Charlotte Hornets

If Miles Bridges starts for Hornets, where does that leave Marvin Williams?

Hornets’ Miles Bridges takes big questions on dunking, Flint, NBA All-Star

Miles Bridges will represent the Charlotte Hornets in the 2019 NBA All-Star dunk contest. The Observer's Mike McCray catches up with him a week before the game.
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Miles Bridges will represent the Charlotte Hornets in the 2019 NBA All-Star dunk contest. The Observer's Mike McCray catches up with him a week before the game.

Is Miles Bridges a lock to start for the Charlotte Hornets next season? And if so, at what position? And what’s the tumble-down effect on the rest of the rotation?

That multilayered questions leads what fans asked for this week’s Hornets mailbag:

Q. Is the plan for next season to start Bridges at power forward and have Marvin Williams come off the bench? Could that make Dwayne Bacon the starting small forward?

A. I think it’s likely, but not automatic, that Bridges will start at one of the two forward spots next season. General manager Mitch Kupchak told Bridges after the season not to assume he starts next season because he started the last 25 games of his rookie season.

Bridges will play both small and power forward most of his NBA career. I think he’s better suited to be a small-ball power forward than a true small forward.

Williams, who turns 33 this month, has said repeatedly he wouldn’t mind coming off the bench, rather than starting, at this late stage in his career. One of the benefits of having Williams on this team is he’s a great teammate; he wouldn’t let his ego interfere with what’s best for the team.

I think Bacon will get the chance to compete for a starting spot next season regardless of other decisions. Just a matter of whether that is at small forward or shooting guard, which aren’t all that different.

Q. Is the Hornets’ reason for trying to re-sign Kemba Walker related to attendance, making the playoffs or a sense of loyalty to him?

A. Obviously all those things would factor into a decision whether to award the largest guaranteed contract in Charlotte sports history. However, I don’t think any of that is the key driving factor in why the Hornets seem intent on re-signing their three-time All-Star. Here’s the imperative:

Once the NBA made it against the rules for defenders to hand-check ballhandlers, elite scoring point guards became the queen on the NBA chessboard: The most important position, the hardest thing to find and so the hardest thing to replace.

If your best player is one of the best at the NBA’s most valuable position, and your roster is deficient in most other areas, it’s certainly understandable you’d be reluctant to lose that star for nothing.

Q. Do you see some form of sign-and-trade with Kemba?

A. The rules have changed on sign-and-trades, making them far less likely to happen. The advantages the Hornets have in signing Walker — offering him a fifth guaranteed year and larger year-to-year raises — can’t be conveyed on to another team in a sign-and-trade. So there is little advantage to a team going through the Hornets to try to acquire Walker at this point.

Q. If the Hornets commit to a supermax contract for Kemba, would it be a good idea to keep him under a “load mangement” where he plays a game, then sits out, similar to Tony Parker last season?

A. I understand the reasoning behind the question: That if the Hornets commit to paying Walker massive salaries the next five seasons, they need to manage his health to maximize the chance he doesn’t break down in the future.

However, Walker’s durability is one of the things you’re buying; he has missed only six regular-season games the past four seasons. To concede him playing only half of the regular season, or two-thirds for that matter, sounds more like an argument for not re-signing him than a plan for his future.

Q. If you are the Hornets general manager, with ultimate authority, what would you do about Kemba?

A. I’d jump in my time machine and trade him in the days leading up to the 2018 draft. I think that’s when Walker was most valuable as a trade commodity. I thought there was a strong chance he’d be dealt then, with the Cleveland Cavaliers the logical destination before LeBron James made a decision to leave the Cavs for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Hornets are so far down the road on this now that no matter how it ends — either Walker signing a massive new contract or leaving for no compensation — it’s very perilous. There is no “right” answer.

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