January 30, 2022
Photo: Michael Conroy / AP
Second to the 3:00 p.m. EST trade deadline on February 10, the most important date in the NBA’s transaction period has now passed– as of January 15, most players that signed extensions last offseason are now eligible to be included in trades. Discussions have been ongoing around the league for a while, especially given the Ben Simmons saga, but things will truly start to ramp up in the coming days now that there are fewer restrictions in the way.
The Hornets head towards the 2022 trade deadline with the same need as 2021: a rim protector. Granted, Charlotte’s defense has taken a massive leap forward in recent weeks as Mason Plumlee continues to adjust to his first season as the anchor of James Borrego’s malleable system.
Richaun Holmes, Myles Turner, Christian Wood, and a few others have either been linked to the Hornets or are publicly regarded as available on the market. Charlotte has plenty of assets; players with upside on rookie-scale contracts, and all of their own first-rounders beyond the 2022 top-18 protected pick that currently belongs to Atlanta. LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges, Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier are either unlikely to be traded (Hayward has a 15 percent trade kicker and Rozier signed an extension in August) or simply off the table, and the only players beyond their rookie-scale deals are Kelly Oubre Jr, Plumlee and Ish Smith. The Hornets don’t have much flexibility in what they can offer a team in hopes of returning an impact player without giving up prospects or draft capital.
Here are five possible trade scenarios for the Hornets before the February 10 deadline:
Trade Scenario #1
Charlotte receives: Richaun Holmes, 2025 pick swap (least favorable)
Sacramento receives: Kelly Oubre Jr., 2025 pick swap (most favorable), long-term cap relief
After signing Holmes to an extension on August 2, the Kings have reportedly put him on the market. In trading him for Oubre, they get off the $36 million they owe him over the next three seasons, plus Oubre’s contract is only partially guaranteed for 2022-23 which makes him easy to trade or waive this summer. Holmes is an elite finisher at the rim (79 percent per Cleaning The Glass) and a reliable roll man for Ball while providing an interior defensive presence that Charlotte currently lacks.
Trade Scenario #2
Charlotte receives: Mo Bamba, 2024 second-round pick via Orlando
Orlando receives: PJ Washington and Vernon Carey Jr.
Mo Bamba has long been a target among Hornets circles online, and in this scenario, the Magic are likely getting the better current-day player in PJ Washington, plus a flyer on Vernon Carey Jr. The Hornets would have to pay Bamba this summer as opposed to the 2022-23 offseason, when Washington is due an extension, so the 2024 second-rounder acts as a sweetener. Bamba’s shooting and shot-blocking at 7’0” would be an interesting fit in James Borrego’s system.
Trade Scenario #3
Charlotte receives: Mitchell Robinson
New York receives: Jalen McDaniels, 2022 lottery-protected first-round pick via New Orleans (turns to two second-rounders in 2022 and 2024 if not conveyed)
The Knicks just paid Nerlens Noel $27.7 million through 2023-24 with a team option on the final season. It’d be a surprise if they’re eager to pay Mitchell Robinson a similar amount this offseason and have approximately $60 million devoted to two centers. Robinson being due for a new contract could make the Hornets an expensive team if they retain Bridges and Cody Martin, but Robinson’s athleticism, shot-blocking, rebounding and rim-running would be an ideal fit.
Trade Scenario #4
Charlotte receives: Christian Wood
Houston receives: Mason Plumlee, Ish Smith, 2023 and 2026 lottery-protected first-round pick
Christian Wood is having another good season in Houston, and a recent report from The Athletic’s Kelly Iko stated he’s become likely to stay put barring a “blow-me-away” offer. This scenario with the Hornets might qualify as that, and it also might help put into perspective the kinds of assets Mitch Kupchak would have to part with to bring in a starter that’s a noticeable improvement from Plumlee.
Trade Scenario #5
Charlotte receives: Myles Turner
Indiana receives: Kelly Oubre Jr. and PJ Washington
The Pacers’ asking price for Turner is reportedly “two first-round picks or a promising young player and a first-round pick,” per HoopsHype, but frankly if that price were close to being met, Turner would’ve already been traded during the two-plus seasons his name has been in the rumor mill. Turner’s defense would raise Charlotte’s floor, but trading players like Oubre (who needs to be included for salary-matching purposes) and PJ Washington for a non-All-Star makes it harder to raise the team’s ceiling in the future. The Hornets could sweeten the deal with a first-rounder, though it would become the second first-round pick they owe to another team– not ideal for a smaller-market team that has to focus on building through the draft and player development.
The Hornets are in clear playoff contention this year, so maybe Kupchak doesn’t need to pull the trigger on a deal quite yet. They will also have trade flexibility in the summer with the team-friendly deals of Oubre, Plumlee and Smith along with the depreciating contract of Hayward, and front offices are typically more willing to move players in the offseason than in-season. Gear up, it might be an interesting few weeks across the league.
Check out the remaining 2021-22 Charlotte Hornets schedule.