Preseason Preview #23: Charlotte Hornets

Season Goal: Trade Kemba, Start Rebuild

After years of being a late lottery team, it seems like the Hornets need to start rebuilding. This team has very little chance of getting better due to the limited amount of young talent and the awful salaries they have given out recently. Trading Kemba is the most logical way to start a rebuild. Kemba is about to leave his prime and only has 1 year left on his contract. Charlotte has worked very hard to stay under the tax line, they are less than 100k under the 123.7M tax line this year. Being a small market team unable to attract free agents, they can only get top tier talent in through the draft. After multiple sub-average seasons, it’s finally time to blow it up in Charlotte.

Storylines:

Return on Kemba

Unless this team is absolutely incredible before the all-star break there is little reason to keep Kemba around. Understandably, he means a lot to this franchise, being their all-time points leader, as well as being their best player by far for many seasons. But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t make sense to keep him. He should be receiving 25M+ per year in his next contract, way more than the Hornets want to spend. Additionally, his age doesn’t fit with the team’s timeline. He is already 28 while Charlotte’s two lottery picks, Malik Monk and Miles Bridges, are both just 20 years old. Kemba is one of my favorite players in the league and ideally, he would figure it out in Charlotte, but that is highly unlikely, so it’s necessary to consider what the Hornets could get back:

Option #1: Trade Kemba for salary relief

The Hornets waited way too long to trade Kemba, and because of that, his value has decreased. He is in the last year of his contract, and if they trade him at the all-star break he’s would be viewed as a half-season rental. They won’t be able to get a lot back, but could probably trade away Nic Batum’s disgusting 3-year, $77 million contracts for a shorter contract. I doubt they could get any highly touted young player or draft asset if they decided to unload Batum with Kemba, but getting that bad of a contract of their hands is probably worth it. This trade gives them lots of flexibility moving forward and will allow them to tank properly. Instead of getting the 10-14 pick they can get top 5 picks that will give them good, young talent to build around. This trade gives them the most future flexibility and still allows them to build a young team for the future.

Option #2: Trade Kemba for a young guy/ decent draft pick

This trade is a little bit more tricky, there aren’t a ton of teams trying to make a run in the playoffs that need a point guard and is willing to move a good prospect. Maybe the Spurs would move someone like Dejounte and a first for Kemba, but it’s very unknown. If a trade of this nature did theoretically work out it would be beneficial for both sides. Any team that doesn’t already have an elite point guard can definitely use Kemba’s skill set, and the Hornets need young pieces that will enter their primes together and help them be competitive. If they decide to collect assets instead of dump salary they will struggle to put even remotely competitive teams on the floor but will have more pieces that could develop into stars or quality rotation pieces. Additionally, this will guarantee them tanking and will likely lead to a few top 7 picks.

As hard as it is to admit, Charlotte needs to trade Kemba and tank to become a respectable team. Their team is too expensive to not make the playoffs, and not get high draft picks. Trading Kemba will help the team return to the playoffs much faster than keeping him would. If Kemba is traded, hopefully, he finds a team that he fits well on and continues his NBA success.

Depth Chart:

PG: Kemba Walker, Tony Parker. Devonte Graham

SG: Malik Monk, Jeremy Lamb, Dwayne Bacon

SF: Nic Batum, Miles Bridges, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

PF: Marvin Williams, Frank Kaminsky

C: Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo, Willy Hernangomez

Salary Cap Situation:

~123M of ~101M cap committed

Expiring Deals: Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky

Bad Contracts: Nic Batum (3yr, ~77M), Bismack Biyombo (2yrs, 34M), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2yr, 26M)

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