Charlotte Hornets: Grading the Questionable Trade for Miles Plumlee

Oct 15, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Miles Plumlee (18) dribbles the ball as Chicago Bulls forward Cristiano Felicio (6) defends in the first quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Miles Plumlee (18) dribbles the ball as Chicago Bulls forward Cristiano Felicio (6) defends in the first quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

The Charlotte Hornets made one of the more questionable deals this season by trading for an overpriced and underproducing big man.

Not a lot of fans are happy with the Charlotte Hornets‘ recent acquisition of Miles Plumlee from the Milwaukee Bucks. Rich Cho and management decided to deal Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert in a trade for a new backup center. While the deal was questionable because of Plumlee’s contract, he could turn out to have a positive impact on the team.

Most NBA fans want their team to clearly come out on top of every trade they make and while, on the surface, it looks like the Hornets made a bad move, a deeper analysis shows that Miles might be able to be a productive player for them. Charlotte might have questionable draft selections over the past few years but they make solid trades.

Rich Cho is known for making moves that boost the team’s roster such as the trades for Marco Belinelli, Nicolas Batum, and Courtney Lee last season. It is too early to tell if they took too much of a risk on a Plumlee because there is so much unknown regarding the 28-year old. On the other hand, they gave up very little to get him as the neither Hawes or Hibbert were fitting well in Steve Clifford’s system.

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The 7’0 big man is set to make $12.5 million through the 2019-20 season so the Hornets are making a long-term investment. Charlotte had the chance to let Roy leave after this season as his contract was up while Spencer would have probably opted into his player-option but instead, they decided to be proactive and decide their own future. This deal may cost the team some cap space over the next few years but they also needed a better backup center.

But is Plumlee really better than Hibbert and/or Hawes? Looking at the numbers, no. Miles is only averaging 2.6 points per game and 1.7 rebounds per game so far this season. Compare those numbers to the 7.3 PPG and 4.3 RPG from Hawes and the 5.2 PPG and 3.6 RPG from Hibbert. Both players were putting up better numbers on cheaper contracts.

While many will clammer over the money issue, it really isn’t that big of a deal when taking a closer look. According to cap expert Bobby Marks of The Vertical, “Charlotte had $95m in guaranteed money before the trade and were not considered to have cap flexibility this summer.” Now with the move, they have $102 million in guaranteed salaries. (Yahoo Sports) While they have more on the books, the team will now have a $8.4 million mid-level exception to offer this offseason which is more than it would’ve been before the trade. So it does make some financial sense.

Also, this could be a sign of more things to come from trade master Rich Cho. Charlotte unloaded two players and now have an open roster spot. While they did sign Greensboro Swarm big man, Mike Tobey, to a 10-day contract, he might just be a short-term option for the time being. If that’s the case, then expect another trade from the Hornets before the February 23rd trade deadline.

So why make the deal? High risk, medium reward move can be the only motive.

If you look back at Plumlee’s numbers earlier in his career, he was a solid player. During his second season in the league, Miles averaged 8.1 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game, and 1.1 blocks per game for the Phoenix Suns. That was by far the best season of his career and he has come nowhere close to those stats since then.

Now three years removed from that breakout season, the Hornets are likely banking on him returning to that form with them. The backup center role is now Plumlee’s and with more minutes and a big opportunity, he has the chance to revitalize his career.

It was clear that neither Hibbert or Hawes were cutting it. Roy was too slow on offense and Spencer wasn’t consistent enough on defense. If all goes to plan, Miles can be solid on both ends. He is more athletic and quicker than their previous backups. His production, or lack thereof, might solely be based on his limited opportunities. Based on those highlights, I could see him being great in pick and roll situations a lot like how Cody Zeller is.

Grade: C+

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We can’t really grade the trade based on surface value. Many think the Charlotte Hornets lost this deal because Miles had one of the worst contracts in the NBA but the way I see it, they decided to shake things up this season. Give Plumlee a chance and he may surprise you. The team has a recent history of rebuilding player’s careers like Jeremy Lin and Marco Belinelli. A clean slate could be all that he needs.