This is my second article of a three part series chronicling the possible center options for the Charlotte Hornets this off-season. In this article I will be focussing on potential trade targets currently under contract with teams, you can go back and read my first article where I outline my top 10 Free Agency options.
I’m hoping by now most of you have already read my first article, so I’m not going to go over the team’s needs and what they’re looking for (As if it wasn’t obvious already), let’s dive straight into the analysis.
Charlotte’s current trade options are currently limited due to the construction of their roster, they currently have 7 players under contract for next season on rookie scale contracts earning between $1-4 million per year (Not including LaMelo $7.8). The Hornets then have several players who can’t be traded as they are pending free agents; Zeller ($15), Biyombo ($3.5), Monk ($5), Devonte Graham ($1.5) and Brad Wanamaker ($2.25). Finally, they have Terry Rozier ($18.9) and Gordon Hayward ($28.5) who are the team’s senior players who look unlikely to be moved. With no tradeable salaries in the $5-19 million range it severely limits the flexibility in the trade market for the team in the run up to the draft. The positive news is in Free Agency, Charlotte will have more options to make trades as they can absorb contracts into their CAP space (Approx $20m) without the need to “Match” an outgoing salary.
My process for identifying trade targets was as follows, I only included players who at least in theory would be potentially available via trade. I ruled out most rookies in their first and second year in the league, most of the teams are still evaluating exactly what they have and aren’t interested in trading young, low cost players who are still on an upward trajectory. This ruled out a number of players, including a couple of popular names such as Jaxson Hayes & Naz Reid. Next I ruled out all the starters/stars who simply aren’t likely to move, the likes of Valancunis, Ayton etc are all having great years making the cost of a trade simply too high. After going through all the possible options I was left with a list of 23 names which you can see below
From this list I decided to rule out Al Horford and Steven Adams immediately. Not only are both passed their best, but have HUGE contracts at $27.50 per year over at least the next two seasons. I don’t see Charlotte being in the phase of taking on bad contracts for assets anymore after sniffing the playoffs this year, I expect all moves for the next 4 years to be geared towards winning. Is that the right thing to do? Questionable, Charlotte doesn’t have any first round picks belonging to other teams, if they could fill their center position and pick up some assets they could flip down the line it might be worth considering. Next I removed all the 34 and over guys who are likely ring chasing and won’t be coming to Charlotte, that included the likes of Gasol and Baynes. The top 10 targets I identified from the remaining group of players are as follows:
I have included a “Proposed Trade” with most of the names below, a few key points to be aware of:
- I have included trades to give you an idea of what the structure of a trade could look like, I’m not advocating for all of these trades and most are far from perfect.
- You will notice a number of the trades have a very similar structure from Charlotte’s point of view, this is due to the limited tradeable contracts on the roster.
- PJ Washington/Miles Bridges contracts are almost identical, you could swap either in or out of the proposed trades below, I used PJ for the most part more for ease than constantly swapping between the two.
- LATE EDIT - I flirted with putting Kristaps Porzingis on this list, who knows how things end up following the Maverick’s playoff run but most are suggesting he’s not working in Dallas. I ultimately didn’t based on the unknown of how things work out and also due to his monster remaining salary of $90 over three years and injury history.
Top 10 Trade Targets
ORL Mo Bamba 23.0yo – Height 7’0.75” – Wingspan 7’10” – Standing Reach 9’7.5” – Contract One Year $7.5 then RFA
Take a look at Bamba’s measurements compared to others on this list, Bamba is a complete freak but in a good way. Buried in Steve Clifford’s big red dog house since being drafted Bamba finally was given extended minutes after the trade deadline when Orlando decided to tank the season and responded positively. In the very same trade that freed up some playing time for Bamba Orlando landed Wendell Carter Jr who also showed some positive signs. In the last 24 games of the season Bamba averaged 11ppg 7.5rpg 1.2ass 1.6blk 1.1tov in just 21 minutes per game while shooting 46% from the field and 34% from three. Will Orlando want to maybe move on from Bamba to focus on Carter Jr? Bamba ticks all the boxes, he has flashed the ability to stretch the floor shooting 32.5% for his career from three, he’s also an elite shot blocker and good defensive rebounder. The most important area for Bamba to work on is his defensive decision making, he currently fouls too much as he’s often out of position and struggles to communicate effective with teammates on screens and cuts. The only way he will work through this growing pains is gaining more familiarity with the NBA game and that comes from logging minutes.
GSW James Wiseman 20.2yo – Height 6’11.5” – Wingspan 7’6” – Standing Reach 9’3.5” – Contract Three years $33 then RFA
Thank you Golden State for not selecting LaMelo Ball at number two in last year’s draft. It was well chronicled that Charlotte was “Highly Interested” in Wiseman by the Charlotte Observer. Wiseman’s stock is currently at an all-time low, he actively hurt the Warriors in the minutes he played and struggled to stay healthy, there’s also been reports of internal strife within Golden State on if Kerr thinks he can help the team going forward. There is an opportunity for Charlotte to swoop in for Wiseman, pairing him with LaMelo Ball as a one-two punch going forward. Don’t get me wrong, the cost would be high but it’s not often a prospect like Wiseman is available.
IND Myles Turner 25.2yo – Height 6’11.5” – Wingspan 7’4” – Standing Reach 9’4” - Contract Two years $35 then UFA
Deja vu for Hornets fans, it feels like Turner has been linked with Charlotte for the past few seasons, heck I even did a mock trade discussion back in December based around acquiring Turner. If Indiana decide to move on from Turner then Charlotte has to be in contention, he’s one of the best shot blockers in the league. The drawbacks? Glancing at this year’s numbers he ranks in just the 27th percentile as a defensive rebounder, how’s that going to help Charlotte’s issues? Context is key, he played next to another big in Sabonis who took a lot of the easy ones, his career average is around 18% which ranks him around the 50th percentile which is passable. The more pressing issue for me is his ability to pass and make reads out of Dribble Hand Offs (DHOs), he’s averaged more turnovers than assists in all but one of his seasons and that was back in 2018-19.
