So in the past two weeks the Charlotte Hornets have dealt away Gerald Henderson, Lance Stephenson and Noah Vonleh and picked up Nicolas Batum and Spencer Hawes.
It’s seldom boring on this beat. The Hornets thing is trades; they haven’t always drafted well and they haven’t always been a free-agent destination, but regardless of who is in charge, this franchise sure does reshuffle the deck a lot, huh?
With that in mind, some thoughts on what has happened and what might happen, as of mid-day Thursday, less than seven hours out from the first pick in the 2015 NBA draft.
What’s the long-term plan?
Hornets owner Michael Jordan has said repeatedly the goal is to be one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference in a way that is sustainable. I don’t know whether the trade Wednesday night gets them closer or further from that goal.
Nicolas Batum, the 6-foot-8 swingman acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers, is a better 3-point shooter than Henderson or Stephenson (36 percent for his NBA career, although a career-worst 32.4 percent last season). But to make this deal the Hornets gave up power forward Noah Vonleh, who was the ninth overall pick just a year ago.
The Hornets look like a team determined to make the playoffs next season, which is fine. I’m guessing some people feel their jobs are in jeopardy if that doesn’t happen. But I don’t know how that balances with the “sustainably top-four in the East” agenda.
Who was Vonleh?
He was a kid and I don’t know that the fan base got its collective head around that.
I’ve often compared Vonleh to a high school pitcher with a 92 MPH fastball. Some major league team drafts him, sends him to Double-A ball to develop and hopes he comes out the other end a pitcher, not just a thrower.
Vonleh spent a single season at Indiana and wasn’t close to ready to play in an NBA game other than garbage time. They liked what he could be but were realistic about what he was -- a tall athlete with a lot to learn. Wednesday they turned him into a commodity to acquire a veteran who can help right now.
They had (and might still have) a glut at power forward and Vonleh became the trade chip.
Are they done dealing?
Hornets general manager Rich Cho said during a media conference call Wednesday night that “We’re still looking to do a number of things.”
Sounds like that path is trading Matt Barnes to the Memphis Grizzlies for Luke Ridnour’s unguaranteed contract, then moving Ridnour and a second-round pick to Oklahoma City for shooting guard Jeremy Lamb. This is not the first time the Hornets have pursued Lamb.
What’s the fuss about Lamb?
I don’t really get it. Lamb has spent three seasons on the bench in OKC. He shoots 42 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range. Seems like the Hornets already have that guy in Troy Daniels, who in two NBA seasons has shot 39 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point range.
If the reasoning is the Hornets are a terrible 3-point shooting team so add another 3-point shooter, then fine. But I don’t know that either Lamb or Daniels will move the needle here.
How does Wednesday’s trade affect Thursday’s draft?
I figured in a close call the Hornets would select Kentucky’s Devin Booker with the ninth pick because he’s arguably the best long-range shooter in this draft. Cho said he wouldn’t let need dictate his decisions, but there was clearly some pressure to address the shooting problem.
I think now they might use the ninth pick on Wisconsin center-forward Frank Kaminsky. He’s a scorer both inside and outside. The rub with Kaminsky is whether he’s strong enough to effectively guard NBA big men.
Does Kaminsky want to be in Charlotte?
Over a year ago, in a blog announcing he would stay at Wisconsin for his senior college season, Kaminsky mentioned the then Charlotte Bobcats as a team that doesn’t draw fans, adding “it looks flat out boring.”
This spring Kaminsky did not work out for the Hornets in Charlotte. A coincidence? Who knows. Such things are usually more agent-driven than player-driven,
I do know this; whether Kaminsky does or does not want to play here will be irrelevant to what the Hornets do tonight. They drafted Vonleh never having worked him out, either.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell