The Charlotte Hornets played a thriller in their home opener to the Bucks, with the game coming down to the final seconds in a 113-112 loss. Kemba Walker exploded for 41 points on 29 shots, and they nearly were able to pull off a late comeback against Giannis Antetokounmpo.
For the Hornets, this is an important season for them. They need to figure out how to build a team around Walker, with the All-Star guard on the verge of a max contract in free agency as he plays out the final season on his contract. They haven’t gotten anything from their 2015 first round pick, Frank Kaminsky, with the former Wisconsin Badger big man earning a DNP-CD in the opener. The Hornets were content to play newly acquired big man Willy Hernangomez down the stretch, and they can always bring Bismack Biyombo off the bench over Kaminsky in the future.
The Hornets also started Jeremy Lamb alongside Nicolas Batum, playing a smaller lineup in an attempt to add more scoring around Walker. While Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played well off the bench, his replacement, Miles Bridges, played well also. As a player with a player option for $13 million next season, the Hornets could decide that that money would be better spent on Walker’s next contract or a backup that provides more floor spacing.
For the Nuggets, size isn’t an issue with their team. Nikola Jokic is the face of the franchise, with a max contract and the talent to back up his salary. The strategy to play Plumlee and Jokic together doesn’t look like a winning strategy with the league shifting towards smaller lineups that emphasize skills like shooting and dribbling. The Nuggets lack size on the wing, with Will Barton starting at small forward. Juancho Hernangomez is okay as a backup small forward, but his contributions don’t come on the defensive end, which is where Denver needs help.
This trade unites the Hernangomez brothers in Charlotte and gives the Nuggets a clear path towards giving more minutes to Trey Lyles at center. If they’re going to be playing Plumlee under 20 minutes a game, they can replace his production with a combination of Lyles and Kaminsky and the dropoff shouldn’t be significant enough to see the Nuggets bench production decline.