Charlotte Hornets

NBA | Charlotte Hornets take big gamble in trade | Rick Bonnell | Opinion | 2017

The Charlotte Hornets’ fan base was clamoring – appropriately so – for change.

This trade represents change and riskily so. The Hornets gave up on big men Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes, shipping them to the Milwaukee Bucks Thursday in exchange for little-used center Miles Plumlee.

This is a transparent salary dump by the Bucks, moving the majority of the four-year, $50 million contract Plumlee signed last summer. After this season, the Hornets will still owe him $12.4 million each of the next three seasons.

Miles Plumlee is being paid comparably to Hornets point guard Kemba Walker, a first-time All-Star next month.

The Hornets get younger and more athletic at center, where Plumlee will back up Cody Zeller. Clearly, the Hornets believe Plumlee is more useful than the 10 minutes a game he was getting with the Bucks.

We shall see, and I certainly understand fans’ doubts. He got several chances to secure the starting job in Milwaukee this season and it never took. His numbers – 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds this season – might not tell the whole story, but that is hardly comforting, considering the massive investment Plumlee’s contract represents.

This is another example of the odd, inflationary period the NBA is now in, thanks to the spike in the salary cap last summer caused by new national television deals. Plumlee is being paid comparably to Hornets point guard Kemba Walker, a first-time All-Star next month.

Certainly, Walker won’t begrudge Plumlee his paycheck if he can help this team out of a rut that has caused them to lose 11 of their past 14 games. Depth at center wasn’t the only flaw, but it was (and could still be) a major one.

Hornets coach Steve Clifford knew his team needed some sort of rim protector after the way Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside dominated that first-round playoff series last season. Hibbert was the counter-move.

I’m really skeptical about this trade because of Miles Plumlee’s contract. But I know the Hornets had to do something to shake up the roster or the playoff pursuit was in major trouble.

Hibbert was terrific in the Hornets’ season-opening win at (filled with irony) Milwaukee. But his knee swelled up on the flight from Milwaukee to Miami, and we seldom saw the same Hibbert since.

Hibbert came here to get his one-time All-Star career back on track. He was particularly attracted to working with Hornets associate head coach Patrick Ewing, a fellow Georgetown alumnus.

It’s a shame how this played out. Hibbert worked so hard, both at trying to maintain his health and his game. He’s a pro.

Hawes has some interesting skills as a perimeter shooter and passer, but he was never any sort of long-term solution at center. He was what the Hornets had to accept to discard Lance Stephenson’s contract a couple of seasons ago.

Zeller is good – particularly rolling to the rim and finishing Nic Batum passes – but he needs help. As general manager Rich Cho said on a media conference call, the similarities in Zeller and Plumlee could be helpful in establishing a style of play.

I’m really skeptical about this trade because of Plumlee’s contract. But I know the Hornets had to do something to shake up the roster or the playoff pursuit was in major trouble.

Clifford and his assistants have been good at reclamation projects. They took Batum and former guard Jeremy Lin off arguably their worst NBA seasons and facilitated each player’s best season.

As reclamation projects go, Plumlee is a doozy. Patrick Ewing, this is all yours.

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