Hornets Notes: Trades, Lowry, Bridges, Hayward, Williams, Nnaji

Entering the season, the Hornets felt they had a roster capable of contending for a playoff spot, but they’ve been plagued by injuries and have posted a disappointing 10-40 record. As Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer writes, president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak said on Friday that he didn’t want to use those injuries as an excuse to run back a similar roster next season.

“We could say, ‘Listen, let’s sit pat, everything is going to be OK next year. We got the injury bug this year, so let’s just go through it and you get a good pick and you go from there,'” Kupchak said. “Your record says what you are. We’ve got 10 wins and to just sit and do nothing, we didn’t feel was the prudent thing to do.”

“(New Hornets owners) Rich (Schnall) and Gabe (Plotkin), they wanted to be aggressive. They didn’t want to sit and just assume this team is going to be healthy next year, so our feeling was to get out, balance the team better, add some veterans that’s going to help our younger players in the locker room. And more important or just as important, get assets that we can use to set ourselves up down the road.”

After dealing Terry Rozier to Miami in January, the Hornets made two more moves at the trade deadline, sending Gordon Hayward to Oklahoma City and P.J. Washington to Dallas in exchange for a handful of players and draft picks.

Kupchak is enthusiastic about how those deals will impact the direction of the team and pointed to the first-round picks acquired from Miami and Dallas as strong assets. The Heat’s 2027 first-rounder will be top-14 protected before becoming unprotected in 2028, while the Mavericks’ 2027 first-rounder is just top-two protected.

“A lot of times you get a pick and it’s protected one through 14, (then) one through 10. And then it goes to two second-rounders and there’s really not much upside,” Kupchak said. “Both of these picks have a tremendous amount of upside. We can wait it out and see how they play out in terms of where they end up as a number, and then we can draft a player. Or going forward you can use that pick to make a deal work. They are valuable picks.”

Here’s more on the Hornets:

  • There’s no buyout agreement in place with Kyle Lowry yet, but Kupchak is hopeful that there will be some sort of resolution on the veteran guard’s situation within the next 24 to 48 hours, per Boone.
  • After hanging onto Miles Bridges through the trade deadline, the Hornets are optimistic about their chances of re-signing him as an unrestricted free agent this summer, Boone writes. “I feel comfortable saying Miles has been with us, we drafted him and he’s certainly having a great year, getting better and better as the season goes along,” Kupchak said. “And I don’t see why we wouldn’t want him to be a part of this team for a long, long time.” Bridges, who was suspended by the NBA last April after reaching a plea deal on domestic assault charges related to a 2022 incident, will be back in court later this month as a result of more recent allegations.
  • According to Boone, there were many people in the Hornets organization who were privately frustrated by the number of games Hayward missed during his time with the team, as well as his “inability to play through the majority of his bumps and bruises.” While the veteran forward was effective when he played, turning the page on the Hayward era may be a good thing for the franchise, given how the past four years played out, Boone writes.
  • While the Hornets don’t expect the back injury that has sidelined center Mark Williams for the past two months to affect his career going forward, he’s not close to returning, per Kupchak. The plan is to reevaluate the big man in approximately four weeks. “I can’t say I expect him to play four weeks from now,” Kupchak said, according to Boone. “It’s taking longer than we thought and it’s not just a contusion where you get hit and you get a bruise. It’s a little bit more than that, and it’s just going to take some time for it to heal. … (But) he saw a specialist that’s supposed to be the best in the country recently and we expect 100% return to play.”
  • Kupchak is in Barcelona with assistant general manager Buzz Peterson to visit with draft-and-stash prospect James Nnaji, tweets Boone. Nnaji, 19, was the 31st overall pick in the 2023 draft and remains in Charlotte’s long-term plans.
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