The fact that both Jalen McDaniels and Mason Plumlee were on track for unrestricted free agency this summer was a major factor in the Hornets‘ decision to trade them at Thursday’s deadline and get what draft assets they could for the duo, president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak said on Friday, per Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer.
“You don’t know what their value is going to be (in free agency),” Kupchak said. “They are both having great years. You don’t know what the market is going to look like (and) we have a bunch of other players that are also going to be free agents. So, something I’ve learned is you can’t pay everybody and these are hard decisions, especially Jalen.”
As Kupchak alludes to, other key Hornets players who are headed for free agency include forward P.J. Washington, wing Kelly Oubre, and big man Nick Richards. According to Boone, re-signing Washington is a priority and the team would like to retain Oubre. A new deal for Richards will be on Charlotte’s radar too, so the idea of also re-signing both Plumlee and McDaniels didn’t make sense for a team hoping to maintain some cap flexibility.
“When I got to Charlotte, we had, I don’t know, four or five contracts that all went out three or four years,” Kupchak said. “And made it difficult for us to navigate and get through the first two or three years and kind of wean ourselves away from those contracts. We’ve got to be careful that we don’t put ourselves in that same situation.
“Is Jalen a starter if Gordon (Hayward) comes back and we are looking at a very attractive draft pick?”
Here’s more from Kupchak, via Boone:
- Although the Hornets could create a significant chunk of cap room this summer, Kupchak says he doesn’t anticipate the club being especially active on the free agent market. “The way we are going to get better is through the draft and player development, and then if we get lucky make a couple of savvy trades,” he said. “Every now and then, you might be able to get into the free agency market and get a player. And I’m hopeful that down the road a little bit we can become a very attractive team, even for a small market, and maybe we can get a big fish. But right now, I don’t think that’s how we have to look at it.”
- According to Boone, it looks like the Hornets are waiting for the NBA’s investigation into the Miles Bridges situation to be resolved before they engage in possible contract talks with him. Accused of domestic abuse, Bridges took a plea deal to avoid jail time, but could still face a lengthy suspension depending on the outcome of the NBA’s probe. “I don’t know when the investigation is going to end,” Kupchak said. “When the investigation ends, we will have more information and we’ll go from there.”
- Kupchak didn’t explicitly deny that Terry Rozier and Hayward came up in trade talks, but he said the Hornets weren’t actively looking to move either player and recognized well in advance of the deadline that’s not the direction they’d go. The front office was reluctant to majorly reconfigure the roster due in part to how many injuries the club has endured this season. “We’ve got to be careful not to assume that what happened this year is a fair representation of what this team really is,” Kupchak said. “If we were healthy this season relatively, and our team was intact, and we had the season that we are having right now, then it’s something that maybe you’ve got to make a big move, I didn’t feel, we didn’t feel, that the way this season played out to date that this season was something we had to react quickly on.”