Grade the trade: Hornets get Batum, Blazers get Vonleh, Henderson
With the Portland Trail Blazers sending Nicolas Batum to the Charlotte Hornets, we grade the trade.
The trade madness of the NBA Draft has started early with news the Portland Trail Blazers are breaking up their core by sending Nicolas Batum to the Charlotte Hornets for Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh. The Blazers are taking a gamble on this move with LaMarcus Aldridge's free agency hanging in the balance while the Hornets are gearing up to return to the postseason.
How did each team do? We grade the trade:
Charlotte Hornets receive Nicolas Batum
A couple of weeks ago, the Hornets were looking at ways to have Lance Stephenson on their roster and make it a positive. After being the worst 3-point shooter in NBA history, Stephenson's inability to fit in with Kemba Walker and the rest of the Hornets' offense was incredibly awkward. He had just one year left on his deal (the team option in the third year essentially made this an expiring deal), and it was the only way to say he had value to this team. Rich Cho moved him to the Clippers for Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes, relieving Steve Clifford from trying to find a solution on the court.
In the blink of an eye, the Hornets now have Nicolas Batum as the wing next to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and a true playmaker on the perimeter the Hornets hoped to be getting when they signed Stephenson from Indiana. Batum has battled shoulder, wrist and knee injuries over the last few seasons, and those seemed to really build up and affect his shooting and overall game this past season. He shot the worst percentages (40 percent from the field, 32.4 percent from 3) of his career and didn't score in double figures (9.4) for the first time since his rookie season (5.4).
He was second on the team in assists and third in rebounds. Batum was still the playmaker the Blazers needed him to be, and while he wasn't the defender they needed him to be, he was still an obstacle for scorers to get through. Assuming he can be healthy for the Hornets in 2015-16, Batum should provide some big time offensive production for a horrendous offensive team.
You're not expecting Batum to be a 20-point per game scorer, but getting 14 efficient points and a handful of assists gets this Hornets offense going. He's also typically an outside shooter (36.3 percent from his career) you have to respect and he joins a team that was last in 3-point percentage. Marvin Williams was the only shooter they had last season with at least league average accuracy and 100 3's or more attempted.
He has just one season left on his deal, and he can play anywhere from 2-guard to a stretch-4 for Clifford's attack. His playmaking takes pressure off Kemba Walker as a playmaker and helps him become more of a scorer. He can either help set up MKG or allow him to focus even more on defense, which is a terrifying proposition for the rest of the NBA. While giving up on Noah Vonleh this early is tough, they have upgraded their wing position and still have the ninth pick in the draft to add to their core.
Portland Trail Blazers receive Gerald Henderson, Noah Vonleh
This is a fascinating turn of events for the Blazers. Batum was a big guy for them to retain a few years ago when the Wolves were attempting to sign him away from Portland in restricted free agency. By keeping Batum with LaMarcus Aldridge and adding Damian Lillard to the team, they had a very solid core moving forward in Terry Stotts' system. The problem for Portland is injuries befell them once again, and Batum's effectiveness was taken down a peg or two.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports tweeted out that Aldridge was aware of this deal and it has nothing to do with his impending free agency this summer. As soon as the deal was announced, it was safe to wonder whether or not the Blazers were getting ready for a quick rebuild surrounding Lillard by parting ways with Batum, Aldridge in free agency and possibly both Wesley Matthews and Arron Afflalo. Instead, this could just be a move to add depth to the roster.
Losing either Afflalo or Matthews seems inevitable. Being able to add a defender like Gerald Henderson to the mix is an upgrade defensively over what Batum gave you. But he's not the playmaker Batum was and he's certainly not the shooter Batum has shown to be. Henderson has become a guy hitting at least 33 percent of his 3s the last three seasons, but topping out at 34.8 percent isn't a great sign for a Portland offense that likes to stretch the floor. His $6 million on the table for next season is the last year of his contract and a very manageable asset if the Blazers decide to flip him later.
Noah Vonleh could be the real key to all of this. Vonleh was projected as a very nice big man coming out of Indiana. He wasn't given much time in his first year under Clifford (expected), partially due to a sports hernia that had him out for the preseason. He's a versatile big, who can stretch the floor a bit and projects to be a very good rebounder. In his limited minutes, Vonleh rebounded extremely well but struggled to hit midrange shots and attempts around the rim.
With Chris Kaman having a nonguaranteed deal for next season, Robin Lopez hitting free agency, and Meyers Leonard entering a contract extension/restricted free agency zone, Vonleh is great insurance for some big man depth to go next to Aldridge. The tricky part is they need Aldridge to re-sign, they need Lopez to re-sign and they need Vonleh to take a big step forward for next season.
This will give the Blazers more flexibility in the short-term with a long-term goal of developing Vonleh, but it's hard to look at this deal and not worry about the risk the Blazers are taking with this roster potentially falling apart this offseason.
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