The Magic, Hornets and Bulls have agreed to terms on a three-team trade, as was first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. In the transaction, Orlando will acquire Timofey Mozgov and Jerian Grant; Charlotte will acquire Bismack Biyombo and two second-round picks; and Chicago will acquire Julyan Stone. This is more a matter of bookkeeping than a basketball move, but let’s grade the deal for each team involved.
Consider this deal an extension of Charlotte’s last. Not even three weeks ago, the Hornets traded away Dwight Howard for Mozgov, two second-round draft picks and cash considerations. Here, they move Mozgov for the marginally more playable Biyombo—a rebounder and shot-blocker who should fill in at center behind Cody Zeller—while nabbing two second-round picks. The initial decision to add a year of bloated salary (Howard was then on an expiring deal, whereas Mozgov—and Biyombo—are under contract until 2020) was an odd one, but here the Hornets have managed to extract a few extra drops of basketball value. The only real cost of doing business was the loss of Julyan Stone, who didn’t have much of a future with the team after an underwhelming season.
Biyombo makes slightly more sense for a team looking to win games next season than Mozgov would, at a slightly higher price. One could make the reasonable argument that the Hornets should have bought out or waived Howard themselves to begin with. There were other ways to clear room under the luxury tax, and Biyombo’s $17 million salary for the 2019-20 season could get in the way of some needed roster renovation—same as Mozgov’s $16.7 million would have. Yet with this pair of moves, the Hornets have essentially taken on a year of Biyombo’s salary in exchange for four second-round picks—two acquired in the deal with Brooklyn and two more in this one. We can’t know the full impact of this trade until we see how those picks are put to use, but the Hornets have piled up enough draft assets in recent weeks to make their roster a bit more pliable.
Biyombo’s contract—minted at $72 million over four years during the spending spree of 2016—was the sin of an old regime. Orlando was eager to move on from it if it could, though the market for a backup-level, zero-offense center making $17 million a year was understandably frigid. This deal allows them the slightest relief. Mozgov has his own disproportionate contract from that same summer, albeit for slightly less. So why not flip one albatross contract for another? Since neither Biyombo nor Mozgov should be playing significant minutes for the Magic anyway, why not save where you can? Grant comes to Orlando almost incidentally. There isn’t much in his game to get excited about; Grant will be 26 years old by the time the season starts and hasn’t made much of his career to date. His environs should be familiar. After a few years as part of one of the worst point guard rotations in the league in Chicago, Grant will continue apace next season as he backs up D.J. Augustin for the Magic.
Chicago effectively swapped one backup point guard for another—or, really, a guaranteed contract for an unguaranteed one. Whereas Grant was set to make $2.6 million next season, Stone’s salary can be wiped off the books completely if he is released by August 1. The Bulls can be overly frugal at times, but this seems pragmatic; after Grant’s two-year tryout, it made sense for both sides to move on.