Archive for June, 2010

The Truth About Hornets Free Agency
June 29, 2010

Forget most of what you’ve heard about 2010 Hornets free agency.

Lots of the information you’re hearing is incorrect.  Sadly, some of the people talking about free agency do not understand the Hornets situation.

Despite trading Morris Peterson and his bloated contract to Oklahoma City the Hornets will still be up against (but not over) the dreaded NBA luxury tax and will not be able to be serious players in free agency.

Forget the top tier of free agents….the Hornets can’t even shop from the tier two list of players.  Guys like Rudy Gay and David Lee will command salaries the Hornets cannot afford.  Mid-level exception players (guys like Brad Miller & Mike Miller) are also not really options because the MLE counts against the luxury tax and the Hornets can’t have that.

Most sign-and-trade deals for big name players are also out.  The only way a sign and trade would work is if someone fell in love with Darren Collison and would be willing to take the contract of Peja Stojakovic (or Emeka Okafor) to make a deal work for a big time player.  Why would any rational team do that?????  No one loves Collison that much. 

But hope is not all lost for the Hornets.  General Manager Jeff Bower is a creative guy…..and visionary, creative deals can land the Hornets a player or two. 

Realistic Deal #1:

  • Hornets receive Josh Childress
  • Hawks receive James Posey

Childress has been playing in Greece and Atlanta controls his rights if/when he returns.  Childress would sign the full MLE with Atlanta and then be traded one-for-one for James Posey.  Childress would start at shooting guard for the Hornets and Marcus Thornton would come off the bench.  Posey provides the Hawks solid defense and clutch shooting.

***Posey can also be dealt one-for-one for Shannon Brown.  Brown informed the Lakers he will opt out of his contract.  Brown is a guy who’s probably going to receive the full MLE.  I like Childress more but Brown is also a quality SG who could start for the Hornets.  Posey would fit right in with LA as they push for a three-pete.

Creative Deal #2:

  • Hornets receive the rights to Joel Freeland
  • Blazers receive Julian Wright

The Hornets need help in the paint and Freeland (a center from England who’s playing in Spain but who’s got a managable buyout) is a big man with tons of upside.  Wright is young and talented and gets a fresh start with a new team.

Creative Deal #3:

  • Hornets receive Hedo Turkoglu
  • Raptors receive Emeka Okafor

This deal is a wash as far as money and length of contract.  Both players are due 50 million dollars total through the 2013-2014 season.  Okafor goes to Toronto…in essence replacing Chris Bosh and playing along side Andrea Bargnani.  Turkoglu comes to New Orleans and can start at SG or SF.  I’m sure people are saying “if you trade Okafor who plays center for the Hornets?”  We’re gonna get to that…but realize that in crunch time last season it was Darius Songaila, not Okafor, on the floor playing center for the Hornets. 

Free Agent Big Men:

  • The Hornets will need to be visionaries and find guys that are on the cusp of being solid NBA big men (kind of like they did in 2004 when they signed Chris Andersen). 
  • Any of these three guys could be solid (low risk, high reward) pickups: Johan Petro, Ian Mahinmi & Louis Amundson. 

Fletcher’s 2010-2011 Hornets:

(This team is still under the luxury tax, has more talent, a nice mixture of youth and veteran talent and is still going to be unshackeled financially when Peja and Songaila become free agents next summer)

Starters:

Chris Paul

Josh Childress

Hedo Turkoglu

David West

Center: A platoon of Joel Freeland, Darius Songaila, Aaron Grey and two of the three free agent big men I listed above.  Basically, let the best guys play at this position!!!!!

Bench:

Darren Collison

Marcus Thornton

Peja Stojakovic

Quincy Pondexter

Craig Brackins

Brackins sidebar: I’ve got high hopes for Brackins.  I said the Hornets would draft him if they traded down and they did.  I really believe this guy could be a very solid offensive player as a rookie.

