Hornets start over again with trades; Mitch Kupchak to advisory role

Terry Rozier, PJ Washington and Gordon Hayward were all dealt; Charlotte begins its search for a new president and GM

With LaMelo Ball out with an injury, Tre Mann, left, has served as the Hornets’ starting point guard since coming over from the Thunder in a trade. (Nell Redmond / AP Photo)

CHARLOTTE — With only 10 wins in 50 games as the NBA trade deadline approached on Feb. 8, the Charlotte Hornets decided to start a new chapter.

The team sent PJ Washington and Gordon Hayward out of the Queen City for draft picks and five newcomers, including a homecoming for Charlotte natives Seth Curry and Grant Williams.

The Hornets traded longtime point guard Terry Rozier in January but were far from finished with their roster remodeling, also dealing an inconsistent power forward in Washington and the oft-injured Hayward.

The team acquired Curry, Williams and a 2027 first-round pick from Dallas in exchange for Washington, a 2024 second-round pick and a 2028 second-round pick. Charlotte then received Davis Bertans, Tre Mann, Vasilije Micic and second-round picks in 2024 and 2025 from Oklahoma City in exchange for Hayward.

To make room for the new additions, the Hornets waived three guards — former first-rounder James Bouknight along with Frank Ntilikina and Ish Smith. Kyle Lowry, acquired in the Rozier trade, was also waived a few days later.

In two games with its new roster, Charlotte won consecutive games for the first time since before Thanksgiving, defeating Memphis and Indiana in back-to-back home games.

Mann has averaged 10 points and eight assists as the starting point guard, while Williams, Curry, Micic and Bertans have combined to score all 89 points of the Hornets’ bench points during those two games.

Aside from Williams, none of the new players’ contracts have major financial ramifications beyond 2025, signifying that the franchise has not tied itself to the same costly contracts that have plagued its progress in past years.

“We’re more experienced and we’re much deeper, which, to be honest, is a big thing,” coach Steve Clifford said after the Hornets’ 111-102 win over the Pacers on Monday. “We have a lot of skill and a lot of IQ.”

It turns out that adding skilled bench shooters who can space the floor and clear out room for Miles Bridges and Brandon Miller is exactly what the team needed without injured starters LaMelo Ball and Mark Williams.

Bridges has hit his stride as of late. He is averaging 21.7 points and 7.1 rebounds per game and set career highs for points in back-to-back games earlier in the month when he scored 41 points against the Lakers and followed that with 45 points two days later against the Raptors.

“I’d love to be here,” Bridges said after his career-best scoring game Feb. 7 against Toronto when asked if he saw a future in Charlotte once he becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason. “I got drafted here and they stuck with me through my lowest time, so I for sure want to be here.”

After guiding the team through the trade deadline, president and general manager Mitch Kupchak announced Monday that he will step down from his current positions and transition into an advisory role once the team finds his successor.

“After signing my extension two years ago, the plan has always been for me to move to an advisory role after this season when my contract ends in June,” Kupchak said in a team press release. “Now feels like the appropriate time to begin the search for the next leader of our basketball operations.”

With Kupchak remaining in his day-to-day role until his successor is on board, new team owners Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin are expected to hire a new top basketball executive before the regular season ends.

“Mitch’s success as an NBA executive speaks for itself and we thank Mitch for all his work during his six years leading our basketball operations,” Schnall and Plotkin said in a statement. “His professionalism, integrity and commitment have been a major benefit to our franchise.”