The Greensboro have undergone a serious makeover.
Just one week ago, the Swarm lost to the Maine Red Claws 111-98. The three players who played the most minutes for the Swarm that night were Aaron Harrison, Xavier Munford, and Mike Tobey. None of those players is on the Swarm roster anymore.
The transaction hysteria kicked off Monday, when forward Cheick Diallo was assigned to the Swarm by the New Orleans Pelicans. Diallo is averaging 4.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game for the Pelicans, appearing in nine games thus far.
The Pelicans do not have a D-League affiliate, and thus cannot assign Diallo as freely as the Hornets can and do with their end-of-the-bench players. Diallo will not play in the same system that Alvin Gentry runs, nor will he be just a bus ride away from the Smoothie King Center if the team needs him quickly.
Diallo’s presence on the team serves as a reminder that the Hornets have an ideal setup with the Swarm. Christian Wood, and earlier in the season, Aaron Harrison, have been able to move quickly and freely between Charlotte and Greensboro, getting game experience with the Swarm and practicing regularly with the Hornets.
Diallo has now played two games with the Swarm, averaging 19.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 4.5 blocks per game. Starting at center in the second game, Diallo held Brooklyn starting center Egidijus Mockevicius to 2 points on 1-5 shooting.
Thursday, the NBA trade season kicked off in North Carolina, as the struggling Hornets traded out two backup centers for Miles Plumlee in an attempt to kickstart an ailing bench. To fill out their center depth, the Hornets then signed Swarm center Mike Tobey to a 10-day contract.
Tobey has been the most consistent player on Greensboro this season, defending the rim and putting up double doubles nearly every game he started (19 starts and 15 double doubles on the season). The rookie out of UVA becomes the Swarm’s first-ever call-up, and fills a need for the Hornets.
Tobey doesn’t possess elite athleticism, but he attacks rebounds and times his jumps well to block or alter shots. Although he isn’t a shooter along the lines of Spencer Hawes, he has range out to the arc and hit eight three-pointers on the season.
The benefit to Tobey coming from the Swarm as a Charlotte affiliate player is that he knows Steve Clifford’s system well. He spent training camp with the Hornets, and has played in the same system under Noah Gillespie’s tutelage since joining the Swarm.
Tobey’s absence will be keenly missed by the Swarm, who are without a true center on their roster without Tobey. Cheick Diallo started at center Friday night in Tobey’s first game out, and he rotated with Perry Ellis throughout the game in the middle.
To Barcelona With Love
Xavier Munford started in all 30 games for the Greensboro Swarm this season, leading the team in minutes and points per game. The former Rhode Island star got run with the Memphis Grizzlies last season, and was one of the most accomplished players in the entire D-League this season. On November 28th he was named the NBA D-League Player of the Week.
The Swarm sought Munford out prior to the season, trading next season’s first-round pick for him. He commonly was the steadying presence for a Greensboro team prone to streaky nights from its other guards.
Friday, the Swarm announced that Munford left the team to pursue an opportunity overseas. The 6’2” guard is expected to sign a contract with the Barcelona Lassa of the Liga ACB and EuroLeague.
The move was announced shortly after the news that Charlotte filled its last roster spot with guard Ray McCallum. Whether there was a correlation is unknown, although the timing certainly was sequential.
Munford’s loss will mean an increased role for Rasheed Sulaimon, a guard out of Maryland who started alongside Munford early in the season before moving to the bench with the acquisition of Archie Goodwin.
The Cat In The Hat
In the hours following Munford’s departure from the team, the Swarm moved quickly to fill his role on the team. Former Hornets guard Aaron Harrison was sent to the Delaware 87ers in return for guard Anthony “Cat” Barber and the returning player right for Sam Thompson.
Thompson is currently playing overseas and may not return to the D-League, but Barber has been a consistent starter for the 87ers. In 21 games (all starts) the former NC State Wolfpack star has scored 14.2 points per game with a combined 7.5 rebounds and assists.
Barber provides guard depth for the Swarm, as well as the outside shooting that Harrison didn’t bring with any consistency. Although he won’t replace Munford’s complete skillset, Barber will have an opportunity to prove his worth in front of many of the same people who cheered for him in nearby Raleigh during his college years.
The Swarm expect Barber to pass his physical Saturday and be available for their game Saturday night against the Long Island Nets.