The Charlotte Hornets continued an active off-season after they traded Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson to the Portland Trail Blazers for small forward Nicolas Batum. The Blazers maintain the move does not signal that the club has given up on re-signing LaMarcus Aldridge, who was informed of the transaction beforehand.
“Portland didn't make the trade as a first step in rebuilding, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Aldridge was aware of the deal, sources said. The trade gives Portland greater financial flexibility and an intriguing young talent in Vonleh,” Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports wrote.
The Blazers let go of the 26-year-old Batum, who is in the final year of his contract. In return, they got two young guys in Henderson -- who can provide insurance in case either Wesley Matthews or Arron Afflalo does not return -- and Vonleh, the Hornets’ No. 9 pick in last year’s NBA Draft. Vonleh provides some upside and promise if everything turns sour in the Aldridge contract extension talks. The Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks continue to pose as potential suitors for the jump-shooting big man, but reports indicate the Blazers still have the best shot of retaining the All-Star’s forward's services
The Hornets, owned by Michael Jordan, continue with their retooling efforts less than two weeks removed from sending shooting guard Lance Stephenson to the Los Angeles Clippers for Spencer Hawes and Matt Barnes. The team was reluctant to part ways with Vonleh given the immense potential and impressive work ethic of the 19-year-old power forward. General Manager Rich Cho was actually shopping Cody Zeller, but found little interest in the market. So he eventually agreed to include Vonleh in the Portland deal.
The addition of Batum adds a versatile player to coach Steve Clifford’s roster. The team found difficulty in providing post-up space for center Al Jefferson last season and ranked near last in offense and shooting percentages. The deal also complicates the small forward position for the Hornets, who already have Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a former No. 2 pick who provided encouraging signs with his jump shot last year.