The Charlotte Hornets surely feel stung after Kenny Atkinson decided to give up on becoming their head coach. Still, they are in a very good position to go further in the 2022 NBA offseason.
With two top-15 picks in the 2022 NBA Draft and a roster of young players headlined by Al-Star LaMelo Ball, they’re in a strong position. However, losing embarrassingly in the qualifying tournament means they need to make some real changes to the roster.
The Hornets have plenty of players on rookie deals who can become solid players. They may be best used as commercial bait, but they probably won’t yield anything too interesting on their own. Other players on bigger trades like Terry Rozier and Kelly Oubre Jr. are important. Even though key players like Ball and Miles Bridges have contract extensions to prepare, swapping their top vets won’t be a necessity.
To start their offseason, the Hornets should trade these two players. Their usefulness to the team diminished past the return point.
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2 players the Hornets need to trade in the 2022 NBA offseason
2. Mason Plumlee
The Hornets starting in Mason Plumlee was a clear sign they needed an upgrade at center. They failed to do so with the Montrezl Harrell trade. The Hornets better leave Plumlee, 32, and his $8 million salary.
As a backup, Plumlee can be solid. His 6.5 points per game in 24.6 minutes last season might not show it, but he can finish inside shots at a respectable clip and pass well. The reason Charlotte should always walk away from him is the most intriguing option looming as a replacement: Kai Jones. The Hornets traded his draft rights last season and should see what they have in him.
While Jones’ game still needs to be smoothed around the edges, his athleticism alone will make him more useful than Plumlee. Jones is one of those players who can catch lobs anywhere he goes. He might prove to be a more versatile player than Plumlee right away and already have a third string option in Nick Richards.
The Hornets could opt to keep Plumlee but will have to live with the fact that he likely won’t be useful in their most important games. So, making a move during the NBA offseason is the best course of action.
1. Gordon Hayward
Once Hayward suffered a sprained ankle in February that forced him to miss all but one game for the rest of the season, it became clear Charlotte would have to walk away from him.
For the second consecutive season, Hayward has played less than 50 games. This season, however, his output was nowhere near All-Star level. He averaged 15.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Although he has also played fewer minutes, these figures reflect that he is become less productive. These figures are solid, but the exorbitant price for this level of production is holding them back.
While a rebound year is possible, the Hornets can no longer tie their hopes to his health. He has failed them twice in a row, so the blame is now on them. As the 32-year-old gets older and gets screwed, his value will only go down. Even if it’s just to move the $61 million they owe him over the next two seasons, the Hornets should trade Hayward.
Simply put, the Hornets’ urgency to win is too great for them to wait to see if Hayward is healthy enough to play when their season hangs in the balance.