Analyzing a Busy Hornets Weekend

I woke up on Friday morning, July 6th, expecting a pretty easy going weekend in regards to the Charlotte Hornets. Their Summer League season started against Oklahoma City that evening followed by games against Miami and Boston on Sunday and Monday. Free agency was about a week in and given the fact that Charlotte has a roster full of hefty contracts and a salary cap that is flirting with the tax line, I wasn’t expecting much to happen on the player transaction front. Naturally, the exact opposite happened.

Let’s a take a look at each of the many moves that the Hornets completed over the weekend.

Previous trades go through

Mitch Kupchak made his first splash for the Hornets on the day before the NBA draft when he shipped out Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Timofey Mozgov and two second round picks. The deal was made on 6/20 and couldn’t be approved until 7/6 when the new league year began. Once the trade was official, Mitch’s comments were geared towards Dwight’s lack of a true role within Coach Borrego’s system. Seems legit, but we know a big part of everything was Dwight’s attitude in the locker room and the consensus that he was not well liked. Thanks for the memories Dwight.

The second part of this trade was the deal that the Hornets made with Oklahoma City on draft night. Part of the Howard return was the 45th pick from Brooklyn on draft night. With the pick the Nets via the Hornets selected Hamidou Diallo, the young shooting guard from Kentucky. After the draft was over, it was announced that the Hornets sold the pick to the Thunder for cash considerations and a 2019 pick. Diallo was viewed as a high upside / low floor prospect, but given the depth at wing for Charlotte, it was unlikely that he would have made any impact this season if he made the team in the first place. Getting cash and a future 2nd rounder is a win here.

Tony Parker comes to Buzz City

Free agency technically began at midnight on July 1st, but unofficially, free agency starts when Woj and Shams bomb Twitter around 11:30pm on June 30th. The Hornets were never expected to be active in the market given how little cap space that they have, yet Mitch Kupchak made it clear several times that the team would be in the market for a backup PG to Kemba Walker.

During the first few days of free agency, the Hornets predictably sat on the sidelines while several players deemed as realistic options went off the board to different teams. Earlier in the week, Woj and Bobby Marks spoke on a podcast about Tony Parker and how both Charlotte and Denver were interested in the four time champion. This nugget certainly piqued the interest of Hornets fans as most people were unaware that Parker was A: a free agent and B: even considering leaving the Spurs franchise where he had been for 17 years.

Shortly after the Dwight for Mozgov trade went through on Friday afternoon, Nic Batum dropped a Woj bomb of his own and announced that Parker was indeed coming to Charlotte. The signing of Parker in and of itself is interesting (he’s coming over on a 2 year/$10 million deal) mainly because of the connections he has in place already. Coach Borrego was an assistant for the Spurs for two of the championship runs that Parker was a part of and Borrego has mentioned wanting to build a culture in Charlotte that is symbollic with winning. That has Spurs written all over it and who better to help instill that here, than your former All NBA/Finals MVP point guard who was literally raised in the culture you’re looking to model. Parker also has the French connection with Nic Batum so there is some playing chemistry in place as well.

Multiple reports are saying that San Antonio did truly want Tony Parker back, but his role seemed much less defined there. Between Dejounte Murray, Patty Mills and Derrick White, extra minutes for Parker seemed sparse. In Charlotte, there is a clear gap of 15-18 minutes per game available behind Kemba that Tony could slide into right away. I don’t expect TP to be 2015 Jeremy Lin for Charlotte, but Parker is certainly stable as a backup when healthy. He’s going to be able to run an offense unlike his two predecessors (MCW & Sessions) and there is enough scoring ability there to help take pressure off of Kemba when he’s in need of a break. The concern you have with Parker is his health. It’s unreasonable to expect him to play a full 82 game slate meaning that Devonte Graham will likely see some time at some point during the season as well and he’ll benefit under the mentorship of Parker.

Some might argue that Parker isn’t worth the money we gave him (for health reasons), but he provides a winning mentality, stability and leadership to that backup PG role that has been void for some time now. Excited to see him in Charlotte.

Return of the Mack!!!

