The Charlotte Hornets are a near .500 team fighting to make the playoffs this season, a franchise that wants to keep All-Star point guard Kemba Walker next summer when Walker is a free agent. To do that it would help to improve the roster around Walker.
Except the Hornets are capped out. This season they are paying $24 million to Nicolas Batum (who has one year plus a player option he will pick up on his contract after that), $17 million to Bismack Biyambo and $13 million to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, both of whom have player options for next season they are all-but-certain to pick up.
Now, league sources tell Sporting News, the Hornets may finally be ready to include Kaminsky in a trade ahead of his coming restricted free agency. Given the way things have gone for him in Charlotte this year, he would likely welcome a change of scenery.
Teams have expressed interest, including some contenders, but the Hornets would most prefer to put the money remaining on Kaminsky’s $3.6 million deal with another big salary. Charlotte, according to league sources, is desperate to get out of the two years and $52 million remaining on Nicolas Batum’s salary, and at least one team was told that Kaminsky could be had if Batum were included. The Hornets would also like to move the $17 million owed in 2019-20 to center Bismack Biyombo.
That seems a tough sell. On a couple fronts.
There are certainly teams that could have interest in Kaminski but he is not such a value that teams will take on the $52 million after this season that Batum is owed (even though Batum can be a rotation player to add some value, he’s averaging 8.8 points per game this season). Batum was paid to be Walker’s No. 2 and never lived up to those expectations.
If teams are interested in Kaminski, they might just wait and try to poach him as a restricted free agent in July rather than even taking on the $17 million owed Biyambo next season.
If a team is found for a trade, would owner Michael Jordan approve it? Remember MJ pushed his front office to draft Kaminsky at No. 9 in the 2015 NBA Draft — ahead of Justise Winslow, Myles Turner, Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre, and Terry Rozier. Just to add to the pain of Hornets fans (sorry), Jordan turned down a package of picks (including 15 and 16 in the same draft) from Boston to make that selection.
Kaminsky could become a stretch 4/5 rotation player, he can knock down shots from outside (career 34.6 percent from three), and while his defense isn’t good it is not necessarily as bad as his reputation. That’s a valuable player to have, but not so valuable teams will take on dead money to have him.
The Hornets are in a tough spot. Walker has said repeatedly he wants to stay in Charlotte, but he will have options come July.