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Hornets should look to maintain ‘Core Four’ this trade deadline

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As the big day looms, keep in mind the players who the Charlotte Hornets should not move.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at New York Knicks Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

Well, we’re almost here Hornets fans.

The NBA trade deadline is only a few days away. It’s time to head over to the ESPN trade machine and use our creative minds and find the perfect trade for our beloved Charlotte Hornets. After all, this year is running the same narrative that has plagued the Hornets the past few seasons.

That, of course, is inconsistancy. The team looked at their best when they were able to defeat the San Antonio Spurs at The Alamo City. On the other hand, there were those embarrassing efforts against let’s face it, the tanking Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks.

As we approach deadline, it’s important to remind Hornets fans that trading away such young assets, even if they’re a sweetener in a salary dump, should not be the main agenda this year. The Hornets have finally been able to acquire some valuable draft draft recently, minusing a pretty big whiff, and trading away that capital should not be on the team’s agenda.

Today, we are going to look at those players that should be considered as a key piece moving forward, and “untouchable” in trade talks.

Malik Monk

The main advocate for writing this piece, there needs to be something said about Monk. It’s that he isn’t going to be as bad as he’s been to start the year. Practically every NBA player experiences a sophmore slump, and Monk’s slump looks to be turning around. Frankly, it’s time to light shine on what has become an overall sophomore slump for the Kentucky guard.

Learning to adapt to a drastically new offensive scheme under James Borrego has caused Monk to become less trigger-happy than before. With a higher emphasis on ball movement and less time per shot attempt, it was clear that he wasn’t ready to assimilate as quickly as recently thought.

At Christmas, Monk was shooting 33 percent from three off nearly five attempts per game. Although an average percentage compared to the average two-guard, but this is Monk’s number one contributing area. He also shot a bleak 38 percent from the floor in that stretch, another example of his inconsistency on the court that also lead to a lot of DNP-CD (Did not play, coaching decision) nights.

If the past month has proven anything, it’s that Monk should not be in one-and-one trade, meaning he shouldn’t be the main piece in a potential move. The only reasonable circumstance for a departure is if the team is trading for a young, Bradley Beal type player, not becoming a loading off piece to dump one of the Hornets complicated contracts as mentioned previously.

In January, Monk has had four of his eight best shooting nights from the floor. He has finally been able to work off veterans Kemba Walker and Tony Parker and has gone back to being that microwave player off the bench.

The 21-year-old has plenty of time to develop his defensive awareness and playmaking abilities. The Hornets drafted him at 19 years of age for a reason. They saw the offensive spunk he can bring, and they should keep that thinking through the trade deadline.

Willy Hernangomez

Hernangomez has also gotten a bad rap this season. He, like Monk, struggled to find his fit under Borrego’s schematics. With the unfortunate injury of Cody Zeller, Hernangomez has been able to outperform both Bismack Biyombo and Frank Kaminsky and has essentially become the Hornets most reliable big man.

This year’s rebounding and overall shooting have gone a long way in scoping Hernangomez’ long-term future on the team. Crashing both offensive and defensive boards has been a true asset for the Hornets bench. Tying a career-high sixteen boards against the Sacramento Kings is just one example of how well he’s been able to control the class. This has gone a long way in how the Hornets have been able to counter the high-paced teams in the association.

The higher need for team spacing has also helped in Hernangomez’ offensive role. He is more susceptive to one-on-one matchups inside as teams are forced to guard the Hornets in a larger halfcourt area. Doing this has allowed more post-up opportunities for Hernangomez, including an elegant sky-hook against the nuggets.

Looking long-term, Hernangomez provides the most talent both in rebounding and scoring column among Hornets bigs. He has grown his body stature in the offseason which has allowed him to be more susceptible to bigger hits in the inside. Earning around $1.5 million the next two seasons, Hernangomez should not be a “throw in” piece in potential trades, his trajectory is simply too beyond that.

Miles Bridges

This one shouldn’t be up for debate. Bridges is an ultra-athletic wing who, despite hitting a rookie wall in December, has been a menace on both ends of the floor. Being selected in this year’s draft, I, as well as the majority of Hornets fans, don’t imagine Bridges being in any trades this year.

Bridges’ has been able to dimish the height concern he possesses playing the four spot. Using his explosiveness both on and off the ball, Bridges has shaped his game that fits well in the modern NBA. Able to switch off screens and block shots in the paint, he is a very intriguing young piece that the Hornets need to keep in their possession.

For that reason, there should be no consideration to trade the forward. He has the freakish athleticism that is hard to come by. Between his development in shot-creating and possibly playmaking, the team should not go all in for the playoffs and get rid of Bridges in the process.

Kemba Walker

The final piece to the Hornets four untouchables, Walker has been insistent on a potential long-term stay in the Queen City.

Back in September, he talked to the well-respected Hornets writer at the Charlotte Observer, Rick Bonnell.

“This is where I want to be [Charlotte]. I don’t want to be nowhere else. I want to create something special here in Charlotte, something we’ve never had here [in the NBA]. I want to create some consistency.”

With the tear he’s been on this season, which has lead Walker earning the team’s third-ever all-star starter nod, it makes sense for the Hornets to repay his services with a hefty payday this offseason. He has the personality that fits this city, which was exemplified in his recent SlamOnline issue.

Playing the hypothetical, let’s assume the Charlotte Hornets do in fact keep all four of these players listed this trade deadline. They will have Kemba Walker inked with a new max-level contract with three young and talented guys who can develop into a true sidekick or at least third option scoring. By keeping the likings of these players on the roster, it can grow into something even more.

Knowing Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak’s history, it’s that he isn’t afraid to trade veteran players. He did an excellent job in shaping the Shaq and Kobe teams of the early 2000s, minus the questionable free-agent signings.

There are such veterans that shape the mold, with a considerable portable contracts. Jeremy Lamb ($7 million), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ($13 million), and Marvin Williams ($14 million) are the only candidates the Hornets should consider if they decide to make a trade. Each player is a relative bargain for the production they have been putting on for the team. The one undecided mark is Williams, who can become a very streaky shooter at times.

This trade deadline, the Hornets should be very calculated in their decisions. Hoping to not diminish the ‘Core Four’ should be the team’s number one priority. Blowing it up or aggressively pursuing an aging veteran should not be the option. They should not blow it up at the deadline to try to get an injury-prone veteran like a Marc Gasol or Kevin Love. Giving away such young assets in deals like these can very well blow up in the Hornets face.

Although this may come out as a cautious approach, this is the route that I believe the Charlotte Hornets should pursue.