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Charlotte Hornets looking to trade 1st-round pick, Gordon Hayward for cap relief

Vincent Frank

The Charlotte Hornets are entering a crucial 2022 NBA Draft with two first-round picks and without a head coach after Kenny Atkinson backed out at the last minute.

For owner Michael Jordan, this is just a continuation of major struggles the Hornets have had under his watch. Following two consecutive seasons in which it has lost in the play-in tournament, it’s time for Charlotte to turn the corner.

That could now include moving off one of its first-round picks in Thursday’s draft as a way to dump Gordon Hayward’s bloated contract.

“Keep an eye on the Charlotte Hornets. Now, they have two picks in the middle of the draft: picks 13 and 15. People in the league do not feel they will make both picks. They might not even make either pick. But right now they are looking to make a deal with one of those picks, combine them with one of the salaries that they have in-house. Gordon Hayward is one of the names we’re hearing.”

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on Charlotte Hornets draft plans

The injury-plagued Hayward has two years and $61 million remaining on his current deal. He’s played in just 93 games across two seasons in Charlotte. Meanwhile, these Hornets have the 13th and 15th picks in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

In an attempt to create the long-term cap flexibility to re-sign star forward Miles Bridges, attaching a pick with Hayward would make sense.

Related: Charlotte Hornets looking to trade first-round pick for an impact player

How a Charlotte Hornets trade Gordon Hayward would look

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Charlotte Hornets
Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

First off, it must be mentioned that Charlotte has been kicking the tires on acquiring former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook from the Los Angeles Lakers. The team still has interest in Westbrook. Meanwhile, the Lakers have discussed dealing Russ to another Eastern Conference squad recently.

Westbrook, 33, has a player option valued at $47.06 million for next season — one that he’s undoubtedly going to pick up. By moving Hayward for Westbrook, the Hornets would be saving roughly $14 million in cold hard cash over the next two seasons.

Is this anywhere near enough to give up a pick in the top half of the first round? We’re not too sure about that. Charlotte could demand that Los Angeles picks up the expiring contract of Kelly Oubre Jr. to save another $12.6 million. Even then, we’re sure the Hornets would turn around and demand a first-round pick in either 2027 or 2029 to make a deal of this work ilk. Whether this makes sense remains to be seen. But here’s how a deal could come together.

  • Los Angeles Lakers get: Gordon Hayward, Kelly Oubre Jr., 15th pick
  • Charlotte Hornets get: Russell Westbrook, 2027 1st-round pick

This would enable Charlotte to free up a whole bunch of cash moving forward as a way to re-sign the aforementioned Bridges. Coming off a brilliant 2021-22 season, the forward will draw max-contract interest as a restricted free agent. He could very well be a core piece with LaMelo Ball moving forward.

Another option for Charlotte would be less complicated. That is to say, sell off Hayward’s contract to a team with the cap room to absorb most of it. In the process, give up the 13th pick.

Related: 4 moves the Charlotte Hornets must make to return to the NBA Playoffs

A team like the Orlando Magic could actually take on Hayward’s entire contract under the salary cap. In return, Orlando acquires another lottery selection to go with the No. 1 overall pick. It would then have to send a conditional second-round pick years down the road to make this work under NBA rules.

The Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers are other teams that could pick up a bulk of Hayward’s contract while adding another first-round pick to the mix.