Why did Charlotte Trade for Miles Plumlee?

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It was announced yesterday that the Charlotte Hornets traded big men Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes for Miles Plumlee and “cash considerations.” It was a very surprising deal – simply because of the players involved. The fact that the Bucks and Hornets, two teams who are on four and six game losing streaks in a year where the competition for the playoff spots in the Eastern Conference is strong, made a trade is not at all surprising. Rather, it is the fact that Charlotte gave up two big men who were playing well in their somewhat limited minutes for a struggling Plumlee who plays even less that is surprising.

Compared to the fair level of play of Hawes and Hibbert, Plumlee has really struggled. To his credit, Plumlee didn’t receive many minutes in the Bucks rotation to have a fair chance, and he also played well in his first game as a Hornet with eight rebounds in 18 minutes, but just look at the numbers:

2016-17 Plumlee Hawes + Hibbert
PPG 2.6 12.5
APG 0.5 2.3
RPG 1.8 7.8
SPG 0.3 0.6
BPG 0.3 1.7
FG% 0.45 0.51
3P% 0.00 0.29
Pts / poss. (OFF) 0.97 1.09
Pts / poss. (DEF) 1.10 1.06
Win Shares 0.2 3.1
Salary (millions) 12.5 11.35

Plumlee is getting outperformed in every category by both of them individually, and destroyed by Hibbert and Hawes when their stats are combined. It makes one wonder why on earth a team would trade two relative contributors for a non-contributor like Plumlee. The usual reason for a trade like this is because of a cheaper salary annually or long term for the non-contributor, but Plumlee is more expensive than the two new Bucks combined. He is also signed for four years on this expensive contract versus Hibbert and Hawes, who are signed for one year and one year with a player option respectively.

ESPN
ESPN

Potential is another factor in trades like these, but no piece involved is under 28 years old. There weren’t even picks exchanged. Plumlee, at 28 years and 158 days, is the youngest player in this deal, but he is not young. Plumlee hit his athletic prime already, and he has had a major decline since his days as a frequently played center on Phoenix.

Hawes is only 126 days older himself, and has a three point shot which will not abandon him with age as Plumlee’s around the basket power likely will. Hibbert, admittedly, is considerably more worn than the Plumlee or Hawes, but Hibbert also has a certain 7’2″ height that won’t abandon him with age either.

For all the reasons above, the Bucks have established why they flipped Plumlee for the two Hornets, but why did Charlotte give up what they did for Miles Plumlee? Simply put, they must see a role for him.

While Hibbert and Hawes did well in their playing time, the Hornets and Steve Clifford were playing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, Frank Kaminsky, and Cody Zeller more, and it made Hibbert and Hawes expendable to take on Plumlee, who is already playing big for this team.

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

What the Hornets need from Plumlee is a big man who embodies the term. The big time rebounder and shot blocker to complement their guards, wings, and slew of stretch fours. The fact that Plumlee got eight rebounds and two blocks in limited playing time means that there’s a chance he’ll pull through and be their big player.

Whether or not Plumlee will, in fact, come through is much too early to decide. Giving Plumlee 18 minutes right off the bat is undeniably confident in him, though, as he only got more minutes than that in four of his 33 other games this season for Milwaukee – three of which were presumably garbage time minutes in games because they were decided by double digits, or were the result of an injury.

As Plumlee familiarizes himself more and more with Steve Clifford’s sets on offense and defense, his playing time only will go up if he meets the expectations set upon him. We will come to see who wins this trade in the long run, as well as who makes the playoffs this year.

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