Charlotte Hornets

How Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s free-agent decision impacts Hornets’ salary cap

Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is taking the guaranteed $13 million for next season, rather than test free agency.

Kidd-Gilchrist opted into next season, the last on his contract, an NBA source confirmed. Shams Charania of the Athletic first reported Kidd-Gilchrist’s decision.

The Hornets will enter Thursday’s draft with at least $98 million on next season’s player payroll, including the rookie-scale salary for the 12th overall pick. Re-signing All-NBA point guard Kemba Walker in July could throw the Hornets above the luxury-tax threshold, projected to be $132 million. Exceeding the tax threshold at the end of next season would cost Hornets owner Michael Jordan millions and limit options for improving Charlotte’s roster.

Three of the Hornets’ highest-paid players for next season — Bismack Biyombo, Marvin Williams and Kidd-Gilchrist — each had a player option for next season. Each decided to take guarantees rather than enter free agency. Combined, their salaries represent $45 million on the Hornets’ 2019-20 cap, and it’s possible none of those three starts next season.

Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, was a reserve last season and sat out a handful of games by the decision of coach James Borrego. When asked in April about the possibility of becoming a free agent, Kidd-Gilchrist said he was as concerned with “happiness” as “money,” suggesting leaving the Hornets was a possibility.

However, it seemed unlikely he would have made back that $13 million by entering one of the deepest free-agent classes in NBA history. Also, Kidd-Gilchrist recently had surgery to address a chronic groin injury. He is expected to be fully recovered by training camp in September.

If Kidd-Gilchrist is unhappy with his role next season, it’s possible he could give up some guaranteed money in return for his release to sign elsewhere. Typically, such deals — called buyouts in NBA jargon — occur after the February trade deadline.