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Analyzing the Mason Plumlee Trade Market

There are two teams that stand out as likely trade partners

This is going to be the first of a series of three articles looking at the trade market for Charlotte's expiring contracts of Mason Plumlee, Kelly Oubre and PJ Washington. 

We are halfway through the season and if you didn’t know already, the Charlotte Hornets are out of play-in contention, sitting at 11-30 with the 3rd worst overall record in the league. Veteran Mason Plumlee is on a $9 million expiring contract and Charlotte have a bevy of bigs who have shown promise in Mark Williams, Nick Richards and Kai Jones sitting behind him. As much criticism as Plumlee receives, he’s having a career year and has been one of the team’s most consistent players. However, a smart team would see the writing on the wall with his free agency, the lottery odds and trade him ahead of the February 9th deadline.

I’ve gone through the entire league on the trade machine looking for teams with a need for a big, who have a matching playstyle and most importantly have some easily matching tradable contracts. For Charlotte, I prioritised draft capital and not taking back any long term money. Most of the team's who have interest in Plumlee are playoff bound and don't want to be giving up any rotation level players who could potentially help Charlotte next year.

Out of all 29 teams, there were two that stood apart from the rest as the most likely landing spots for Mason Plumlee. I have even checked in with the beat journalists who cover those teams to gauge the interest and debate trade value, each confirmed Plumlee was a name they feel the team would have interest in and there was a workable deal. Over to you Sacramento and Denver…

Denver Nuggets

DeAndre Jordan in a playoff series is not something anyone wants to see in 2023, Zeke Nnaji is interesting but he’s undersized and just 21 years old with limited experience. Do one of the premier title favorites want to go into the NBA playoffs with that as their back-up big rotation? Mason played for Denver from 2017-2020 and already has familiarity with head coach Mike Malone and stars Murray and Jokic, he should be able a seamless fit. Whether it’s covering for a Jokic injury or playing 14 minutes per night, Mason Plumlee is a clear upgrade.

Denver has a clear and easy route to a Plumlee trade thanks to a $9.1 Million trade exception from the Monte Morris trade which Plumlee fits perfectly into. Thanks to @bret_rd for pointing this out.

Denver Plumlee Trade

If you’re sitting their hoping for Zeke Nnaji, Peyton Watson or a late 1st in return you will be disappointed. Denver aren’t giving up much more than a 2nd round pick, in this case I went for Denver’s 2026 2nd as the hope is the Nuggets may have slowed down by then. However, with this deal I also got a little creative.

As you can see in the trade above, Charlotte and Denver both own a 2023 2nd round pick in a very complicated four-way deal between OKC, WAS, DAL and MIA. Currently, Charlotte receives the LEAST favourable of those picks and Denver the 3rd MOST favourable. To sweeten the deal a little, I would push for Denver to “Swap” the rights to those picks to ensure Charlotte receives the more favourable of the two picks.

Denver of course could look to use their $9.1 trade exception in other ways, but if they still have it available at the deadline, I would keep a close eye on them.

Sacramento Kings

Richaun Holmes, the jewel in the eye of Hornets fans during the 2021 offseason, has largely been out the rotation with the Kings due to Mike Brown’s read and react offense. Insert Mason Plumlee who would excel in this scheme offensively where his fantastic passing and dribble hand off ability would further help the Kings offense. It’s also worth being aware that Sabonis has been playing through an avulsion fracture this season, so additional cover at that position would be welcome.

The Kings could send back an expiring contract in Len, plus one of Trey Lyles or Terence Davis, whichever they feel is least likely to be part of their playoff rotation. I did look to see if I could include PJ Washington in this deal in return for a 1st round pick, but it felt like too much of a stretch.

Kings Plumlee Deal

As for value in return, I would target Portland’s 2025 2nd round pick which the Kings own, with an ageing Lillard and a capped-out team it’s understandable that the Blazers could be sliding back into lottery contention by then. Like the Denver deal, I would hope Charlotte pushes to swap Boston’s 2023 2nd for Indiana’s 2023 2nd as this will likely fall 5-15 picks higher in the second round. Saying that, if I was GM and the trade deadline was fast approaching and Sacramento were holding firm on only including the 2025 2nd, I would still pull the trigger.

Overall, these marginal moves rarely happen until very close to the deadline. I expect teams like Denver and Sacramento will have weaker trade offers than those listed above on the table in the run up to the deadline. However, when other potential trade targets go elsewhere and the deadline clock is ticking down, that’s when they will likely make their best offer. 

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