The Charlotte Hornets have finalized a trade to acquire center Willy Hernangomez from the New York Knicks, but according to general manager Rich Cho, the team might make more moves before Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
In a conference call Wednesday afternoon, Cho told reporters that while the team is not actively looking to trade point guard Kemba Walker, it is doing its due diligence by listening to offers from other teams.
“We’re not shopping Kemba, but it’s our job to listen,” Cho said. “It would take something really great to move him. We love Kemba. He’s a great player, All-Star caliber.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if we did do something, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we didn’t do something.”
First, the deal that has already been agreed upon: The Hornets will send 6-foot-9 forward Johnny O’Bryant to the Knicks in exchange for the 23-year old Hernangomez. The Knicks will also get two second-round picks from the Hornets.
Hernangomez averages just 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds in nine minutes per game this season, but his development has been somewhat stunted by the Knicks’ focus on budding superstar Kristaps Porzingis. Last season, his first in the NBA, Hernangomez averaged 8.2 points and 7 rebounds per game while playing twice as many minutes. It was widely known in NBA circles that the Knicks were making Hernangomez available in trade, with the 3 p.m. Thursday deadline looming.
A 6-11 center from Spain, Hernangomez played for Real Madrid before coming to the NBA in 2016. He was originally an early-second round selection of the Philadelphia 76ers. The Knicks acquired his draft rights for two future second-round picks and cash considerations.
Trades close to the deadline are typical for the Hornets, who in recent years acquired rotation players Courtney Lee, Josh McRoberts, and Mo Williams.
In a recent interview with the Observer, Hornets owner Michael Jordan said he “would not trade (Walker) for anything but an All-Star player.”
The Hornets’ primary motivation for trading Walker, who is under contract through the end of next season, would be salary-cap relief. The team’s current contracts have the Hornets set to exceed the luxury tax threshold next season. The team could potentially trade away one of its more expensive, long-term contracts in a package with Walker and his $12 million salary (which is only the sixth-highest on the team).
So, is the Hernangomez deal the only one the Hornets will make before Thursday’s trade deadline?
“Wouldn’t necessarily say so,” Cho said. “We’re always looking for ways to improve the team.”