NBA Trade Deadline: 3 Moves the Charlotte Hornets Must Consider to Help LaMelo Ball for the Playoff Push
The Charlotte Hornets have a young and dynamic core. They have a hungry ownership group, with governor Michael Jordan likely feeling eager to accelerate the team’s competitive timeline. How will those factors determine how the Hornets proceed ahead of the NBA trade deadline?
With LaMelo Ball running the point and Miles Bridges making substantial gains in his fourth season, the Hornets rank fifth in offensive rating. However, Charlotte struggles on the other end 27th in defensive rating.
The Hornets are likely to buy ahead of the deadline, and they’ll probably pursue defensive-minded players in the frontcourt and on the wings, with the possibility of packaging some talent for a young star. Here are three moves for Charlotte to consider.
A lower-buy option in Larry Nance Jr.
The Hornets need players who can rebound and run the floor to fit their transition game. Enter Larry Nance Jr.
Nance is likely among the names the Portland Trail Blazers will take offers on before the NBA trade deadline. He’s under contract through next season and can help several teams — including the Chicago Bulls — with his versatility. That multi-faceted skill set could absolutely fit with the Hornets.
Charlotte loves to get out and run. Nance can fill the lane and even starts breaks himself. The latter is especially impressive because of his vision. The 29-year-old is one of the better passing bigs in basketball, averaging well over three assists per 36 minutes in the last three seasons. Nance could also offer the Hornets a rim-roller in pick-and-roll, though he’s every bit as adept at ducking into the lane and making the extra pass when necessary.
More importantly, Nance has traditionally been an above-average defender by defensive box-plus minus, and he can help Charlotte on the boards either as a power forward or undersized center. Nance offers a lower-cost option if the Hornets strike out on a blockbuster-type trade.
Myles Turner is the perfect fit
The Indiana Pacers have set the asking price for Myles Turner and Caris LeVert, and the Hornets have the assets to swing a deal.
Indiana wants a young talent and at least one pick for Turner. Charlotte has such a young talent in the form of P.J. Washington. The third-year man is averaging 10.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. He has tremendous upside as a crafty low-post threat who spaces the floor. Washington is shooting 40.2% from deep on good volume (4.5 attempts).
However, while the 23-year-old has ample promise, Turner is better suited to Charlotte’s current roster.
The Hornets desperately need protection at the rim, and there’s none better than Turner. The 25-year-old again leads the NBA in blocks (2.8 per game) after winning block titles in 2019 and 2021.
Turner isn’t solely an interior defender. He can play on the perimeter and is always a threat to roll to the rim for lobs. He also attacks close-outs from the corners — kind of in a similar fashion to Miles Bridges — and will finish with thunderous jams around the rim.
Turner is far more of a starting-caliber center than Mason Plumlee. Trading with the Pacers might also allow Charlotte to move Kelly Oubre’s contract if Indiana felt inclined to throw in a Justin Holiday or Torrey Craig.
Could the Hornets pull off a blockbuster for John Collins?
If the Hornets feel the need to make more of a splash, they could try taking a swing at acquiring Atlanta Hawks forward John Collins.
The Hawks are reportedly making almost everyone on their roster available before the NBA trade deadline. This opens the door for the Hornets to at least have a dialogue regarding Collins.
The 24-year-old is a tantalizing talent as a hyper-athletic who shoots the ball efficiently from beyond the arc and dunks on just about everybody. He’s not as defensively sound as Nance or Turner, but he’s a strong defensive rebounder and can deter slashers at and around the basket.
Do the Hornets have the assets to trade for Collins? That depends on what the Hawks want in return.
Hypothetically, Charlotte could offer a package headlined by Gordon Hayward and P.J. Washington. The Hornets would likely have to throw in draft capital, but could probably get away with taking on an expiring contract like Delon Wright.
On its face, acquiring Hayward seems to make little sense for Atlanta given the wing depth on the Hawks roster. But he’s a strong secondary ball-handler who can space the floor and take some of the ball-handling responsibilities off Trae Young. The Hawks could then install a big-heavy starting lineup with Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu. Maybe that’s preferable for Atlanta.
As for the Hornets, Collins fits what the Hornets want in a pace-and-space offense. Charlotte could probably unlock even more of his upside, given Ball is less ball-dominant than Trae Young.
The complexity of this kind of deal makes it tough. The Hornets might not feel there’s enough upside, either. Still, they could at least see what it would take to get Collins.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.