The Wingmen of New Orleans

The Hornets started the year comfortable with their wing position.  They had signed James Posey, Julian Wright was entering his second year and promised a lot, Morris Peterson had proven solid the year before, and Peja had just delivered a career year as far as accuracy from deep.  The Hornets also had afterthought Rasual Butler, who was really still around because of his contract, and even went and got Devin Brown on the cheap, though they planned to play him at point guard.

Most predicted that the small forward and shooting guard positions would be manned by some combination of the three P’s, Posey, Peterson, and Peja, and that Wright would get whatever leftover minutes there were to be had.  Then a strange thing happened.  Wright got hurt, and lost the chance to build both his and Byron’s confidence in the preseason, and Rasual played well enough that Byron give him the spot minutes.  Then Peterson got injured after playing fairly  well, but Rasual played well enough he got the starter’s minutes.  Then Devin Brown proved that his ability to handle the ball was no longer enough to overcome his inability to pass the ball, and the Hornets traded for Antonio Daniels, but gave up none of their swingmen in the deal, instead dropping Mike James.

Now the Hornets have a horde of players capable of minutes at the wing, but none of them are spectacular enough to make the rotation obvious.  In fact, the players that have gotten real minutes(read, not Julian Wright) all have PER ratings between 12.01 and 13.87.  In my mind, there really is only one solution:  trade one or two of the swingmen for a big man.  This will help avoid bad blood in the locker room, and hopefully make our rotation easier to determine.

What follows is an evaluation of each of our wing players, and their relative trade value, in order of how likely I think each is to be moved:

Morris Peterson, 5.8 million, expires 2011, PER 12.01

By all accounts, Peterson is a great guy.  He’s clearly well liked by his team mates, and he has been a good compliment in the starting five with his ability to hit threes from the corner.  However, it’s not just the fact that Byron benched him in Toronto that makes me think he’s likely to be moved.  My thoughts on why he might be traded:

  1. If the Hornets want to get a serviceable big man in a trade, they will almost certainly have to offer up a substantial salary.  In general, big men in the League command pretty hefty salaries.  Since the Hornets are over the Salary cap, they must be able to match the salary of any big they are trading for, which probably means Peterson will need to be involved.
  2. Butler provides better defense and (currently)similar offense.
  3. Devin Brown, alone amongst our wing players, provides some sort of dribble penetration.
  4. The Hornets will need to give up some sort of talent to get talent in return.  Unless you are trading with the Wizards or Bobcats, you can’t get something for nothing.

Rasual Butler, 3.6 million, expires 2010, PER 12.88
Rasual has endeared himself to Byron this year for two reasons:  His shooting stroke has returned at a level he hasn’t produced since his sophomore year in the league, and his man-to-man defense is very good.  His all-around game, passing and rebounding, isn’t quite at Morris’s level, but he’s not far off.  My thoughts on why he might be traded:

  1. Rasual Butler is currently shooting way over his head.  Yes, it’s possible for a player to have a renaissance year shooting the three, and yes, it can happen at age 29.  However, that is typically a fluke year, and is the prime time to “sell high”.  We also have no evidence that he’s going to keep up this torrid shooting.  He’s had great months before.
  2. His contract expires in 2010, which would be attractive to teams counting on the 2010 Free Agent Sweepstakes.
  3. His contract is big enough it might be able to net some sort of big man, especially if its combined with Hilton or Ely/Bowen/Marks.

Julian Wright, 1.9 million, expires 2011, PER 9.84
First, check your outrage at the door.  Yes, Julian has all the potential in the world.  However, in what minutes he’s been given he has been extremely inconsistent.  I believe that Julian could develop into something great.  I also believe it’s possible that Julian will be end up like one of the dozens of remarkable atheletes who were great in college but failed to turn into great professional basketball players.(I cannot express enough how much this would upset me, though)  My thoughts on why he might be traded:

  1. Even if I think they are a bit premature about it, the Hornets are in Win Now mode.  Julian is not helping them win now, but he would be a very attractive piece in a trade for a veteran big man who might help win now.
  2. The Hornets are only paying Julian 1.9 million per year, which is pretty cheap, so it makes sense to just keep him and see if he develops.  Oh wait, that’s not a reason to trade him.  My bad.

Devin Brown, 999k, expires 2009, PER 12.63
Devin Brown is the only swingmen in the group who can actually drive to the basket and finish with any regularity.  He’s also very good at finishing in transition.  My thoughts on why he might get traded:

  1. He won’t be traded unless they have to include him to make salaries match.  His salary is so small he won’t fetch anyone useful in a trade.

Peja Stojakovic, 13 million, expires 2011, PER 13.87
Peja has a massive contract and his production is in decline.  His contract goes for three more years, so no one is going to want it to cut salary, and it’s too big for what he gives the team.  Peja is here to stay.  I still have the feeling his production will improve to levels similar to last year, though.

James Posey, 5.6 million, expires 2012, PER 13.34
Posey was the Hornets big off-season acquisition, and his defense adds to his PER making him the most productive of our swingmen.  I’d be stunned if the Hornets moved him.

Here are some decent(my opinion of course) big men targets that could possibly be had with Morris as the primary contract.  I make no claims to availability of these big men, they are just listed here to get the possibilities flowing, and to let you know what sort of talent is available for about 6 million a year.  This has some pretty solid names on it.

  • Andersen Varejao(I doubt this would happen)
  • Darko Milicic (Would need Mo Pete and a minimum contract. I like this one)
  • Desagana Diop
  • Drew Gooden (Would needMo Pete and a minimum contract. I like this one)
  • Jeff Foster
  • Joel Pryzbilla(unlikely)
  • Nazr Mohammed
  • Nick Collison (I like this one too)
  • Ronny Turiaf
  • Udonis Haslem(unlikely)

Here are some decent big men targets that could possible be had with Rasual Butler as the primary contract.  Same qualifiers as above, except its for 3.6 million.  Ths is not an inspiring list.

  • Carl Landry(Unlikely)
  • Fabricio Oberto(unlikely)
  • Kwame Brown(ugh)
  • Luis Scola(very Unlikely)
  • Marc Gasol(very Unlikely)
  • Shelden Williams(bleh)
  • Tyrus Thomas
  • Zaza Pachulia

Let’s hear what you all think.

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