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Grading The Hornets Draft
June 25, 2010

Overall Grade: B-

Fast Facts From The Draft:

  • Hornets Trade 11th overall pick and veteran player for 21st & 26th selections in 1st round of 2010 NBA draft.
  • Hornets Get PF Craig Brackins (#21) & SF Quincy Pondexter (#26)
  • Hornets Trade Morris Peterson & rights to Cole Aldrich (11th Pick) to Oklahoma City Thunder.
  • Hornets get under the dreaded NBA luxury tax…saving about 6.6 million dollars by making the trade.

Positives:

  • Brackins (from Iowa State) and Pondexter (from Univ. of Washington) are both solid, polished college players who’ll join Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton to give the Hornets youth and managable salaries at 4 positions.
  • Depth in the front court was something the Hornets needed to address and did so by taking Brackins whom one expert called a “draft sleeper.”
  • The Hornets rid themselves of one of the huge salaries being paid to an underproductive veteran (Morris Peterson).

Negatives:

  • Unless Pondexter surprises everyone it would seem the Hornets did not get an impact player who can push for a starting position.  Nice backups but no starter.  Luke Babbitt and Xavier Henry were both available at #11 and both have the ability to come in and be impact players for the Hornets.  One expert even called Henry “an all-star in two years.”
  • The Hornets still have no money to spend in free agency.  Shedding $6.6 million is great but considering the Hornets were about $4.5 million over the luxury tax going into the 2010-2011 season this move merely gets them just under the tax and therefore means the Hornets are unable to get an impact player in free agency.
  • Last week new head coach Monty Williams said “we need shooters.”  But the Hornets did not draft a shooter.  The team had an opportunity to select Xavier University shooting guard Jordan Crawford or University of Maryland combo guard Greivis Vasquez with the 26th choice but passed.  The knock on Pondexter is that he can’t shoot.
  • The Hornets have no depth in the backcourt.  The team now has Chris Paul and Marcus Thornton as starters and Darren Collison as a backup combo guard…and that’s it.  They need to get another shooter!!!

Upcoming Moves:

  • Look for Julian Wright to be dealt to Portland for Rudy Fernandez.  Fernandez is a shooter who wants out of Portland and who’ll be reunited with his former coach (Monty Williams) in New Orleans.  Fernandez can start at shooting guard or come off the bench behind Marcus Thornton. Fernandez could also play small forward in smaller rotations.  Wright needs a fresh start and since his game is very similiar to Quincy Pondexter I can’t see both of those guys staying with the Hornets.
  • Nets trade Yi Jianlian and  Keyon Dooling to the Hornets for James Posey and Julian Wright.  Dooling has a non-guaranteed contract and could be cut immediately saving the Hornets 3.7 million dollars.  The Nets drafted Derrick Favors and will start him at power forward meaning less minutes for Yi.  Yi could perhaps start for the Hornets at the small forward position…he’d also bring the Hornets great international exposure.  The Nets get a classy pro in Posey and a player who could still thrive in a new system (Wright).
  • Sign Ryan Wittman and Omar Samhan.  Wittman was one of the best shooters in college last season and helped lead Cornell to a great run in the NCAA tournament.  Wittman did not get drafted.  Samhan also did not get drafted but was super productive at St. Mary’s College and led the Gaels to a nice run in the NCAA tourney. 

Trade David West?!?!?!?!? (Posey Too!)
June 19, 2010

I almost can’t believe I wrote the headline to this blog.

TRADE DAVID WEST!

I love David West and truly believe that’s he’s a guy a franchise needs to be successful.  Hard nosed, classy, smart.

That being said, West and Emeka Okafor didn’t exactly gel on the court last season.  Assuming Okafor’s contract is immovable (which it is)….should the Hornets consider shopping West for pieces that can better fit the Hornets puzzle?

I SAY YES!!!

Golden State receives: David West

New Orleans receives: #6 pick in 2010 Draft #34 pick in 2010 Draft and Anthony Randolph.

WHY:  It may seem like Golden State is giving up a lot…but West is an all-star and a guy that could bring the entire Warriors franchise together.  Plus, it’s a contract year for D-West and I know he’ll be huge in 2010-2011.  The Warriors now have a crunch time 5 of Curry, Ellis, Maggette, West and Biedrins.  The Hornets get the opportunity to have two lottery picks (and an early 2nd rounder) which keeps them competatvie while at the same time gets them younger.

