Charlotte Hornets

Latest On Kemba Walker Rumors

Kemba Walker was the subject of a Woj Bomb on Friday morning, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that the Hornets are open to the idea of moving their standout point guard. While there had been some speculation about Walker becoming a trade candidate with Charlotte struggling, Woj’s report represented the first time the 27-year-old’s availability had been confirmed.

Asked today about that report, Walker acknowledged that he’d seen it, but admitted to reporters that he’d be “pretty upset” if the Hornets dealt him, as AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today Sports relays. The former UConn star has spent his first six and a half NBA seasons in Charlotte and said today that he plans to continue putting his “heart and soul” into the team and the city.

“This is where I got my opportunity,” Walker said (video link via The Charlotte Observer). “Seven years in now, I’ve been here for seven years. I do a lot with the community, of course. I’ve gotten to know a lot of the fans. A lot of the fans have a lot of love for me, as well as I’ve got love for them. Of course I’m going to be tied to this place. This is kind of where I’ve grown up. This is definitely home.”

Here’s more on the Walker rumors:

  • Head coach Steve Clifford was also asked today about the report on Walker, and he sounded skeptical that the Hornets will move their best player within the next three weeks. “I’ll tell you the same thing I tell the players: Nobody has said anything about it here,” Clifford said of a Walker trade (video link via The Charlotte Observer). “It’s a rumor. … He’s our best player, he’s the face of the franchise, and I think it’d be very difficult to find a scenario where he’d get traded.”
  • The Pistons figure to have interest in Walker, with a source telling Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press that Detroit will “certainly look at” the possibility of a deal. However, that same source cautioned that it will ultimately come down to the Hornets‘ asking price.
  • Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic examines Walker’s potential fit in Phoenix, exploring whether it would be worthwhile for the Suns to give up major assets for the point guard.
  • Scott Fowler is strongly against the idea of the Hornets trading Walker, making his case in a column for The Charlotte Observer.

Hornets Make Kemba Walker Available In Trade Talks

The Hornets have shown a willingness to discuss star point guard Kemba Walker in trade talks, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi, who reports that the team has been encouraging potential trade partners to make offers. Charlotte appears “eager” to explore deals that would involve attaching Walker to one of the club’s less desirable contracts, Wojnarowski adds.

As Woj details, the Hornets have already made several of their other highest-paid players available in trade discussions. That list includes Nicolas Batum, Dwight Howard, Marvin Williams, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — those players are all earning between $13MM and $23.5MM in 2017/18, and have at least one more guaranteed year on their respective contracts beyond this season. Batum’s deal is particularly onerous, with three more years and $76.7MM left on it after ’17/18.

By comparison, Walker is a terrific bargain for the Hornets, earning just $12MM annually this year and next. Despite the great value they’re getting on the star point guard, the Hornets have struggled this season, posting an 18-25 record and sitting four games back of the Pistons and Sixers for the No. 8 seed in the East.

With little hope of contending in 2017/18, Charlotte would head into the summer with Walker entering a contract year if he’s not traded at the deadline. While the Hornets would certainly like to retain the 27-year-old for the long term, they’d run the risk of losing him for nothing as a free agent in 2019 if they hang onto him. Moving Walker now, rather than waiting until he’s on an expiring contract, would likely result in the best possible return for the team.

Trading Walker would also signal that the Hornets are shifting into full-fledged rebuilding mode. It would be difficult to effectively move forward on a rebuild without dumping at least one of their most expensive contracts, so it makes sense that the Hornets would look to address that issue at the same time they explore the market for Walker. Still, attaching the All-Star guard to any one of the four players listed above would mean at least $25MM in outgoing salary, which may limit the list of Charlotte’s viable trade partners.

Walker, 27, has been his usual productive self for the Hornets this season. While his 3PT% (.349) has slipped a little, he has averaged an impressive 21.7 PPG and 5.8 APG in 41 games.

Seven Southeast Trade Candidates To Watch

The NBA trade deadline is just over three weeks away, and there’s no shortage of players around the league who could change teams. Over the next week, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of those top trade candidates, breaking them down by division.

While our focus will be primarily on teams expected to be sellers at the deadline, our lists may also include some players on contenders who could be used as trade chips when those teams look to make upgrades.

