ESPN’s John Hollinger has come up with what I believe is a great deal to help the Hornets get under the NBA luxury tax and a trade that actually helps them push toward the playoffs.
Nocioni and cap space for bad contracts and Darren Collison? SURE!!!!! I don’t like giving up a pick becuase the Hornets could be in the lottery but Collison can be replaced as a back-up.
New Orleans Hornets, $3.33 million over
The Hornets may make the playoffs despite their slow start, but that doesn’t change their terrible economics. The Hornets aren’t making much bank and are unlikely to sign off on what amounts to $10 million in expenses ($3 million in salary, $3 million in luxury tax, $4 million in foregone distributions) just to give themselves a 50-50 chance of making the playoffs as L.A.’s Round 1 punching bag.
New Orleans has added incentive because the Hornets already are over next year’s projected luxury-tax line by several million dollars. (Orlando, the Lakers, Denver and Dallas are the only other four teams that are certain to be over, though several other clubs dance perilously close to the line.) Because of this, some wonder if the Hornets will be forced to deal David West, but I doubt it will come to that.
As luck would have it, the Sacramento Kings are $4.15 million under the cap at the moment, making them an obvious trade partner. The two sides could set some kind of record for dead money included in a deal, actually, if the Kings swapped Kenny Thomas and Andres Nocioni to the Hornets for Darius Songaila, James Posey, Morris Peterson and Hilton Armstrong.
Such a deal would likely cost the Hornets cash and a first-rounder, too, since the Kings would be eating into their potential 2010 cap space. In fact, the Kings might turn the screws and demand that promising point guard Darren Collison be part of the swap. Nonetheless, that might be worth it for New Orleans since it would get them under next year’s tax as well as this year’s — much as it made sense for Utah to deal Maynor recently.
Other variations on this deal also work. For instance, replace Nocioni with Beno Udrih and Armstrong with Devin Brown and the Hornets save just as much this year, albeit less next year. Subtracting Thomas and Posey from the deal also works. In all of these scenarios, incidentally, the four-for-two or three-for-one nature of the deal would require Sacramento to cut Sean May. But I presume they’d get over it quickly.
The point is that the Hornets have an obvious incentive to rent the Kings’ cap space, and the Kings could use some of what the Hornets have to offer (cash, a pick, potential relief from the 2011-12 money owed to either Nocioni or Udrih). It cuts into Sacramento’s cap room for next summer by about $3 million (depending on the exact parameters), but considering that draft picks normally cost $3 million, they’d get cash and a couple of useful players out of it. And since they weren’t going to be in the LeBron sweepstakes anyway, it works out nicely on their end, too.
After the Hornets fired Byron Scott earlier this season, GM Jeff Bower assumed the role of head coach.
But it looks like the Hornets might be targeting other candidates after the season. ESPN’s Marc Stein reports one NBA executive has told him Avery Johnson has his “name written all over it,” but Stein isn’t so sure.
“We’ll see,” he writes. “What the exec couldn’t answer is whether the Hornets will be willing to spend on a coach in the offseason after spending the regular season obsessed with shaving $3.3 million off the current payroll to get under the luxury-tax threshold. There are other unanswered questions, too, including whether Bower would return to his GM-only status in that scenario.”
One thing to throw into the mix here is that Johnson was born in New Orleans, and played college hoops at Southern University in Baton Rouge, so he’s certainly familiar with the local scenery.
If a coach in Johnson’s price range is what the Hornets are looking for, there’s at least some possibility they could take a peek at George Karl, as it’s believed he could be seeking another team if things head south in Denver this season.