While there was some chatter about the Charlotte Hornets talking with the Houston Rockets about trading for Dwight Howard, what ended up happening was the team acquiring Courtney Lee from the Memphis Grizzlies while shipping off second round draft picks, P.J. Hairston and Brian Roberts. Good for Jeremy Lin? Probably not.
The Hornets, after all said and done, felt like they needed to make a move in order to somehow respond to losing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist again to a torn muscle in his shoulder, something that also happened in the preseason. While they didn’t have a lot of assets to hand out, they found the right formula in a three-way deal that did part them with second rounders, but it seems they’re putting the playoffs this season at a very high priority, otherwise they wouldn’t have traded for Lee, who is a free agent at the end of this season.
They got rid of players they don’t really need. Hairston filled in minutes at small forward because there was no choice, but he’s an average defender at best and gives nothing offensively. Roberts is a third string point guard, and the Hornets also have Troy Daniels in case there’s an emergency. On paper, this moves improves Charlotte by adding quality offensively and defensively through Lee, playing in his 8th NBA season since coming out of Western Kentucky.
Lee averaged 10 points per game for the Grizzlies, who acquired him from the Boston Celtics via trade in 2013-2014. Mostly a shooting guard, he does play small forward if necessary (a lot last season actually) although that can create some defensive matchup problems. While not the ideal sharpshooter or wing defender, Lee can be tossed into the 3 & D category which he’ll probably be needed for on Charlotte, and after starting in 158 out of 177 games with Memphis, he’ll be a starter for the Hornets at shooting guard, while Batum gets moved to Small Forward again.
Nothing changes for Kemba Walker of course, which is at the premise of everything the Hornets do. Walker plays his own way, and his minutes don’t get changed, his role doesn’t change either. For those who haven’t read Nathan Gottlieb’s interesting interview with Doc Scheppler, you’ll get the same kind of insight on Walker we’ve been talking about all season. A player who plays isolation offense, doesn’t share the ball, and simply operates in a bubble. If his shots fall, it’s great. When they don’t, the team suffers, but Walker just keeps on shooting.
As for Lin? Lee is a player who plays around 30 minutes a night. He’s not a ball handler or someone who runs an offense, but this once again limits Lin’s minutes at 25, more or less. It might give Lin a bit more time as an actual point guard which is good news because at this point, his minutes without Walker on the floor next to him are his most precious commodity to build up a case for a big contract next season, when he opts out of this two year deal.
Why does he opt out? The Hornets need to do what they think is best for them in order to make the playoffs and achieve their goals. But it is once again shown that building on Lin isn’t part of their plan. Lin needs to be on a team that counts on him and sees him as a vital part of its potential success. It might be frustrating leaving after just one season but all signs point towards an early breakup due to the Hornets not living up to the expectations Lin had from the team.