by Jerry Stephens (via Swarm and Sting)
Willy Hernangomez could replace Cody Zeller in the Charlotte Hornets’ rotation and allow the team to trade the former fourth overall pick.
The Charlotte Hornets have a bit of a logjam in their frontcourt. Particularly at the center position where they have Dwight Howard, Cody Zeller and Willy Hernangomez. With Howard as the starter, it makes little sense for the team to keep both Zeller and Hernangomez going into next season.
Willy’s promising finish to the 2017-18 campaign had to have left a strong impression on the Hornets as he scored 10+ points in eight of his final 12 games. He also grabbed 10+ rebounds in four times and recorded three double-doubles. Averaging 9.6 points per game and 7.6 rebounds over those 12 outings, Hernangomez really came into his own as he got consistent playing time for Charlotte.
The 23-year old Spaniard showcased the skills that got him named to the All-Rookie first-team last season.Not only is Hernangomez younger than Zeller but he is also on an extremely team-friendly contract. Willy is set to make only $1.5 million in 2018-19 and $1.7 million in 2019-20.
As for Zeller, he was limited to only 33 games during the 2017-18 season and has missed a total of 98 games over the past four years. At some point, his durability has to come into question. If Charlotte can’t rely on Cody to stay healthy and be an important role player for them, their best bet may be to move him and give his minutes to Hernangomez.
The 25-year old’s contract could also be a major factor in him potentially being traded. The Hornets signed Zeller to a four-year, $56 million extension in 2016 and he is set to make $13.5M in 2018-19, $14.4M in 2019-20 and $15.4M 2020-21. He was the fifth-highest paid player on the team this past season and will be the fourth-highest paid player next year.
Charlotte will have to decide if a player who averaged 7.1 PPG and 5.4 RPG off of the bench warrants being the fourth-highest paid player on the team. Looking at the Hornets’ salary cap situation, they will need to make a few trades in order to re-sign Kemba Walker and stay under the luxury tax going forward.
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Source: Swarm and Sting