When it comes to the situation involving Hornets forward Miles Bridges, a restricted free agent who is also facing charges of domestic abuse in California, the health and well-being of his girlfriend and child are most important. But down on the checklist of those affected by his situation are the Charlotte Hornets themselves, a team that once saw itself as a sure contender for a playoff spot but now must rethink the entire future.
It remains to be seen what action the NBA will take on Bridges, a process that is sure to move slowly. But in the meantime, the Hornets have to figure out how to approach a potential suspension—lengthy, presumably—of Bridges and whether they want Bridges on their team at all.
That could have a tangential impact on the rest of the league, especially if the Hornets look to retrench with young players, which means getting out of the remainder of the contract for forward Gordon Hayward, a 2016-17 All-Star and an excellent offensive option (15.9 points, 3.6 assists, 39.1% from the 3-point line) who has struggled to stay healthy, missing 81 games in his last three seasons.
In the next two seasons, Hayward is owed $62 million of the $120 million contract he signed in 2020. Hornets owner Michael Jordan does not want to pay that.
That could present an opportunity for the Bulls as they look to upgrade their roster. A trade for Hayward could give Chicago a trio of versatile combo wings, with DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine. And it could get done.
Blockbuster for Hayward to Chicago
To make a deal (and this is speculative) work between Chicago and Charlotte, the Bulls would have to include center Nikola Vucevic—otherwise, financially, it won’t make sense. They’d also have to give up a young player, and we have seen that the team is dedicated to keeping Patrick Williams around. That means shipping off Coby White, a North Carolina guy who is due a contract extension.
A package of Vucevic and White likely would be enough to get Hayward, because it gives Charlotte a young asset while dumping a year of Hayward’s deal. The Bulls would add only $661,000 to their payroll, keeping the team under the luxury tax threshold. Charlotte might push for the Bulls to add a first-round pick to such a package, but it’s doubtful the Bulls would give in.
That trade leaves the Bulls with Andre Drummond and Tony Bradley as their primary centers, a less-than-ideal scenario. They could expand the deal to send out Bradley and bring back Hornets center Mason Plumlee, giving them a more defensive-minded presence to use in tandem with Drummond.
That deal, though, would push the Bulls into luxury-tax territory, and the Hornets would surely demand a future first-rounder in such a deal. Chicago could offer Portland’s lottery-protected first-rounder to make things work.
Still, a trade that brings in Plumlee and Hayward to go with LaVine, DeRozan and point guard Lonzo Ball, plus Alex Caruso, Drummond, Goran Dragic and Ayo Dosunmu off the bench would leave Chicago with a formidable rotation.
Hornets Face Tough Decisions
It does come down to whether Charlotte wants to adjust its roster, though. The team hired Steve Clifford to replace James Borrego this offseason, bringing back its former coach—who has a reputation for succeeding with rebuilding projects.
Heavy Sports’ NBA insider Steve Bulpett says that a Hayward trade could come out of the Bridges mess.
“The key name is Miles Bridges,” Bulpett said in a video interview. “That situation really is going to be the problem that is going to cause a lot of change here. With Miles Bridges, you might ride things out with a Gordon Hayward because he is the kind of guy, again, when he is on the floor, you know the ball is going to keep moving. He is going to be a great additive to your offense, it’s like putting motor oil in, he’ll make the engine run smoothly.
“With the Bridges situation being at best uncertain and, at worst, gone, the Hornets are like, ‘Where are we now?’”