Most basketball fans had low expectations for the Charlotte Hornets ahead of the 2021 NBA season, but Buzz City has gone above and beyond the ceiling the public set for them. Signing Gordon Hayward and drafting LaMelo Ball with the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft helped make Charlotte a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference. Ball’s season-ending wrist injury has jeopardized the Hornets’ playoff spot, though. They can choose to settle for the roster they have now for the back half of the season head of the March 25 trade deadline or aim to improve and push for the postseason after losing the NBA’s most impactful rookie.
Devonte’ Graham and Malik Monk are bound to take on larger roles alongside Terry Rozier in the backcourt now that Ball has played his last game of the year. Both guards are capable of playing high-level basketball, so Charlotte will likely look to improve Hayward’s frontcourt partners. A couple of players stand out as likely targets.
The Hornets have long been intrigued by Andre Drummond, but he’ll likely get bought out before chasing a ring with a contender. It doesn’t seem like the Cleveland Cavaliers are close to finding a trade partner to take on his hefty contract, but another quality Eastern Conference big could be readily available.
Charlotte has expressed interest in Atlanta Hawks power forward John Collins and should buy if he’s available. Multiple reports say that he views himself as a max player and hasn’t been able to come to terms on an extension with the Hawks. Collins’ rebounding numbers have been depleted by Atlanta’s Clint Capela, but he’s an elite lob threat who can finish at the rib efficiently and shoots nearly 38% from three. Pairing Ball with an athletic, 6’10” big could bode well for Charlotte’s future, but paying him the big bucks comes with plenty of risks. Swingmen like Miles Bridges and PJ Washington would likely be casualties in a trade.