Mark Williams is still going to be under contract with the Charlotte Hornets for at least the next year-plus, but that’s not the case for James Bouknight. The Hornets declined to pick up the fourth-year, $6 million option on Bouknight’s rookie contract and exercised Williams’ third-year option in time for Tuesday’s NBA-mandated deadline, league sources told The Observer.
Bouknight will become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Bouknight’s future with the Hornets didn’t seem like a given since the reserve guard hasn’t been able to nab a sustained role within Charlotte’s rotation after being drafted No. 11 overall in 2021. And even with the Hornets’ current reserve guard situation, it’s going to be awfully difficult for Bouknight to crack coach Steve Clifford’s lineup.
Bouknight is recovering from Oct. 11 arthroscopic surgery to repair a meniscus injury in his left knee. The Hornets said Bouknight was going to be re-evaluated roughly a month after the surgery, which would put him on track to get checked out next week.
Bouknight injured himself during a training camp session on Oct. 5, forcing him to miss the bulk of the preseason. He’s been spotted casually firing off jumpers once the team wraps up practice — a good sign for his recovery.
In 65 appearances through two seasons, Bouknight averaged 5.1 points, 1.9 rebounds and an assist in 12.6 minutes per outing. He’s been in the developmental phase for the better part of his tenure with the Hornets and saw extension action in 2022-23 with the Greensboro Swarm, Charlotte’s G League team, and was on the Hornets’ summer league team in July.
The uncertainty surrounding Bouknight’s future means the Hornets JT Thor could potentially be the lone one remaining from Charlotte’s four-player draft class in 2021. Kai Jones, who the Hornets also acquired in the first round, was waived during training camp following some curious social media posts and a failed trade request.
For Williams, the Hornets’ starting center, the move was a formality and he’s scheduled to earn $4 million in 2024-25 in the third year of his deal. Although he’s going through the growing pains associated with learning to be a consistently effective big man in the NBA, he’s solidified a position and filled a void that’s been a troublesome spot.
Williams is shooting 77.8% percent from the field this season, which ranked as the second-best mark in the league heading into Tuesday night’s action.