We’re examining the Southeast Division today, so let’s dive in and identify seven players who could be on the move on or before February 8…

  1. EvanFournier verticalEvan Fournier, SG (Magic): Fournier has been the subject of several trade rumors already in 2018. Marc Stein of the New York Times said this week that rival executives expect Orlando to actively shop him; Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders suggested last week that Fournier is the Magic player drawing the most trade interest from rival teams; and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier in January that the Pistons pursued a deal for the veteran sharpshooter. Fournier, who is scoring a career-high 18.0 PPG this season to go along with a very respectable .396 3PT%, would certainly be an intriguing addition to a contender, but his contract may complicate matters. He’s owed $17MM annually through at least 2019/20, with a $17MM player option for 2020/21. Matching that salary with contracts the Magic are willing to take on won’t necessarily be easy for Fournier’s suitors.
  2. Nikola Vucevic, C (Magic): Vucevic, Fournier’s frontcourt teammate, has the more palatable contract of the two — he’s earning $12.25MM this season and then will make $12.75MM in the final year of his deal in 2018/19. That single year of control beyond this season may make him attractive to teams that want more than a rental but prefer not to make long-term commitments. Vucevic is also enjoying a nice bounce-back year after struggling in 2016/17, averaging 17.4 PPG and 9.3 RPG. He has even added a semi-reliable three-point shot to his game. However, a broken hand suffered last month throws a wrench into the Magic‘s chances of moving Vucevic. That injury is expected to sideline the big man for six to eight weeks, which would put him on track to return around the time of the deadline, or right after it. Any team with interest in Vucevic will be keeping a very close eye on his recovery process over the next few weeks.
  3. Dewayne Dedmon, C (Hawks): While DeAndre Jordan‘s name has popped up in trade rumors more frequently, Dedmon looks to me like a more prudent investment for teams targeting centers. With an increased role in Atlanta this season, Dedmon is enjoying a career year, posting 10.8 PPG and 7.8 RPG. And after attempting just one three-pointer in his first four NBA seasons, Dedmon has made 16 of 39 (41.0%) from outside in 2017/18. Although he missed 19 games with a left tibia stress reaction, Dedmon is back on the court now, and at $6MM, his cap hit makes him an attractive target for contenders with potential luxury-tax concerns and a need at center, such as the Cavaliers and Bucks. The only downside is that his $6.3MM player option for 2018/19 means he’ll probably opt out this summer and would be a rental for any club acquiring him.
  4. Ersan Ilyasova, PF (Hawks): Like Dedmon, Ilyasova has a reasonable $6MM cap charge for this season, and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer. However, Ilyasova figures to receive interest from teams looking for a different sort of skill set — he won’t offer much rim protection or rebounding for a big man, but Ilyasova’s ability to shoot three-pointers (.393 3PT% this season) is valuable for a club looking to stretch the floor and give another frontcourt player more room to operate down low. A return to the Sixers might make some sense for Ilyasova. I could also see him fitting in with the Thunder in the role that Patrick Patterson has struggled to fill. Ilyasova is unlikely to push a team over the top, but he’s the sort of player who should be capable of making an important shot or two in the postseason.
  5. Marco Belinelli, SG (Hawks): Speaking of shot-makers, teams in need of outside shooting may prefer a backcourt option like Belinelli over a stretch four like Ilyasova. The Italian swingman has been as effective as ever from three-point range this year, making 39.2% of his attempts, and playing for a new team is unlikely to derail him — he’s currently suiting up for his eighth NBA squad, so he’s accustomed to bouncing around. At $6.6MM, Belinelli is yet another Hawk with an affordable expiring deal, and I expect him to be on the move in the coming weeks if Atlanta can extract a solid second-round pick from a trade partner.
  6. Marvin Williams, F (Hornets): Identifying the top trade candidates on the Hornets is tricky. Some of the team’s higher-paid players, including Nicolas Batum, have negative trade value, but Charlotte likely won’t want to move a bargain like Kemba Walker or a prospect like Malik Monk. If the team wants to cut long-term costs and avoid flirting with the luxury-tax line again next season, Williams would make the most sense as a trade chip. He’s well-compensated, but at $14MM in 2018/19 and $15MM (player option) in 2019/20, his contract isn’t as pricey or as lengthy as Batum’s. Williams is also enjoying an excellent season as a three-and-D wing in Charlotte, with career highs in FG% (.485) and 3PT% (.448). There haven’t been many rumors swirling around Williams yet, but the Hornets are generally active at the deadline, and the former UNC standout is one of a small handful of Charlotte players that would appeal to contenders — and that the Hornets might be open to moving.
  7. Hassan Whiteside, C (Heat): Whiteside’s super-sized contract, which will pay him $25.4MM next year and features a $27MM+ player option for 2019/20, would be a major roadblock to a deal. There have also been no legitimate indications that the Heat are interested in dealing him. Still, Bam Adebayo has been impressive in his rookie season, and Miami’s go-to fourth quarter lineups no longer include Whiteside. Since returning from his knee injury last month, Whiteside has averaged just 23.6 minutes per game, way down from the 32.6 he averaged last season. I don’t expect Whiteside to go anywhere at this point, but there are hints that the Heat would consider the possibility.

