Socrates once said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy. Not on fighting the old, but building on the new.”
The Charlotte Hornets front office has focused their energy on acquiring new talent this off-season by retooling the roster. In their most recent off-season move, however, they are “building on the new” by signing a player from the past.
Charlotte made a three team trade with the Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic, acquiring former Hornets’ big man Bismack Biyombo and two second round picks (2019, 2020) from the Magic in exchange for Timofey Mozgov (acquired from BKN for Dwight Howard).
On paper, the trade looks like a good move for the Hornets. They traded a soon to be 32-year-old Mozgov and his $16 million dollar contract and acquired the 25-year-old Biyombo and a $17 million dollar contract. But how much better are the Hornets with Biz?
In 529 career NBA games (210 starts), Biyombo has averaged 5.0 points, 6.5 rebounds,game, and 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor, and and 56.6 percent from the line in 20.9 minutes per game. These career averages in seven NBA seasons would draw comparison’s to Greg Ostertag’s 11-year averages, Zaza Pachuila’s 15-year averages, and Rasho Nesterovic’s 12-year averages across the board.
Now entering his second stint with the Hornets, Biyombo has two years remaining on his 4-year, $72 million dollar contract he signed with the Magic back in 2016. Currently, the Hornets’ centers outside of Biz are Cody Zeller, Willy Hernangomez, and Mangok Mathiang, but at this point only Zeller and Hernangomez have shown flashes of what they can bring to a NBA franchise.
Biyombo will need to show value on all aspects on the floor, but especially on the offensive end if he expects to be part of the rotation. Biyombo has never averaged higher than six points per game, making him a limited offensive center in terms of points production. In fact, Biyombo only had 13 games last season with the Magic where he scored double-digit points. His season high was 21 points, which came against the Wizards on January 12.
Biyombo didn’t shoot well against some of the better big men in the league; here is a breakdown of how he shot against a few:
Team | Opposing Center | Biyombo’s FG% Average against Opposing Team
CHA Dwight Howard - 39.1%
DEN Nikola Jokic - 27.3%
NOP Anthony Davis - 33.3%
NYK Enes Kanter - 30.0%
PHX Tyson Chandler - 25.0%
POR Jusuf Nurkic - 25.0%
MEM Marc Gasol - 33.3%
The lack of an offensive productive game and a high field-goal percentage is something to be concerned about. Zeller and Hernangomez will likely play ahead of him, though he could be useful in short-term situations where one of Cody and Willy is out injured.
Biyombo’s value as a defensive anchor is boosted by hiw 7-6 wingspan, which has resulted in 258 blocked shots since the 2016-17 season. His 115 blocked shots last season would have ranked him second on the Hornets only behind Dwight Howard’s 131 blocked shots. in fact, no other Hornets player last season had more than 38 (Marvin Williams). Biyombo’s rebounding ability will hopefully earn him minutes in the Hornets’ rotation next season as a player who can make an impact off the bench.
Last season with the Magic, he averaged 4.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks while shooting 50 percent. Per 48 minutes, Biyombo’s averages off the bench skyrocket upward giving more reason why his value coming off the bench means something for the Hornets; 14.1 points, 14.1 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks.
If Biyombo is able to continue to show his value as a defensive anchor, he could earn minutes in the rotation next season. Though he is expected to play behind Zeller and Hernangomez, Biyombo does provide value as a third backup center that the Hornets were missing. He has a great I.Q. in terms of rebounding and blocking shots. He is also one of the most liked players in the NBA, especially with the Charlotte Hornets, and in the community as well.
Biyombo is limited offensively, but his athleticism especially on the glass, and defensive potential make the trade a marginal win.
With Zeller and Hernangomez expected to play ahead of Biyombo because of their developed offensive and well-rounded game, Biyombo’s minutes would be expected to be low next season but in those short-term situations he can be very useful.
Overall, the trade made complete sense for the Hornets, they needed to acquire younger talent in the frontcourt and a true rim protector, and Biyombo’s game fit that need. Acquiring two second round picks as well means that the Hornets could use that to draft future frontcourt players in 2019 and 2020 if Biyombo’s value doesn’t pan out.