Hornets expected to be one of most active teams at NBA trade deadline

The Charlotte Hornets bench during a game against the New York Knicks
The Charlotte Hornets bench during a game against the New York Knicks / Jared C. Tilton/GettyImages

After a flurry of big trades in late December and early January, things have gotten relatively quiet on the trade front, as the NBA trade deadline looms less than a week away. Outside of the Rockets and Grizzlies deal involving injured players, Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo, there’s been no movement.

Furthermore, the latest bevy of rumors actually indicates that that may remain the case. Many around the league seem to think that players we’ve been hearing about for months may not be on the move, or even available.

Jake Fischer, a reporter for Yahoo! Sports, basically summed it up in the title of his latest article, Friday, “...NBA trade market hindered by a lack of significant activity”. 

Fischer went on to say teams are not open to trading stars like Lauri Markkanen, Donovan Mitchell, Karl-Anthony Towns, Jarrett Allen, and Mikal Bridges. He then says even role players like Marcus Smart, Wendell Carter Jr., Jerami Grant, and Jonathan Kuminga are off limits.

But there is promising news for Hornets fans, as Fischer stated, “The remaining trade deadline activity, to this point, is expected to focus on nearby cities Atlanta and Charlotte”. He reiterated that the Hornets are still doing their best to move expiring vets, Kyle Lowry and Gordon Hayward.

Fischer also caught my attention by saying that PJ Washington and Nick Richards are “receiving quite a bit of interest” in trade discussions around the league. I’ve talked about the prospect of trading these two before, but the context of these rumors is intriguing.

This trade market was expected to be loaded with deals as so many teams are looking to add, upgrade, and spend. But the list of available players drying up so quickly has afforded a great opportunity for the Hornets.

Hornets need to strike while the iron’s hot!

As good as Washington and Richards have been, they are role players whose timelines probably won’t align with the next iteration of a Hornets playoff team. These could be two of the best, and most reasonably priced players available for trade right now.

Charlotte should be answering every phone call and essentially opening a bidding war for both Washington and Richards or as a package deal. The value will never be higher than it is right now. Both are playing well, locked up for multiple more years on attractive contracts and would fit well in most team constructs.

Both players are just 25, and teams could pretty easily talk themselves into adding a young starter at a reasonable cost, signed through 2025-26. There is desperation around the league, as teams are striking out on their trade targets.

That’s where Charlotte can enter, and take advantage. They should be able to extract excellent value before Thursday’s deadline, and the opportunity is there to get an amazing return, multiple first-round picks, with some young players, is not out of the question if the Hornets fully commit to selling.

Fischer also said that there are still talks going on about Miles Bridges, with the Suns being the most motivated potential buyers. I’ve written about Bridges to Phoenix before, but it’s worth noting they can’t trade a single first-round pick. They could cobble together two 2nd rounders, but ideally, the Hornets should look elsewhere, or try to get a third team involved.

As rough as this season has been for Hornets fans, if the team can somehow manage to come out of Thursday’s deadline with some combination of 3-5 extra first-round picks (remember, they already acquired one in the Terry Rozier deal), some more second-round picks, and some new young players to get a look at, that would be incredible.

Yes, the team will be very bad for the rest of the season, but the team is already very bad and they might as well lean all the way in. We’ll get to see a lot more of Brandon Miller in a prominent role, plus LaMelo Ball and Mark Williams, if they can ever return from injury. This should also be a good chance to give an extended look to young guys like Nick Smith Jr., James Bouknight, JT Thor, Bryce McGowens, Nathan Mensah, and Leaky Black.

If a couple of those guys turn into real NBA rotation players, that would be another huge win for the cause. Giving a huge runway to the young core, and going into this offseason with another top 5(ish) draft pick, and a ton of extra draft capital to play with is the best possible outcome for the Hornets. I’m increasingly excited and optimistic, but they have to act now.