3 Former Hornets Without a Job After Free Agency Week 1

With the first full week of NBA free agency in the books, it's a good time to see which former Hornets are still searching for their next opportunity.
Charlotte Hornets v Indiana Pacers
Charlotte Hornets v Indiana Pacers / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

With the first full week of NBA free agency in the books, it’s a good time to review and see what former Charlotte Hornets players are still looking for their next opportunity.

The Hornets haven’t been big players in free agency outside of re-signing Miles Bridges, which was expected as he didn’t get a ton of interest on the open market. Bridges signed a three-year, $75 million contract to stay in the Queen City.

As for some of the other former Hornets looking for work, it's tough right now, as more than a few upper-echelon teams don’t have cap space. Therefore, most free agents have had to settle for small one and two-year contracts or sign for the veteran minimum.

That said, all is not lost for some of these players as they should be able to find an open roster on a new team and continue their professional careers. Below, we’ll discuss who some of those players are as free agency continues across the Association.

1. Gordon Hayward

The veteran forward started the 2023-24 season with the Hornets but was traded by Charlotte to the Oklahoma City Thunder at the trade deadline.

Hayward shockingly didn’t do much on the Thunder, averaging 5.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 17.2 minutes per game. It was a far cry from what the 34-year-old forward did earlier in the season with the Hornets (14.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game).

The former first-round pick shot 46.8 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from beyond the arc on 2.4 attempts per game. Hayward spent four seasons in Charlotte after being traded by the Boston Celtics in 2020.

Over his four-year stint with the Hornets, the former Butler star averaged 18.1 points per game on 46.9 percent shooting from the field and 37.9 percent from deep. Hayward also posted 5.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.

Hayward is likely a vet minimum candidate at this point of his career, which isn’t a bad option, depending on where he goes in free agency. There hasn’t been much talk about Hayward on the open market, but it would be surprising to see him not get signed based on his resume in the NBA.

2. Devonte’ Graham

The 29-year-old point guard began his NBA career with the Charlotte Hornets and made a name for himself in the league. 

Graham exploded onto the scene in his second year in the NBA after having a quiet rookie season in 2018-19, where he only averaged 4.7 points per game. However, he took off in Year 2, averaging a career-high 18.2 points, 7.5 assists, and 3.4 rebounds in 35.1 minutes per game.

The 6-foot-1 guard also shot a ridiculous 37.3 percent from deep, which caught the attention of fans and NBA media alike as Graham finished second in the Most Improved Player award race behind Luka Doncic.

Graham ultimately spent three years in Charlotte before being traded in August 2021 to the New Orleans Pelicans. The former second-round pick lasted two years in New Orleans before going to the San Antonio Spurs, where he spent the last two seasons.

The Spurs sent Graham back to the Hornets for draft capital in a trade this month, but Charlotte immediately waived him. The veteran point guard played well in limited action for the Spurs over the last two years and should find a depth point guard role for the vet minimum.

3. Dennis Smith Jr.

The former ninth overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft played for the Hornets during the 2022-23 NBA season and looked good. Smith Jr. averaged 8.8 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.1 rebounds in 25.7 minutes per game.

It was a renaissance moment for the Fayetteville, North Carolina native as he struggled to find his footing after spending the first four years of his career on three different squads (Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks, and Detroit Pistons).

After bouncing back with the Hornets, Smith Jr. decided to take his talents to Brooklyn and was able to carve out a bench role with the Nets. The veteran combo guard averaged 6.6 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.9 rebounds, which isn’t anything to write home about.

However, the fact that Smith Jr. has been able to stick at least for one season on three different teams over the last few years is a credit to his work ethic and ability to be a consummate pro.

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported last week that the Mavericks have considered bringing back Spencer Dinwiddie and Smith Jr. 

If Smith can land a spot with the Mavericks that would be perfect, as he’s a solid defender and has shown the ability to score when necessary. Among these three players listed, Smith Jr. has the best chance to get a call sooner rather than later.

More Hornets news and analysis: