Hornets trade Gary Neal and second rounder to Timberwolves for Mo Williams and Troy Daniels

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Gary Neal was, curiously, Charlotte’s big in-season acquisition last year.

Now, the Hornets have used Neal to find better upgrades – Mo Williams and Troy Daniels.

The Hornets are in the thick of the playoff race after a horrid start. They’re tied with the Heat for seventh in the Eastern Conference, one game ahead of the ninth-place Nets and 2.5 games ahead of the 10th-place Pistons and Celtics.

But with Kemba Walker injured, Charlotte wanted backcourt help. Williams – coveted by many teams seeking a solid veteran – can play point guard and let Lance Stephenson work more on the wing.

Williams and Neal, both on expiring contracts, are basically a wash financially

Daniels is on a minimum contract this season and next. He might not figure immediately into the Hornets’ rotation, though he could. But if Charlotte makes the playoffs, the shooter certainly doesn’t fear big moments. At just 23, Daniels could develop into a helpful player next season if he’s not already one this season.

The Timberwolves get a draft pick that could help them in the future, lose a couple players who could hurt their lottery position and – depending on the cash sent out – save a little money. Those are ideal ingredients for teams in Minnesota’s position.

For the Hornets, a second rounder, especially one four years from now, is a small price to pay. This improves not only their odds of making the playoffs, but their odds of winning a series. The latter remains unlikely, but the East is open enough they can still hope.

Most of all, I’m glad Williams and Daniels remain linked.