It’s not secret that the Charlotte Hornets will enter the offseason with a hole to fill at the center position. A year of struggling to fill the position through the likes of Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo, rookie Vernon Carey and P.J. Washington as a small ball option, Charlotte heads into the summer with assets and cap space to find a solution at the position.
With so many options, the pool of players available to address the Hornets needs is enormous and will need some whittling down, something the front office has surely spent the weeks after and even during the season addressing.
Taking that into account, here are three names via trade and free agency that should be high on the Hornets list this offseason. Also, hat tip to James Plowright from At The Hive who put together an extensive list of both free agent and trade targets.
Realistically, free-agent-to-be Nerlens Noel should likely be one of the very first names on the Hornets list. Richaun Holmes will get plenty of buzz, but Noel may be a better fit even if he isn't quite as talented. And most important to a small market team, he will come at a much cheaper price. In New York this season, Noel anchored the No. 4 defense all season long. While individual defensive ratings are hard to extrapolate on their own, Noel's rating of 108.5 would have ranked third on the Hornets behind only Devonte' Graham and Cody Martin. Offensively, though, Noel is a great fit as well. Around the rim, he ranked in the 65th percentile, per Cleaning The Glass, this season after ranking in the 99th percentile last season. In six of the last eight seasons, he's ranked in at least the 84th percentile at the rim. He would provide top tier play around the rim on both sides of the court, which is priority No. 1 for Charlotte.
Each of the other two names on the list will be trade targets as the free agent market takes a pretty large dip in quality rather quickly. The trade market will likely be a more likely avenue to make a deal and Myles Turner's name will be one of the most heavily-linked names for the Hornets and a number of teams in the offseason. Turner's candidacy is well-known considering how long he's been linked to Charlotte. He was a Defensive Player of the Year candidate early in the season due to his elite rim protection. He is in the 100th percentile in block percentage in the league has never been below the 90th percentile, all per Cleaning the Glass. Offensively, he's a unique fit for the Hornets and many teams in the league because of his extended range. Turner ranked in the 80th percentile in 3-point attempts among bigs and shot 34% from beyond the arc. Per Synergy, he's still a high-level roll player, ranking in the 82nd percentile in pick and rolls. His ability to pop or roll means he's able to take advantage of how defenses play and makes him an idea pairing with LaMelo Ball in that sense. Turner will come at a steep price given his resume and that he will be under contract for two more seasons.
A less-common name mentioned could be Detroit's Mason Plumlee. While he isn't the floor spacer that Turner is or the elite defensive rim protector that both Turner and Noel are, he does provide something that neither of them do offensively. First, Plumlee is still an elite finisher at the rim, ranking in the 87th percentile according to Cleaning the Glass. He hasn't ranked below the 82nd percentile in the last three seasons. His athleticism and height make him both a lob threat offensively and someone that can make things difficult around the rim, even if he's still not a top-level rim protector. Even as poor as Detroit was this season, they ranked 14th in the league in defending the rim. What separates him is his passing ability, a skill that neither Turner or Noel have. Over the last seven seasons, he has ranked no lower than the 87th percentile in assist percentage for bigs. He ranked in the 71st percentile, per Synergy, on passes out of post-ups this season as well. At just $8.1 and $8.5 million over the next two years, he'll be affordable as well and with Detroit focused on rebuilding, he likely would be available and come at a relatively cheap price.