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Breaking down Hornets trade for Miles Plumlee: What makes sense and what doesn’t

Jeff Hanisch – USA TODAY Sports

Charlotte and Milwaukee have finalized a trade that will bring 28-year old center Miles Plumlee to the Hornets for Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert. The deal was first reported by Brian Windhorst – ESPN.

The Hornets have lost 11 of the past 14 games, are 1-11 when Cody Zeller is out of the lineup, and the front office is under pressure to win now. The result of all of that appears to be Miles Plumlee. Like it or not, let me try to make some sense of it.

For starters (and attempted optimism), Charlotte will now enter the summer over the cap, but under the tax apron, which gives them the right to the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception worth $8.4-million. Miles Plumlee is under contract for three more seasons after ’16-’17 at $12.4mm. Prior to this deal, the Hornets were slightly under the salary cap threshold and would’ve only been eligible for the Room Mid-Level exception which is valued at approximately $4mm. To summarize, Rich Cho did create a little bit more flexibility from a spending standpoint for the team this summer.

On the flip side, Charlotte just signed up for three years of $37.5mm in guaranteed cash to Miles Plumlee. Did anyone else just hear a toilet flush? It’s unclear as to whether or not this was a pressure move from the ownership to fix the problem immediately and ensure the team a second straight playoff birth, but it sure does feel that way. This is not the creativity we’ve come to expect from Rich Cho.

There is no shortage of criticism surrounding this deal for the Hornets. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton graded Charlotte a D for the trade and provided the following thoughts.

Charlotte’s issue was really the lack of a third center. The Hornets had gotten by just fine with Hibbert replacing Zeller in the starting lineup, which was still outscoring opponents by 7.9 points per 100 possessions — only a slight drop-off from that group with Zeller. The problem came when Charlotte had to play either Hawes (minus-9.8 net rating) or try Frank Kaminsky at center (such lineups have given up 120.8 points per 100 possessions, via NBAwowy.com).

Instead of looking for a cheap fill-in to upgrade the rest of the season, the Hornets dealt for one of the league’s worst contracts. Plumlee will make $12.5 million a year through 2019-20, and it’s quickly become evident (if it wasn’t already) that he’s worth nothing near that amount in a center-saturated league.

The Hornets have been linked to Plumlee for some time now and saw this as their opportunity to plug a hole. Plumlee should stabilize the backup center spot for the second-unit and make that group more competitive, especially defensively, when on the floor. He’s a mobile seven-footer that is an above-average pick-and-roll defender and has some rim-protection potential. Offensively, centers in Charlotte’s scheme don’t touch the ball much and screen a ton. It’s not inconceivable to think that Plumlee will be much better in this system, as it does appear to cater to his strengths as a player. The way the Hornets went about adding Plumlee to the roster is the part that is hard to understand.