A tradition like no other: The Charlotte Hornets participating in the NBA trade deadline.
There wasn’t a megadeal and point guard Kemba Walker is still a Hornet, despite the front office checking around as to what Walker’s trade value might be. The Hornets did make a relatively minor deal Wednesday, sending big man Johnny O’Bryant and two future second-round picks to the New York Knicks for center Willy Hernangomez.
“We have our rotation (set), but I’ve always liked him. We’ll have to see what he can do,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said of Hernangomez, a Spaniard who made the NBA All-Rookie team last season. “To start, he’d be the fifth big. Then, you never know how things will go.”
Five thoughts on this deal:
▪ Hernangomez won’t play for the Hornets before Sunday at the earliest, when they play an afternoon home game against the Toronto Raptors. The practice Tuesday, before the Hornets leave for Wednesday’s road game against the Orlando Magic, will be Hernangomez’s first real chance to absorb Clifford’s system.
▪ Though Hernangomez requested a trade because he wasn’t playing much for the Knicks (about nine minutes per game this season), there is no reason to assume he’ll have a bigger role with the Hornets, at least in the short run. The Hornets’ deepest position is center, with future Hall of Famer Dwight Howard backed up by former starter Cody Zeller.
▪ Hernangomez shoots only 25 percent from 3-point range, so he isn’t well-suited to be a power forward in the 1-in, 4-out offensive sets Clifford prefers. One combination that could get him on the floor could be moving Zeller to power forward occasionally. Zeller doesn’t have great shooting range either, but he’s better suited to guard power forwards.
“In today’s NBA, he’s a center more than anything else,” Clifford said of Hernangomez. “To be able to play a position every night, you have to play that position at both ends of the floor. I see Cody, because he’s done it much more, being able to defend (at power forward) more than Willy could.”
▪ The Hornets send two second-round picks (2020 and 2021) to the Knicks. This front office hasn’t hesitated to use second-rounders as commodities, rather than building blocks (sometimes trading them for cash). The Hornets have signed players such as Treveon Graham and O’Bryant to serve the same end-of-bench roles a second-round pick would have been.
▪ Understandably, there were questions from fans whether Hernangomez was acquired as a trade commodity. However, as ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks noted, Hernangomez couldn’t be aggregated into a multiplayer deal for 60 days after Wednesday’s trade.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell