By Ben Golliver
Two guys who don't play much just got traded for each other.
The Bobcats announced Tuesday the trade of veteran guard Matt Carroll to the Hornets in exchange for forward Hakim Warrick.
Carroll, 32, has played just six minutes so far this season, tallying 0 points and 0 rebounds in his only appearance. He is in the final year of a six-year, $27 million contract that will pay him $3.5 million. Charlotte actually traded him away previously, in 2009, before re-acquiring him in a 2010 trade. Trading the same player twice is an excellent sign of a terrible contract.
Warrick, 30, didn't last long in New Orleans and he didn't leave much of an impression. He was a toss-in to the summer trade that brought over center Robin Lopez and has made just one appearance this season, scoring four points in seven minutes. He is on the books for $4 million this year and has a $4 million team option on his contract for next season. For all intents and purposes, he's an expiring contract, too.
Why did either side bother with this trade? For positional balance, mostly, and to clear the decks for more promising younger players in the process.
The Bobcats now have a four-man backcourt with Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon and Gerald Henderson, all of whom are playing at least 24 minutes a night. The quarter is fairly locked in contract-wise, either on affordable rookie deals or multi-year contract that aren't particularly likely to be moved, so there really was no room for Carroll, who falls into that tough "shooters who can't shoot" category. Lottery pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is also a perimeter-oriented starter and Reggie Williams, a scorer, was signed by current Bobcats GM Rich Cho to a small and flexible contract. In other words, Carroll was seventh in line, and the fact that his shooting numbers have plummeted since 2008 left no reason to keep him around.
Adding Warrick to a weak frontline is by no means a game-changer for Charlotte. File this under "Why not, whatever" rather than "Hooray." He will join a big man rotation that includes Byron Mullens, Brendan Haywood, Tyrus Thomas and Bismack Biyombo. Cho would surely love to trade the three years remaining on Thomas' contract, but that could prove difficult if not impossible. A more likely scenario sees Warrick getting a look down the stretch once the Bobcats' lottery fate is sealed and then getting cut loose next summer, when he will likely join the ranks of the minimum-salaried.
The Hornets had a similar situation brewing, just flipped. Rather than two many guards needing playing time, they had too many forwards, and Warrick, a forward with length who just hasn't done enough to play real minutes since 2009, was a clear odd man out. No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis, who is a much better version of what Warrick might have thought he would be in his wildest dreams, is at the top of the pecking order. Ryan Anderson, signed to a long-term deal in a sign-and-trade this summer, is right there, too, as is Lopez. Small forward Al-Farouq Aminu has been a pleasant early season surprise, leaving little room for Warrick to sneak in to a bigger frontline group, and Jason Smith, a worker, has been preferred by coach Monty Williams. At the same time, the Hornets' backcourt has dealt with a string of injuries: Eric Gordon has had a mysterious knee problem, Xavier Henry had offseason surgery and Austin Rivers keeps rolling his surgically-repaired ankles. Carroll is no savior for this group but there's a better chance he plays in New Orleans than in Charlotte, especially if the injury issues intensify. Likewise, Warrick has a better chance in Charlotte than in New Orleans. Usually when this type of "big-for-small" trade takes place it's seen as a "win/win" if the players are relative equals in usefulness and cost. That's stretching it here. Neither side lost this, but there aren't really any true winners either.