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Rumor: LaMelo Ball draft selection axed any chance at Russell Westbrook trade for Hornets

Hornets, laMelo Ball, Russell Westbrook

Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets were interested in acquiring former MVP Russell Westbrook from the Houston Rockets, but that plan became an afterthought following the 2020 draft, where the team selected LaMelo Ball with the third overall pick.

Per Marc Stein of the New York Times, Charlotte was only going to pursue a Westbrook trade with the Rockets if the Minnesota Timberwolves or Golden State Warriors selected Ball.

Spending nearly twice as much to land Hayward six years later is earning Michael Jordan, Charlotte’s owner, no shortage of consternation, but that’s not Hayward’s concern (or Bartelstein’s). We detailed in last week’s newsletter that the Hornets would probably be interested in trading for Houston’s Russell Westbrook if they missed out on LaMelo Ball in the draft.

After the Hornets were able to select Ball at No. 3, they pivoted to overpaying Hayward rather than absorbing the remaining three seasons and nearly $133 million left on Westbrook’s contract.

The Hornets signed former Utah Jazz and Boston Celtics small forward Gordon Hayward in free agency after drafting LaMelo. Although Jordan would have loved to acquire Westbrook since the explosive point guard is a Jordan Brand athlete, Charlotte now has its future franchise point guard in Ball, who is only 19-years-old.

LaMelo played in 12 games in the NBL before a foot injury forced him to end his season prematurely. He averaged 17.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game in his stint in Australia.

The Hornets are certainly excited to see Ball and Devonte’ Graham in the backcourt together next season.