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ATH Mailbag: Will the Hornets be Sellers by the Trade Deadline?

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Who’s going to fall out of the rotation? Will Devonte’ Graham play? Your questions answered on the ATH Mailbag.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

You can submit questions to this mailbag by direct messaging/replying to the @At_The_Hive Twitter account, or email athmailbag@gmail.com.

First up, @justinepence asks:

Last January, when Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that the Hornets had made Kemba Walker available in trade talks. He also stated in the same article that Charlotte had been shopping the other four starters: Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, and Dwight Howard (who has since been traded).

That said, when it comes to trading veteran players, Charlotte may look to get something in exchange for Jeremy Lamb if the circumstances are not good when February arrives. The Kemba Walker rumors (and expectations) also couldn’t be any higher. If the Hornets could net anything more than a couple of seconds for Lamb, I’m not sure they’d hesitate. When it comes down to Kemba Walker, that’s another story. Before the draft, I wrote a piece on what potential returns on a Walker trade could be. In February, the expectation for what Charlotte could get will likely be different, but the article is a good basis to go off of.

Next up, @RancMeBe asks:

Absolutely. As much as injuries are bad, they are a given in a sport as unforgiving as basketball, where players participate in a total of 82 games. I’d say it’s more than likely either Monk or Bridges start a couple of games should a starter get hurt.

I don’t see this happening towards the beginning of the season (unless someone in the starting lineup suffers an injury similar to that o Batum during last year’s preseason game against the Detroit Pistons). However, this is the NBA, and (almost) anything is possible.

@RichDevitaIII asks:

Tony Parker is a crisp 36 years old. While I’d like to think he can sufficiently become the next Jeremy Lin - esque player for the Charlotte Hornets, I think that would be a little bit idealistic. As I addressed in the previous question, injuries are especially prevalent in basketball. Unfortunately for Parker, the older you get, the more susceptible you are to said injuries.

With all of this into account, I believe Graham studying under Parker is a great fit. Hell, any player learning the game under a player as great as Tony Parker (and Kemba Walker) is lucky. I think it’s going to be interesting to see what the rotation looks like late in the year, but my guess would have to be Graham playing more over Parker. His upside alongside Tony Parker’s imminent decline pretty much means it’s inevitable Graham will overtake the backup point guard spot in the rotation eventually.

The NBA Draft is a colossal game of chance. To land a franchise player like Anthony Davis (Yes, I am still salty. Just imagine the Walker/Davis P&R) would be like flipping a coin and it landing on heads ten straight times. The Hornets have been in the position to land a great talent before. In 2012, the missed on Bradley Beal. In 2013, they missed on CJ McCollum and Giannis Antetokounmpo. In 2014, it was Gary Harris, Dario Saric, and Zach LaVine. In 2015, Charlotte passed on Devin Booker and Myles Turner. In 2016 and 2017, the Hornets traded their pick for Marco Belinelli (yikes) and passed on Donovan Mitchell. Charlotte has had PLENTY of chances to land a franchise-altering player.

While I agree that the Hornets should *probably* rebuild, completely dismissing the idea that players like Walker and Batum don’t do any good for the franchise would be simply egregious. The main reason the Hornets are ‘afraid’ of tanking, I presume, is money. Michael Jordan is first and foremost a businessman. His Jordan Brand is all over the NBA. And College Football. and College Basketball. And even Soccer. Just Thursday, French Soccer powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain announced they would have a Jordan-branded kit (or for you pesky people who don’t follow soccer, “jersey”). His brand would take a hit, and a bad product on the floor would likely mean a lot of empty seats on game nights. Plus, tanking during the team’s 30th anniversary season isn’t going to sell well.

This question has been asked a lot in these mailbags. But the answer is fairly obvious — it’s MKG.

Nicolas Batum isn’t going to be left out of the rotation for two reasons. The first being the money he is earning. Batum, who re-signed with the Hornets in 2016, is currently earning about $24 million per year. The second reason is that Batum is the best passer on the current Charlotte team. While Walker can be flashy at times, Batum led the team in assists in 2016-17, and probably would have led the team again last season had he not been hurt.

Miles Bridges was just recently drafted with a lottery pick. James Borrego even said just a couple of days ago that Bridges was better than he expected. I’m doubtful the decision would be to leave Bridges out of the rotation entirely.

That leaves Bacon and Kidd-Gilchrist. At this point, it seems more likely that Borrego would elect to play Bacon over MKG. What is important to note is that Bacon was playing over Kidd-Gilchrist in late-game situations in 2018.

To reiterate, it’s probable that Batum, Bacon, and Bridges would be the three forwards Borrego will use, rather than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.