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What’s a trade rumor, anyways?

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As the Hornets struggle, trade talks pick up. This makes it important to understand the difference between speculation and rumors, and why it’s unlikely a trade will happen in the near future.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Charlotte Hornets are struggling. When a team struggles, a search for answers ensues. Often, one of the simplest solutions is to trade out of a slump. “Oh, my team is struggling? Well if they trade X for Y, they’ll be good.”

I wish it were this easy.

But speculation is inevitable. It can be fun as well, especially when everyone involved understands that any and all speculation is just that. Take, for example, Monday’s fun with the trade machine:

We got a few serious and logical responses, but it got silly when the trade proposals went intentionally off the rails:

Clearly, every team comes out equally well. Same with this one:

See, speculating is fun, and it generates conversation. Paid writers know this as well, which is likely what prompted Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders to speculate about the Hornets trading Nicolas Batum or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist:

The prevailing thought in NBA circles is the Hornets have to move off a salary, with forward Nic Batum, who can’t seem to get and stay healthy or swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist being candidates. Of the two, Kidd-Gilchrist is owed the least amount of money—$13 million a year for the next three years, which isn’t exactly a bargain.

This is a fairly sensible bit of speculation. The Hornets are cap-tied for the next couple seasons; moving one of these two would free them up financially and create flexibility.

But understand that this tidbit from Kyler isn’t a rumor. Kyler doesn’t say the Hornets are actively looking to move either player, only that he and others believe the Hornets need to move a big contract. Calling it a rumor still doesn’t make it one, but it can mislead readers who see you calling it a rumor to conclude, “Yes, this is a rumor.”

And that’s where the fun ends, because once speculation is mislabeled as more than that, it becomes difficult to fix the error. As the season progresses, more speculation surrounding the Hornets and who will-or-won’t-be traded is inevitable. When it does, we need to be careful.

Knowing the team’s history, and the current front office matters. The Hornets front office is pretty good at preventing leaks; historically, some of the bigger trades to go down were revealed right as they were happening. So in all likelihood, any news about a potential trade is either coming from an outside source, rather than the Hornets front office. Or in some cases, there’s no truth to it at all.

Historically, Rich Cho deals around the trade deadline. Courtney Lee, Gary Neal, and even Josh McRoberts came closer to the deadline, not just before Christmas. There’s reasoning behind this. Other teams know the predicament the Hornets are in. If any inquires developed into discussions right now, the Hornets would likely be low-balled by other teams. Even if you’re of the mind that one of Batum or MKG should be dealt, you’d want at least some value in return. Right now, it’s doubtful either player amounts for much.

Deals happen at the deadline because by that point more teams are looking to get better or worse, depending on their situation. Right now, front offices are more willing to sit tight and wait for a better opportunity.

Also, consider the situation Cho and the front office are in. This is a group that already went through a rebuild, and whose current objective is to produce a competitive playoff team. As long as Cho remains general manager, that goal likely stays the same. If a rebuild happens, this front office (and coaching staff) probably won’t be involved, so be wary if speculation swirls and points to the Hornets off-loading starters for picks and prospects.

All this doesn’t mean the front office aren’t actively considering trades right now. Just be mindful of reports stating they are unless it’s coming from the outlets and/or writers known for getting it right.

Anyways, this is my PSA for the day. Speculate all you want, but when the phrase “trade rumor” gets thrown out there, be mindful of what’s being said and where it’s coming from.