The Charlotte Hornets are in a nice position with two first-round picks in a pretty deep draft, but the best thing has to be that it's given them plenty of avenues to look at to better their team, which has plenty of needs. And then they also have some cap space to work with in free agency.
With nine players currently on contract for next season, the Hornets could have six open roster spots, not that they have to fill all of those. I expect Josh McRoberts to pick up his player option, which would take one of those spots, and Jeff Taylor's inexpensive salary is unguaranteed, so that could be another open spot for the Hornets to fill if they decide to part ways (which would be a harsh move after he tore his Achilles tendon). But let's assume the team gets those two players back and keeps their two first-round picks and one second-round pick. The Hornets salary will be around $48 million, which includes the expected rookie scale contract values of $2.1 million for the No. 9 pick, $1.03 million for No. 24 and an estimated $500 thousand for the No. 45 pick. With the 2014-15 salary cap expected to rise to $63.2 million, the Hornets should have around $15.2 million to play with, if my estimates are accurate.
The value of these picks should not be understated, but they're clearly not home runs like at the top of the draft. Doug McDermott, a popular projected pick for the Hornets due to his terrific shooting touch, has been noted for his exquisite defensive weaknesses. Dario Saric has an intriguing offensive versatility and feel for the game, but there's concern about his his defense and shooting fitting into an NBA role with his size. Gary Harris might be the most solid all-around prospect to look at in the No. 9 area, though his size and three-point shooting leave a bit to be desired. But that's why they're projected here and not at the top of the draft, duh. They each have their strengths and weaknesses, and it's up to the Hornets front office to suss out which players will fit well or can minimize their faults in coming years as they progress.
But should they not find themselves enamored with any of the projected prospects in their range, trading should be an option that's there for them.
One possibility might be to trade up, though I doubt simply coupling the 9 and 24 pick will garner much more than a marginally better pick, if that, due to how much teams value lottery picks in this draft. They could add in one of their young players if they're particularly impressed by someone above them, but I don't think Charlotte has many enviable young players to add to a deal that other teams would be willing to trade out of a top pick for.
Another option would be to trade down from No. 9 to a little bit later in the lottery, I suppose. They could still get a nice talent and possibly get some other addition like a second round pick, but it's not an attractive move to give up that pick to move lower down.
Of course, the Hornets could use one or both of their picks to make moves to add to their roster via trade outside of the draft. Charlotte could use some help at shooting guard to improve their starting roster due to Gerald Henderson's weak spot as a shooter. Arron Afflalo has been the hot name for the Hornets to target due to his solid shooting and the Magic's rebuilding status. I'm not sure how attached Orlando is to Afflalo given their devotion to taking Victor Oladipo with last year's No. 2 pick, but Charlotte might be able to offer them something to bring Afflalo to the Hornets, which would add some offense and spacing to the team. Terrence Ross is also an intriguing young player. He had a more efficient scoring season than Henderson last year and shot about 40 percent from three. The Raptors might want to keep him and not build so much through the draft at this stage, but he might be worth a look.
And of course there's the simple discussion of whether the Hornets should even make a deal at all. When looking at what position a team is, people like to think of them as either buyers or sellers: Are they at the stage where they want to add to their current nucleus with established talent rather than taking risks in the draft? Are they trying to shed bigger contracts to rebuild through young assets?
The Hornets are probably somewhere closer to buyers than sellers, but right now with their roster and financial flexibility, they're somewhere in the middle ground where they don't exactly have to choose one side. I don't think they currently have that established roster nucleus to build around for the future, though they do have talent and a great coach. Unless someone they get in a trade is versatile solid starter to add to that, I'm not sold the Hornets should trade out of their great spot in this year's draft with the players that are available.