What’s next for the Bees?

Published: January 31, 2010

Hey everyone. Joe Gerrity here. Niall and Ryan have asked me to come aboard and contribute more regularly, so here I am. Hope you enjoy the stuff. I’ll be doing some recaps and previews too.

Also, I’m in the New Orleans area and will definitely be at the next Hornets watch party, so hopefully I’ll see you all there.

This season, the major storyline for the New Orleans Hornets has revolved around shedding salary. It’s no secret the Hornets are a small market team and have to keep payroll below the luxury tax line, unless they are contending.

A few years back, when the Hornets were thought to be among the favorites out west, Shinn opened up his wallet and brought in James Posey, accepting the reality that his franchise would likely be over the luxury tax line for years to come because of it. That was fine for him, as long as they were contending.

This recent salary dumping, if you can even call it that considering they didn’t send away even one above-average player, was the result of the current groups’ inability to contend for a title. Teams make a considerable amount of money during the playoffs, some speculate around one million additional dollars per game, and that’s one way small market owners can acquire extra money to afford being over the luxury tax line.

After last years playoff debacle, it seemed clear that this group wasn’t a contender, so Bower started moving pieces. Rasual Butler would have been nice to have, but was he worth the 8 million or so it would have cost us to keep him? Of course not. He wasn’t the difference between a playoff series victory and a mere appearance. Neither were Antonio Daniels, Devin Brown, Bobby Brown, Hilton Armstrong, etc.

To Jeff Bower’s credit, he’s done an incredible job of cutting salary while maintaining the teams’ core. He’s been so efficient in fact, that the team seems poised for a playoff run despite the starting shooting guard being a rookie second round draft pick (I kid, much love for Lil’ Buckets), and the complete lack of a backup center.

Since the 3-9 start, the Hornets are 23-12. At the more recent pace, the Bees would finish the season at 49-33, which by winning percentage would predict a fifth place finish in the Western Conference.

Now you have to wonder, if we were willing to be over the luxury tax line to be contenders, are we now willing to add salary, either long term or short term, if the right deal came along? There are a few guys available who would instantly upgrade us from a one and done playoff team to dark horse title contender.

I don’t doubt that Bower would jump at the chance to add the long term salary of someone like Andre Iguodala, who would address so many needs that this current squad has. The problem is that right now there isn’t any way of doing it. The Hornets have ridden themselves of every single meaningful expiring contract. It’s unlikely the Sixers would consider a trade that didn’t give them immediate economic relief, and the best the Bees could offer is Peja and/or Mo-P, who are expiring next year, combined with one of the rookies. There are better deals out there than that for Philly.

The idea that David West could be moved is talked about pretty often around here, but for the amount he’s making, he’s irreplaceable. A solid big man who can create his own shot and make big plays for only eight million a year. He’s a downright steal at that price, even if his defense is… inconsistent at times. There isn’t a team in the league who wouldn’t take him for eight million per. He won’t be moved this year.

When looking at our contractual obligations to current Hornets it becomes all too apparent that Bower has done all he can do this year. On the bright side, he kept the core roster intact, and it appears they are going to be a playoff team. Can we win a series? Yes, but there is a huge IF. Health, just like last year, is going to be a major concern going forward, especially considering the trouble Paul and Posey are already having.

An injury to West or Okafor would bring the teams’ depth problems into the spotlight in a hurry. Even if they do stay relatively healthy, we saw last year what happens when a team isn’t rested for the playoffs (Hello Denver). In order to win a series, the Bees will need to give Paul, West, and Okafor sufficient rest before the postseason.

To wrap things up, this year has and will continue to be a load of fun. Three months ago there was talk of blowing the team up, CP3 being traded, Okafor being sent to Sacramento, etc. Now we find ourselves only four games back in our division, with two outstanding rookies and some real hope for the future.

It probably won’t be until next year, when they can unload the expiring contracts of Peja and Mo-P for some real talent, that the Bees will be seriously be considered contenders again. For now though, being a Bees fan is pretty good stuff.

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