Hornets could then draft: Greg Monroe #6, Cole Aldrich #11 and Ryan Wittman #34.

Losing West would crush some players and fans but picking up a former LSU Tiger (Randolph) and a kid who grew up on the west bank (Monroe) would soften the blow. 

My second move is:

Lakers receive: James Posey

Hornets receive: Sasha Vujacic

WHY: Posey is a veteran who would fit in perfectly with the Lakers as they go for a 3rd consecutive title.  Great wing defender, clutch shooter.  Vujacic is a young shooter and defender who at one time looked like an up-and-coming star but who is now roting on the Lakers bench.

Bonus Move:

Orlando Receives: Morris Peterson

New Orleans Receives: Brandon Bass

WHY: Orlando is a veteran team that usually plays 4 shooters around Dwight Howard.  Peterson has an expiring contract and as a classy vet would fit in perfectly with the Magic.  Bass is a solid back-up power forward who’s roting on the Orlando bench and needs a change of scenery. 

Fletcher’s 2010-2011 Hornets:

1. Chris Paul, Darren Collison

2. Marcus Thornton, Sasha Vujacic

3. Peja Stojakovic, Julian Wright, Ryan Wittman

4. Greg Monroe, Anthony Randolph, Brandon Bass

5. Emeka Okafor, Cole Aldrich, Darius Songaila

The Case For Damion James (plus a few trades)
June 10, 2010

I think the first 11 picks of the 2010 NBA Draft this month will go as follows (barring any trades…but expect lots of movement):

1. Washington: John Wall

2. Philly: Evan Turner

3. New Jersey: Derrick Favors

4. Minny: Wesley Johnson

5. Sacramento: Greg Monroe

6. Golden State: DeMarcus Cousins

7. Detroit: Patrick Patterson

8. LA Clippers: Al-Farouq Aminu

9. Utah: Luke Babbitt

10. Indiana: Gordon Hayward

11. New Orleans Hornets: Damion James/SF/University of Texas

Since April I’ve been touting Luke Babbitt as the Hornets pick…but now I just can’t see him slipping to them at #11. 

I also keep thinking about what new Hornets head coach Monty Williams told me at his introductory press conference.

When asked about the teams defense and if the Hornets needed to upgrade in the paint Williams said “I think David West and Emeka Okafor took too much heat for the points in the paint, sure they have to improve but the wing players have to improve on defense as well.  It’s like a football team, if the cornerbacks and safeties are leading the team in tackles than the linebackers and d-line aren’t doing their jobs.”

Translation:  The Hornets need to get some defensive stops from the SG & SF positions!

Look, I love Marcus Thornton as much as anyone but he isn’t a great defender.  Peja and MoPete are older and busted up and far from stoppers.

So that leads me to the selection of Damion James.

(analysis courtesy of:  www.nbadraft.net)

 http://www.nbadraft.net/players/damion-james

  • Plays with an extremely high motor on the defensive end … Averages a steal and block per game for his career … Has the strength and lateral quickness to guard multiple positions.  Well-built forward oozing with athleticism and agility … Exhibits superb fluidity of movement, running the floor like a guard (3.09 sprint at pre-draft combine) and quick to the basketball. Has been a rebounding machine since the moment he took the court for Texas … Possesses a 37 inch vertical leap, 7 foot wingspan and pursues every board relentlessly … Very quick off his feet on multiple jumps … He has taken his ferocious rebounding to another level through sixteen games as a Senior, averaging 11.2 per game … His scoring average has seen significant growth each season, from 8 ppg as a freshman to 17 ppg as a senior … The staple of his offensive game is the mid-range jumper … Takes a few power dribbles to his right or left and gets great lift on his shot … Combined with a high release, his jumper is virtually unblockable … Prefers to face up opponents in the post and elevate over the top … Displays range out to the college three, shooting 41% as a sophomore, 33% as a junior and 36% as a senior … In constant motion on the offensive end looking for openings and easy buckets … Shooting an efficient 48% from the field throughout his four years … Explosive finisher at the rim … Displays a great set of hands, retrieving even errant deliveries … If he gets his hands on the ball, he doesn’t let it go.    

