The Portland Trail Blazers and Charlotte Hornets made a big splash on the eve of the 2015 NBA draft, as the Blazers announced they have sent forward Nicolas Batum to the Eastern Conference in exchange for guard Gerald Henderson and forward Noah Vonleh.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports first reported the swap, which will save Portland more than $3.5 million against the cap in 2015-16, as Batum was set to make over $12 million, according to Spotrac.
"Nic Batum was a key contributor to all of our recent success,” Portland president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said in the team's release. "He will truly be missed as a person and a player. We wish Nic all the best for the future.”
Hornets GM Rich Cho also weighed in on Batum in their Charlotte's release, saying, "Nicolas Batum is a very talented player whose all-around game will help our team in a variety of ways. He is a quality defender and a solid outside shooter who brings versatility and playoff experience. We are excited to add him to our wing rotation.”
Following the trade, Blazers superstar guard Damian Lillard made mention of how difficult it is to lose a teammate:
The 26-year-old Batum's production dropped off last season to the tune of just 9.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. The previous year, he averaged 13.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists per contest in what amounted to a career season.
Although the Frenchman missed only 11 games in 2014-15, he was dogged by injuries for much of the campaign, which may have limited his effectiveness.
He has proved to be a quality starter in the past, which is why TSN's Josh Lewenberg believes the Hornets were wise to strike while the price was right:
Charlotte still had to give up some valuable assets, though, as the 27-year-old Henderson averaged 12.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists last season, while Vonleh was the ninth overall selection in the 2014 draft.
ESPN's Robin Lundberg feels as though the deal was sensible from Portland's standpoint considering what it received in return:
Some might assume that the Blazers are looking toward the future rather than trying to win now with this trade, but Wojnarowski heard otherwise:
Even so, it was a risky move on Portland's part. It could ultimately pay off if Vonleh is able to live up to his lofty draft status, but Grantland's Zach Lowe believes Batum is the top player in the deal when he is at his best:
The Blazers are coming off back-to-back 50-win seasons, but after losing in the first round of the playoffs this past year, it became clear that they needed to make changes to become a true Western Conference title contender.
As for the Hornets, they missed the playoffs last season, finishing with a 33-49 record. Batum gives them a potential lockdown defender to go along with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, which promises to give opposing wings nightmares this coming year.
Vonleh is the true wild card in this deal, since it remains unclear whether he'll live up to his huge potential. His development—or lack thereof—will ultimately tell the story of which team came out on top in this trade.
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