There is no question that the Charlotte Hornets’ current roster needs a drastic makeover to compete in the East.
After losing their star player Kemba Walker this offseason, many expected a rebuild-type season that would end with a top-three lottery pick. With the Hornets being literally in cap hell, the team will likely need to draft well to fix the roster, with not a lot of money to spend in the offseason unless they manage to pull off some much-needed trades.
The Hornets have some bad contracts on the books right now, with none worse than paying Nicolas Batum 25 million this year and 27 million next season. In 21 games, he is averaging just 3.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.9 assists. Batum is getting 20 oz steak pay, but he’s not the only bad contract on the roster. Next up you have Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who is on an expiring contract, but still making $13 million this year, while averaging only 4 points and 2.9 assists per game. As bad as this is, Charlotte is also paying $17 million to Bismack Biyombo, and $15 million to Marvin Williams. Fortunately, both thankfully of those deals are expiring as well. With that being said, what should the Hornets do to make this team a true contender in the East?
Building through the draft sounds nice and could worked for the 76ers, but with the draft history the Hornets have, trades could get the team where they want to be much faster.
For the first time in a while, the Hornets do have some solid young talent on the roster, thanks to PJ Washington, Malik Monk, Dwayne Bacon, and Most Improved front-runner Devonte’ Graham. I see Washington and Graham as untouchables as a result of the potential the two young players have shown, but everyone else should be made available. Aside from those two, Charlotte has often missed when drafting. Because of that, acquiring talent through trades may be a better strategy.
First things first, the Hornets need to explore any and all trade opportunities that include moving Batum–even if that means it’s for a hot dog and some chips. Trading Batum will not be an easy task thanks to the lackluster season he’s currently in, and his Giannis Antetokounmpo-like salary isn’t helping. It can, however, still happen, though. One potential trade that makes it possible is to trade for Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins. The contract situations would line up, and could be completed by adding draft picks and a young player like Bacon or Monk. Charlotte should be interested even if it means eating some of Batum’s contract. Like the Hornets, the Timberwolves could be looking at rebuild of sorts, after not having the season they expected up to this point. Grabbing Batum for one year along with a young player and picks could kick-start the rebuild for Minnesota, while giving the Hornets a young star to pair alongside Washington and Graham.
Another potential target is Andre Drummond, who could be part of a move that the Hornets pull the trigger on to not only get rid of a bad contract, but also to make a late playoff push if the team decides to take that route. Much like Wiggins, Drummond has been a hot name in trade rumors, but is on an expiring contract. Because of that, he could come at cheaper price, while also giving the Hornets an opportunity to retain him. A trade for Drummond would likely include either Biyombo or Williams, and could include draft picks.
Danilo Gallinari could be another great get for the Hornets, although he is another player on an expiring contract. The 6’10” shooter has the potential to bring talent and veteran experience that the Hornets thought they were getting in Batum. Gallinari’s current team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, aren’t opposed to making some moves at the deadline; however, they probably wouldn’t be willing to take on any bad contracts. Instead, expect a fair deal, that could match up with his $22 million payout, in the form of Cody Zeller, MKG, or even a talented young player like Monk.
These trade scenarios are purely speculation, although they could all help the Hornets make a playoff push this season, or simply provide something to build on for next season. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Hornets got active at the trade deadline, possibly making a move for a big star that could change the future landscape of the organization.