GUEST BLOGGER: Helping The Pelicans Take Flight

June 4, 2013 - 3 Responses

By: Lee Rittenberg
The Wharton School  |  University of Pennsylvania

Making The Pelicans A Consistent Contender


Though the Pelicans are trending upwards with a great front office and coach, there are still plenty of moves that need to be made to make this team a contender and allow them to compete on a consistent basis. Having said that, I offer a series of moves that I believe will allow the Pelicans to be in the championship conversation for years to come. This team will not seriously compete for a championship in the next year or two, but this will be a possibility a few years down the road.



1: Pelicans trade pick #6 and Robin Lopez to the Los Angeles Clippers for Eric Bledsoe, Willie Green and pick #25.

I am a HUGE fan of Bledsoe because he is arguably the top defensive point guard in the NBA already, or at least in the conversation. IF the Clippers firmly believe that Chris Paul will stay, they will unload Bledsoe, who will be a restricted free agent after the upcoming season. The Clippers will not have enough money to resign Bledsoe because he will most likely command a salary of $8-10 million per year. Bledsoe is young, athletic, and explosive. He can run out in transition because he is so fast and provides a great perimeter defender to guard quick PG’s like Tony Parker, Mike Conley, etc. With the sixth pick, the Clippers can go after an offensive-minded center like Alex Len, a scorer like Shabazz Muhammad, or look for a future backcourt mate to pair with Chris Paul.

Though I like Lopez, the Pelicans must get rid of him in order to save about $4 million (Lopez’s $5 M salary – $1 M cap hold of #25 pick). The Clippers also get a third big that they greatly need. He is more of an offensive-minded guy than Deondre Jordan who will be used often while Len develops.

With the 25th pick, the Pelicans draft Jeff Withey, the 7-foot center from Kansas. He is a good defender with size and length that can rebound and block shots. He is a guy that can trot out with the second unit with Ryan Anderson who spaces the floor.

Willie Green is included for salary purposes to make this trade work. He is then traded in the following trade:


2: Pelicans trade a future 2nd round pick and Willie Green to the Dallas Mavericks for Shawn Marion and pick #13.

Dallas has been rumored to be shopping their pick that has a cap hold of about $1.66 million in order to make room to go after Dwight Howard or Chris Paul. If the Mavs really want to clear room to go after one of these stars, then the more cap room they have, the better. Getting rid of Marion and taking back Green would save them an additional $8 million (or $9.3M if Dallas chooses to let Willie Green go because his salary is Non-Guaranteed) to go after Dwight/CP3 (but most likely Dwight) and sign another veteran in free agency who is younger and can be more productive than the 35-year-old Marion. Acquiring Marion would cost the Pelicans about $10.7 M because he has a 15% trade kicker. Marion has been vocal about not wanting to play for a rebuilding team, but playing for almost $11 million at age 35 is very hard to turn down.

With the 13th pick, the Pelicans would select the top international player in the draft, Dario Saric, a 6 foot 10 small forward from Croatia. He’s long, versatile, has exceptional vision and ball handling, and may have the ability to play point-forward at times. He needs to improve on his jump shot, especially from deep. He’s not super athletic and is very thin, but his jumper and his bulkiness can both be improved as he just turned 19.

Marion provides a decent small forward for a year while the Pelicans develop Saric, or the Pelicans can choose to stache him for another year in Europe, though I feel that this is much less likely. While Marion will have a large salary, he has an expiring contract, so the Pelicans can try to trade him to a contender at this coming year’s trade deadline, or keep him for the year and provide a lot of cap relief for the Pelicans next year, a lot of which would probably be used to pay Bledsoe.


3: Sign Nikola Pekovic to a 4 year, $50 million deal.

Pekovic, an incredibly powerful and physical 6’ 11”, 290 lb. center, is currently a restricted free agent of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Is the 27 year old actually worth $48 million? Probably not, but in order to get an RFA like him, the Pelicans will have to overpay. However, this is okay because I see him as a perfect fit next to Anthony Davis. He’s physical, a great post defender, and is solid in the pick and roll. While he is not the best defensive rebounder, he is great on the offensive glass, as he was #18 in the league in Offensive Rebound Rate this past year.


4: Renounce the rights to Al-Farouq Aminu, Xavier Henry. Let go of Jason Smith, Brian Roberts, Darius Miller, Lance Thomas, and Terrel Harris – all of whom have unguaranteed deals.

All of these moves would be necessary to keep the Pelicans from going over the cap. I would hate to see Jason Smith go, but that would be necessary.


NEW 2013-14 Pelicans Lineup (’13-14 salary in millions):


Bledsoe ($2.63) / Vasquez ($2.15)

Gordon ($14.28) / Rivers ($2.34)

Marion ($10.7) / Saric ($1.66)

Davis ($5.38) / Anderson ($8.31)

Pekovic ($11.1) / Withey ($1)


Using the most accurate numbers puts the total cap for this team at just about $58.5-59 million, with a projected cap of $58.5 million according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. Resigning guys like Brian Roberts and Darius Miller for the league minimum would allow the Pelicans to exceed the cap if need be.


