Trade Jeremy Lamb for a future second-round pick? It could potentially take something that extreme for the Charlotte Hornets to extricate themselves from a player-payroll challenge next season. They have spent all this season close to the NBA’s luxury-tax threshold, and that problem could get worse, rather than better, for the 2018-19 season. Right now, with the NBA’s trade deadline looming Feb. 8, the Hornets have about $117.3 million in guaranteed salaries this season. The NBA’s luxury-tax threshold this season is slightly more than $119 million. Hornets owner Michael Jordan has said several times in the past he has no intention of paying luxury tax on anything short of a team capable of advancing deep into the playoffs (a reasonable position). The Hornets’ payroll situation could worsen for the 2018-19 season, when the NBA’s salary cap and luxury tax numbers aren’t expected to rise much. As of now, the Hornets are committed to guaranteed contracts for 10 players, plus an option on fourth-string point guard Julyan Stone’s $1.6 million. Add up those salaries, and the Hornets are on the hook for about $118 million. That would not include a salary for a first-round pick. Assuming they miss the playoffs and have a lottery pick, that would add approximately another $3 million guaranteed to the payroll. Based on projections the league has distributed to NBA front offices, the luxury-tax threshold will rise minimally, perhaps to about $120 million. So the Hornets would already be near or above the tax line before filling out the 14- or 15-man roster. That would include either replacing or re-signing backup point guard Michael Carter-Williams. That sounds like a mess. It helps explain why the Hornets explored star point guard Kemba Walker’s trade value, including whether a team would be willing to take one of the Hornets’ problematic contracts in order to acquire Walker, too. The six most expensive salaries on this season’s cap all return, guaranteed for next season. Each of those – Walker, Cody Zeller, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, Nic Batum and Dwight Howard – is owed $12 million or more in 2018-19. Batum is scheduled to make $24 million and Howard $23.8 million.