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Trilly Grades Your Rebuild 2020: Charlotte Hornets

Trilly Builds is back! Same as last year....only different! We still have our "Good Things" and "Bad Things" section. We no longer have our rebuild status grade because, with the way the season ended, just about every team could claim incomplete. I've added three things that I would do if I took over the franchise tomorrow. And a "protected players" section, as I may do an expansion draft later and want to cover my bases. Previous editions can be found here. Let's get to it!

Charlotte Hornets (23-42, 10th place Eastern Conference)

Good Things

1. Almost out of cap hell

The expiring contracts of Bismack Biyombo and the since bought out Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams will clear up $43 million dollars in cap space. Cody Zeller and Nic Batum are going into the last year of contracts that will pay them a combined $42 million. They finally have the freedom to fuck this cap space up all over again.

2. Roster talent

Devonte` Graham was a revelation. From 15 MPG and 4.7 PPG last season to 35 MPG, averaging 18/7 and finishing top five in three-pointers made this season (37% 3P). 

The contract (3 years/$58 million) of CPF Terry Rozier was panned at the time but he averaged 18/4/4 and shot 41% from 3P range. The list of people that did this season is three names long: Khris Middleton, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Rozier. 

PJ Washington averaged 12/5/2 and shot 37% from 3P during his rookie campaign. Miles Bridges didn't have the kind of sophomore campaign you'd hope for, but he's still just 22. Malik Monk had an up-and-down third season: he finished the year suspended after a positive drug test but in the 13 games before the suspension, he was averaging 17/4/2 on 46/35/85 shooting off the bench for Charlotte. They're projected to have the 8th pick in this year's draft.

3. They should be much worse

I mean that with all due respect. The Hornets finished 29th in Offensive Rating and 24th in Defensive Rating. They finished dead last in Pace, Defensive Rebounding %, 2P field goal %, and attendance. They had the 4th worst point differential (-6.7 net rating) in the entire league. And somehow they were the 10th seed?? They were as close to the postseason as the Raptors were to clinching the #1 seed! I'm not sure what that's a testament to??? Some combination of scrappy players and solid coaching, led by James Borrego, get the credit here.

Bad Things

1. Did you see those numbers? 

Holy hell, this team hasn't shown that they're particularly good at anything. They have a solid collection of young guys but they need to complement them with some veteran help in a bad way. Committing to improving in one area would pay dividends across the floor.

For example, Charlotte was 30th in pace this season. They deliberately wanted to slow things down in a league that keeps speeding up. That's fine but when you're also dead last in Def Reb %, you're punting on a lot of opportunities to control the pace. Cody Zeller led the Hornets with 7 rebounds per game. Getting into even the league average area as a team would give you even more control over your pace. You can also imagine how tired a team could get defensively when they fail to get the rebound and have to defend the possession all over again.

2. They have cap space in a terrible time to have cap space

Just because you have the cap space doesn't mean that you should use it. The smart teams know this. We'll see how the Hornets fare this offseason. Making it to the last year of that dreaded Batum contract means nothing if you hand out another terrible contract to Demar Derozan or another star that projects to be available this summer.

The reasoning for the Batum contract was fair at the time. Batum came over in a trade from Portland in the last year of his old contract ($12 million). In his first year as a Hornet, he averaged a 15/6/6 on 43/35/85 shooting. He was a versatile defender, though probably a little overrated on that end. He was only 27, the Hornets won 48 games that year under Steve Clifford and Kemba was on a steal of a contract. The salary cap jumped that year and the rest was history. Batum signed a 5-yr/$120 million dollar deal and the Hornets haven't won 40 games in any of the four seasons since. He still has one more year left to go.

3. 30th in attendance

This team is dead last in attendance, and can you blame the fans? They just watched the best player in franchise history go to Boston because they lowballed him on the offer:

Walker was eligible for a five-year, $221 million deal in free agency after earning an All-NBA spot in 2018-19. He was open to a deal "even slightly less" than $190 million, but sought other teams after Charlotte's offer "was just under $160 million over five years," per Charania.

After vastly outperforming his last contract, I would have given him a blank check. They offered him $32 mill a year but $38 mill a year was the line? Marvin Williams and MKG made $26 million combined from the Hornets last season and each finished the year on different teams. We just talked about Batum's deal. Bismack Biyombo comfortably outearned Kemba in Charlotte, but now they were tightening the strings on their purse?

