2 veteran players, Ish Smith and Frank Ntilikina cut by Hornets after trade deadline

Jan 24, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA;  Charlotte Hornets guard Ish Smith (14) passes
Jan 24, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Ish Smith (14) passes / Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Hornets continued to trim down their suddenly crowded roster after the trade deadline by cutting guards, Ish Smith and Frank Ntilikina on Thursday. This came on the heels of hearing that the team was waiving its 2021 lottery pick, James Bouknight.

After Charlotte traded to acquire five players on Thursday and only sent out two, it was clear that roster cuts were coming, and these were ultimately the most logical moves. I blogged about the disappointing Bouknight and his brief Charlotte tenure on Friday. 

That one hurt a little bit, but Smith and Frankie just don’t make sense on the team anymore. Both were signed this past offseason to one-year minimum deals worth $2 million.

The 35-year-old Smith was frequently called into action this year for the Hornets and did an admirable job. He played in 43 games - second only to Brandon Miller - and did his best to provide (mostly) backup point guard minutes on a struggling team.

At this point, the main goal for the Hornets is developing young players, and the journeyman Smith doesn’t fit that mold. With the additions of Tre Mann and Vasilije Micic and the return of LaMelo Ball hopefully on the horizon, there’s just no room for Smith.

Ish has played for a ridiculous 13 different teams in his career, an NBA record he’ll now have a chance to add to as a free agent.

It’s a similar story for Ntilikina, another point guard now squeezed out of minutes. Frankie was a worthy signing for the Hornets, the 8th overall pick in the 2017 draft showed some flashes early in his career with the Knicks, but the 25-year-old couldn’t get on the floor for Charlotte due to a variety of injuries mostly. He’s likely running out of chances to salvage his career in the NBA.

At least one more player will likely depart the roster soon in Kyle Lowry, as GM Mitch Kupchak indicated buyout negotiations would likely begin soon for the veteran point guard. We’ll see if there are any other vets to go, like Bertans, but no word yet.

That could be an opportunity for one of the two-way guys to earn a contract; Leaky Black and Nathan Mensah have both looked good at times and played plenty of NBA minutes.