The Charlotte Hornets are in a period of change. Injuries and inconsistent play led to a 36-46 season, which led to the dismissal of GM Rich Cho and head coach Steve Clifford. Mitch Kupchak was brought in to be the new GM by owner Michael Jordan. He cleaned house firing tons of staff members from the analytic and training staff. He then brought in James Borrego to be the new head coach. More changes are expected this summer as the Hornets try to navigate a terrible cap situation.
A lot of people expect star point guard Kemba Walker to get traded, but that is not a guarantee. While he is clearly the best player on the team and can bring back the most value, the Hornets would like to keep him. To trade him, the Hornets would want to unload a bad contract, get a good player, and get a first-round draft pick. However, doing so is tough ask, especially in a summer where only about six teams have significant cap space. The team that trades for him would also have to be confident they could re-sign him in 2019. Trades will happen though — it’s what the Hornets do. If the Hornets main goal this offseason is to reduce payroll and get younger, the following are five trades the team can make that don’t involve Walker.
Sacramento Kings get: Cody Zeller
Charlotte Hornets get: Skai Labissiere, Frank Mason Jr, Kosta Koufos
Why the Hornets would do it: Zeller is a valuable player, and this would be a tough loss, but a helpful one long term. The Hornets would get solid young back up point guard in Mason Jr, and a promising cheap young power forward in Labissiere. Koufos is thrown in to match salaries and provided extra frontcourt depth. The deal would help the Hornets save almost $2 million in payroll.
Why the Kings would do it: The Kings made it no secret they are shopping around Labissierre. Koufos does not fit their long terms plans, and giving up Mason is worth it for Zeller. Zeller could back up Willey Cauley-Stein or start, and he can even play some four. He is the type of veteran that could make life easier for the Kings young players.
Orlando Magic get: Michael Kidd-Gilchirst
Charlotte Hornets get: D.J. Augustin, Wesley Iwundu
Why the Hornets would do it: MKG has not developed on the offensive end as many hoped he would. He could use a fresh start. This trade is mainly for money reasons as the Hornets would save almost $5 million in salary in this trade. Augustin would return to Charlotte (in a much better culture than the one he left) and would be a solid backup point guard to Kemba. Iwundu is young and cheap, and I think he has some intriguing potential as a wing defender and passer. He can help fill the void if Treveon Graham leaves.
Why the Magic would do it: Orlando just hired Steve Clifford, and he is obviously familiar with MKG and is a fan. The Magic have a hole at the three and MKG would give the Magic some much needed defensive toughness. The price is low too for a wing defender they sorely need.
Denver Nuggets get: MKG, Frank Kaminsky
Charlotte Hornets get: Kenneth Faried, Malik Beasley, 1st round pick(14th overall)
Why the Hornets would do it: This trade would only save the Hornets a little over $1 million in cap space, and Kenneth Faried is of no use at this point in his career, but the extra first round pick and an intriguing young player in Malik Beasley is worth it.
Why the Nuggets would do it: I think the Nuggets will find that unloading Faried’s contract will be tough if they include the 14th pick, and this is the best deal they may get. MKG will help their defense, and I am intrigued seeing him play with an excellent passing big man in Nikola Jokic, who can find him on cuts. Kaminsky gives them frontcourt depth and another shooter. Plus he is cheap.
New Orleans Pelicans get: Nicolas Batum
Charlotte Hornets- Alexis Ajinca, Solomon Hill, Cheick Diallo
Why the Hornets would do it: I found a Batum deal that makes sense! Charlotte would have to take on two awful salaries in Ajinca (he’s still around!) and Hill. However, it still saves them $4 million and makes them more financially flexible in the long term. Ajinca is no use, but hopefully, Hill can get healthy and at least be a rotation player. Diallo is the real treat as he is young and cheap with a fair amount of potential at either frontcourt spot. Getting rid of the Batum deal alone is a win.
Why the Pelicans would do it: The Pelicans need size on the wing and Batum would at least give them that. He is not good, but he is better than Hill and Ajinca combined, and the Pelicans are trying to win now. A fresh start may help Batum as well, and I like the fit with Alvin Gentry. This would be tough for the Pelicans cap, but getting rid of Ajinca and Hill for a player who will actually play is worth it.
Chicago Bulls get: MKG
Charlotte Hornets get: Justin Holiday, Jerian Grant
Why the Hornets would do it: Save that money! The Hornets will save over $6 million in this deal. In return, they get a solid rotation wing in Holiday who is on a friendly deal, and they a quality back up point guard in Grant. Grant can defend and at least make open layups, unlike MCW. Both are on two-year deals, so if they don’t work out, the Hornets can move on quickly.
Why the Bulls would do it: The Bulls lack wings and they lack defense. MKG fills both needs and the Bulls have the money to take him. They can build their core around their 1st round pick, Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine while adding a solid role player like MKG. Chicago wants to trade Grant anyway and Holiday is worth it for MKG.
The Hornets will be active this offseason. As you can see, I think MKG is the most likely to go. He still has some value because he is only 24, and while his contract isn’t small, it is moveable. Teams can always use wing defenders as well. Batum will be very tough to move, and the Pelicans deal is probably the best the Hornets can do, but my guess is he is on the team next year. I don’t think Dwight gets moved either.
My guess Howard is moved at the deadline to a contender where they can restructure his contract. Jeremy Lamb could also be a salary sacrifice, but my guess is the Hornets try to hold on to him unless the deal is too juicy. Charlotte needs to unload cap while trying to get young assets and picks. Any of these deals would help, even if they don’t look like much.