I also have some potential trade scenarios:

TRADE #1

Hornets Receive: Marcin Gortat & Brandon Bass & 2010 2nd Round Draft Pick

Magic Receive: James Posey & Morris Peterson

Why The Deal Works: The Magic are contenders that play four wing players around Dwight Howard.  Orlando does not use Bass or Gortat.  Getting two veteran playoff tested wing players only helps the Magic next season.  Plus, the Magic get salary relief when Peterson’s contract expires in the summer of 2011.  The Hornets get two young front court players they desperately need and a bit of salary relief immediately. 

TRADE #2

Hornets Receive: New York Knicks Two 2nd Round Draft Picks (#38 & #39)

Knicks Receive: Julian Wright

Why The Deal Works: Wright is in need of a fresh start and is the type of super freak athlete who could excel in Mike D’Antoni’s fast paced system.  The Hornets get two picks to help add depth to the roster.     

Fletcher’s 2010-2011 New Orleans Hornets:

*I don’t think the Hornets will have the money to sign any free agent players other than minimum salary guys this summer.

PG: Chris Paul, Darren Collison

SG: Marcus Thornton, Greivis Vasquez (2010 2nd Rd. Pick via NY) 

SF: Damion James (2010 1st Rd. Pick), Peja Stojakovic, Ryan Wittman (2010 2nd Rd. Pick via Orlando)

PF: David West, Brandon Bass, Brain Cusworth (Cusworth is an inexpensive free agent pickup from the Hornets Las Vegas summer league team) 

C: Emeka Okafor, Marcin Gortat, Omar Samhan (2010 2nd Rd. Pick via NY)

*If the Hornets can stay healthy and make a run in the playoff race they can use Peja’s expiring contract at the trade deadline to acquire help (maybe with a team like Golden State.  I keep hoping for a Corey Maggette/Vladimir Radmonovic for Peja trade).   

*I think Darius Songaila will opt out of his contract and sign elsewhere.  I also think that the team will choose not to re-sign Aaron Grey, Sean Marks and Ike Diogu.

Dear Jeff Bower & Monty Williams…Lets Make A Deal!
June 9, 2010

Dear Jeff Bower & Monty Williams,

Here are some bits of advice about the upcoming NBA draft. 

Your team is picking 11th overall in the 1st round. 

Last month I wrote on this blog that the Hornets should select University of Nevada SF Luke Babbitt.  I still stand by this pick!

Not to sound cocky, but I had Babbitt going 11th when all other mock drafts had him being selected somewhere between 20-25.  Now, after the Chicago predraft camp and several workouts Babbit is a rising star and many are predicting that he may be a top 10 selection.  Several experts have Babbitt going to the Clippers at #8 or Utah at #9.  If Babbitt falls to #11….THE HORNETS SHOULD SPRINT TO THE PODIUM AND TAKE HIM!

(Sidebar: I’m also quickly falling in love with University of Texas SF Damion James with the 11th overall pick.  James is a tough, polished college player who I believe could possibly start for the Hornets immediately). 

Now, let’s assume the experts are correct and that Babbitt is gone by the time the Hornets draft.  What do the Hornets do then?

What about a trade?

Oklahoma City has made no secret that they are trying to move up in the draft to select a big man.  OKC has 4 picks in the upcoming draft (two 1st round, two 2nd round). 

If the Thunder would go for the below trade I think both teams would come out happy.

OKC Thunder Receive: 11th Overall Pick & Julian Wright

NO Hornets Receive: All 4 of The OKC picks in the 2010 draft (#21, #26, #32 & #51).

Why the deal works for OKC:  The Thunder would be in position to select a big man of their choice (Patterson, Udoh, Aldrich, Whiteside, Orton, Sanders).  OKC would also be getting a high character former lottery draft pick in need of a fresh start with a new team (Wright).

Why the deal works for NO:  Hornets GM Jeff Bower proved last year he can find good players outside of the lottery (Collison & Thornton).  This is a very deep draft and getting 4 picks helps the Hornets add much needed depth.

Assuming a deal like this could get done, I of course have some suggestions as to which players the Hornets should draft (below each players name, position and school is a link which has a breakdown of their abilities). 

