Hornets wheelin’dealin’ beforetonight’s Draft


CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte Hornets made another trade this week, but still have some work to do putting together a team that can return to the playoffs.

The Hornets made the playoffs in 2014, but fell backward this year, winning just 33 games.

Part of that slide was due to injuries slowing down 2014 all-star center Al Jefferson. But the worst part was three-point shooting so abysmal that it broke records.

Gary Neal was a 40-percent three-point shooter when he played with Tim Duncan and the Spurs, but shot 29 percent with the Hornets and was traded away.

Lance Stephenson broke the NBA record for worst shooting percentage among players with a qualifying number of attempts (17.1 percent).

UNC sharpshooter P.J. Hairston wasn’t so sharp as a rookie, hitting just 30.1 percent.

Point guard Kemba Walker was only slightly better at 30.4 percent.

Former Duke guard Gerald Henderson has never been a great shooter, but looked good by comparison at 33.1 percent.

Thus, the team has begun to remake the roster.

Neal is already gone. Stephenson was shipped away in a deal that netted both center Spencer Hawes and, in a roundabout way, Jeremy McLamb.

The Hornets got Hawes and Matt Barnes, but reportedly have shipped Barnes to Oklahoma City for McLamb.

Hawes is 7-foot-1, but shoots 35 percent from downtown. He averaged 13 points and 8.5 rebounds in 2013-14, but struggled in one year playing behind Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan in L.A.

McLamb played two and a half years with the Thunder and shot 35 percent from deep.

Henderson and project forward Noah Vonleh are being shipped to Portland for small forward Nicolas Batum.

Batum had a horrible November, shooting a Charlotte-worthy 22 percent from deep because of a nagging wrist injury, but shot very well from January to the end of the year, close to 40 percent. He has been good for about 13 points, six rebounds and 4-5 assists for the Blazers over the past four seasons.

Unfortunately for the Hornets, the team gets Batum as he enters the final year of an outrageously overpriced contract of $11.8 million.

Henderson was the player with the longest tenure on the Hornets, while Vonleh was a 19-year-old who wasn’t ready for the NBA when drafted last year.

Coach Steve Clifford repeatedly said Vonleh wouldn’t see much action until he had time to develop. Vonleh saw action in 25 games last season, most of those late in the season. He averaged 3.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

Portland, which might lose all-star PF LaMarcus Aldridge, is willing to bet on Vonleh developing into a quality player.

So why is the team working so hard to get shooters now instead of looking into the NBA Draft tonight?

Most GMs and broadcasters seem to think the Hornets’ #9 pick is a bad spot for a shooter.

This from ESPN’s Chad Ford: “There are seven guys in this draft whom I’m totally sold on: Towns, Porzinigs, Mudiay, Russell, Hezonja, Okafor and Winslow. So pick No. 7 is a real cutoff in the draft. I think you fall into another tier after it.”

Ford doesn’t think the Hornets will get an elite player at ninth. Some people think the Hornets should select Kentucky shooter Devin Booker, but Ford and some others believe the team would be overvaluing a player who will basically stand at the three-point line and wait for a pass.

General manager Rich Cho said last week that he won’t select a shooter just because they need shooting. He wants to get the best player possible.

Now that the team has pulled off some trades to get better shooters, he has the luxury of choosing best available.

Projected Hornets Roster (before the draft)

PG Kemba Walker, Mo Williams

SG Nicholas Batum, P.J. Hairston

SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams

PF Cody Zeller, Spencer Hawes

C Al Jefferson, Bismack Biyombo

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