January 20, 2019

This year, BBALLBREAKDOWN decided to do something a little different to preview the NBA’s trade deadline. We gave 30 writers/podcasters/twitter personalities control of an NBA team for a week and let them negotiate deals with each other in a mock trade deadline. Reinis Lācis took control of the Charlotte Hornets and discusses the struggles completing trades.

The Charlotte Hornets stayed put in our mock trade deadline. (Photo: Sam Sharpe – USA TODAY Sports)

By Reinis Lācis

To view the rest of the trades in the BBALLBREAKDOWN mock trade deadline, click here.

  • No trades made.

The Charlotte Hornets might be among the least flexible teams in the NBA which presented quite the challenge for this exercise.

They’re locked in on a core of their own draftees—Kemba Walker, Cody Zeller and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist—and a couple of veterans in Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams. Those five players eat up the most of the $87 million the Hornets are slated to pay in 2018-2019 (now with Miles Plumlee on their books that number is up to a bombastic 100 million).

With Kemba Walker developing into an All-Star level player and the rest of the gang contributing to coach Steve Clifford’s principles, Charlotte is also likely to be good enough not to pick in the lottery.

Being a perennial playoff candidate after the mishaps of the Charlotte Bobcats isn’t a bad place to be in. However, it’s probable that it’s a good team with little chance of improving into a very good one, sans a wise pick late in the draft or steal in the transaction world.

For this reason, it was difficult to make a move acknowledging that the ownership would have win-now expectations in this mock trade deadline scenario.

There are no real assets to move. The players the team have are important for Charlotte’s “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” level of play. And Jeremy Lamb—signed to an appealing $7 million dollars per year deal up to 2018-19—is hard to give up when your whole plan is improving an already blah bench unit.

Thus the goal for the week was acquiring an offensive creator on the wing for Charlotte’s bench squad to help the team in its midseason falter and not give up a first round pick in the process, while chasing a lower playoff seed.

The targets were mostly players like Lou Williams, Dion Waiters, Will Barton and Langston Galoway, signed to shorter deals and more easy to trade for, though, someone like Alec Burks was also pursued.

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It soon became evident that Roy Hibbert’s expiring was the piece other teams were interested in, while Spencer Hawes would be shipped out in certain deals to make the salaries work. However, even the Lou Williams’s of the world wouldn’t be acquired for a second rounder attached to the 14-foot monster of Hibbert + Hawes.

No surprises there. Can’t blame anyone for not jumping on that proposal.

Consequently one transaction started to stand out among the others. Taking on Omer Asik’s contract from New Orleans and getting a possible first round pick swap, plus Langston Galloway for the hassle made the most sense. While Asik’s contract is repulsing for a reason, it would work as a way of acquiring talent while not giving up assets. It’s also believable that the Turkey native could play the role of a back-up for some time before he would probably be stretched.

Possibly drafting in the top-10 could give the Hornets a real and helpful boost as well.

One can say that the talks about the transaction lasted almost all week as details—like the third team that would work as Spencer Hawes’s landing spot—were discussed.

In the end, though, the real life parallels to this transaction might have ruined the mock trade. The center swap of Hibbert and Hawes for Miles Plumlee gave the New Orleans side the argument that the price for unloading Omer Asik shouldn’t be so hefty.

The Hornets of this mock world ended up staying pat and not improving, except for signing Greensboro’s Xavier Munford from the D-League for the rest of the season.

When evaluating the debates that were had throughout this period, that doesn’t necessarily seem like a loss. The price of two second round picks for a reserve guard without Bird Rights might have been a waste.

However, it seems clear that there was a good reason to pull the trigger on the aforementioned deal with the Pelicans when the chance was there. Back then, it seemed like aiming for Terrence Jones as well—someone who would ended up on the third team—was a fight worth having, given that Galloway would opt out after the two month rental ended.

That probably was too much to ask.

Despite the tough schedule in front of the Pelicans, it’s also unclear whether the pick swap would actually occur and how big of a leap it would allow the Hornets to take in the upcoming draft. Charlotte has been lighting the world on fire itself, as of late.

Although dealing Spencer Hawes would clear up space for the mid-level exception, the team would also be deeper in huge contracts.

It might have been a mock trade deadline, yet a certain level of pressure not to err in this transaction was there. Ultimately, that might have kept the author of these lines from bringing that Omer Asik + Langston Galloway deal home.

It’s up to you to decide whether that would have been worthwhile or the team benefited from a deal not being reached.

You Won’t Believe The Craziest Ending To An NBA Game: TWICE!
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Reinis Lacis

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