The Hornets have agreed to sign unrestricted free agent forward Marvin Williams to a two-year contract worth $14 million, according to Yahoo Sports and the Charlotte Observer.
Williams, 28, averaged 9.1 points and 5.1 rebounds for the Jazz in 2013-14, the final year of a five-year, $37.5 million extension signed with the Hawks in 2009. The 2005 lottery pick was traded from Atlanta to Utah in 2012.
Consider Williams a "Plan C" for Charlotte, who had hoped to re-sign incumbent power forward Josh McRoberts, who instead left to sign a four-year, $23 million contract with Miami. The Hornets then extended a four-year, maximum $63 million offer sheet to Jazz restricted free agent forward Gordon Hayward, but Utah officially matched the offer and retained Hayward on Saturday.
The agreements amounts to a bit of a homecoming for Williams, who spent one season at UNC before turning pro. He will now work for Hornets owner Michael Jordan, a fellow Tar Heel.
Williams has played both forward positions during his nine-year career, with his Player Efficiency Rating steadily hovering right around league average. Charlotte coach Steve Clifford will likely plug Williams into his starting lineup between 2012 lottery pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and All-NBA Third Team center Al Jefferson.
Charlotte's play for Marvin Williams is a good reminder of just how much more inflated the market was prior to the most recent lockout, which saw the owners enact shorter contract lengths. Williams is a solid starting-caliber player, and the Hornets, a non-marquee franchise, had a huge hole at his position after losing Josh McRoberts for nothing. That combination of factors could easily have led to a disastrous long-term signing in years past. John Salmons and Travis Outlaw come to mind.
Instead, the gripe here is that the Hornets will be paying Williams a few million more per year than the mid-level salary slot: $14 million over two years looks worse than $11 million over two years, but it looks a lot better than, say, $28 million over four years, which might have possible under previous market conditions.
A quick-take assessment of Williams' overpay might have faulted the Hornets for taking them out of the running for higher-profile free agents by committing too much of their salary cap space. That proved not to be true, as Charlotte has reportedly agreed to ink Lance Stephenson to a three-year, $27 million contract. The Stephenson/Williams combination is a fine recovery from losing McRoberts; Charlotte now finds itself right in the thick of things now that the East's reigning favorites, Miami and Indiana, both suffered major summer defections.
The return on this contract could be determined by how coach Steve Clifford puts together his frontcourt pieces. Will Clifford go with Williams' experience over Cody Zeller's length when it comes time to pick his starting power forward, or will he instead use Williams as a pillar for his second unit? In turn, how many minutes can 2014 lottery pick Noah Vonleh reasonably expect to play in year one? If Williams can hold down the four as Zeller and Vonleh continue to acclimate to NBA life, he has a chance to make this deal look like a savvy decision.