At the very least, they could have traded him for a decent haul before letting him hit UFA because a contract extension wasn't met. Anthony Davis and Paul George are better players than Walker and thus got traded for more. But they each were going to one team in particular. If Charlotte opened up the market for Kemba, who knows what they could have gotten in return. As it is, they watched him go to Boston for about $36 million per season because that extra four million was a little too rich for their blood. As a fan, would you show up to watch that?

3 Decisions I’d Make If I Was GM Tomorrow

1. Hit the trade market hard

You have cap space to send and a need to acquire more talent. Get creative and hit the trade market! But where, Withers? Whom?? I'm glad you asked:

Charlotte Hornets get Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers get Nicolas Batum, Malik Monk and, pick #32 in 2020 NBA Draft

The Hornets couldn’t get someone like Love to sign with them so they’d be happy to trade for him. Batum (last year of his deal), Malik Monk (17 ppg off the bench in Feb. before suspension) and pick #32 (Conveniently enough, Cleveland’s own pick originally) for Kevin Love. The Hornets (29th in ORTG, t-21st in team 3P%) get a boost to both, while the Cavs get to waive Batum, take a flier on Monk and get the first pick of the second round. Not a great haul for Cleveland, but they get off the 3-yrs/$90 million remaining on Love's contract.

Charlotte Hornets get Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn Nets get Malik Monk and pick #8 in 2020 NBA Draft

The Nets have a Jarrett Allen problem and I'd like to help them solve it. When Jacques Vaughn took over for the recently fired Kenny Atkinson, his first move was to put DeAndre Jordan in the starting lineup and send Allen to the bench. This is a solid look at the number comparison between Allen and Jordan, but it boils down to DJ was a package deal with Kyrie and KD. He's going to get a good number of minutes at center, right or wrong. Knowing that, I think it's in the Nets' best interest to turn Allen into another asset that they can control. 

The Nets may want to flip Allen for a player that can help them win now, in the KD/Kyrie window. They also may want to keep a little flexibility open, and turning Allen (#22 pick in 2017 Draft, going into year four and eligible for a contract extension this summer) into a top-ten pick that they could try to flip for more help or nab a young asset for cheap. That pick is projected to be the eighth in this draft and there are projected to be guys in that range that could help Brooklyn immediately. Imagine a Nets team that gets to add Onyeka Okongwu, Isaac Okoro, or Obi Toppin to its second unit and a healthy Kevin Durant to its first unit. 

Charlotte Hornets receive Al Horford, picks #22 and 34 in 2020 Draft, Philadelphia 76ers receive Nic Batum and pick #8 in the 2020 Draft

Let's have some fun, damnit! Who would even have to give more picks here? Horford is better than Batum but his contract has three years left to Batum's one, so let's swap it out. Philly gets to immediately punt on the Horford contract for Batum's expiring money and they get the #8 pick in this year's draft to boot. Charlotte gets a big man that fits right in as another piece on a solid team but was overtasked as the "final piece" to a championship contender. They turn the #8 pick into two picks later in the draft. Elton Brand gets a chance to spend money again next summer and the Hornets turn Biymobo/Hernangomez minutes into Horford.

2. Test out RFA

Charlotte has a little money to spend and there are a couple of big names in Restricted Free Agency. Their respective teams would probably match any offer, but so be it. That won't stop me from extending the offer. NC native Brandon Ingram or Bogdan Bogdanovich would be instant upgrades and you're going to have to overpay to get talent to Charlotte anyway, so throw big money at them early in free agency.

3. Don't step on your young guys

Notice the names above (Love, Allen, Ingram, etc) fit in with the Hornets core of young players, not usurp them. 

The core of Graham/Rozier/Bridges/Washington might not project to star power but each has shown the athleticism/shooting touch/hustle to be solid players. I hate to be cliche with "hustle" but there's no other way to describe it as you're watching the Hornets. They're decidedly not good at anything but were within striking distance of a playoff spot because they didn't let that get in the way of playing basketball. They finished in the top-eight for loose balls recovered on offense, contested 3P shots, and charges drawn. There's an outline here of a team that competes for a playoff spot next season. They just need a few tweaks.

Protected Players

1. Terry Rozier

2. Devonte Graham

3. Miles Bridges

4. PJ Washington

5. Caleb Martin

6. Cody Martin

7. Malik Monk

8. Jalen McDaniels

Thoughts: Pretty straight forward here. All of their core guys are young or cheap, if not both. 

Unprotected players

1. Nic Batum

2. Cody Zeller

3. Dwyane Bacon (RFA)

Thoughts: Pray that a good samaritan expansion team bites on Batum.

Ineligible players (unrestricted FAs)

1. Bismack Biyombo

2. Willy Hernangomez