Should the Hornets be looking to trade Washington, Richards?

PJ Washington and Nick Richards fire up the crowd while playing for the  University of Kentucky
PJ Washington and Nick Richards fire up the crowd while playing for the University of Kentucky / Mike Weaver/Special to Courier Journal

The Hornets rebuilding plans for this season have been discussed at length, specifically moving on from players on expiring contracts. Trading Gordon Hayward and Kyle Lowry for whatever they can get seems obvious at this point. If a team wants to step up and sweep the Hornets away, they should definitely be listening on Miles Bridges as well.

But what about some young(ish) players who aren’t on expiring contracts? Specifically Nick Richards and P.J. Washington. Both players are coming off arguably their best games of the season Saturday night against the Jazz, and both would likely be highly sought after around the league as promising role players on cheap contracts.

Washington is in the first year of a 3-year, $48 million extension that descends in value with him making $16.8 million this season, $15.5 million next season, and $14.2 million in the 2025-26 season.

Still just 25 years old, Washington, at 6’7” is best suited to play the 4, but can hold his own on the wing and as a small-ball 5 in certain lineups. He’s averaging 13 points and 5 rebounds a game, which is just about on par with his career averages, and he’s of course, coming off a 43 point explosion his last time out.

His combination of size and skill on both ends is appealing to just about any team, especially contending teams looking to fortify their depth and versatility without breaking the bank.

Richards, on the other hand, is a 7’0” big man with some bulk and athleticism. He’s been a great value find for the Hornets and has given them very good minutes at Center - a position of desperate need. He’s having a career season, averaging about 10 points and 8 rebounds a game in his first year as a consistent starter.

On top of that, Richards is signed to a very team-friendly deal that pays him $5 million this season, next season, and in 22025-26 (that year is non-guaranteed). Like Washington, Richards is coming off the best game of his season - and perhaps career - as he managed 26 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 blocks on Saturday night. Just like with Washington, it’s easy to see why Richards would be an extremely appealing option to contending teams around the league who may need help in the front court.

The question that the Hornets must answer is, are these players worth more to the Hornets, or on the trade market?

Both players are 25 years old and locked up for two more years on reasonable deals. They can certainly fit in with what Charlotte wants to do while rebuilding the roster. But they’re probably not key parts of the young core of the future, and there’s a chance that they won’t still be around by the time the Hornets are ready to compete again anyway.

So while there is no urgency to move either player, if the right offer comes along, the team should at least be willing to consider it. With the season each one is having, and especially their recent success, this may be the best time to sell, as their value may never be higher.

It would be a tough pill to swallow for Hornets fans, as Washington and Richards have been a couple of bright spots in a sea of darkness. But realistically, the name of the game is acquiring draft picks and prospects, and dealing these two might be the best way to achieve that goal.

At this point, it is abundantly clear that the Hornets aren’t headed for the playoffs any time soon, and Richards and Washington could both help teams that are headed for postseason play immediately and for the next few years.

The bottom line is this; if a team offers the Hornets multiple first-round picks, or one first-round pick and an intriguing prospect, the Hornets would be best suited to take that deal. If the price is just one first-round pick, or a first and second that would be a tough call, but one the Hornets should at least strongly consider.

Anything less than that, and the Hornets would be wise to hang onto both players. There is still hope that they can improve and be part of a winning core in the future, and there is also no reason to think the team won’t be able to field offers in the offseason, at next year’s trade deadline, and beyond.