Since entering the NBA as an expansion team in 1988, the Charlotte Hornets franchise has seen its share of talented players that have worn the team’s iconic purple and teal uniforms. They played in the city for 14 seasons before relocating to New Orleans in 2002. A new franchise, the Charlotte Bobcats, was established in 2004, with its name eventually changing back to the Hornets in 2014 after the New Orleans team became known as the Pelicans.
Throughout its history, which included losing seasons, relocations, and participating in a couple of expansion drafts, the Hornets franchise was known more for getting its best players through the draft. But every now and then, Charlotte has also shown that it can swing for the fences through trades and acquire talented players instead of waiting for them to develop.
Here are the five best trades in the history of the Hornets’ franchise:
5. Acquired Jeremy Lamb from Oklahoma City in exchange for Luke Ridnour and a 2016 second-round pick (2015)
In four seasons in Buzz City so far, Lamb has averaged 11.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists while 45-percent from the field and 34-percent from beyond the arc. While the team has not had much success during his time with the Hornets, with his only playoff appearance coming in the 2015-2016 season, he has been a steady contributor for the team that is currently struggling after the departure of Kemba Walker. But what puts Lamb’s acquisition as one of the team’s best trades is that they got a solid role player for next to nothing.
To acquire Lamb from the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Hornets only had to give up guard Luke Ridnour and a second-round pick. That turned out to be the right move, as Ridnour retired the following season, while the second-round pick turned out to be Petr Conelle, who was taken by the Denver Nuggets (who had acquired the pick as part of another transaction) with the 53rd overall pick, and hasn’t played in the NBA. The fact that Lamb continues to contribute for the Hornets proves that this the right move for the franchise.
4. Acquired Nicolas Batum for Portland in exchange for Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson (2015)
The main criticism of Batum’s tenure with the Hornets was that he was overpaid when the team signed him to a massive five-year, $120 million contract extension during the summer of 2016, which made him the highest-paid player in franchise history. But what gets lost in the uproar over his contract extension is that the team actually made a good trade when they acquired him in 2015. After seven seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, Charlotte acquired the Frenchman in exchange for Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson.
In the five years since the trade, Vonleh played just three seasons with the Blazers, never averaging more than five points, while Henderson, who played his best seasons with the Hornets, also played just one season in Portland, averaging 8.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, and an assist in 72 games. Batum, meanwhile, has averaged 11.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in five seasons with the Hornets. He quickly found his role in his first season with the team, as he averaged 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 5.8 assists to help them finish with a 48-34 record, which was their best since a 49-33 record in the 1999-2000 season. While the contract extension that the franchise gave him looks questionable in hindsight, the deal that management swung with the Trail Blazers to acquire him remains a good move.
3. Acquired Eddie Jones and Elden Campbell from the Lakers in exchange for Glen Rice (1999)
Perhaps the best-known trade that the Hornets made with the Lakers was acquiring center Vlade Divac in exchange for the 13th overall pick of the 1996 NBA Draft, which the Los Angeles used to select Kobe Bryant from Lower Merion High School. But the teams have made other trades in the years since that deal. Three years later, in the middle of the lockout-shortened 1998-1999 season, the Hornets acquired Eddie Jones and Elden Campbell in exchange for Glen Rice.
Jones played just two seasons with the Hornets, but he made the most of it, averaging 19.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.2 assists, earning an All-Star selection and a place in the All-NBA Third Team that year. Campbell, meanwhile, played four years in Charlotte, averaging 13.5 points, 7.7 boards, and 1.5 assists. But while the beloved Rice would reach new heights and ultimately win a title with the Lakers, the Hornets also had winning seasons after his departure, winning at least 44 games in each season. The team reached the playoffs in each of the next three seasons, including the Conference Semifinals in the 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 seasons. While Rice’s departure definitely hurt the franchise, the arrival of Jones and Campbell also gave the team several seasons of relative success in the final seasons before their departure to New Orleans in 2002.
2.Acquired second overall pick (Emeka Okafor) from the Clippers in exchange for first and second-round picks in 2004 NBA Draft (2004)
Two years after the Hornets relocated to New Orleans, the Bobcats were established and given a chance to select players through an expansion draft. The Bobcats, however, felt that they can still add more talent, and swung a deal to get the second overall pick in the 2004 Draft from the LA Clippers in exchange for their first and second-round picks in the same draft. They used the pick on big man Emeka Okafor, who immediately proved his worth and finished with 15.1 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game in his first season on his way to winning Rookie of the Year honors.
In his five seasons with the Bobcats, Okafor averaged 14 points on 51-percent shooting, 10.7 boards, and 1.9 blocks. The Clippers’ first-round pick ended up being Shaun Livingston, who, despite having a solid career, played just three seasons in Los Angeles, averaging 7.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 4.8 assists. The second-round pick, meanwhile, was used on Lionel Chalmers, who played just one season in the league. Okafor did not make an All-Star or All NBA Team, but he was a solid player during the start of the Bobcats’ franchise and went a long way in helping the expansion team get their start in the league.
1. Acquired Glen Rice, Matt Geiger, and Khalid Reeves from Miami in exchange for Alonzo Mourning (1995)
Alonzo Mourning was one of the best players to play for the Hornets, and he could have achieved more with the team if he played more than three seasons. But the big man out of Georgetown was feuding with the team’s other star player, Larry Johnson, and a deal needed to be made. In the summer of 1995, the team decided that they were moving on from Mourning, trading him to the Miami Heat in exchange for Glen Rice, Matt Geiger, and Khalid Reeves.
The move proved to be beneficial to Mourning, who played 11 seasons with the Heat, averaging 16 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks and winning a championship in 2006. But that’s not to say that it wasn’t a good move for the Hornets as well. Rice also played his best years with the Hornets, averaging 23.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists, while making 47-percent of his shots from the field and 44-percent of his 3-pointers to become of the best marksmen in the league. With Rice leading the way, the Hornets won 50 games in two of his three seasons there, including a franchise-best 54-28 record during the 1996-1997 season.
Rice was an All-Star in his three seasons in Charlotte, winning All-Star Game MVP honors in 1997 and earning an All NBA Second Team selection in the same year and an All NBA third Team selection the following season. Geiger, in three seasons in Charlotte, averaged 10.7 points on 52% shooting to go with seven rebounds a game, proving that he was also a worthy acquisition for the Hornets. Reeves, meanwhile, stayed with the team for one season, averaging 8.1 points, two rebounds, and 3.6 assists. While Mourning reached the peak of his career with the Heat, the Hornets can also be satisfied with the deal, as it gave them one of their best players in franchise history, two solid contributors, and two of the best seasons in franchise history.