Many teams’ trajectories have not gone according to plan. Milwaukee Bucks was expected to continue its’ long torturous road back to relevance in 2014-2015 with key players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and number two draft pick, Jabari Parker at the infancy stage of their burgeoning NBA careers and not forgetting hurling in Jason Kidd into the top seat on the sidelines.
At the time of his hire, Kidd was in a bitter struggle for more power in the Brooklyn Nets organization after just a year of coaching. However, they beat the odds and qualified to the playoffs before exiting at the hands of Chicago Bulls.
Nearly 12 months later, the Bucks with an improved roster after signing big man Greg Monroe to a three year $50 million dollar contract and growth in Parker and Antetokounmpo’s games respectively, the Bucks have failed to make another run in the post season with a record that currently stands at 30 wins and 44 losses.
Boston Celtics made a similar run into the post season prior to being outclassed by the Lebron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. However, Bean town is right where it was projected to be at the start of the season, engaged in a fierce three way battle with Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets for a superior playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.
Things don’t always go the way we want and the Charlotte Hornets can attest to this. Crashing 2014’s postseason behind Al Jefferson’s throwback low post soirees, the Hornets were expected to be better last season but unfortunately mimicked Milwaukee path.
The team failed to make the playoffs despite spending big on Marvin Williams and candidate for Most Improved Player of the Year Award, Lance Stephenson. The same scenario cannot be reenacted this year following a stellar display that had Charlotte reel off 10 wins in 13 games to feature prominently in the playoff mix. On the blind side, Charlotte’s improved status is steering it into a tight corner, even a demi -god owner like Michael Jordan cannot wriggle from. The NBA, will taste the first fruits of a nine year $24 billion dollar TV deal which will raise the league’s salary cap from $70million dollars to approximately $90 million dollars.
The deal will get better as the league ages with the cap skipping to over 100 million dollars in subsequent years. As such, teams will be in the position to go hard after free agents who will have the best of times milking the efforts of predecessors. This offseason gave us a tinge of what we are to expect after this season’s champions are crowned.
For instance a third tier type player like Cory Joseph earned a four year $30 million dollar deal with his Toronto Raptors with teammate DeMar DeRozan set to feast on a bumper contract which pays him over 20 million a year should he choose to enter the market as a free agent.
After this season ends, Charlotte will have as many as three members of its’ starting lineup head to into the market as free agents eligible to speak to any club that is interested.
Nicholas Batum, Marvin Williams and Courtney Lee are starters who have days to see out what will look like paltry sums beginning next season considering the impressive playoff the trio. Batum has been at the center of the Hornets revival following last season’s disappointment. The French swingman is having a bounce back year after averaging a career low (rookie season aside) 9.4 points per game according to basketballreference .com.
This season he is averaging 15.3 points. Marvin Williams has been a disappointment in the league since he was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 2005. In the most of his 11 stay in the league, the combo Forward has struggled to live up to the expectations of a second overall pick. However, Williams is enjoying a renaissance year with the Hornets that will most likely see him get more than the $7million dollar salary he is working with likewise Courtney Lee.
Al Jefferson is growing older but that wouldn’t stop teams dangling some cash in front of the big man who is earning $13 million dollars in his last contract year.
The Hornets have approximately $49 million dollars on its wage bill for next season meaning the North Carolina outfit will have close to $41 million dollars in its’ coffers to chase premium talents on the market. This is enough to retain Batum, get a stretch Forward like Ryan Anderson and fill out the remaining chunk with guys Mario Chalmers as Kemba Walker’s backup at the Point Guard position and Kent Bazemore or Jamal Crawford as Batum’s replacement at Shooting Guard.
Charlotte will make the playoffs this season but how far they go and how well their main guys play will shape its’ off court battle precisely in a year where Charlotte will host the All-Star Games.