Victor Wembanayma almost helped steal Hornets draft pick but trade was abandoned

The Charlotte Hornets almost traded back in the 2024 NBA Draft with the Memphis Grizzlies, but Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs would have stolen Tidjane Salaun.
Charlotte Hornets, San Antonio Spurs, 2024 NBA Draft, Memphis Grizzlies, Tidjane Salaun, Victor Wembanyama
Charlotte Hornets, San Antonio Spurs, 2024 NBA Draft, Memphis Grizzlies, Tidjane Salaun, Victor Wembanyama / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages

The Charlotte Hornets walked away from the first round of the 2024 NBA Draft with French youngster Tidjane Salaun. They took him with the sixth-overall pick in the draft.

Salaun was one of the fastest-rising players in the weeks heading into the draft, and Charlotte clearly saw the vision of the type of player he could become if he reaches his full potential.

But while Salaun could end up being a fine player in the NBA, and perhaps even more than that, the Hornets almost missed their chance to take him entirely.

Before the Hornets picked Salaun, there were rumblings that they could potentially trade back in the draft, as other teams were interested in jumping up to take UConn big man Donovan Clingan.

Spurs would have stolen Tidjane Salaun in 2024 NBA Draft if Hornets had traded back with Grizzlies

Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports reported that the Hornets were in talks with the Grizzlies about a potential deal that would center around Memphis getting pick No. 6, and the Hornets getting pick No. 9 and additional assets.

After the draft concluded, Fischer gave an explanation as to what happened on draft night in regard to the trade that never came to be.

"The Hornets discussed trading down from that No. 6 slot with both Portland and Memphis, sources said, as Charlotte was on the clock. The Trail Blazers seemed to have been the Hornets’ preferred partner, as a good portion of league executives believed San Antonio was targeting 6-foot-9 forward Tidjane Salaun at No. 8. The French prospect shares an agent with Spurs centerpiece Victor Wembanyama, and Memphis’ No. 9 pick would have been a risk Charlotte didn’t ultimately feel was worth rolling the dice over. So the Hornets got their guy in Salaun, and then Portland got Clingan."

Jake Fischer, Yahoo Sports

Apparently, the Hornets were ready to trade down to pick No. 9 with the Grizzlies, but if they had, they wouldn’t have been able to select Salaun, who they were clearly locked in on.

San Antonio Spurs star Victor Wembanyama and his French/agency connection to Salaun had the organization eyeing him, and they owned the eighth pick in the NBA Draft, meaning they could have stolen him from the Hornets had they traded back to nine.

So, instead of helping the Grizzlies land Clingan and gaining extra assets in the process, the Spurs played gatekeeper, essentially forcing the Hornets to select Salaun with the sixth pick if they wanted him at all.

Ultimately, that’s what ended up happening. Based on the way things played out, with Charlotte effectively backing out on the deal last-minute, it’s clear how much the organization values Salaun.

But now, if one of the prospects picked after pick eight ends up being better than Salaun, the Hornets will have some tough reflecting to do.