Things for the Charlotte Hornets have been better. A tailspin has seen them drop to a sub-.500 record, behind even the horrifically dysfunctional Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference playoff race. After a good season last year and a promising start to this season, it’s bitterly disappointing for fans that were hoping the team would take another step forward.
As the trade deadline approaches, it’s tempting to look around the league and find players that would be the perfect solution to any problems the Hornets may have. A backup point guard? A center that isn’t Spencer Hawes or Roy Hibbert? Another star to join Kemba Walker? These would all be helpful moves, but they just can’t afford to make them. They don’t have the assets to add any players that would move the needle without drastically changing the current make-up of the roster. And, for all the team’s issues, it’s hard to see them shaking up the roster in a major way halfway through the season.
Walker, Cody Zeller, and Nicolas Batum are probably the only players the team wouldn’t consider trading. They’re the team’s best and valuable players, and moving on from any of them would indicate a significant shift in the team’s goals.
On the other side of the spectrum are the players that won’t be traded simply because the team wouldn’t get any value in return. Ramon Sessions, Brian Roberts, Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert are all either too old or not good enough to be used as anything except a tool to make salaries match in a trade. Marco Belinelli provides a bit more intrigue to possible trade partners, but he’s 30 years old and can’t defend to save his life and is locked. Plus, the Hornets just sent a first-round pick to the Kings to get him, and will likely be hesitant to cut ties so quickly.
There’s one other guy that falls into the above category. Marvin Williams is the best of this group, but he’s on a contract for three more years, getting paid upwards of $13 million per year. Teams aren’t exactly lining up to trade for a middling power forward at that age getting paid that much.
That leaves five players: all of them are 24 years old or younger and have some level of upside. Two of them (Treveon Graham and Christian Wood) have been bit players and, though they might turn into good players, don’t have the experience or the pedigree to garner much in return for a trade. Jeremy Lamb has been highly regarded in the past and is still only 24 years old, but he just hasn’t lived up to the potential he showed during his college career. He could be an interesting piece as part of a larger package.
That leaves two players that are the most valuable trade pieces. Frank Kaminsky has hit a sophomore slump, but he still has the potential to be a very dangerous offensive player. He’s a weak defender but can be a valuable bench piece for a team looking for scoring.
Finally, there’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Somehow, MKG is still only 23 years old and on a relatively team-friendly contract at $13 million per year. He’s an incredible defender and can still find ways to score without a reliable jump shot. Teams will be interested in him if Charlotte starts calling around and looking for help. He and Kaminsky could both be the centerpieces of a trade, but they’re also among the team’s most crucial players. They’re not as untouchable as Walker, Zeller or Batum, but trading either of these guys would still be a major change for a small-market team that needs to value the importance of continuity in team rosters.
The Hornets need help, and the cavalry isn’t coming. The only players that would be worth anything in a trade are too valuable to the team to send away halfway through the year – this team is still trying to win games and make the postseason, and sending away MKG or Kaminsky would be a blow to those hopes.
If the Hornets want to end this rough patch, they need to do it with players currently on the roster. The trade deadline won’t save this team.