#21 1st Round: Craig Brackins/PF/Iowa State University

http://insider.espn.go.com/nbadraft/draft/tracker/player?playerId=19331

#26 1st Round: Jordan Crawford/SG/Xavier University

http://insider.espn.go.com/nbadraft/draft/tracker/player?playerId=19452&draftyear=2010

#32 2nd Round Ryan Wittman/SF/Cornell University

http://insider.espn.go.com/nbadraft/draft/tracker/player?playerId=19536

#51  2nd Round   Oman Samhan/C/ St. Mary’s College

http://insider.espn.go.com/nbadraft/draft/tracker/player?playerId=19494

Why these guys?  They were all super productive college players with high character. 

None of these guys will step in and start immediately for the Hornets but all would see minutes and fill needs.

Add to this draft some low level free agent signings (Ian Mahinmi, Adam Morrison & Brain Cusworth) and the Hornets have a young, hungry, smart group that’s ready to work hard and follow the lead of Chris Paul and David West.

  • I also think the Hornets should dangle Peja Stojakovic’s expiring contract for quality players with longer deals.  A trade I previously wrote about involved Golden State…..Peja for Corey Maggette & Vladimir Radmanovic….or Peja to Toronto for Hedo Turkoglu and cash).
  • Also, I think Darius Songaila will opt out of his contract and sign elsewhere, I also think that the Hornets will choose not to re-sign Aaron Grey, Ike Diogu and Sean Marks.   

Peja Back To Greece?????
June 2, 2010

Stojakovic To Play In Greece Next Season?
By Dimitri – Tuesday, June 1, 2010 – 10:41

Panathinaikos could be close to land an important NBA star, still not revealed, for the next season. The Greek powerhouse, according to the Greek media, wants to repeat the experience of signing former NBA players like Dominique Wilkins or Byron Scott. One of the candidates could be Peja Stojakovic. The 32-year-old Serbian guard, now in the the New Orleans Hornets, played in Greece for PAOK Thessaloniki between 1994 and 1998, and could decide to terminate his contract with the Hornets to finish his career in Europe.

courtesy: www.hoopsmarket.com

Random Thoughts
June 1, 2010

  • LSU Wins NCAA Los Angeles Baseball Regional

It would not surprise me in the least if Paul Mainieri’s team goes out west and wins the NCAA Regional at UCLA.  The Bruins are a great team but are just re-establishing themselves as a power.  UC Irvine is always tough and will be the Tigers toughest challenge…but LSU did beat the Anteaters in 2008.  I look for LSU vs. Cal. St. Fullerton in Fullerton as the NCAA Super regional next week.  Fullerton has an easy regional…I can’t see a team like Stanford sneaking up and beating the Titans.

  • Watch Out For St. John’s

The most difficult regional outside of the Los Angeles Regional is the Charlottesville, Virginia Regional.  UVA, Ole Miss and St. John’s can all play.  I know Ole Miss has lefty pitcher Drew Poneramz but I saw St. John’s play earlier this season against UNO and the Rebels should not over look the Red Storm.  St. John’s has hosted NCAA regionals in the past and is arguably the best team from the northeast over the past decade.  Don’t be surprised if St. John’s wins a few games and pulls a few upsets this weekend.

  • Schedule Better Teams Southeastern

No Offense to coach Jay Artigues and the Southeastern Lions…Artigues has built a very solid program in Hammond…but SLU has got to schedule better teams!  Back in the late 1990’s Tulane coach Rick Jones dealt with the same issues.  Tulane got snubbed in ’97 mainly because the selection committee said the Wave’s strength of schedule was not good enough.  Since then Tulane has played the likes of Arizona State, Ole Miss, USC, UCLA, Pepperdine and UC-Irvine annually.  SLU has got to schedule better teams.  I know the Lions beat Mississippi State 3 games this season but the Bulldogs are the worst team in the SEC.  Next year go with Mississippi State and a team from another power conference if you’re really serious about becoming an at-large team.  If SLU keeps filling it’s schedule with SWAC teams and schools like Sacred Heart the Lions will continue to experience heartbreak.     