This lineup does not have the best spacing on the wings, but Bledsoe shot almost 40% last year from 3, Eric Gordon is a career 36% 3PT shooter, and Miller shot 39% in limited action. Obviously Ryan Anderson spaces the floor as well as anyone. The team will have decent spacing with Anderson on the court, but it won’t be horrid with him off of it. However, this team could use another “3 and D” guy, which it can pick up at the trade deadline if they unload Marion, or in the draft or free agency next season.


Another neat thing about this lineup is that all four guards can play together. All are able to play on and off the ball and run the pick and roll well (with the exception of Vasquez). Both starting bigs also run the pick and roll well. Marion plays solid defense and brings veteran leadership that this team sorely needs.


This team is young with a great core, which can develop into a championship-caliber team down the road, but should also make the playoffs this upcoming season.


Find me @lritt504 on Twitter for your thoughts and to discuss. Thanks for reading.



OFFSIDES BLOG: WDSU Saints/NFL Mock Draft (version 2.0)

March 5, 2013 - 10 Responses

The Saints have the 15th selection in the 1st round of the NFL Draft this April.
Because the Saints defense allowed a record-setting 7,042 yards in 2012 it's
expected the franchise will use its first pick to find a playmaker on the
defensive side of the ball.
Two players projected to be selected in the top of the draft are University of
Georgia OLB Jarvis Jones and University of Utah NT Star Lotulelei.
Unfortunately, both Jones and Lotulelei have been red-flagged due to medical
Jones (spinal stenosis) and Lotulelei (heart condition) will spend the next
month trying to convince NFL franchises they're okay to play.
Both could end up being selected with one of the top ten selections or they
could both fall out of the first round completely. Because of the uncertainty
surrounding those two guys most mock drafts are all over the place right now.
Below is or WDSU NFL mock draft through the Saints pick at #15.

#1 - Kansas City
Luke Joeckel/OT/Texas A&M
The Chiefs traded for quarterback Alex Smith so drafting a franchise tackle to
protect his blindside makes sense.

#2 - Jacksonville
Bjoern Werner/DE/Florida State
I'd love to send Dion Jordan or Kiki Mingo to the Jags but because the team runs
a 4-3 front those guys really don't fit. Werner is the best 4-3 defender on the
board and a safe pick. I still think Jacksonville could reach for Jordan or
Mingo and use him the way Seattle uses Bruce Irvin.

#3 - Oakland
Geno Smith/QB/West Virginia
This is one of the hardest picks in the draft. I think the Raiders land on Smith
because he's too good to pass up. The comparisons to RGIII will prompt Oakland
to draft Smith and hope he can turn the franchise around. The Raiders have other
needs and University of Florida DT Sharrif Floyd makes better sense for Oakland,
but Smith is the sexier pick.

#4 - Philadelphia
Eric Fisher/OT/Central Michigan
Saints fans remember how bad the Eagles offensive line was last season. The
Philly game may be the only time the Saints defense dominated a team.

#5 - Detroit
Ziggy Ansah/DE-OLB/BYU
A native of Ghana who's made a meteoric rise up draft boards after strong
workouts at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. I had Ansah going to the Saints
at #15 in my first mock draft back in December, no way he falls to #15 now. The
Lions staff coached Ansah at the Senior Bowl and reportedly love him.

#6 - Cleveland
Dee Milliner/CB/Aabama
Milliner ran a scorching time at the combine and is the best player on the board
for the Browns.

#7 - Arizona
Matt Barkley/QB/USC
New head coach Bruce Arians gets his franchise quarterback.

#8 - Buffalo
Dion Jordan/OLB-DE/Oregon
With Geno Smith and Matt Barkley off the board look for the Bills to go with one
of the best pass rushers available and maybe pickup QB Ryan Nessib in the 2nd

#9 - New York Jets
Jarvis Jones/OLB/Georgia
Jets get the best pass rusher in the draft (if he lasts this long).

#10 - Tennessee
Chance Warmack/OG/Alabama
Titans need help on the interior of the offensive line.

#11 - San Diego
Star Lotulelei/NT/Utah
Can't see the Chargers passing on Lotulelei if he's still available at #11.

#12 - Miami
Cordarrelle Patterson/WR/ Tennessee
Dolphins get the WR they need.

#13 - Tampa Bay
Xavier Rhodes/CB/Florida State
Bucs take a player who can help their woeful pass defense.

#14 - Carolina
Sheldon Richardson/DT/Missouri
Panthers get a player who seems like a perfect 4-3 DT.

#15 - New Orleans
Barkevious Mingo/OLB-DE/LSU
This is an extremely hard pick to make. I'd love for Jarvis Jones to fall to the
Saints because I think he's the best pass rusher in the draft. But, even with
his spine condition I don't think 14 teams would be foolish enough to pass on
Jones. I'm not sure Mingo gets to #15 but he seems like the obvious choice if he
gets this far. The LSU OLB/DE is destined for a 3-4 defense, which the Saints
are implementing, had amazing workouts at the NFL combine and is a good kid and
a smart player who'd be a fan favorite from day one.
Mingo draws comparisons to 49ers OLB Aldon Smith.
Mingo's stats at LSU last season and his lack of production against the best
offensive lineman in the SEC worry me, but I feel like playing a different role
that better utilizes his skill set will help him.
All that said, I don't think Mingo is a "slam dunk" pick for New Orleans.
I think the Saints will give strong consideration to the following players at

Alex Okafor/OLB-DE/Texas
I think Okafor would be a tremendous sleeper for the Saints at #15.

Jesse Williams/NT/Alabama
Williams could compete immediately with Broderick Bunkley to be the Saints
starting Nose tackle.

Margus Hunt/DE/SMU
Flying up draft boards, so much size, speed and upside as a 3-4 DE.

Chase Thomas/OLB/Stanford
Forget his bad 40-yard dash time at the combine, Thomas was the leader of a very
good Stanford defense. He can blitz and drop into coverage. I think Thomas will
be a very good player and would assume former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh is
ready to take him in the late first or early second round.

Manti Te'o/ILB/Notre Dame
The Saints are set at one of the two middle linebacker positions with Curtis
Lofton. I liked Te'o in college and still like him now.

Saints 2nd Round:
Saints have no 2nd round draft pick. The franchise lost this selection as part
of the bounty punishment.

Saints 3rd Round:
Jordan Mills/OT/Louisiana Tech

I expect Jermon Bushrod will be back with the Saints but the team still lacks
depth at the position. Mills should be available in the 3rd round.

Saints 4th Round:
B.W. Webb/CB/The College of William & Mary

I had Southeastern Louisiana CB Robert Alford slated for this pick but I think
he'll be gone. Webb has also moved up draft boards after strong weeks at the
Senior Bowl and NFL Combine but I think he'll get to the Saints with this pick.

Saints 5th Round:
Travis Klece/TE/Cincinnati

Saints released Dave Thomas so finding a guy who can compete with Michael
Higgins for the second tight end spot (behind Jimmy Graham) makes sense.

Saints 6th Round
Cooper Taylor/S/Richmond

A small school star with great size and speed. Taylor could seemingly push
Rafael Bush and Isa Abdul Quaddus for a job.

Life Without Steve Spagnuolo

January 25, 2013 - 2 Responses

Let me start by saying that I hate to see Steve Spagnuolo go.

After covering the former Saints defensive coordinator for a year it’s easy to see why he’s very well regarded in NFL circles. The man is classy in every way.  No matter how poorly his defenses played last season he faced the media each and every week and was the definition of professions. 

Unfortunately the old cliche holds true when talking about Steve Spagnuolo’s short tenure with the Saints — good guys finish last.

That said, I do love the fact that Sean Payton is switching from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4 scheme.

Growing up in New Orleans I of course remember the “dome patrol” days and Jim Mora’s great 3-4 defense.  

I, like many, believe that the Saints personnel better fits a 3-4 system.

Blitz specialists Martez Wilson and Junior Galette seem like perfect 3-4 outside linebackers.  Cam Jordan and Akiem Hicks would work perfectly as 3-4 defensive ends.  I look at Hicks and see a Haloti Ngata type skill set.  Jordan played and excelled as a 3-4 end at Cal-Berkeley.   

So, looking at the Saints defense for 2013 — here are some questions and answers:

Who’ll be the new defensive coordinator?

Two guys I’ll be following closely. 

Winston Moss/associated head coach/Green Bay Packers

Corey Chamblin/head coach/Saskatchewan Roughriders 

Moss is a former NFL linebacker who’s helped Don Capers with the Packers 3-4 system.  Chamblin is a young, defensive-orientated coach who seems ready to make a move to the NFL as a coordinator.

Can the Saints find a defensive play maker in the 2013 NFL Draft? Yes!

The Saints have the 15th overall pick in the 1st round of the NFL draft.  Players who may be available at #15 and who’d be nice fits in the Saints new 3-4 system:

Dion Jordan/OLB/Oregon

Barkevious Mingo/OLB/LSU

Jesse Williams/NT/Alabama

It would not surprise me one bit to see Sean Payton and Saints general manager Mickey Loomis trade up in the 1st round in an attempt to land a more highly coveted player.  If the Saints trade up they’ll no doubt select one of two players:

Star Lotulelei/NT/Utah

Jarvis Jones/OLB/Georgia

To land Lotulelei or Jones the Saints would probably have to trade into the top 5 of the draft — which will cost them a ton in compensation — but which may be worth it.  Trading back and picking up additional picks is also an option but considering the Saints have never really gone that route it would be surprising to see them do that.  But, if the Saints trade back and acquire a 2nd round pick two names to remember are:

John Simon/OLB/Ohio State

Alex Okafor/OLB/Texas

Personally, I’d love to see a 3-4 defensive line of Akien Hicks, Star Lotulelei and Cam Jordan.

I my WDSU mock draft I had the Saints taking Ziggy Ansah from BYU.  Ansah is a raw defensive end prospect and a guy I still really like, but most think Ansah would be a better fit in a 4-3 defense — so my mock draft will change. 

Can the Saints upgrade the defense via free agency?

Yes.  Loomis is a master when it comes to working the salary cap.  The Saints have always been able to acquire the talent they want.  Two players who could be on the teams radar when free agency starts:

Isaac Sopoaga/NT/49ers

Paul Kruger/OLB.Ravens

Exciting Times Ahead For The Hornets (Pelicans)

January 17, 2013 - 2 Responses

39 games into the NBA season and the Hornets are taking shape.

I (like many) have always sung the praises of head coach Monty Williams.  Watching him work, listening to him, listening to players and other staffers talk about him — it’s easy to believe he will indeed rebuild this team into something special.

Williams finally has a healthy team and with health comes wins.

The Hornets have won 5 of 6 games and you can see the pieces of the puzzle falling into place. 

That said, no one should expect this team to make a playoff run this season.  Despite the recent victories the team still owns the worst record in the Western Conference (13-26) and is headed back to the NBA draft lottery this summer.

Next season though — watch out!

Seriously, the Hornets (Pelicans) could make the biggest jump in the NBA.

Improving by 15-20 games and making the playoffs is realistic if several things happen:

Eric Gordon needs to stay healthy:  I criticized the team for re-signing Gordon last summer.  After missing 86 of a possible 95 games since arriving as the centerpiece of the Chris Paul trade Gordon has returned and he’s looked very good.  If the Hornets (Pelicans) are going to become a special team Gordon needs to play the final 40 games this season and every game (or 90%) of the games in upcoming seasons. 

Find a small forward:  The Hornets did not pickup the option on Al-Farouq Aminu’s contract.  While Aminu has played well lately (and while he’s only 22 years old) he’s not the answer for this team going forward.  Could Aminu be re-signed and brought back in a backup role?  Perhaps — but what the Hornets need is a starting small forward. 

I truly believe Dell Demps — like many NBA GM’s — is working the phones hard to see if he can find a deal that can land the Hornets a starting small forward.

Logically, two guys on the radar are:

Chandler Parsons (but Houston would need to be blown away to move him)

Danny Granger (due to age/injury and emergence of Paul George — getting Granger is do-able)

Trade Ideas:

Getting Granger:

Trade Idea:

Getting Parsons (this trade via Michael McNamara from (Cleveland also gets NOLA’s 2013 & 2105 1st rd picks in this deal)

Again, getting Parsons is the longest of long shots but worth an attempt.  Granger is a NOLA native and former all star.  Despite being 29 years old — I can see the temptation in bringing Granger home — and I for one, would be all for Granger as a Pelican.  

Now, realizing that a trade like either of the above is probably not going to happen — how do the Hornets improve at the small forward position?  A new small forward will have to come from the draft or free agency.

If the draft lottery has the Hornets picking in the top-3 they’ll no doubt select Shabazz Muhammad from UCLA.  Muhammad reminds me of a bigger, more physical James Harden. 


If the Hornets are picking outside of the top-3 — which seems likely given the teams recent surge and the fact that their schedule is filled with win-able games at the end of the season — than I think they’ll pick Georgetown’s Otto Porter or UNLV’s Anthony Bennett.  Porter is a guy I think Monty Williams will love and who’ll immediately fit with the Hornets (Pelicans).  Every time I watch clips of Porter I see Nicolas Batum.  Personally, I’d like to see Porter in a Pelicans uniform.  


Anthony Bennett from UNLV is another player I think would look great in a brand new Pelicans uniform.  I voted for Bennett 2nd overall in my mid-season NCAA player of the year ballot.  Watching the film of Bennett — He looks agile enough to be a small forward but at 6’8 and 245 pounds it’s uncertain if the Hornets will look at him as a SF or a PF. 

Doug McDermott from Creighton is a guy I love.  I know some question his athleticism and his ability to defend NBA wings — but I think McDermott will succeed in the NBA.  The guy’s intangibles are off the charts and his ability to score can’t be overlooked.  I put McDermott in the Chandler Parsons category.  While Parsons is a smoother athlete with more length — scouts had the same doubts about Parsons as they do McDermott.  If I were Dell Demps/Mickey Loomis and both Muhammad, Porter and Bennett are gone — I’d roll the dice on McDermott (if McDermott leaves school early for the NBA).   

Euro wings Dario Saric and Sergey Karasev are both intriguing on tape — but would they come over immediately and are they ready to play right away?

In free agency — only one NBA small forward truly makes sense to me.  Chase Budinger is a solid, starting caliber small forward that can be acquired this summer on a manageable deal.  Even if the Hornets draft a small forward, signing Budinger is still a good option.    

I’d also pay close attention to Joe Ingles from Australia.  I’ve written about Ingles before and I know he’s on Dell’s radar.  After a breakout performance at the Olympics last summer (which Dell watched closely) several NBA teams are expected to go after the Aussie this summer.  Ingles is currently playing in Barcelona but has a NBA opt-out in his contract this summer.

If the Hornets landed a small forward via a trade (Granger, Parsons) or in free agency (Budinger, Ingles) — look for them to go big in the draft.  Alex Len from Maryland is a guy who’d be a nice fit long-term next to Anthony Davis.  


Nikola Pekovic:

Last summer when the Hornets re-signed Eric Gordon — after Gordon begged the team not to sign him — I wrote that the Hornets should save their money and go all-in on Nikola Pekovic in the summer of 2013.  Pekovic is a restricted free agent, so Minnesota can match any offer he receives.  Pekovic is having an all star caliber season and will cash-in big time this summer.  Several sources tell me the Hornets (Pelicans) will be one of the teams in pursuit of the Montenegrin big man.  Pekovic is the perfect fit next to Anthony Davis.  At 6’11 and a chiseled 290 pounds — Pekovic is a big, bruising center that can score in a variety of ways.  The argument can be made that if Anthony Davis develops as expected that Robin Lopez is just fine starting next to him — which I agree with — but If the Hornets (Pelicans) can get a guy like Pekovic — WOW!

Pickup assets: Look for Dell Demps to try and trade Al-Farouq Aminu and Roger Mason Jr. to contenders for draft picks this summer.  Dell will probably only get 2nd round picks for those guys but 2nd round guys can work out.  Thornton, Big Baby, Ariza, Carl Landry, Ginobili — all 2nd rounders.  If Dell can land a late 1st round pick for Aminu — he’s done a great job.  (remember the names: Nate Wolters from South Dakota State and AJ Matthews from Farmingdale State or Euro’s Mouhammadou Jaiteh from France and Nemanja Nedovic from Serbia if Hornets acquire 2nd round picks).

So, what will happen as we watch the Hornets (Pelicans) rebuild?  So many scenarios — so much fun to talk about and write about.

Doesn’t a jumbo starting lineup of Vasquez, Gordon, Bennett, Davis and Pekovic (with Anderson & Smith & an improved Rivers first off the bench) kinda excite you? 

To view amazing video analysis of the college players the Hornets (Pelicans) could select this summer click on the links below:

Otto Porter

Anthony Bennett

Alex Len

Video of possible 2nd Round Draft Picks:

Mouhammadou Jaiteh

Nemanja Nedovic







2013 Saints Mock Draft Version 1.0

December 14, 2012 - One Response

With a 5-8 overall record, the Saints are playing for pride as they close out the 2012 season.

Normally, I wait until the annual Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama to unveil my first mock draft.  But because the Saints focus is now on next season, why wait!

After watching the Saints struggle in all phases of the game this season it’s hard to put a finger on what position they’ll target in the 1st round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Because of the Saints defensive woes this season — coupled with the age and high salaries of Will Smith, Jon Vilma and Sederick Ellis, all of whom I expect to be gone in 2013 — I believe that the Saints will shake-up the defensive front seven.  Using their 1st round draft pick to find a play-maker who can get the QB will be priority number #1.

An area like offensive tackle or even cornerback could also be address but look for the Saints (who’ll more than likely be selecting anywhere between #9 & #16 in the 1st round) to find a DE, DT or LB in the first round.

The guy I like for the Saints in the 1st round:

Saints 2013 1st Round Draft Pick:

Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah/DE/BYU

6’6, 270 lbs.

I’ll get a better look at Ansah at the Senior Bowl in Mobile — but right now he’s the guy who intrigues me the most.

A former track athlete from Ghana, Ansah hadn’t even seen a football game until he came to the United States.  Ansah has size and speed and could emerge as a star pass-rusher in Steve Spagnuolo’s system (think Jason Pierre-Paul with the NY Giants).  Adding a player like Ansah and putting him on the D-line with players like Akiem Hicks and Cam Jordan could turn a Saints weakness into a strength.

Most people will tell me Ansah is a “reach” — I think those people are wrong.  Like most, I like Bjoern Werner from Florida State more than any other 4-3 defensive end in the 2013 draft, but I can’t see him falling past the top 7 picks.

I also like LSU’s Sam Montgomery but think Ansah will emerge as a better pass-rusher.

Many draft experts have University of Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan as the Saints 2013 1st round draft pick — but Jordan seems more like a 3-4 OLB to me.

So, Ansah is my guy!

NO 2nd ROUND DRAFT PICK (forfeited as part of bounty punishment)

Saints 2013 3rd Round Draft Pick:

David Bass/DE/Missouri Western State University

6’5, 270 lbs.

Yes, I have the Saints taking two project defensive ends with their first two selections in the 2013 NFL Draft.  I’ve poured over youtube video and read every clip I could find on both of these guys and I like them both.  One or both of these guys could emerge as the defensive version of Jimmy Graham.  Ansah & Bass have the size to be 4-3 DE’s and the upside to provide the rush Steve Spagnuolo needs from the DE’s.

Rounds 4-7 coming in January.

Why The Hornets Need To Trade Greivis Vasquez ASAP

December 6, 2012 - 3 Responses

Let me start by saying that I love everything about Greivis Vasquez as a basketball player.  He’s a high character, hard-working team leader who does everything well.  He’s also a young player on a good contract — which all teams need to have to succeed.

My reason for wanting the Hornets to trade Vasquez is twofold: 

1st: Vasquez has trade value.  Playoff bound teams can use a versatile combo guard like Vasquez off the bench as they make a post season run.  Vasquez would fit perfectly in Boston, Chicago or Dallas. Find the right trade partner and Vasquez could be parlayed into a low lottery pick or mid-first round selection in the 2013 NBA draft.

2nd: The success Vasquez is having , resulting in more minutes for him, is hindering Austin Rivers.  The Hornets drafted Austin Rivers to play point guard.  Rivers and the team made no secret of this fact.  Right now though, Rivers is the Hornets backup shooting guard.  Rivers NBA growth is being stunted.  Unlike most, I’m a huge Austin Rivers fan.  I was touting Rivers as the Hornets point guard of the future as long ago as last January.  Deep down I believe Austin has the mental makeup and talent to lead a team as a starting point guard.  Am I right?  Who knows!  The Hornets reluctance to start Austin at the point guard position only sets the team back further.  Former Saints head coach Jim Mora is the co-host of our WDSU Saints on 6 specials — and while comparing football to basketball is apples to oranges — Mora does make a great point about young star players.  When Mora drafted Peyton Manning in 1998 he said their was no doubt in his mind he was starting him from day #1.  He said Peyton learned so much in his rookie season — despite the team going 3-13 and Peyton leading the NFL in interceptions.  The point coach Mora makes about Peyton Manning has me thinking about Rivers.  The Hornets are in full blown rebuild mode.  So why not throw Rivers out there and see what he can do playing 30-35 minutes a night at point guard?  The Hornets have lost 7 games at home this season by an average of 19 points — so how much worse would the team be playing Austin Rivers at point guard?  Look at Oklahoma City, they drafted Russell Westbrook in 2008 — despite many doubters saying he was nothing more than a combo guard off the bench, a lock-down defender who wouldn’t be able to play the point.  OKC started Westbrook in 64 games as a rookie.  They had a vision and they refused to be distracted by naysayers.  As a rookie, with Westbrook as the point guard, the Thunder opened the season 0-12, fired their head coach and then went 1-12.  Westbrook opened his rookie campaign 1-24.  But OKC stuck with him and the Thunder discovered they had a star. 

The Hornets say they’re rebuilding but playing Greivis Vasquez and Brian Roberts at the point guard position says they are trying to win now.  Trying to win now with players most would consider backups is a futile effort — start Rivers at the point guard position and see what you’ve got going forward.  The easiest way to make Rivers a starter — and go get better in the long term with a draft pick — is to trade Greivis Vasquez. 

One final point about Rivers — I remember when the Hornets traded a 1st round pick for Jerryd Bayless.  Bayless was a player Monty Williams was familiar with because both were together in Portland.  After a month as Chris Paul’s backup the Hornets traded Bayless to Toronto for Jarrett Jack.  Monty said Bayless needed to be moved because he’s “more of a starting point guard who’d be more successful as a starter.”  I feel the same way about Rivers.  Rivers has no role right now — he’s lost in the Hornets rotation as a backup shooting guard.  His role needs to be redefined.   Again, we won’t know what Rivers is or if he’ll become something special until he gets the opportunity to start.


I love the new name of the franchise.  Pelicans is tremendous.  For those who hate it — saying it’s nor ferocious enough — realize names like Penguins and Dolphins work for franchises in other pro sports.

2013 NBA Free Agency:  Joe Ingles — remember his name!  After a breakout performance at the 2012 London Olympics, the Aussie wing has been doing very well in Spain.  Ingles in 24 years old and will have several NBA teams beating down his doors.  The Hornets didn’t pickup Al-Farouq Aminu’s contract option and the team has no depth at small forward.  The Hornets also have money to spent — they could offer Ingles a full mid-level exception deal.   

2013 NBA Draft:

Indiana center Cody Zeller, Maryland center Alex Len and Georgetown small forward Otto Porter all fill needs depending on where in the top 10 the Hornets are selecting.

If the Hornets pickup an additional pick — in late lottery or mid-first round — I love Doug McDermott from Creighton.  




AP Men’s Basketball Top 25 For 12/03/12

December 3, 2012 - One Response
1. Indiana 
2. Michigan
3. Duke
4. Louisville
5. Florida
6. Arizona
7. Ohio State 
8. Syracuse
9. Cincinnati
10. Kentucky
11. Kansas
12. Gonzaga
13. N.C. State
14. Notre Dame
15. Michigan State
16. North Carolina
17. Missouri
18. Creighton
19. San Diego State
20. Wichita State
21. Georgetown
22. Illinois
23. Colorado
24. Alabama
25. LSU

Who’ll Replace Sean Payton?

November 23, 2012 - 2 Responses

Okay, so that headline is a little sensationalized.

It should read — who’ll replace Sean Payton…if he actually leaves for the Cowboys?

Look, I truly believe Sean Payton is remaining in New Orleans.  I think he’ll agree to a contract extension before the new year. 

If I had to put odds on Payton remaining with the organization he turned into a winner — I’d put those odds at 98%.

I think Payton is in an amazing situation in New Orleans.  He’s one of the top paid coaches in the NFL, he’s got a locker room full of talented players who love him, a future Hall of Fame quarterback at the top of the career, a GM who allows him to call the shots about football related matters and a supportive owner who doesn’t meddle into football ops.

All that said, Payton is a family man, and his two children reside full-time in Dallas — so the 2% chance he bolts NOLA for Big-D is something Saints fans should (and are) paying close attention to.

So, let’s talk doomsday scenarios.  If Dallas bombs out and misses the playoffs for a 3rd consecutive season and if Cowboys owner Jerry Jones fires coach Jason Garrett and if Sean Payton decides to return to Texas to coach America’s Team and to be closer to his children — what would the Saints do?

How do you replace the guy that turned around one of the worst franchises in NFL history?

The simple answer is — Payton is irreplaceable.  But, if the Saints ever had to move on without Payton, who would owner Tom Benson hire?

1. Joe Vitt:

Since Vitt returned from his suspension the Saints are playing very well.  If Payton left for Dallas — and he didn’t take Vitt with him — Vitt makes the most sense to become the Saints head coach.  The Saints are built to win, so keeping things intact is important.  Vitt can run the team — just as he’s been doing in Payton’s absence and the Saints top assistants can continue to work with their respective units.  Hiring Vitt keeps the organization on the winning track it’s been on.  

2. Steve Spagunolo:

After covering Spags this season it’s easy to see why he was hired as the St. Louis Rams head coach.  He’s a knowledgeable, personable, smart, well-respected coach.  Promoting Spags changes the dynamic of the Saints a bit — Spags doesn’t come with all the machismo and bravado of Payton.  Spagnuolo reminds me more of Tom Coughlin and Tony Dungy — as compared to Payton being like Jon Gruden and Bill Parcells.  Having learned from one stint as a head coach — I believe Spags would be a good choice for Saints head coach if Payton left for the Cowboys. 

3 & 4: Jon Gruden or Jay Gruden:

Former Raiders and Bucs coach Jon Gruden is a friend of the New Orleans organization and if you watch him at all on ESPN — a true fan of Drew Brees and the Saints.  I think Tom Benson’s first call would be to Jon Gruden to see if he wanted to replace his friend Sean Payton. I also think Gruden would have interest in the job.  In all honesty, if Payton left and Gruden were interested I think he should be the first choice.  As I stated earlier, the Saints are built to win — so Gruden’s intensity, work ethic and knowledge may be just what this organization needs to remain a Super Bowl contender.  That said, I think Jay Gruden may be the better fit for the Saints.  Like Payton 6 years ago, Jay Gruden is a tremendous offensive mind who’s paid his dues coming up through the Arena League and the United Football League.  Jay Gruden passed on the opportunity to interview for head coaching positions in Jacksonville and St. Louis last season.  If the Saints approached Jay Gruden, he’d bolt Cincy as offensive coordinator.

5. Winston Moss:

A former Saints assistant coach under Jim Haslett — Moss has served as Mike McCarthy’s assistant head coach in Green Bay since 2007.  McCarthy of course knew Moss from NOLA because he too was on Jim Haslett’s staff.  I’m not sure of the relationship between Mickey Loomis and Moss — but if it’s a good one this could be an easy decision.  Moss would take over an offensive situation similar to what’s he’s used to in Green Bay — and perhaps Moss could help Steve Spagnuolo breathe life into a defense that’s been the Saints Achilles heel each of the past three seasons. 

In the end, I think the 20 minutes it took me to write this blog were a total waste of time because I think Sean Payton will be coaching the Saints for many years to come.  But, if he goes, you now have a few names to toss around.


I Think I Like A Contract Extension For Hornets General Manager Dell Demps

November 17, 2012 - 2 Responses

Let me start by saying that I truly like Dell Demps.

He and I have had several great talks about the NBA and about obscure foreign players.

I’m also pretty sure I like the fact that Demps got a contract extension from new Hornets owner Tom Benson today — the reason: Demps pros outweigh his cons.

Look, no professional sports executive is perfect — and Demps is still very much a work in progress — but now that the Hornets have stability I believe Demps best years are ahead of him.

When looking at Dell Demps you’ve got to break his Hornets career into two categories — before Tom Benson (BTB) and after Tom Benson (ATB).

Demps took over in 2010 at a very difficult time.  Demps started with a disgruntled star (Chris Paul) and a broke owner (George Shinn) who’d – in an unprecedented move – sell his franchise back to the NBA.

The moves Demps made BTB were aimed at keeping Chris Paul happy and doing everything possible to keep the Hornets in playoff contention.  Making sure the team won helped keep the franchise profitable.

The Bad (Before Tom Benson):

Demps first big move as GM was trading Darren Collison and James Posey (in a 3-team deal) for Trevor Ariza.  Ariza was a nice cog in the Hornets playoff run against the Lakers and the move made CP3 happy — but the move lacked foresight.  Demps should have realized Paul was never going to stay in NOLA and kept Collison.  Collison has since helped the Indiana Pacers make a nice playoff run and he’s currently the starting PG for the Dallas Mavericks averaging 14 points and 7 assists per game.

Later in his first season Demps traded local product Marcus Thornton to Sacramento for Carl Landry.  Hornets insiders say Paul never cared for Thornton and as a defensive-minded coach I can guarantee Monty Williams wasn’t crying when Thornton got shipped out.  But Marcus Thornton can play.  I think Demps and Williams should have worked harder to keep the former LSU Tiger.  To me, Thornton is an electric scorer off the bench — a guy who can change a game if he’s hot — he was also young and on a good contract.  Trading good young players on good contracts is never advised in the NBA — and Demps did it twice with the Collison and Thornton deals.

Dell traded the Hornets 2011 1st round draft pick.  The pick was traded for Jerryd Bayless — but Bayless was eventually moved for Jarrett Jack.  Small market NBA teams can’t trade 1st round draft picks.  Demps came from San Antonio so he knows this.  Small market NBA teams have to develop players.  No NBA team does a better job of drafting and developing than the Spurs.  Demps made a mistake moving that 1st round pick.

Demps first draft — in 2011 — he was totally handcuffed.  The NBA owned the team and sold the Hornets pick (Josh Harrellson) to the New York Knicks to get the Hornets franchise some much needed cash.

The “first” Chris Paul trade with the Houston Rockets and LA Lakers in December of last year was reportedly Dell Demps deal.  Had the NBA allowed the deal to go through the Hornets would have labored into 7th or 8th place in the Western Conference (and never landed Anthony Davis) and been stuck with the bad contracts of Luis Scola and Kevin Martin.  Sure, the Hornets would have gotten Goran Dragic in a deal but as an unrestricted free agent their was no guarantee he’d have re-signed.  The NBA made the smart move and nixed Demps deal.

My final Demps (Before Tom Benson) fail is the 2012 NBA trade deadline.  Demps failed to move Chris Kaman or Carl Landry — despite knowing neither would be back with the team this season.  Every NBA team has stories of 2nd round picks that become starters — Demps should have at least gotten 2nd round picks

The best move Demps made prior to Tom Benson taking over was trading Darius Songaila and Craig Brackens to Philly for Jason Smith and Willie Green.  Green is gone but Smith has emerged as a team leader and one of Monty’s most valuable players off the bench.  Some people tell me “Dell traded for Greivis Vasquez and he’s a solid player.”  That’s true, but Quincy Pondexter is the player who was traded for Vasquez and he’s found a nice role off the bench for a very good (undefeated) Memphis team — so the Vasquez/Pondexter deal is a push.

Now, all that said — Demps has done some nice work since Tom Benson bought the franchise and Demps has been allowed to do his job.

The Good (After Tom Benson):

Dumping Trevor Ariza & Emeka Okafor was a genius move.  The Hornets had to eat the final year of Rashard Lewis’ terrible contract but Demps saved $21 million next year when he dumped Ariza/Okafor onto the Wizards.

Signing Ryan Anderson.  I’ve been a fan of Anderson since former UNO coach Joe Pasternack told me about him.  Pasternack came from Cal and coached Anderson in Berkeley.  Anderson is a quality player and true professional who makes the Hornets better on the floor and in the locker room — his contract is also manageable.

Signing Robin Lopez — while Lopez will never be his twin brother (Nets center Brook Lopez) — Robin is a good player on a good contract.

I also like the selection of Austin Rivers with the 10th pick in the 2012 NBA draft.  Demps can’t get credit for #1 pick Anthony Davis — Demps had nothing to do with the ping pong balls falling the Hornets way in the NBA Draft Lottery.  I know Rivers has struggled at times but I’m a believer — so in my opinion — this is a good move for Demps.

Demps has also positioned the Hornets for the future.  The team has only $34 million dollars committed to salary for next season.  The Hornets don’t have to use the king’s ransom they’ll have but they can if the right player (or deal) comes along.

Demps has made one big mistake since Tom Benson became owner.  Demps urged Benson to match the Phoenix Suns offer to restricted free agent Eric Gordon.  Four years, $58 million fully guaranteed.

Right now, Demps, Hornets Executive GM Mickey Loomis and Benson are being patient with Gordon and saying and doing all the right things.  Hopefully their patience pays off and Gordon returns to be a all-star type player and leader.

I don’t think Gordon will ever be the guy the Hornets envision.

As I wrote over and over this summer the Hornets would have been better off moving on without  Gordon. The Hornets should have made an offer to restricted free agent Brook Lopez — or unrestricted free agent Goran Dragic — or just saved their money.

Gordon’s absence rushes the development of Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers.  Gordon’s absence means Monty Williams has no go-to guy at the end of games.  Gordon’s absence makes fans question “what’s going on with this franchise!!!”

All said, I truly believe Dell Demps deserved a contract extension.  He deserves a fair chance to build a team.  Dell is a good man and a good NBA executive who understands the league.

I think Dell can become a great GM.  Look, Dell’s the guy who — while with San Antonio — scouted and drafted foreign players such as Goran Dragic, Tiago Splitter and Nando deColo.  He found sleepers like George Hill from IUPUI.  He’s credited with helping develop Tony Parker.  Demps has got to get back to his roots — stockpiling picks, scouting and drafting European players, building a team through the draft and discovering quality players on the way up instead of on the way down.  The next 10 months are crucial for Dell.  The moves Dell makes at the trade deadline, the player (s) he drafts next summer (likely in the top 10) and any free agent signings could define his tenure.

{Sidebar: One guy I think Demps has his eye on, and for good reason: Joe Ingles — a 25 year old SG/SF from Australia currently playing in Spain.  Ingles has an NBA opt-out next summer and he could be the reason the Hornets didn’t pickup Al-Farouq Aminu’s option.}

So — good luck Dell — I like the fact that you got a contract extension — I Think.

Hornets (VERY EARLY) 2013 Mock Draft Projection

November 15, 2012 - 2 Responses

ESPN’s Chad Ford ranks his top 100 prospects for the 2013 NBA Draft.  Player I like for the Hornets is #9 — and doesn’t Steven Adams just sound like a Monty Williams player?

Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
Top 100 Rank: 9

Adams is a tough, physical big man who is still learning the nuances of the American game. The Kiwi import is earning big minutes from Jamie Dixon right away and already looks like he could step in and play defense in the NBA. His defense alone might get him drafted in the lottery. If he can show some offensive game as well, he’s got the talent to be a top-10 pick.