Sam Sharpe, USA Today Sports

Three players, three different contract scenarios

The Hornets made commitments to Jeremy Lamb and Cody Zeller on Monday, but the future of P.J Hairston remains in question

Jeremy Lamb and Cody Zeller both received confirmation on Tuesday in terms of the immediate future, with Lamb receiving a three-year contract extension while Zeller had his team option picked up. 

It appears P.J. Hairston will not be as lucky.

Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reported Tuesday that the Hornets will decline Hairston’s team option, a stark contrast to the support Hairston has received from Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford, who has started the second-year player despite giving him limited minutes during crunch time.

Lamb—once included in the James Harden trade to Houston—is averaging 10 points per game early this season. His salary of $7 million per year could prove to be economically advantageous, not only in the present but also next season with the salary cap potentially exploding after the current campaign.

Charlotte selected Zeller fourth overall in the 2013 draft and, while the former Indiana star has shown his potential, his averages after two seasons—6.7 points and 5 rebounds per contest—are pedestrian. Bigger players often take time to develop and Zeller, who just turned 23-years-old in October, is not near his prime. 

The signing of Lamb and picking up of Zeller’s option also could provide some potential leverage for Charlotte, should the team look to trade during or after the season. With the Hornets winless after three games, if the team does not appear ready to reach the postseason in a weak Eastern Conference there will almost certainly be moves made, and having players locked in could give Charlotte more flexibility in a roundabout way.

Hairston’s situation is more puzzling. 

The report that he will not have his option picked up does not interfere with Clifford’s insistence that he is a defensive stopper and provides three-point shooting—assertions also not backed by the statistics. At best, Hairston could be described as wildly inconsistent. 

With Hairston starting, Charlotte is winless and Clifford is giving more minutes late to Lamb and Jeremy Lin. Like Zeller, Hairston will also turn 23-years-old this season. Conceivably his prime years are ahead of him, although it looks like Charlotte is unwilling to invest in him to find out.

Somewhere along the line there needs to be a meeting of the minds. Is Hairston a guy that Charlotte sees as a viable long-term option, or is he not worth the investment? If he is not in the Hornets’ plans than perhaps the starting assignment should be given to someone who is.

There is too much inconsistency in the approach, and if Charlotte does not get it sorted soon the Hornets could be buried before the calendar changes to 2016; if they do not, than the organization could be headed for another administrative and player personnel upheaval.