The Portland Trail Blazers and Charlotte Hornets are working on a trade that would send Nicolas Batum to Charlotte in exchange for Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
The 26-year-old Batum has one year and $11.8 million remaining on the four-year extension he signed in 2012. He is coming off a down season, as he struggled with his shot last year. Batum hit just 40 percent from the field, the lowest mark of his career. That led to a decline in scoring, as his 9.4 points per game average was the lowest since his rookie season. Part of the struggles could be attributed to a wrist injury that hampered him during the season.
"Nic Batum was a key contributor to all of our recent success," said Neil Olshey, Blazers president of basketball operations. "He will truly be missed as a person and a player. We wish Nic all the best for the future."
Batum figures to be a good bounce-back candidate with the Hornets, especially if he stays healthy. Charlotte has been in search of help on the wing in recent seasons and Batum should be an upgrade there. The potential deal would mark the second-straight offseason Charlotte has tried to make a splash on the perimeter. The Hornets signed Lance Stephenson to a lucrative free agent deal last year, but traded him to the Clippers this offseason. Batum will become a free agent after next season, giving him at least a year in Charlotte to rebuild his value.
SB Nation's Hornets blog At the Hive is excited about Batum's versatility:
He mainly played small forward with Portland, and that's currently Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's spot on the team. It's likely that he'll see minutes as a shooting guard, and that creates a team with two really big defenders at the wing positions. Of course, we could also see the team go small and play MKG at the four spot, but the great thing about Batum is how versatile he is as a player.
Henderson could immediately step into the starting lineup at shooting guard for the Blazers. The Blazers have Wesley Matthews and Arron Afflalo, but the future of both in Portland is in doubt. Matthews' contract expired, while Afflalo declined his player option to also become a free agent. Henderson elected to pick up his $6 million option for next season.
The obvious thought is that a rebuilding move like this may mean the Blazers are preparing for life after LaMarcus Aldridge, but Wojnarowski reports that isn't the case:
Sources: Blazers didn't make deal as first step of rebuilding. Aldridge was aware of trade, and Blazers did deal independent of free agency.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 24, 2015
Still, while Henderson may have the bigger impact next season, the 19-year-old Vonleh is the long-term prize. He was drafted No. 9 last season, but saw limited playing time as a rookie. He was a developmental prospect coming out of Indiana and still needs work, but he is a skilled big man who has potential. In Portland, he would join Meyers Leonard in giving the Blazers two young, talented prospects in the post.
The Blazers will also save about $3 million next season, which could give them more cap space depending on the futures of Matthews, Afflalo and Robin Lopez.
The Hornets remained active trade partners, shipping Matt Barnes to Oklahoma City for Jeremy Lamb shortly after acquiring Batum.