With the sixth-place Charlotte Hornets sitting at 20-18 with 34 games remaining before the start of the 2020-21 playoffs, it makes sense that they’ve been a hot name in trade rumors as of late.
The rumor mill originally ramped up with the Evan Fournier/Nikola Vucevic rumors a few weeks ago, and they put the pedal of the floor over the last couple of days. Devonte’ Graham has been called “available,” the Clippers’ interest in Terry Rozier hasn’t died down since last offseason, and Myles Turner seems to be on the market again. Let’s run through each option and discuss how likely, plausible, impactful, reasonable, etc., they would be.
Devonte’ Graham is “available” in trade talks
Per The Athletic’s Sam Amick (who is very plugged into the NBA for what it’s worth), “the sense among teams” is that Graham has become available. He touches on how that is entirely due to the stellar play of LaMelo Ball and Rozier and the emergence of Malik Monk as a rotation piece, but there are a few reasons to doubt this rumor.
Reason No. 1 being that Graham’s trade value is at a career-low right now, he still plays a critical role for the Hornets and they’re able to retain both him and Monk this offseason. Another reason is that Charlotte has no depth as-is, and trading Graham would exacerbate that problem unless he brings a haul, but that brings us right back to reason numero uno.
A Graham trade, unless it’s netting a serious asset(s), is highly unlikely before the deadline.
Los Angeles Clippers interested in Terry Rozier
This rumor was hot in the streets for a little bit during the offseason and it seems to have heated up again. The Clippers are bereft of guard talent aside from Lou Williams and an ancient Patrick Beverley, and Rozier’s floor-spacing would open up lanes for Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. However, what they really need is a playmaker, and Rozier is definitely not that anymore as he’s morphed into an off-ball gunner in Charlotte.
The Clippers’ don’t have anyone interesting to use as salary filler to acquire Rozier, no good draft picks, and Tre Mann is their only somewhat-promising young player. Rozier is definitely not going to Los Angeles without a third team, and there’s almost no chance he’s traded to begin with.
The Hornets just don’t have the depth for all-in trades—especially when “all-in” means a five-seed at best—and trading away future first-round picks is the exact opposite thing a small-market team should do when building around a young star. If they trade two players for one, they’re down to 13 rostered players and since it’s likely one of the outgoing two would be Graham or Monk, the Hornets are losing meaningful depth.
Hornets among teams in pursuit of Myles Turner
The Indiana Pacers center’s name is perpetually in the rumor mill. Despite leading the NBA in blocks per game (3.4), Turner has found himself on the block again, and again the Hornets (among many others) are interested.
This rumor is the one that makes the most sense to me at the moment. Myles Turner’s floor-spacing and shot-blocking would make a world of difference in the Hornets’ starting lineup, though his deficiencies as a rebounder and rim protector would make an existing problem a bit worse. A combination of Caleb or Cody Martin, Graham or Monk combined with Zeller for salary-matching purposes gets Charlotte there, but they’d need to throw at least one first-rounder in that package.
If there’s a high-dollar center that Mitch Kupchak were to go after, it’s probably Turner.
Richaun Holmes is a monster
There hasn’t been a rumor specifically connecting Holmes to the Hornets yet, but it is possible for Charlotte to obtain him without losing depth. Either Martin twin or Bismack Biyombo (who has a no-trade clause he’d need to waive) would send enough salary the Sacramento Kings to bring in Holmes, who could back up Zeller or join the starting lineup.
Holmes’ push shot has become something of a legend among NBA nerds; he’s a wildly-efficient scorer around the rim and in the paint, passes extremely well from the interior, and can switch onto smaller players defensively. A Holmes/Zeller center rotation is more than viable on both ends of the floor in a playoff setting. Last night’s performance of 17 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, two steals and four blocks is evidence of that.
A lot of teams are going to convince themselves they can make a run this season—let them. The Hornets are already a solid team, and since they’re not making a run to the Eastern Conference Finals this season with or without a trade, standing pat, giving the young core freedom to develop in a competitive environment and letting the chips fall where they may is not a bad option at all. In fact, it could be the best option.