How Can The Toronto Raptors Sweep Affect Charlotte?


Toronto Raptors Misery May Benefit The Charlotte Hornets

As the final horn sounded on the season-ending 125-94 loss to the Washington Wizards, the Toronto Raptors players, coaches, and fans knew that this kind of humiliating playoff defeat is what causes wholesale changes in an organization. Especially given what Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri said prior to the series tip-off, when he was asked about how playoff performance would factor into personnel changes:

"“100 percent,” Ujiri responded. “It influences everything, in my opinion. It just depends on how you look at it and it just depends on the results that you have.”"

That statement was made prior to the 31 point capitulation by the team on Sunday. An embarrassing loss in what should have been the most competitive of the first round series in the Eastern Conference playoffs will cause even the most patient general managers to pick up the phone.

Meanwhile, the Charlotte Hornets face a separate dilemma after a disappointing season of their own. General manager Rich Cho has little progress to show since he took over the front office, and while fans came out to support the new team after a playoff run last season and a return to the beloved Hornets’ name and colors, that support will not last long if the team cannot win games.

Both of these organizations are ripe for change, but it will remain to be seen how that change manifests. Cho knows that his time running the team will be cut short if he cannot get back into the playoffs in 2016. Ujiri inherited a flawed roster but he had to be patient as the Raptors captured the crown of the pitiful Atlantic division, but being swept by the Wizards will undoubtedly empower Ujiri to reshape the team to his liking.

With both these teams looking for changes, there is a good chance they will at least have exploratory discussions about a trade. The real question is whether there is a deal to be made, and how the Hornets can profit from the wheeling and dealing of an Eastern Conference rival.

Charlotte has needs all over the roster, with only Al Jefferson cemented in as a starter next season, unless he is traded. Kemba Walker and his abysmal shooting percentage cannot be guaranteed a starting spot, and Gerald Henderson may not even be on the team.

Cody Zeller had some good games, but it was a small sample size and its unknown if he has the talent to be a legitimate starter in the NBA. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist showed tremendous growth as a player in 2014-15, but he still cannot shoot a three and hurts the team’s spacing.

Walker, Henderson, Zeller, and maybe even Kidd-Gilchrist could be upgraded. Jefferson is a very good player, but he has only one year left on his contract, so building the team around him may not make much sense.

Jonas Valanciunas is an excellent player, and he could theoretically fill the void of a departing Al Jefferson. Valanciunas is only 22 years old, and yet he is nearly as productive as Jefferson:

1Al Jefferson16.9.4990.1.12916.8.5013.9.71010.51.81.519.7
2Jonas Valanciunas10.4.5530.0.00010.4.5534.4.77810.90.91.514.9

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/27/2015.

The Raptors big man is a slightly better rebounder, shoots a little bit better, and does not demand the ball nearly as much as Big Al. Valanciunas would be a fantastic addition to the Hornets, although it is unlikely Ujiri, who is known for his shrewd deals, would be willing to simply trade him straight up.

Valanciunas makes only a little more than $4M next season, and is a real bargain. To get a deal done, Ujiri probably asks for the Hornets first round pick this year. Honestly, I would make that deal. The chance Cho would score a player of Valanciunas’ ability with a middling first round pick is low.

More from Swarm and Sting

Jefferson and the first rounder for Valanciunas seems fair, and given that the nation of Canada has soured on Valanciunas this season, maybe it has a realistic shot of happening.

If not, then perhaps the Raptors and Hornets could exchange guards. Gerald Henderson is a quality player who just does not fit on the roster. If he decides to take the $6M option for next year, then maybe the Hornets could look to make a deal with the Raptors for Terrence Ross.

Ross is an uneven player, but one with ridiculous potential. Ross scored 50 points in a game earlier this season, something no Hornets player has ever done. However, like Valanciunas, Toronto’s opinion of Ross has declined steadily through the second half of the season.

In April, as the Raptors were sliding down the Eastern Conference standings, Ross’s shooting plummeted just as fast. He made only 30% of his three point shots in that time, and overall shot just 39.7%. Perhaps, sensing that Ross’s value will never be higher, Toronto would be willing to ship Ross to Charlotte in exchange for a guy like Henderson.

Ross might have peaked as a player, but he is still shooting 37% from behind the arc in his three year career. He is also an explosive athlete, and someone who could be molded into that threes and defense kind of player the Hornets desperately need.

Henderson will never develop into that player, as his shooting touch is just not there. However, his steady effort might be more appealing to the Raptors front office than the inconsistency Ross brought to the court in 2014-15.

While those are the two obvious trade scenarios, there could be others. Kyle Lowry was an All-Star, but his play fell off a cliff in the second half of the year. Its possible that Cho could take a chance on Lowry.

There is also Amir Johnson, a quality big man who is a free agent this summer. Johnson would be a fine addition, although he is still not someone who can lead a team to the playoffs.

Next: Kemba Walker Is Not A Franchise Player