Just three weeks out from the trade deadline, the Hornets made a move. After losing six games in a row and 11 of their last 14, they decided to ship out backup big men Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes to Milwaukee in exchange for Miles Plumlee.
It’s a very questionable deal for Charlotte – they traded away two backups in exchange for a player that isn’t demonstrably better than either of them and is in the first season of a big four-year deal. It’s a trade that doesn’t do much other than cost the Hornets more money over a longer period of time.
It’s clear that the Hornets wanted to move on from their disappointing backups after they performed so poorly during Cody Zeller’s several extended absences on the season. Plumlee also gives them a more similar replacement to their would-be starter – an athletic big man (and Indiana native!) than is mobile enough to defend the pick-and-roll and athletic enough to pose a threat when rolling to the rim on the offensive end. The former Duke star doesn’t have the shooting range of Hawes or the defensive pedigree of Hibbert, but he does have the potential to be a valuable player.
In some way, it does make sense for Charlotte. They’ve been abysmal on the season with Zeller out, in part because they struggle to rebound without the Big Handsome on the floor. Plumlee makes them more athletic and gives them a better chance to rebound even if their star center is resting or recovering. Plus, a change needed to be made: the Hornets were in a complete tailspin, losing left and right. Neither Hawes nor Hibbert have been good this season, and neither one will be particularly missed.
The move also gives Steve Clifford a chance to give some younger guys a chance to develop a bit. News broke that the Hornets were signing Mike Tobey to a 10-day contract after the trade. The former big man for Virginia has been averaging 11 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game with the Greensboro Swarm this season. Christian Wood has also been on the main roster for a while without the chance to do much. Neither figure to be major parts of the rotation moving forward, but both have the chance to prove themselves and bring something new to the table.
These are all small silver linings to what is certainly a strange move, though. There are logical reasons behind the trade, but it's just an odd choice to take on such a hefty contract just to acquire a player that likely won’t really move the needle. This could be a signal that more moves are coming, but it’s unlikely that any earth-shattering moves get made.
We’ll see where this goes, but it definitely seems like a heavy cost for what will probably be a modest upgrade at best.