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The Charlotte Hornets’ Secret Trade Chip

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It’s not a player or a pick.

Los Angeles Lakers v New York Knicks Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Charlotte Hornets are sitting on a secret trade chip that nobody seems to be talking about. After the Hayward-Batum saga which played out in the summer Charlotte were left with $4 million in CAP space and an open roster spot, instead of filling out the roster with a veteran free agent such as Harry Giles, Solomon Hill or Kent Bazemore the team decided to carry the open roster spot into the season. With 10 of the rostered players still on rookie scale contracts and the likelihood of unavailability due to Covid Protocols this move seemed a perplexing one. However, looking towards the March 25th trade deadline Charlotte are now one of two franchises in the NBA with space under the salary CAP, the only other being the Knicks ($16 Million).

Kupchak could use the open roster spot & CAP space in a number of different ways, I’ve tried to highlight the five most likely below.

  1. Take back an unwanted contract from a team wanting to cut their luxury tax bill or to facilitate a trade.
  2. Trade for a player who earns under $4 Million without having to give up a player.
  3. Help match uneven salaries in a trade.
  4. Trade one player for two in return without needing to waive a player.
  5. Claim a player off waivers.

As you can see Charlotte have a large degree of flexibility thanks to the open roster spot and I think they will look to maintain this right up until the trade deadline. Even in recent weeks when the team has been limited to eight or nine dressed players they have resisted the easy option of signing someone to take up the 15th roster spot. So what could the above scenarios look like?

Take back an unwanted contract from a team wanting to cut their luxury tax bill or to facilitate a trade.

As the trade deadline approaches each year there are always teams paying a large luxury tax bill who are far enough from attending that they decide to save some money. This year the outstanding candidate for this are the Golden State Warriors who as of right now are due to pay $147 million. To put that in perspective that’s nearly £36 million more than the rest of the top 10... combined. Despite an MVP calibre year the Warriors look far from contenders, so surely it would make sense to save a little money?

Let’s say the Warriors traded Marquese Chriss ($1.8 million) who is out injured for the year to Charlotte they could absorb his contract straight into the $4 million of space. That move saves Golden State a total of $8.55 million in tax payments, in return Charlotte could pick up the Minnesota 2021 2nd round pick which GSW currently control. Or, let’s say a big trade piece is moved (E.G. Beal) and the trade requires a third or fourth team to take an unwanted salary in return for a pick (*Ring* Hello Mitch speaking).

Trade for a player who earns under $4 Million without having to up a player.

The one downside of having a roster playing well and 10 rookie scale contracts is a lack of trade assets the Hornets would be willing to give up in a potential deal. However, adding a player for a playoff push with only giving up a future pick is a quickfire way to improve the team now. After a quick skim of the league there are a number of candidates earning under $4 million who look attainable via trade for a future 2nd round pick.

OKC in particular has a couple of interesting candidates; Kenrich Williams, a tough defense first, rebounding and passing small forward would be an upgrade over Caleb Martin, stretch five Mike Muscala would give this team a new dimension offensively. Then there are a few rookie scale guys out there who’s prices wouldn’t be too steep, Troy Brown is stuck in Scott Brook’s dog house and Josh Hart is slowly losing minutes to Alexander-Walker. Only Brown Jr’s contract out of those four extends beyond this summer so the price should be low. Additionally, Charlotte would retain the bird rights for these players making it easier to re-sign them in free agency.

Help match uneven salaries in a trade

Let’s say Kupchak decided to trade Monk ($5.3 Million) towards the deadline, the pool of players you could swap straight up would normally have to be around the same salary level. However, due to the $4 in space Charlotte could actually absorb a player which earns up to $9million per year, increasing the trade options significantly.

Trade one player for two in return without needing to waive a player.

Now let’s say that Kupchak wanted to get really frisky, he puts Devonte Graham ($1.6 Million) on the trade market (Not that I would advocate that). Now he has the option to trade Graham for two players without needing to waive anyone, again the team has more financial flexibility to absorb players outside a wider range of Graham’s salary.

Claim a player off waivers

We’ve all heard the “Drummond might be waived” rumours, again I wouldn’t advocate for this but Charlotte could in theory claim Drummond or another waived player without needing to move anyone themselves. This ultimately puts the team in a great position to improve their team this year without having to sacrifice any of the young players to create roster spots.

Poll

Which option would you prefer the Hornets to take?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Take back an unwanted contract from a team wanting to cut their luxury tax bill or to facilitate a trade.
    (169 votes)
  • 11%
    Trade for a player who earns under $4 Million without having to up a player.
    (79 votes)
  • 12%
    Help match uneven salaries in a trade.
    (82 votes)
  • 7%
    Trade one player for two in return without needing to waive a player.
    (53 votes)
  • 42%
    Claim a player off waivers.
    (282 votes)
665 votes total Vote Now