With the halfway point of the 2022-23 NBA season here and the February 9th trade deadline just over a month away, the Charlotte Hornets find themselves near the very bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. At 11-29, the Detroit Pistons are the lone team in the East with a worse record (11-31). There have been some scattered bright spots for the squad, such as the play of LaMelo Ball since his return from injury and rookie center Mark Williams’ emergence as a rotation player. But with all the losing the team has endured, this season has been a disappointing one for Charlotte.
Considering the Hornets are destined for the draft lottery this spring, the front office will likely make moves with the future in mind, not the present. For example, it’s highly unlikely the Hornets will chase a star before the trade deadline as one could jeopardize their chances at landing either Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson in the draft.
With all this in mind, let’s look at two trades the Hornets should make before the trade deadline that wouldn’t necessarily move the needle in the here and now but would add to their young core.
Hornets trade: James Bouknight, Nick Richards, 2023 second-round pick (BOS)
Pelicans trade: Dyson Daniels
The Hornets’ Achilles’ heel thus far this season has been their defense. Charlotte currently owns the fifth-worst defensive rating in basketball (114.7) and allows the third-most points (118.2). For the Hornets to become competitive again, the squad needs to put more energy and effort into getting stops. Pelicans rookie Dyson Daniel could be the defensive shot in the arm the team needs to be no longer a bottom-tier defense.
A 6’8″ guard, Daniels uses his length and instincts to harass ball handlers and make them uncomfortable. Despite playing limited minutes in New Orleans, Daniels has established himself as arguably New Orleans’ top perimeter defender along with Jose Alvarado. The advanced stats back up this sentiment, as Daniels ranks in the 90th percentile among all point guards in steal percentage and the 62nd percentile in block percentage, per Cleaning the Glass. Imagine a guard duo of Daniels and Dennis Smith Jr. — who’s averaging 1.7 steals himself — off the bench for the Hornets. They’d give opposing backcourts nightmares.
But for as great as Daniels is on the defensive end, he brings even more to the table. Having played point guard dating back to his time in Australia, Daniels is unselfish and a great ball mover. His average of 2.1 assists per game is the sixth-highest among all rookies.
All in all, Daniels’ skill set on both ends of the court would fit like a glove in Charlotte. His playmaking ability would make life easier for all of the team’s scoring threats, and his defensive intensity would be a breath of fresh air for a Hornets squad that is lacking high-level defenders.
Hornets trade: Kai Jones, 2023 second-round pick (Utah)
Celtics trade: Sam Hauser, Luke Kornet
Another area where the Hornets have struggled is three-point shooting. The team takes the 13th-most threes of any team but is second-to-last in three-point percentage. Charlotte is one of the worst long-range shooting squads because there are little to no great shooters on the roster. No rotation player on the roster aside from LaMelo Ball — who’s converting 37.7% of his treys — is shooting better than 35% from distance. That’s why the team should look to trade for Celtics forward Sam Hauser, a sharpshooting forward who’s functioned as a top-notch three-point threat this season.
Hauser would instantly be in the running for the best pure shooter on Charlotte’s roster. The second-year pro is converting a whopping 40.6% of his threes, the 32nd-best percentage in the league among all qualified players, per NBA.com. For reference on just how impressive this is, not a single Hornet is in the top 100 in long-range percentage (Ball hasn’t played enough games to qualify).
Hauser isn’t just making his threes at a high rate; he’s also taking them at a high rate. He’s averaging 4.1 three-point attempts in 15 minutes per game and 9.5 attempts per 36 minutes.
General manager Mitch Kupchak and the Charlotte Hornets would do well to add both Sam Hauser and Dyson Daniels to their roster before the next month’s trade deadline. Neither players are sexy names, but both would address major holes on this team, Daniels with his excellent perimeter defense and Hauser with his accurate long-range shooting. Plus, just as importantly, both players fit Charlotte’s timeline. The neophyte Daniels is just 19 years old, while Hauser is a bit older but still young at 25.