Everyone loves a good trade. They’re such a nice vessel for a flood of content around your team and I know I enjoy getting everyone’s take on a transaction involving players.

During the first trade Mitch made as the GM, most people were thrilled with Dwight leaving town and were ready to move on with Cody and Billy Hernangomez, but were less thrilled about taking back Timofey Mozgov. Like Dwight, Mozgov was a product of the summer 2016 cap spike and his contract has not come anywhere close to having any value. In fact, Mozgov was so unplayable in Brooklyn that the team was more than fine just sitting him on the bench even though the team was paying him $16+ million a year.

I’m not convinced his playing time would have increased in Charlotte either to be honest. Cody and Hernangomez are both more skilled and better scheme fits, so it’s likely Mozgov would have been the emergency center should anyone get hurt at any point. He was essentially wasted roster space.

Enter Mitch Kupchak.

I’m not sure how this trade was initiated, but Saturday night just after 8:00 pm EST, Woj drops a bomb that Charlotte, Chicago and Orlando were finalizing a three team trade that, among other things, would send Mozgov to Orlando and Bismack Biyombo to Charlotte. BIYOMBO IS COMING HOME!

Such a weird trade to be honest. Three teams got involved to move around spare parts in a sense. I’m thinking that Orlando was the instigator here since they had the biggest needs to fill of the teams involved. Orlando needed a point guard to pair with DJ Augustin and were able to swing Jerian Grant from Chicago to fill that role and they needed to clear up playing time for their first round pick Mo Bamba. Bamba is a long and rangy center that projects as an exceptional to elite rim protector in the NBA and he offers a lot of potential offensively as well. With Orlando in a rebuild with young pieces they want to develop, it makes sense to want to play Bamba meaningful minutes from the go. The problem was that they had Biyombo on the roster.

Biyombo is redundant to Bamba defensively as his calling card in the league is his rim protection ability, but he doesn’t offer nearly as much offensively. The problem was, Biyombo is getting paid $17 million a year this year and next and he’s talented enough to where he should be in the rotation. It seemed that there was just no way to satisfy that from Orlando’s perspective so they decided to move him. Charlotte was a good partner in this because, they lack any rim protection among their bigs and protecting the rim is a big part of Borrego’s new scheme. As it turns out, Charlotte had a center in Mozgov that wasn’t going to play and could match salary of Biyombo. To round out the trade, Charlotte sent Julyan Stone and his non guaranteed contract to Chicago and snared two second round picks from Orlando.

Biyombo is the NBA equivalent of a movie that has a cult following. He has sentimental value to the fans, but was never as appreciated as he should have been in his time. Biyombo was acquired as part of a draft night trade in 2011, the same draft that produced Kemba Walker. Biyombo came in raw as hell, but had a really high defensive ceiling and was a plus shot blocker out of the gate. The hope was that, offensively, his game would develop, but it never really did. Charlotte signed Al Jefferson and drafted Cody Zeller a couple years after he was drafted and his spot in the rotation became shaky. Steve Clifford was also hired around the same time and never seem to take to him.

When it came time to give him a qualifying offer back in 2015, Charlotte declined and Biyombo hit the open market where he signed a one year deal with Toronto. At the time, most fans were pretty upset that we’d just give up on a lottery pick that quickly especially one as young as he was. The minutes probably weren’t there to be sure, but it did seem shortsighted financially at the time. Biyombo took that year with the Raptors and used it to his advantage. We really saw him blossom as a defensive force in the playoffs against Cleveland that following summer and he parlayed it into a massive four year contract.

Most fans seem to be excited that Biz is back in Charlotte and can live with the contract he has even given it’s substantial figure. It’ll be interested to see how he plugs into the front court. I have to imagine that he will play some even if Cody and WH are both healthy. He offers a defensive skill set that no one has on this team currently which has to account for something. As for Mozgov, the 36 hours he was officially a Hornet were riveting, but Biz is our guy. No hard feelings.

Mitch certainly had a busy weekend, but he’s doing a nice job positioning this team going into the season. I tend to think that another trade will happen before the season to clear up some of the wing “clutter”, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

 

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