The Charlotte Hornets were facing a free-agency crisis this summer after making it back to the playoffs. Not only were multiple members of their team up for free agency, but most crucially, Nicolas Batum, whom the Hornets traded multiple assets for in a contract year, was available to depart. The risk of losing Batum in free agency was significant and could have damaged their franchise for several seasons.
Instead, things have worked out great. Batum reportedly has agreed to a five-year, $120 million offer from Charlotte in the wee first hours of free agency.
Free agent Nicolas Batum has reached agreement with Charlotte on a five-year, $120 million deal, league sources tell The Vertical.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 1, 2016
Batum confirmed he's returning to Charlotte on Twitter early Friday:
Here are five things to know as Batum returns to Charlotte.
1. He telegraphed this. Batum has said early and often how much he likes it in Charlotte, and it's very similar to the town he grew up in in France. He wanted to reward the Hornets' faith in him as a player and he fits perfectly in Steve Clifford's offense. Batum never really expressed interest in any other team despite widespread interest in him.
2. He gave Charlotte a discount. The big impact here is that Batum signed for roughly $30 million less than his max contract. That gives the Hornets wiggle room to retain some other free agents or pick up replacement options. Batum re-signing in Charlotte was not a surprise. Doing so for the max when he was one of the best free agents on the market? That's a shock.
3. It keeps the Hornets' most important combination together. Batum helped Kemba Walker become a greatly improved player this season, and Walker's efficiency and effectiveness waned when Batum was off the floor. Keeping Batum isn't just about his athleticism, skill, and versatility -- it's what he unlocks for the rest of the Hornets roster.
4. This drastically affects the wing market. If the Warriors don't sign Kevin Durant, they're likely to keep Harrison Barnes now because Batum is off the table. For teams like the Lakers, they are likely to turn to players like Evan Turner as a replacement. The drop-off from Batum in terms of value for investment is steep, and this hurts the market that he's off the board already.
5. This likely means Courtney Lee goes elsewhere. Batum's deal leaves money for the Hornets to throw around, but with the Knicks reportedly pursuing him with aplomb, there's a good chance Lee receives an offer the Hornets won't have room for in the big picture. Still, they kept their best free agent, and everything else is secondary. This is a big win for the Hornets in a crucial summer.