Admittedly, for some Charlotte Hornets fans, this trade deadline was a bit underwhelming. Jalen McDaniels was traded for a 2023 second-round pick from the Philadelphia 76ers and a 2027 second-round pick from the Portland Trailblazers as a part of a four-team deal. Svi Mykhailiuk also came back to the Hornets in the same trade deal with the New York Knicks.
Mason Plumlee also went on a trade deadline deal, getting shipped to the Los Angeles Clippers for Reggie Jackson’s services. The Hornets received a 2nd round pick in exchange for their starting center. According to reports, it looks like Jackson will be bought out of his expiring deal and will likely join a contender before the March 1st deadline for players to join a team and be allowed to participate in the postseason.
What do the Charlotte Hornets’ moves mean?
Both McDaniels and Plumlee were in the last year of their contracts. When players with expiring contracts are moved before free agency, it’s usually an indication that the players were not in the long-term plans of the team. With Plumlee, his time with the Hornets was clearly coming to an end when the Hornets used the 15th pick in the 2022 draft on the former Duke Blue Devil Mark Williams.
And Plumlee’s resurgent year (most notably his jump from a woeful 39% from the free throw line to the much more respectable 60% that he’s shooting this season) only made him a more valuable trade piece. By becoming better from the charity stripe, Plumlee has been noticeably more aggressive. His change in demeanor has meant two times more trips to the free throw line per game (2.3 last year, 4.6 this season). It has also resulted in a career-high in points per game (12.2) for the nine-year veteran.
McDaniels departure was a different story. McDaniels was drafted by the Hornets in 2019. As the 52nd pick in the draft, not much was expected from the wing player. He has turned his limited opportunities into a solid role as a rotational NBA player. Hitting on players late in the draft is a sign of a front office that can identify talent, an important characteristic for any serious franchise—particularly for one that isn’t a free-agent destination location for top-tier superstars.
While the haul for McDaniels was more than what was garnered for Plumlee, his departure means that the Hornets weren’t willing to pay a burgeoning star his worth; despite being in rebuilding mode and needing to pair athletic, quality-defending shooters with a player as dynamic as LaMelo Ball. It’s not just disappointing to lose McDaniels, it’s discouraging that the front office was unable to yield a more dynamic value in return.
Keep in mind, since Mitch Kupchak became general manager for the Hornets in 2018, only one of the second-round picks (Cody Martin) is still on the roster. So, the two second-round picks that the Hornets got for McDaniels feel less compelling than the prospects of what he could have meant for the team in the future. Instead, the Hornets identified a talent, helped cultivate it, and then sent it to the 76ers. The delineation between being a contender and the Hornets has never been starker.