Quite naturally, Charlotte Hornets fans want to know how much rookie Miles Bridges will play next season, and if there’s any reason to think Timofey Mozgov will play for the Hornets.
It was a packed week for Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak. He agreed to a trade (which can’t be official until at least July 6) that will send center Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets. The Hornets get back Mozgov, two second-round picks and cash.
Then, on draft night Thursday, Kupchak exchanged the draft rights to the player he chose with the 11th pick, Kentucky point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, to the Los Angeles Clippers for the draft rights to Bridges, a forward from Michigan State, plus two future second-round picks.
I asked Hornets fans on Twitter for their questions for a mailbag column. Here we go…
Q. Mozgov will be buried on the Hornets’ bench, right?
A. This trade allows the Hornets to move on from Howard and to cut payroll in the coming season. It allows them to be a possible factor in free agency, where before they were dangerously close to the luxury-tax line.
It was not to acquire Mozgov, who played little last season for the Nets and is still owed about $33 million guaranteed over two seasons.
I asked a coach with another NBA team if he thought Mozgov could still play. He said yes, but that because Mozgov has limited mobility there are certain matchups that would just eliminate him as an option. I don’t know that he’ll be a barnacle, but I don’t think he’ll play much barring injuries to other big men.
Q. With the Mozgov deal on the books for next season, is it even possible to sign Kemba to a max deal?
A. Because Walker is under contract to the Hornets, they can re-sign him in the summer of 2019 under the rules. It does get complicated and expensive with the luxury-tax rules. Also, don’t assume Walker is a maximum-salary player in the current NBA marketplace.
Q. What are the chances the Mozgov trade is made only to waive him with the stretch provision, reducing the cap hit?
A. Stretching his guaranteed financial obligation over additional seasons is an option under NBA rules. That doesn’t reduce the hit, it just spreads the cap implications over more seasons like paying off a mortgage.
Q. With the addition of another forward in Bridges, do you see the Hornets trading Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Marvin Williams to open some playing time in Bridges’ rookie season?
A. I think Kupchak would consider any trade that could move a veteran guaranteed contract, depending on what the Hornets would get back. Also, I think there is now a crowd, if not a glut, of wing players. However, I don’t think Bridges as a rookie creates some immediate need to react with another roster move.
Q. Does acquiring Bridges mean Dwayne Bacon and Treveon Graham should be worried about their roster spots?
A. I think Bacon competes to be in the rotation next season. I think Graham, a free agent, was always iffy to end up re-signing here.
Q. Any indications if (new coach) James Borrego will be changing the starting lineup?
A. Obviously, there will be a new starting center with Howard’s departure, and I think that will be Cody Zeller. I’d think Kidd-Gilchrist and Williams will both have competition to remain starters.
Q. Will Willy Hernangomez get playing time next season? He’s an elite rebounder.
A. Kupchak said Hernangomez plans to play with the Hornets’ summer-league team in Las Vegas. Originally, he was going to be with the Spanish national team this summer. That reflects Hernangomez adapting to a new coaching staff.
Hernangomez is a good rebounder and can score in the post. He needs to improve as a defender and extend his shooting range. With Howard leaving, he’ll get a chance to show he belongs in the rotation.
Q. In retrospect, did losing Jeremy Lin and Courtney Lee (in free agency the summer of 2016) hurt more than signing Nic Batum helped?
A. I understand the underlying issue – that the Hornets had a good bench then and now it’s a weakness – but Lin has been constantly hurt with the Nets and Lee has been in and out of the rotation with the Knicks. Also, Lin wouldn’t have re-signed with the Hornets over getting a chance to start with the Nets.
Q. Gilgeous-Alexander seemed like he would have been a perfect fit for the Hornets. Do you think they drafted him and (then) had some kind of threat that he might not be happy or even not sign?
A. First off, I agree Gilgeous-Alexander would have fit well here. But as to the idea of a threat:
Agents have been trying to manipulate the draft process for decades. I don’t know that counts for much beyond inconveniencing teams regarding workouts.