The Charlotte Hornets were one of the stories of the build up NBA Draft. Rumours of a trade up never materialised – the Hornets stuck at three, selecting LaMelo Ball. They didn’t get their big, but they got a player that many draft analysts tab as the highest upside in this draft. LaMelo is perhaps the only player with superstar potential.
Kemba Walker left as a free agent. Charlotte’s future looked bleak. They are never going to lure the biggest names – acquiring a star through the draft is their best route to relevance, and they might have done just that. If LaMelo reaches his ceiling, the 2020 NBA Draft lottery will be remembered as a pivotal moment in Hornets franchise history.
The Hornets drafted on talent. They must now set about building a roster around LaMelo, doing all they can to put him in a position to succeed in the NBA. Here are three things they should do in the coming days…
Explore a Rozier trade
The Terry Rozier contract looked a shocker at the time. It’s not turned out too bad, with the former Celtics guard shooting almost 41% from three last season and playing hard defence. He can fit as a shooter alongside LaMelo, but in an ideal scenario, they flip Rozier for a wing or forward who can start for them.
One option would be Aaron Gordon. No one’s too sure what the Orlando Magic are doing, but could they be tempted to swap Gordon for Rozier, Malik Monk and a future pick? That would allow Charlotte to run LaMelo, Devonte Graham, Miles Bridges, Gordon and P.J. Washington line-ups. That’s a nice balance of athleticism and shooting.
Could the Hornets even take a swing on Blake Griffin? Rozier for Griffin works straight up, as Charlotte can absorb his contract into cap space. The prospect of a healthy Griffin in the frontcourt with Washington is exciting. Alternatively, they could throw in Nicolas Batum with Rozier to preserve some cap space. After taking Killian Hayes, though, the Pistons might not have much interest in Rozier.
Would Charlotte seen any value in taking Tobias Harris‘ contract from the Sixers? Philly still needs shooting and ball handling despite trading for Danny Green and Seth Curry. The Hornets could get a future first attached to Harris to take his remaining money – he’d be a good fit at the four if Washington is going to play considerable minutes at centre.
Sign a big man
Will the Hornets play three-guard line-ups with Rozier, Graham and LaMelo? How much of the five can Washington play?
Washington can play some five in certain matchups. If Rozier’s still on the team, the three-guard line-ups are inevitable, though they will be vulnerable defensively. The need for a big man is obvious, though, and there are a few avenues the Hornets could explore.
Charlotte drafted two big men in the second round – Vernon Carey and Nick Richards – but a veteran interior presence would be welcome.
With small line-ups probable, a need for shooting isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. LaMelo is unproven as a three-point threat, though, and if Charlotte are to play five-man line-ups with LaMelo as the tallest player, they are going to need to be able to spread the floor. Adding shooters to this group is a must.
Danilo Gallinari might not tick the cheap box, and he’s stated his desire to play for a contender, but what a wonderful fit he would be alongside LaMelo. Gallinari would get plenty of good looks – he’s great in catch-and-shoot situations, and he can handle the ball himself a bit when required. Whether he wants to play for the Hornets is a different question.
Langston Galloway and Rodney Hood would provide perimeter shooting. Dario Saric could be a nice pick up to share the frontcourt with Washington or a new centre. Could either of the Morris brothers be lured away from Los Angeles with a two or three-year deal?
There are options out there. Wings should be the priority.