The Charlotte Hornets have a new head coach, as they replaced Steve Clifford with James Borrego. With the change comes high hopes for the season.
According to Zach Lowe, they are focused on winning rather than tanking for another high draft selection next summer. After adding lottery picks Malik Monk and Miles Bridges in back-to-back seasons, the team reportedly wants to make a splash in the Eastern Conference (via ESPN):
“Charlotte is hell-bent on making the playoffs. Provided they are in the race at the trade deadline, it would be shocking if they dealt Kemba Walker.”
For a team that wants to be successful, it would not be surprising if they are buyers rather than sellers. Don’t expect their front office to trade star point guard Walker before his contract expires at the end of the season (unless he indicates he’ll walk in free agency, but he’s stated numerous times that he wants to stay in Charlotte).
With that being said, the Hornets were listening to offers for Walker last year and one of the teams that expressed interest was the Cleveland Cavaliers. They were in a drastically different situation at that point, as they still had LeBron James.
Lowe said that Cleveland would have sent the No. 8 pick to Charlotte in exchange for Walker, but the Cavaliers ultimately passed because they did not have any assurance from James that he’d re-sign with his hometown team.
However, it’s still worth noting that the two front offices nearly had a deal. Lowe hinted that if the Cavaliers move on from Kevin Love, perhaps that Hornets would be interested:
“The Cavs signed Love to that fat four-year, $120 million extension because he is a very good basketball player. They also did it to increase his trade value. If the Cavs are too far behind the No. 8 spot around the trade deadline, it would be natural to pivot into tank mode and investigate Love’s market. But there will always be some desperate team willing to give up an interesting rotation guy and middling first-round pick for an All-Star. How about Bismack Biyombo, Jeremy Lamb and an unprotected Charlotte first-rounder? That doesn’t sound great, but there won’t be a Love motherlode.”
Biyombo would help with the salary cap filler while Lamb offers some upside. Obviously, the most attractive asset would be the future first-round pick.
According to Sean Deveney from Sporting News, the Hornets were one of the teams that inquired about trading for Love last season. There was a clear interest in the big man, who could easily return to form as a No. 1 option for Cleveland without James in the mix.
Love was one of the most efficient high-volume scorers, but can be used as much more than a spot-up shooter, which is the role he was relegated to alongside James.
It’s unclear how Charlotte’s offense will look with a new head coach, but they used post-ups quite a bit last season, ranking third overall in the NBA. The team that posted up the most often was the San Antonio Spurs, which is where Borrego was an assistant before he landed with the Hornets. If they were to land Love, it would certainly be a hint that they are in it to win it.