It was a seemingly odd decision on Portland’s part to trade their French wing before the free agency dust had settled, but after LMA left in free agency, now they have the No. 9 pick in the 2014 Draft and Gerald Henderson, a downgrade from Batum, but not a huge one. That’s a solid rebuilding move by GM Neil Olshey.
On the Charlotte side, they may only have their upgrade on the wing for the interim. Batum is an unrestricted free agent next summer, and he could be gone once July 1, 2016 comes around — especially considering all the money that will be available. A recent report adds that Batum might already have one foot out the door, too.
Grantland’s Zach Lowe recently wrote a feature on the Charlotte Hornets detailing how tricky it is for those teams in the middle of the NBA pack. Sources informed Lowe that Batum is eyeing Toronto (there are plenty of French-speaking citizens north of the border) next summer.
Batum is an impending unrestricted free agent on a borderline playoff team, diving into an unprecedented cap frenzy in which two-dozen suitors could offer $20 million per season. Batum’s people have already made noise about how much Batum would like to play in Toronto, a city that appeals to his international roots, per several league sources. He is a flight risk, even though both Cho and Chad Buchanan, the team’s assistant GM, know Batum well from their days in Portland. “We are very comfortable given that Chad and Rich know Nic well,” Polk says.
After Lowe’s missive, a number of blogs picked up the news.
Then, Batum responded to the rumor, and even used Saturday Night Live to voice his displeasure.
Just because Batum shot down the idea he might go to Toronto doesn’t mean he won’t go to Toronto in free agency next summer. It’s almost a year away. A lot can happen in a year. Sure, the Hornets can offer him an extra year and more significant year-on-year raises than other team, but with all the TV-rights money floating around a few teams might offer Batum in excess of $20 million a year, a deal the Hornets — as a small-market team — would have to think long and hard before extending.