2 Hornets trade assets that would boost the Portland Trail Blazers bench

Mason Plumlee and Kelly Oubre Jr, Charlotte Hornets (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Mason Plumlee and Kelly Oubre Jr, Charlotte Hornets (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Things have improved as of late, but the Portland Trail Blazers bench still needs help.

As of Jan. 19, the Blazers’ second unit is dead last in the NBA in scoring, minutes, and assist-to-turnover ratio, and is 28th in offensive rating.

Not great.

Meanwhile, Drew Eubanks has exceeded expectations as a backup to Jusuf Nurkic, but he’s best suited as a third center, not one playing 18 minutes a night.

If Portland wants to move closer to the middle of the pack in the Western Conference rather than languishing around a play-in position, improving those areas, among others, will be critical.

There are two members of the Charlotte Hornets, a franchise clearly in tank mode, who are reportedly available and ready to be dealt – and for a relatively low price.

Kelly Oubre Jr. and Mason Plumlee would give the Portland Trail Blazers needed impact off the bench

The Hornets are on the prowl to find deals for Terry Rozier, Jaden McDaniels, Oubre Jr., and Plumlee, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, and the Blazers can take advantage of it.

Oubre Jr. is currently sidelined after undergoing surgery for a torn ligament in his shooting hand but is expected to return around mid-February. Before his injury, he was averaging a career-high 20.1 points per game, which would make him the Blazers’ fourth-leading scorer as soon as he arrives in Portland.

Plumlee isn’t good enough to be a starting center but has been too productive this season to be a backup. The 10-year vet is nearly averaging a double-double and is among the league leaders in rebounding and screen assists. Having a 7-footer who’s started 432 NBA games spelling Nurkic would be an upgrade over Eubanks, as good as he’s been.

As for Charlotte in this scenario, they get a bunch of expiring contracts: Winslow – $4 million; Crowder – $10.1 million; Okogie – $1.8 million; Brown III – non-guaranteed $1.8 million next year; and a couple of second-round picks for their trouble.

Crowder and Winslow are likely buyout candidates. Shedding about $18 million in salary for 2023-24 and letting a bunch of young players tank their way closer to Victor Wembanyama seems like a better plan for the Hornets at this stage.

Phoenix finally finds a suitor for Crowder and ends that saga. Okogie is averaging fewer than five minutes per game and is just salary filler. So in return for two players who don’t see the floor and a future second-round pick, the Suns, struggling for a playoff spot, get an immediate plug-and-play guard for their rotation.

But most importantly, Portland would immediately get better at center with Plumlee, and once Oubre returns, add some much-needed scoring off the bench – two things the Blazers could seriously use.