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Hornets Could be Major Players in Free Agency

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Published: June 25, 2010

The Hornets draft day trade may have been about more than just shedding a few dollars. After the draft GM Jeff Bower gave a brief press conference to the media in which he hinted that the Hornets might be finagling themselves into position for a major free agent score.

“When the transaction does reach conclusion,” Bower said referring to the deal that sent Morris Peterson and the 11 pick to OKC for the 21st and 26th pick, “the flexibility it provides does allow us to continue to look to add to our roster”.

The draft day deal cut more than six million dollars from the 2010-2011 payroll, puts the Hornets below the luxury tax line for upcoming season for the time being, and nets them an extra young player to develop.

What exactly the team will do with the newfound flexibility is still a mystery. The Hornets are prohibited by the NBA from discussing specifics before July 8th. That’s also the first day of freedom for a class which includes potential running partners for Chris Paul such as LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Amare Staudemire and Carlos Boozer.

Bower has long been known to keep his plans close to chest, so it’s no surprise that he has kept the New Orleans media rather clueless as to his intentions this summer. He would elaborate only vaguely later on-

We will investigate the free agent market. Understand it’s going to be a slow-moving target. Understand that we will try to get thorough assessments of who fits our needs and who has interest in our situation“, he explained before exiting the press conference.

After dealing Morris Peterson, the Hornets are within shouting distance of being able to offer a maximum contract to a superstar. There are two full weeks remaining before teams can even begin talking to free agents and the Hornets are already below the luxury tax line, albeit with nine players under contract. They are still in possession of 28 million dollars worth of expiring contracts, including David West, who will presumably opt out of the final year of his deal.

If New Orleans could unload Peja and Julian Wright from the books, they would be able to offer a maximum contract to a star and still have the full Mid Level Exception to sign another more talent. Throw in a few veterans playing for the minimum and the Hornets all of a sudden look like a championship team.

It might not seem easy to unload such massive liabilities from an accounting standpoint, but after Darren Collison’s fantastic season in relief of Chris Paul the Hornets find themselves with an expendable star who makes peanuts, by NBA standards. There are a number of teams who covet Collison, and may consider taking on an expiring contract in order to land him.

In the aftermath of an eventful draft, it seems the Hornets have the pieces to make moves that could shake the NBA at it’s core.

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