Here are a few more potential Southeast trade candidates to monitor:

  • Elfrid Payton, PG (Magic): Rival executives reportedly expect the Magic to shop Payton and Mario Hezonja.
  • Kent Bazemore, G/F (Hawks): Bazemore is said to be drawing some interest, and the Hawks are open to listening.
  • Justise Winslow, F (Heat): Winslow has been identified as a potential trade chip and probably makes more sense in a deal than Whiteside.
  • Kemba Walker, PG (Hornets): Walker almost certainly won’t be dealt by February 8, but the Hornets appear lottery-bound and the point guard’s free agency looms in 2019, so he’s worth watching.
  • Ian Mahinmi, C (Wizards): The Wizards surely wouldn’t mind moving Mahinmi and his over-sized contract, which is out of proportion with his modest role. He has negative value though, so Washington would likely have to attach draft picks to ship him out.

Hornets Unlikely To Seriously Consider Walker Trade Before Deadline

  • While Hornets point guard Kemba Walker is worth keeping an eye on as the trade deadline approaches, it doesn’t appear at this point that Charlotte will seriously consider moving him, as Steve Kyler writes in a Basketball Insiders article and on Twitter.

Clifford Will Focus On His Health When He Returns

Hornets coach Steve Clifford plans to put a greater emphasis on his personal health when he returns to work Tuesday, relays Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. The fifth-year coach had a health scare in November that forced him to step away from the team while doctors determined the source of the problem.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 1/13/18

Here are the G League moves from around the NBA today:

  • The Knicks recalled guard Damyean Dotson from their Westchester affiliate, the team tweeted. Dotson has appeared in 20 NBA games during his rookie season.
  • The Hornets recalled rookie guard Dwayne Bacon from their affiliate in Greensboro, the team announced on its website. Bacon is averaging 26.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists with the Swarm.
  • The Thunder recalled rookie center Dakari Johnson from the Oklahoma City Blue, according to the team website. Johnson has played 19 games for the Thunder, averaging 2.6 points and 2.1 rebounds in 14.6 minutes.

Details On Steve Clifford's Medical Absence

  • The medical issue that Hornets coach Steve Clifford struggled with for over a month can be attributed to a combination of stress on the sidelines as an NBA coach and sleep deprivation, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN writes. The feature delves into the head coach’s decision and why he’s confident a similar setback won’t happen again.

Hornets Notes: Clifford, Cho, Walker

The Hornets will welcome head coach Steve Clifford back to the bench next week, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. The coach has been out of action with an undisclosed medical condition since early December.

Per Bonnell, The Observer has learned that Clifford has struggled with severe headaches since prior to the season and has been seeking to establish the best course of preventative treatment going forward with doctors.

When Clifford left his post, the Hornets were 8-13. Under the tutelage of associate head coach Stephen Silas, the squad went 7-11.

Clifford is expected to return for practice with the Hornets next Tuesday and make his first return to the sidelines on Wednesday night.

There’s more out of Charlotte tonight:

Questionable Decisions Set Back Hornets

  • Poor shooting and a lack of roster depth have brought down a Hornets team that looked promising two seasons ago, writes Tom Ziller of SB Nation. GM Rich Cho has a spotty draft record and made a costly error in 2016 when he traded the No. 22 pick to Sacramento for Marco Belinelli, who didn’t contribute much before being shipped to the Hawks a year later. With the Hornets capped out at least through the end of next season, Ziller sees little hope for a quick turnaround in Charlotte.

Hornets Assign Dwayne Bacon To G League

  • The Hornets have assigned Dwayne Bacon to the G League for the third time this season, the team announced today in a press release. Bacon has played two games for the Greensboro Swarm so far this season, averaging an eye-popping 38.5 PPG.
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