LAC Ivica Zubac 24.2yo – Height 7’0” – Wingspan 7’2.25” – Standing Reach 8’11” – Contract Two years $15 then UFA
It’s safe to say Zubac hasn’t had the best playoffs, he’s been borderline unplayable in the series against the Mavericks. However, that shouldn’t discount the impressive career he’s carved out to date, originally part of a throw in from the Lakers to the Clippers as part of the Muscala trade, Zubac has emerged into a respectable starter. Zubac stays in his lane on offense with lobs, put backs and seals in the paint and an exceptionally high offensive rebound percentage of 12.6%. On defense he’s pretty slow footed, but with good size, strength and athleticism does a good job protecting the rim. Zubac’s availability will likely depend on how the Clippers fair in the rest of the playoffs, but if they flame out early it could be a fire sale and with two more years under contract at just $7.5 million per year Zubac would be fantastic value for money.
UTA Derrick Favors 29.8yo – Height 6’8.75” – Wingspan 7’4” – Standing Reach 9’2” – Contract One Year $9.7 + Player Option 22-23
One of the most surprising names on this list I would imagine, Favors is somehow still only 29 and is coming off a strong year being Gobert’s backup in Utah. Why would Utah move him? That’s a fair question, however, if he was available he’d be a fantastic veteran presence and give this team an experienced anchor to their defense. His offense has fallen off a cliff in recent years, but I think that’s partly been down to the role he’s been in, I wouldn’t rule out a resurgence of some sort in Charlotte.
HOU Christian Wood 25.7yo – Height 6’9.25” – Wingspan 7’3.25” – Standing Reach 9’3.5” – Contract Two Years $27 then UFA
Heading into the 2020 off-season Christian Wood was naturally linked to Charlotte due to their need for a big and CAP space, fast forward to 2021 and Charlotte still has the same needs but Wood is now going into the second year of a three year $40 million deal he signed with Houston. However, a rebuilding project in Houston wasn’t what Wood signed up for, he thought he was going to be a major part of new head coach Stephen Silas’ project and pe picking up dimes from James Harden. The Rockets won just four of their last 27 games and aren’t exactly set up to compete next year, if Houston are going to commit to a rebuild do they really want Wood winning them some unneeded games? it’s worth keeping in mind that Wood only played approximately 60% of his minutes at center last year, he’s also not the defensive presence that the previous names on this list are but he would certainly help this roster and be a great roll partner for LaMelo.
SAC Marvin Bagley 22.2yo – Height 6’9.5” – Wingspan 7’0.5” – Standing Reach 8’9.5” – Contract One year $11.3 then RFA
Being honest Bagley hasn’t shown much to be on this list, but at this point the cost of a move would be relatively low and I would be okay taking a swing on a big who has been stuck in dysfunctional Sacramento since being drafted. The main issue with Bagley is that even if he finds “Success” in Charlotte it will likely occur on the offensive end, I struggle to see a path where he is anything more than an average defender. He doesn’t have the same size, length and strength as the other names on this list logging approximately 35% of his minutes last year at centre. In those minutes Sacramento’s defensive rating was 122.9 as opposed to 115.6 when Holmes was playing centre. Bagley is still only 22 years old, you can never rule out someone that young with his talent not putting it together, just look at Christian Wood.
DET Mason Plumlee 31.2yo – Height 6’11.25” – Wingspan 6’11” – Standing Reach 9’0” – Contract Two years $16 then UFA
Another recently signed free agent from the 2020 off-season, Plumlee stepped up from a backup role in Denver to start for a rebuilding Detroit team. Despite some initial scepticism about his three year $25 contract Plumlee was a perfectly respectable starting center. He’s always been a good passer and ball handler for someone with his size, he also plays hard and rebounds the ball well. With Isaiah Stewart and Jahlil Okafor under contract for next year it’s understandable if Detroit wanted to flip Plumlee for a more pressing need or a future pick. However, at 31 years of age the fall off from Plumlee could be just around the corner, this is an option I would only pursue if the asking price was extremely low or Detroit were trying to dump salary.
SAS Drew Eubanks 24.3yo – Height 6’9” – Wingspan 6’11” – Standing Reach N/A – Contract Two years $3.5 then UFA
From two way player to a rotational big, Drew Eubanks has carved himself out a respectable career in San Antonio. Frustratingly the only player I couldn’t find a recorded standing reach on, but safe to say it will likely be the lowest on this list. Despite his lack of length Eubanks used his athleticism to challenge shots, he’s faired well in the backup roll to Poeltl. Eubanks would be a back-up signing, but a potentially shrewd one if Charlotte could find a deal that works.
WAS Thomas Bryant 23.8yo – Height 6’9.5” – Wingspan 7’6” – Standing Reach 9’4.5” – Contract One year $8.6 then UFA
The forgotten man on this list after missing most of the 20-21 season with an ACL injury, he will likely return at some point in December/January next season, missing the first 1-2 months of the season. Bryant will also be into the final year of his contract, meaning Charlotte would need to re-sign him in the 2022 off-season. If there weren’t these mitigating factors Bryant would be higher on the list, he’s an athletic big who can stretch the floor, he might be a little undersized but his incredible 7’6” wingspan helps makeup for that. With the expiring contract and questions about his recovery still looming he’s low down on this list.
Keep an eye out for part 3 in the coming weeks, the final article in the series will look at options in the 2021 draft to solve the Hornets centre conundrum.