  • Monty Williams Next Hornets Head Coach

The Hornets have offered the job to Boston Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau.  I predict that the Hornets have given Thibodeau a deadline of Thursday to make a decision.  Thibodeau would announce he’s taking the Hornets job as soon as the NBA finals end.  If Thibodeau cannot commit to the Hornets by Thursday than the team will hire Monty Williams.  Franchises like Chicago and New Jersey are circling Thibodeau and Boston could hire him to replace Doc Rivers if Rivers departs following the season.  My bet is Thibodeau rolls the dice and turns the Hornets offer down.  Chris Paul is reportedly very high on Monty Williams so let’s hope that if Williams does get the job he and Paul are a marriage made in heaven.    

  • Donatas Montiejunes

Many NBA mock drafts have the Hornets selecting the Lithuanian PF/C with the 11th overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.  I’m sticking by my pick…Luke Babbitt from the University of Nevada (Reno) but I would have no problems with Montiejunas.  The past two years I’ve had the Hornets drafting two european players in the 1st round…obviously neither was taken.  Last year my choice was Nando de Colo….a combo guard that the Spurs drafted and that is playing in Europe.  de Colo is expected to come over to San Antonio this season.  Two years ago my pick for the Hornets was Goran Dragic.  Dragic is now starring for the Suns.  If the Hornets take Montiejunas they could be getting a star player that’s compared to Andrea Bargnani.  Montiejunas could be brought along slowly off the bench behind David West and  Emeka Okafor and play small forward along with those two if the team decided to sometimes play a big rotation.  Montiejunas reportedly does not offer much defensively but his offensive ceiling is high.  I can’t see the Hornets taking Montiejunas because they have never truly invested in european players but if his name is called 11th overall in the draft I’ll be pleasently surprised.

  • Peja & Emeka

I think the Hornets should shop Peja Stojakovic & Emeka Okafor this offseason.  Peja’s greatest worth is his expiring contract.  Okafor’s greatest strength is the fact that he stays healthy and never misses games.  I would not be surprised to see Peja moved for two players with longer contracts.  For example: Peja for Corey Maggette & Vladimir Radmonovic.  What about Okafor for Hedo Turkoglu?  Turkoglu has demanded out of Toronto and the Raptors will need a replacement for Chris Bosh when he departs. 

  • Goodbye JuJu

I’d also shop Julian Wright for a late 1st round or early 2nd round draft pick.  JuJu needs a change of scenery and a team like Memphis has two late 1st round picks and a 2nd round selection.  If I could get a late 1st for Wright I’d draft St. Mary’s College big man Omar Samhan.  Loved this guy in the NCAA toruney.  Samhan is a super productive college player who I think is gonna be a steal…think the big man version of Marcus Thornton.    

  • Chase Daniel

The media was allowed to watch the Saints OTA (offseason training activity) last week and I was impressed with backup quarterback Chase Daniel.  I thought he seemed to understand the system and he threw the ball with nice velocity.  He seemd very confident and had command.  After just one practice (which isn’t saying much…let’s see him in the preseason) I’m ready to say Chase Daniel should backup Drew Brees and be used as the holder on kicks.  At this point in his career Drew Brees no longer needs a veteran backup (remember the Colts have not had a quality veteran backup for Peyton in years!!!).

  • Malcolm Jenkins

I bet Malcolm Jenkins emerges as the Saints starter at free safety (maybe because of a Sharper injury….maybe because he’s better) at some point this season and thrives at his new position.

  • Garrett Hartley

I bet Garrett Hartley goes to the Pro Bowl after a huge 2010.

  • Kudos to WDSU Medical Editor Dr. Corey Hebert & his beautiful wife Alanah. 

When Jeremy Davenport and Rebirth play your wedding as a favor to you you’ve got stroke!!!  AWESOME TIME!!!!

  • Face, Jonah, Dragon

I can’t wait for the A-Team move in two weeks and Jonah Hex (filmed in NOLA) in three weeks…the A-Team was my favorite TV show growing up (Face man was my favorite character) but both movies look like they could really suck!  Speaking of movies…am I the only person who wants to see the The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo????