With NBA free agency starting this week it’s time for Hornets Coach Byron Scott and General Manager Jeff Bower to make arguably their most important deals since they took the reigns of this franchise.
In less than 12 months the Hornets have gone from darlings of the NBA…a team many predicted would push the Lakers for suprememcy in the Western Conference…to a club that experts are now saying will be lucky to finish in the 6th, 7th or 8th playoff spot in the west.
The Hornets age, injuries, lack of consistency, failure to develop young players and absymal performance against Denver in the post season are the reasons people are questioning this club.
Personally, I’m kind of torn. I still see glimpses of the team that finished 2nd in the Western Conference and nearly advanced to the conference finals in 2008…but it’s hard to overlook how bad certain players played and how bad the team looked in the second half of 2009.
So how does this team get better?
The draft was a good start. Getting UCLA point guard Darren Collison will take some of the burden off Chris Paul. 2nd round pick Marcus Thornton should provide offensive punch off the bench.
But two rookies alone ain’t gonna get it done…so how do the cash strapped Hornets…a team over the dreaded NBA luxury tax for 2009-2010 get better and make a deep run into the post season?
They’re certainly not going to sign Ron Artest, Shawn Marion or Carlos Boozer…..or trade for a guy like Corey Maggette. I’d love for the team to go after a big time all star but realistically it’s not going to happen. I’ll hope for a miracle but I won’t be waiting for Byron Scott and Jeff Bower to deliver one.
The philospohy for f ixing this team may sound easy…but it’s not: make smart, forward-thinking moves.
Organizations like San Antonio always seem to be one step in front of everyone else. They draft unknown European players that turn into superstars (Parker, Ginobili), they sign cheap free agents that produce big (Mason Jr.), and they develop young players (Hill, Bonner).
The Hornets seem to make moves that are one step behind everyone else. Moves that show no vision…that make people yawn! Afraid to be visionaries who set the bar the Hornets have settled for drafting players like Hilton Armstrong and Julian Wright and signing free agents like James Posey and Morris Peterson. All safe, predictable moves but moves that have not paid off for the organization.
So this offseason I beg the Hornets heirarchy to make bold moves that help this team on the court! (a bold draft move would have been taking French combo guard Nando De Colo instead of Marcus Thornton in the 2nd round like I suggested….but the Spurs grabbed De Colo instead).
So what in my opinion are some bold moves ?
Bold Move #1:
Trade Peja Stojakovic to the Los Angeles Clippers for Marcus Camby.
The Clippers have too many front court players and need to make a move. On top of Camby the Clips also have Chris Kaman, Zach Randolph and super draft pick Blake Griffin. Camby is the most likely to be moved.
Camby would be a great fit for the rebounding-challenged Hornets plus he’s got an expiring contract.
Peja lends veteran leadership and outside shooting to a team that was relying heavily on guys like Steve Novak to knock down clutch 3’s last season.
This deal makes too much sense for each team not to do it!
Bold Move #2:
Sign restricted free agent Pops Mensah-Bonsu away from the Toronto Raptors.
Mensah-Bonsu is a super athletic but undersized center who could provide the Hornets with energy off the bench. Born in London, Mensah-Bonsu led The George Washinton University to the NCAA torunament a few years ago. The Toronto Raptors would probably not match a 2 year $4 million dollar offer to the 25 year old Mensah-Bonsu.
Bold Move #3:
Trade Julian Wright To Phoenix For Matt Barnes.
Barnes is the player Wright is supposed to be. A guy who can play shooting guard, small forward or power forward….a player who slashes but can also knock down a jumper and a guy who’s tough on defense. I loved Matt Barnes in the post season when I saw him play for Golden State a few years back and think he’d be a great addition for the Hornets. Barnes is the best bargain in the NBA! The Suns are in full rebuild mode and in Wright they’d get a young athletic player with upside.
Bold Move #4:
Trade Hilton Armstrong to the Milaukee Bucks for restricted free agent Ersan Ilyasova.
Ilyasova was at one time considered the best prospect in Europe. He’s still only 21 and looking for a return to the NBA. Google his name….every scout can’t be wrong…the guy has got ability and probably just needed to mature. With Andrew Bogut coming off an injury and Milwaukee refusing to re-sign free agent Charlie Villanueva the Bucks could use front court depth and Hilton Armstrong could use a change of scenery.
Bold Move #5:
Trade Tyson Chandler & Devin Brown to Phoenix for Ben Wallace.
Chandler cannot return to the Hornets. The team traded him last February only to see the deal with Oklahoma City recinded. Last week it was reported the Hornets were close to moving Tyson to Cleveland….that deal fell through when Shaq was traded to the Cavs.
Byron Scott can say all he wants that trade rumors don’t affect a player and that Tyson will be back….but Scott is wrong. Bridges have been burned between TC and the Hornets and those bridges will not be repaired.
Chandler, if healthy, gives the Suns an athletic big man to help rebuild around…Devin Brown makes the deal work money-wise.
The Hornets get Big Ben’s bad contract and workout some type of retirement buy-out for the former all star.
Bold Move #6:
Sign restricted free agent Glen Davis away from Boston at any cost!!!
I know the Hornets are cash strapped and over the luxury tax but this player is worth the money. It’s expected Davis will get a contract valued at between $3-$5 million annually. The Hornets should be the team that signs him to an offer sheet. The Celtics probably will not match.
Davis gives the Hornets a player that can back up David West and perhaps even start at center. A local product who’ll be a larger than life fan favorite and a guy who’s battle tested in the post season.
Bold Move #7:
Sign free agents Sean Marks and Robert Swift.
Marks played well enough in the playoffs last season for the Hornets to earn another contract with the club (and that contract will be for the veteran minimum). Swift is a former lottery pick who will only get the veteran minimum salary after several serious injuries. Swift is just 23 years old so if he recovers he could become a solid back-up player and a steal for the bargain hunting Hornets.
Fletcher’s 2009-2010 Hornets Roster:
1. Chris Paul (Darren Collison, Antonio Daniels)
2. Rasual Butler (Marcus Thornton, Morris Peterson)
3. Matt Barnes or Irsan Ilyasova (James Posey)
4. David West (Glen Davis, Sean Marks)
5. Marcus Camby (Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Robert Swift)
I think this roster makes the Hornets a much better team. They’re no longer an army of two (CP3 and D-West). This roster gives the team balance and depth.
Also, the Hornets get tremendous salary flexibility after this season. The contracts of Wallace, Camby, Daniels and Butler come off the books (over $25 million total) allowing the Hornets to possibly pursue one of the big name free agents who’ll hit the market in 2010.