When it comes to the situation of Hornets forward Miles Bridges, a restricted free agent who also faces domestic violence charges in California, the health and well-being of his girlfriend and child are paramount. But on the checklist of those affected by his predicament are the Charlotte Hornets themselves, a team that once saw themselves as a surefire contender for a playoff spot but are now having to reassess the entire future.
It remains to be seen what action the NBA will take against Bridges, a process that will certainly be slow. But in the meantime, the Hornets need to figure out how to approach a potential — presumably lengthy — suspension of Bridges and whether they even want Bridges on their team.
That could have a tangential impact on the rest of the league, especially if the Hornets look to retire with young players, meaning they’re 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 3-point line) who has struggled to stay healthy and has missed 81 games in his last three seasons.
Over the next two seasons, Hayward owes $62 million of the $120 million contract he signed in 2020. Hornets owner Michael Jordan doesn’t want to pay for it.
That could present an opportunity for the Bulls as they look to improve their squad. A trade for Hayward could give Chicago a trio of versatile combination wings in DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine. And it could be done.
To make a deal (and that’s speculative) between Chicago and Charlotte, the Bulls would have to bring in center Nikola Vucevic — otherwise it doesn’t make financial sense. They would also have to give up a young player and we saw the team’s commitment to keeping Patrick Williams close. That means delivering Coby White, a North Carolina man due for a contract extension.
A package from Vucevic and White would probably be enough to get Hayward because it gives Charlotte a young advantage while dropping a year from Hayward’s deal. The Bulls would add just $661,000 to their payroll and keep the team under the luxury tax threshold. Charlotte could be pushing for the Bulls to add a first-round pick to such a package, but it’s doubtful the Bulls would back down.
This trade leaves the bulls with Andre Drummond and Tony Bradley as the main centers, a less than ideal scenario. They could expand the deal to send Bradley and bring back Hornets center Mason Plumlee, giving them a more defensive presence to deploy alongside Drummond.
That deal would push the Bulls into luxury tax territory, however, and the Hornets would certainly claim a future first-rounder on such a deal. Chicago could offer Portland’s lottery-protected first-rounder to get things working.
Still, a trade that sees Plumlee and Hayward off the bench along with LaVine, DeRozan, and point guard Lonzo Ball, as well as Alex Caruso, Drummond, Goran Dragic, and Ayo Dosunmu would exit Chicago on an impressive rotation.
However, it depends on whether Charlotte wants to adjust her list. The team hired Steve Clifford to replace James Borrego this offseason and brought back their former coach, known for his success on rebuild projects.
Heavy Sports NBA insider Steve Bulpett says a Hayward trade could emerge from the Bridges mess.
“The key name is Miles Bridges,” Bulpett said in a video interview. “This situation will really be the problem that will change a lot here. With Miles Bridges you might be riding a Gordon Hayward because he’s the guy, again when he’s on the ground you know the ball is going to keep moving. It will be a great additive for your offensive, it’s like putting motor oil, it will keep the engine running smoothly.
“With the Bridges situation uncertain at best and over at worst, the Hornets are saying, ‘Where are we now?'”