The Charlotte Hornets have made a flurry of moves in free agency over its first few days. They lost Josh McRoberts to Miami. They made a huge offer to Gordon Hayward, only to have Utah match it. They then raided the Jazz anyway for forward Marvin Williams (right), who is going to be paid like a poor man's version of Hayward (although certainly not like a poor man, given that he's going to get $7 million per year over the next two; Hayward will average a little more than twice that, at $15.75 million over the next four years -- but in Utah).
The Hornets also signed a backup point guard I had barely heard of (Brian Roberts) and saw their two first-round draft choices go a combined 2-for-29 -- yes, 2-for-29 -- in their first NBA summer-league game. Noah Vonleh and P.J. Hairston, it should be said, did play better in the second game in Las Vegas.
So there has been a whole lot of Hornet buzz the past few days. But what I am wondering is whether the Hornets are really any better than they were when this whole free-agency process began.
I would say no -- they are not. The big splash they hoped for required the Jazz opting not to match the Hayward offer. But Charlotte backed the wrong horse in regard to that -- Houston did not match Chandler Parsons at very similar numbers, and so Dallas got Parsons away from the Rockets.
It turns out restricted free agents' offers are matched a little less than 50 percent of the time over about the last decade, but the Hornets keep picking the wrong ones in their history. They now have made three RFA offers in their history, and all three times the other team matched.
The McRoberts loss, of course, was big. McRoberts was a deft passer and almost a point forward for Charlotte -- a lot of the offense ran through him. Williams, who was the sixth man for the 2005 UNC championship team, isn't the same kind of player in that he doesn't see the floor that well, although on certain nights he will be a better scorer than McRoberts was and he could certainly start in front of Cody Zeller.
Now notice I didn't say that Charlotte is no better than it was at the end of the 2014 season, when the then-Bobcats made the playoffs and lost four straight games to Miami. Charlotte is better than it was two months ago. Adding Vonleh and Hairston certainly will make some sort of positive difference, assuming Hairston doesn't get in trouble again and stays on the court (this, of course, is not a sure bet).
But so far in free agency, the Hornets have been only so-so. They have certainly not done anything like the Al Jefferson signing from a year ago. I like a couple of their smaller moves -- Roberts, for instance, came cheaply by NBA standards and sounds like he can shoot -- but the big one that is really a difference-maker? That one is either still on the horizon, or else it is simply not going to happen this offseason.