With the NBA’s February 8th trade deadline looming, let’s preview what the Hornets will possibly do this year. Charlotte has struggled this season and currently sit 11th in the Eastern Conference. As such, there is speculation as to what Charlotte could do. Are they buyers or sellers? Let’s take a look.
Are the Hornets a buyer or seller?
There is a very definitive line that divides the fan base on what the Hornets should do. Some want the team to sell assets for picks, while others want the opposite in order to make a playoff push. There is no settling this debate; however, general manager Rich Cho has been known to make a trade at the deadline, most of the time, in an attempt to make a playoff push. An example of this is when Charlotte traded P.J. Hairston and Brian Roberts to obtain guard Courtney Lee from the Memphis Grizzlies. However, Charlotte was in a much different situation in 2015 than they are now. Outside the playoffs, acquiring a piece to improve the team will be tricky, particularly given the team’s cap situation.
That said, expect the Hornets to be buyers. Steve Clifford even said that if Charlotte can maintain consistency, a playoff run is not as crazy as it sounds. He also stated that simply blowing up the current roster would be an overreaction. All in all, it should definitely be expected that Charlotte is going to be a buyer, this season, even though many fans (including myself) would disagree with that.
What are the Hornets’ top untradable assets?
Sorry NBA Twitter, the Charlotte Hornets consider Kemba Walker untouchable. He is the one asset that has somewhat decent value for Charlotte right now, and with the Hornets hosting the NBA All-Star game next season, they will look to hold on to one of their most marketable players in recent history, to be the face of the All-Star game in 2019. Kemba Walker also said that he is committed to Charlotte long-term.
Another player the Hornets should consider untouchable is Malik Monk. While he has not gotten much playing time as of recent, he is still only 19, and most Charlotte fans still have hope that Monk could be something special one day. Because of this, general manager Rich Cho will not explore any trades involving Monk.
What needs should Hornets address before the trade deadline?
The Hornets could look to fill the backup point guard role. They might also look to gain more draft capital, as this season has not gone according to plan. Rumor has it that the Los Angeles Lakers are looking for potential suitors involving Jordan Clarkson. If that is the case, you can expect Rich Cho to, at the very least, make an inquiry. (Though it could be tough to line up the contracts with Clarkson making $12.5 million.) Another potential player to fill the backup point guard role is Elfrid Payton. According to Marc Stein, the Magic are said to be shopping Payton, as well as two other players (Fournier and Hezonja). In both cases, the Hornets would be acquiring young point guards.
As for gaining draft capital, the Hornets might look to trade Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, or Marvin Williams. A trade involving one of these three players would open up playing time for the Hornets’ youngsters Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon.
What is the dream trade for the Hornets?
Charlotte has many dreams, but a Blake Griffin to Charlotte trade would be pretty stellar. Last week, there was a rumor that came out that said that the Clippers offered Blake Griffin in a package for Karl Anthony-Towns. The only thing that this ‘rumor’ tells me is that the Clippers are willing to part with Griffin for the right price. In April of 2017, reporter Glenn Burkins asked Kemba Walker about free agents who would improve the team. Walker, half-kidding, said that Blake Griffin “would be a great fit” (but also added not to get our hopes up).
And you’re right Kemba, I won’t. Griffin signed a long-term deal with the Clippers this summer, and it’s unlikely Los Angeles would want what the Hornets could offer. That said, in a dream scenario, the Hornets send Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Frank Kaminsky, and their 2018 first round pick, in exchange for Blake Griffin and Brice Johnson.
This period before the trade deadline should be very interesting, to say the least. Fans will learn a lot about Charlotte’s near and distant future, depending on who and what Charlotte opts to trade. This is going to (hopefully) going to be fun.