Collison to the Pacers a Done Deal
Since the season ended, the #1 question has been which PG is being traded and when. It looks like we finally have our answer. ESPN is reporting that a four team trade has been finalized that will send Collison and Posey to Indiana, Troy Murphy to the Nets, Courtney Lee to the Rockets, and Trevor Ariza to the Hornets.
From the Hornets point of view, it is a move that accomplishes multiple objectives. It upgrades the small forward position instantly, both offensively and defensively. It also sheds the second worst contract the Hornets have on the books, and finally it shows Chris Paul that management is going all in on him as their point guard and leader of the future. Of course Paul can opt out in two years and leave the team with no floor general, but the front office is showing that they aren’t going to be held captive by fear and “what-ifs.”
Financially, the Hornets will pay Ariza slightly less than they would have paid Posey over the next two years and will save approximately 1.5 million this year if you include shipping out Collison. Of course that money will likely be spent on whomever the new backup point guard will be, so the savings is negligible in reality.
On the court, the upgrade from Posey to Ariza will be rather substantial on both ends of the court. Ariza is only 25 and averaged 15 points per game in his first full season as a starter last season. Defensively, he is both good as an on-ball and off the ball weakside defender who can fill passing lanes and get the Hornets out in transition with frequency.
It also has to be noted that this is the exact kind of small forward that new coach Monty Williams will love to work with. By all accounts he did wonders with Nicolas Batum and Travis Outlaw while he was in Portland and Ariza is further along in his game than either of those players were when Monty started working with them. Once Peja is moved, the Hornets will have two defensive minded small forwards in Pondexter and Ariza that will be able to hound players on the defensive end, fill lanes and finish in transition, and knock down the wide open threes that CP3 will be able to provide.
While all of those things are a positive, it would be wrong to neglect the huge downgrade that the Hornets will be making at the backup PG position. As of now, there is no player on the roster who can fill that void, and if the season were to start today, Marcus Thornton would likely get most of the minutes backing up CP3.
However there are several decent options available, although none of them are nearly the player DC is- or at least the DC we saw when Chris Paul was out. Let’s not forget, though, that Collison wasn’t exactly lighting it up when he came off the bench. He often could not get into rhythm and was a turnover machine as a backup. Before CP3 got hurt, in fact, many could argue Collison wasn’t even a top 15 backup PG, let alone a top 15 PG most claim that he is currently.
None of that is meant to knock Collison. In fact, I believe he will be fantastic as a starter in Indiana, but that is not a reflection on what he would have been in New Orleans. We witnessed nothing last season that would lead us to believe that he would be a great backup or that he would be good playing with CP3. Just because you have two excellent puzzle pieces, it does not mean that they compliment each other in a way that allows them to both live up to their potential on the court.
Moving forward, the Hornets have filled a huge hole while crating a small one and remain flexible moving forward. The Hornets still have nearly 25 million dollars in expiring contracts they can move to fill spots in their backcourt and at backup center. In addition they have numerous trade exceptions available to acquire talent. Or they can choose to fill out the roster with one year contracts and play out the string, giving them the ability to possibly be players in next year’s free agent market, as they will have only 38 million dollars in salary committed to players going into the 2011 offseason.
This trade will be polarizing, as most will either love it or hate it, with very few landing in the middle. It is the first major move by Demps and Monty and it has the ability to look brilliant or stupid in two years. If Paul stays and Ariza is a major piece moving forward, many could look back at this trade as one of the tipping points. If Ariza is only a mediocre player and CP3 bolts in 2012, leaving the Hornets with no PG, many will point to this trade as the reason the future looks so bleak. But management is not concerned with those “what-ifs” right now, they are building a team in their image with the assumption that CP3 will be a Hornet for life.
Let’s hope they are right.