.
The Hornets have a lot of decisions to make this summer as they have just six players under contract for the upcoming season. That means Charlotte will have eight free agents when the free-agent period begins on July 1, as reserve guard Jeremy Lin decided to decline his player option on Tuesday. Nicolas Batum, Tyler Hansbrough, Al Jefferson, Courtney Lee, and Marvin Williams join Lin as unrestricted free agents. Jorge Gutierrez and Troy Daniels are slated to be restricted free agents if they are tendered qualifying offers. Aaron Harrison has a non-guaranteed contract valued at $874,636, but the Hornets don't have to make an immediate decision as the contract isn't fully guaranteed until January 10.