NBA Trade Deadline: Here are a few realistic Charlotte Hornets scenarios we ran through the trade machine

By Chase Whitney

February 4, 2023

It seems all but certain the Hornets will be active in the trade market during this deadline period, but probably not in the way many in the organization, or those in the fanbase hoped for before the season began.

Untimely injuries followed an underwhelming offseason and as a result, the Hornets sit near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and currently hold the fourth-best lottery odds for the 2023 NBA Draft. With a roster filled with veterans on high salary or expiring contracts and players seeking their first contract extension, Mitch Kupchak and his staff have a variety of paths to explore over the next few days.

Nearly half the roster has surfaced in the rumor mill in some capacity, with Mason Plumlee and Kelly Oubre Jr. at the top of the list as effective veterans on expiring deals that would fit well with numerous playoff teams. Jalen McDaniels, Terry Rozier, PJ Washington and Gordon Hayward have also popped up in discussions and online chatter, especially McDaniels and Rozier, who seem to have many suitors around the league.

Given Kupchak’s history at the deadline, it’s unlikely the Hornets do anything drastic before 3:00 p.m. EST on February 9. But for the first time in years, the roster is filled with players that appeal to the rest of the league at a time when the Hornets have no reasonable path to playoff contention. This season may not be going as planned, but the front office could take advantage of the series of unfortunate events by selling off assets that don’t fit into the long-term vision with many teams around the league in need of reinforcements.

The Hornets give Bones Hyland a fresh start 

Bones Hyland is arguably the hottest name on the market right now, with ESPN’s Tim McMahon recently stating on a broadcast that it’s just a “matter of where and for what” he gets moved by the deadline. Denver is seeking “defensive-minded frontcourt players,” per Jake Fischer of Yahoo!, and McDaniels certainly fits that bill. Hyland would be worthy of minutes on this Hornets roster down the stretch and the Nuggets’ 2024 second-rounder could be a useful trade asset in a larger deal.

Plumlee slides right into the Clippers’ trade exception

The Clippers currently hold a $9.1 million traded player exception, the third-largest TPE in the league. Conveniently, Plumlee’s expiring salary slides right into that, and while the Clippers have no first-round picks available to trade, they have enough second-rounders to get a deal like this done. Plumlee could serve as the backup to Ivica Zubac and shore up LA’s center depth before he hits the free-agent market, while simultaneously freeing up playing time for Mark Williams and Nick Richards.

Oubre finds a new home with a chance to contribute to a playoff run

Just after the Hornets announced that Oubre would miss time due to surgery on his hand, it was rumored the Cavaliers, Suns and Raptors all had trade interest in the veteran wing. If teams feel good about his health going forward (the injury was to his shooting hand), the shot creation flashes and defensive playmaking coupled with the hopes of improved efficiency could net the Hornets a nice return. Isaac Okoro was selected two picks after LaMelo Ball in 2020 but his minutes have steadily decreased since his rookie season in Cleveland. Dylan Windler has battled injuries throughout his career since being drafted in 2019, appearing in just 81 games, but is on an expiring contract. The second-rounder in this year’s draft via Golden State sweetens the pot a bit, but will likely land between 50 and 60.

A three-team deal that fills the gaps for everyone

This one’s a bit of a doozy, but bear with me. The whole world knows Jae Crowder wants out of Phoenix and Serge Ibaka wants out of Milwaukee. The NBA Suns need help in the backcourt as Chris Paul ages, and the Bucks could use an infusion of athleticism on the wing. The Hornets ship out Rozier just half a season into a four-year extension and sell high on McDaniels before he hits unrestricted free agency, giving two playoff contenders a huge boost for the stretch run. In return, the Hornets net some draft picks and mid-salary veterans to help keep the team manageable down the stretch.

Swapping Washington for another young forward

Essentially, the Hornets reset the extension clock by acquiring Jonathan Kuminga, a younger player at the same position as Washington. The Warriors are trading for the rights to match any offer Washington receives in restricted free agency this summer and receiving a mid-second rounder in this year’s draft for lightening Charlotte’s salary books for the next few years. ESPN’s Zach Lowe stated on a recent episode of his The Lowe Post podcast that the Hornets were “pretty determined to keep him,” so it seems unlikely Washington is included in a trade unless it nets the Hornets some serious assets in return.

The often discussed Russell Westbrook trade

There have been rumblings regarding a Russell Westbrook trade since it became evident last season that he wasn’t a great fit alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Westbrook’s $47 million salary is a prohibitive cost for most teams, but the Hornets could match it in multiple ways. Here, Charlotte swaps out two years and $60 million owed to Hayward for the $47 million owed to Westbrook until his contract expires in the summer. To sweeten things for the Hornets, the Lakers dish out a 2027 first-rounder for two veterans that could help propel Los Angeles above the play-in bracket.

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