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Mitch Kupchak pulled off a masterpiece in trading for the No. 19 pick and landing Kai Jones

Kudos, Mitch

Charlotte Hornets Introduce Draft Picks - Presser Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

The Hornets traded a future first round pick to the Knicks for this year’s No. 19 pick and landed forward-center Kai Jones. The phrase most people are using to describe the future first Charlotte is giving up is “heavily protected”. Here are the provisions:

Oh, Mitch. Bless you!

In other words, the highest pick the Hornets will be give up over the next four years is No. 15. And let’s face it - there’s no real difference between the quality of player available at No. 15 (the most valuable pick the Hornets could theoretically give up) and the No. 19 selection they received this year.

If for some strange reason the Hornets regress in upcoming seasons and continue to miss the playoffs, they won’t be giving up a valuable lottery pick. They’re protected. In fact, if the Hornets keep picking among the Top 14 over the next four seasons, they will ultimately give up two future second round picks to New York. But let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

What I think is most likely to take place is the Hornets make the postseason either next year or in 2022-23 as a low-end playoff team, end up with a draft pick somewhere between No. 17 and No. 21, and convey that to New York. In other words, the Hornets received the No. 19 pick this year by giving up a No. 19-ish pick (give or take) at some point in the next couple of years.

This timeline works perfectly for the Hornets, a young team that is simultaneously pushing for the playoffs and building for the future. Mitch Kupchak knows what he’s doing.

That said, it’s rare for the No. 19 pick to become an impact player, especially in the first year or two, so the goal with those types of selections is to land a player who can add solid depth and has some clear upside. This is exactly what Kai Jones brings to the table. The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks said Jones “might be the most intriguing gamble in this year’s draft” and speculated the Hornets might take him at No. 11. Instead, Charlotte got him at No. 19. We have no idea how good (or bad) Jones will be, but it’s unlikely the pick the Hornets ultimately send to the Knicks will give New York any improved odds of landing a better player.

The Knicks basically punted the No. 19 pick this year to keep their salary cap as flexible as possible going into free agency. This trade will be mutually beneficial if the Knicks sign a superstar and Kai Jones is able to contribute for the Hornets sooner than later and help elevate them to the playoffs.

In the end this trade has no downside for Charlotte. They got Kai Jones at No. 19 this year and he can immediately be paired with the rest of the Hornets young core of LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges, PJ Washington, and James Bouknight, the No. 11 pick in this year’s draft. It’s better to start that process now than adding another rookie in two or three years when the Hornets will likely give up the pick that became Jones.

Mitch Kupchak perfectly threaded the needle of winning now without sacrificing the future.

Well done, Mitch.