The Charlotte Hornets found themselves among the teams interested in several desirable targets as the NBA trade deadline neared, but decided against making significant roster changes for the second consecutive year. In 2018-19, Charlotte neglected to trade Kemba Walker at the peak of his value and ended up negotiating a sign-and-trade with the Boston Celtics after the season to acquire Terry Rozier. But they had been rumored to be in pursuit of Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal and then-Memphis Grizzlies big man Marc Gasol. The Hornets have made it clear that they’d rather develop the group they have and build through the draft than implant talent during a season in which their ceiling isn’t high.
This year, the Hornets expressed interest in the Detroit Pistons’ Andre Drummond, the New York Knicks’ Julius Randle, and the Sacramento Kings’ Bogdan Bogdanovic, but weren’t able to get any deals done. New York even remained interested in Rozier after missing out this summer, but neither side was able to come to an agreement. Charlotte is looking for a definitive best player, and it doesn’t have that right now. Devonte’ Graham is having an amazing sophomore season, Miles Bridges is still developing, and PJ Washington has been a pleasant surprise during his rookie campaign. Will these players be the key to future success though?
Don’t get me wrong, the Hornets are doing much better than expected this season. They’re (16-24) and DraftKings Sportsbook set the over/under for wins at 23.5. This was the the lowest over/under in the NBA, save the Cleveland Cavaliers (also 23.5). However, Charlotte might need to scrape the bottom of the barrel to make real improvement. That what makes its reluctance to make moves confusing.
The Hornets have finished 10th or worse in the Eastern Conference six times in the last 10 seasons and have two top five picks — Cody Zeller and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — to show for it. They won’t attract any marquee free agents anytime soon, so being a fringe playoff team won’t help it anytime soon.
Charlotte is only above the Atlanta Hawks, Knicks and Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference standings, so maybe it’ll luck out and get a difference maker in the 2020 draft with a top 5 pick. But that’s a risky game to play, as other coveted picks like Adam Morrison, Raymond Felton, and Emeka Okafor didn’t pan out too well. The Hornets need assets, and they don’t have a lot of those right now. As far as I’m concerned, Mitch Kupchak is 0-2 as the Hornets’ general manager come trade deadline time.