Centers of attention: Three bigs Hornets should target in free agency

Danny Thompson

The Charlotte Hornets struggled at the center position in the 2019-2020 season. Even though they got career highs in points and rebounds from both Cody Zeller and a career high in scoring from Bismack Biyombo, the Hornets had one of the worst groups statistically in the entire league. With the Hornets having cap space in the upcoming off-season, they can attempt to bring in one of the available free agent market.  

I’m not expecting the Hornets to go out and spend a chunk of their available cap space on a center, so that takes away players like Hassan Whiteside, Montrezl Harrell and Serge Ibaka, but here are a few players that could fit the Hornets timeline and style of play. 

Tristan Thompson, Cleveland

Charlotte was one of the worst overall rebounding teams in the NBA last season and adding one of the best rebounders is the perfect way to solve that problem. In his nine seasons, Thompson has averaged 3 or more offensive rebounds per game in 8 of them, over 4 defensive rebounds 7 times and 8 or more total rebounds per game in all but one season.   

Thompson has averaged a double double in each of the last two seasons and he grabbed 4 offensive rebounds per game. Yes, he won’t protect the rim like a Biyombo, but when you get over 17% of the rebounds that happen when you are on the floor it makes up for it. That comes in handy when Charlotte had the league’s worst field goal percentage a season ago.  

Harry Giles, Sacramento

Before anyone says anything about his injury history, this is a low risk/high reward signing. In high school, he was the national player of the year. He can score down low and is very underrated as a perimeter threat. He hit 43% of his shots from 10 to 16 feet and an additional 39% from 16 feet to the three point line. He took a third of his 251 total shorts from those areas of the court combined.  

With Charlotte being a very poor defensive rebounding team, Giles 25.8% defensive rebounding percentage last season and 22.3% career percentages will help the Hornets if they acquire him. When Giles starts he is productive, in his 17 career starts, he averages 10.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and shoots 59% from the floor.  

Nerlens Noel, Oklahoma City

If you are looking for rim protection and a defensive presence, Noel is the best one on the market. Whiteside might have led the league in block shots, but Noel’s defensive rating and defensive win shares were better. Most importantly, Noel’s salary demands will not be as high as Whiteside’s as well.  

Noel is athletic, mobile and he’s still young at 26 years old. He can almost single handedly change the outlook of the Hornets defensely. Biyombo led the team in blocks (0.9) and block percentage (4.4%), Noel finished with 1.5 blocks and 6.9% block percentage in about the same number of minutes per game. 

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