Building a Contender: PART 1

Published: October 17, 2010



I am not naive, nor inconsiderate. 

Being one of Chris Paul’s biggest fans, I have come to somewhat understand how this guy likes to run his show. Other then Steve Nash, I don’t believe there is one other player in this league who so truly wants to build a team the RIGHT way, as much as Chris Paul does. Being the person that he is, he looks at his team as his family. He wants not to just put a group of guys together to win, but to have a group of men come together in a brotherhood that will last them not just through the season, but for the rest of their lives. 

Chris is a guy who puts his love of his family above all else. Thats why it has been so hard for him to ever see a teammate leave, or be traded. For someone to come here and just propose to trade away half his teammates (in trades that are not even plausible) wouldn’t make much sense when considering what would be best for CHRIS PAUL. We as fans, and the Hornets as an organization need to consider this when “playing” GM, or actually being one. Because if we don’t consider what would be best for Chris, when time comes for him to decide where he wants to be, he will consider what is best for him, and his family. 

All this being said, what I know Chris wants is to SERIOUSLY CONTEND for a championship. I believe CP3 knows how hard it is to win in this league, and that even if you made a “Super Team”, winning a title is not guaranteed. So I believe what he really wants to see is the organization bringing in a group of guys who will fit into his “family” concept, and be able to seriously contend for a chance to be in the Western Semi-Finals, and NBA Finals.

If the Hornets were to put a group together this year that went to the Western Finals against the Lakers, but lost, would CP3 be happy enough with that? I’m sure critics will ask this question. My answer would be No, he wouldn’t be happy with LOSING. But if the Hornets can get that far based off of improvements to the squad and the change in direction, I know Chris will be on board for at least another contract. 

So what do we do, Hornet fans? How can we achieve this goal and reach AT LEAST the Western Conference finals with a squad that can contend now, and in the future as well, to show our Franchise Player that we WANT and NEED him to be there for us, and to give him no reason whatsoever to leave us?

I am Agent Ziko, Hornet Fans, your new Journal Blogger, and this is the first of my series of articles titled: Building a Contender. I will analyze the squad every week by watching their games, and analyzing key strengths and weaknesses so that we can better the organization. I know I can’t change anything, but like Chris, I CARE TO SEE A CHANGE, and done the right way. And I understand every aspect regarding salaries, caps, and all restriction aspects having to do with making moves. I know everyone is hoping for a HUGE splash. But realistically, that will be extremely difficult. Instead, I will focus on smaller pieces to make the greater whole stronger. So… Here’ goes…




It’s been frustrating listening to and watching this team play so far this preseason. There are just so many up and downs with them. It is clearly evident that the first unit is definitely skilled enough to do very well in this league, but the weakness is the reserves is so great that it completely takes away from what the first unit does. The game vs. the Pacers was a prime example. In the 3rd quarter, the first unit came out to score 37 points to get back into a game they were down 15 in at halftime. And this was WITHOUT David West. It says a lot about this teams toughness and abilities. But still, the second unit wasn’t able to capitalize on the first units momentum, and New Orleans lost 101-98. 

Having West back would dramatically change this game, in that the Hornets WOULDN’T have lost, and the reserves would see some added size and strength with Jason Smith coming off the bench. But even still, I can’t help but look at this roster and wonder what could be changed to better improve the flow that the team plays with. And the two spots that I can’t help but be overly critical of is the back up point guard position and back up C/PF positions. Before any of you begin to think I have a vendetta against Willie Green, I want you to know that I don’t, and think he was a great pick up that can greatly help the Hornets on the defensive side of the ball. But offensively, I feel that he is being taken completely away from being able to help this team. I also have a fondness for DJ MBenga after seeing him in a Laker uniform the past 2 seasons, and I think he and Aaron Gray are great THIRD String centers. 

With the way this squad plays, much of the creating load falls on Chris Paul’s shoulders, although Belinelli does help Chris out considerably with his abilities. So their is a momentum and comfort built into the players on the court with CP and Belinelli, that SHOULDN’T change when he subs on. Green just doesn’t have the play making skills needed to keep the flow of the offense going, and so there is a drastic downfall in ball movement when Paul and Belinelli exit the game. This makes the release of Jannero Pargo extremely painful to consider, knowing that WHEN HEALTHY, he would have provided the perfect back up to Paul. 

Moving Green to back up shooting guard would greatly improve his production by allowing him to do what he does best: focus on guarding the opposing teams best perimeter player, and attacking basket from the wing and baseline. By playing Point Guard, Green is settling for jump shots at the top of the key, which I’ve seen him airball about 5 of them so far, and taking away from the flow of the offense by not being able to set players up for open shots, the way Paul does. 

Having said that, we find a glaring hole at the back up point guard position, and a struggling Marcus Thornton being pushed to 3rd string back up shooting guard. The squad will desperately need to address this spot this season, and with the amazing season that Marcus had last year, he might be the Hornets best trading chip along with Peja Stojakovic’s expiring contract. But for who?

Things to consider when analyzing trade prospects for the Hornets: Due to the ownership situation, the Hornets will NOT take back more money in any trade, and will prefer to try and stay UNDER the cap this season. This only makes things much more difficult when trying to put together a contending roster. But it doesn’t make it impossible. 

For the Hornets, the home run trade to land a superstar like Carmelo Anthony is probably a little far fetched. Realistically, there will probably be better offers on the table for the Nuggets. So the goal should be to go after second and third tier stars who are playing for teams that would be open to trading away their contracts. This could be dangerous territory for New Orleans, as they don’t want to acquire bad contracts that stay on their books even if Paul leaves. So, I have my eyes set on 2 players who will greatly help improve the bench, and that can even start if any injuries come about during the season: Richard Hamilton and Antawn Jamison.



Hornets send Peja Stojakovic’s expiring contract for Richard Hamilton

(Even though Rip Hamilton has a 3 year contract, this trade actually saves the Hornets about $1 million this year).

Hornets then send Jason Smith and Marcus Thornton to Sacramento for Carl Landry. 

(Sacramento can afford to lose Landry with Cousins on the roster, and can use Smith as a back up Center behind Thompson or Dalembert. They also will find a use for Thornton as they are heavy at small forward with Garcia/Green/Casspi, but thin at SG with Luther Head)


C. Okafor

PF. West

SF. Ariza

SG. Hamilton

PG. Paul


C. Mbenga

PF. Landry

SF. Pondexter

SG. Green

PG. Belinelli

C. Gray

F. Alexander

(Belinelli would compliment Green better and relieve him of ball handling duties, while Hamilton will greatly bolster the starting lineup on the defensive end, and with his mid range game. He’d also give Paul another confident veteran player who has playoff experienc. Landry will give the Hornets a confident and polished big man who can play the 4 and 5, and who is a tactical killer in the pick and roll, something that obviously bodes well when paired with Chris Pual. 8 man rotation: Okafor, West, Ariza, Hamilton, Paul, Landry, Green, Belinelli)



Hornets send Peja Stojakovic, Jason Smith, and Thornton to the Cavs for Antawn Jamison and Daniel Gibson. 

(Hornets take back about 100k in salary. I think this will be acceptable even to their ownership situation)


C. Okafor

PF. West

SF. Ariza

SG. Belinelli

PG. Paul


C. Mbenga

PF. Jamison

SF. Pondexter

SG. Green

PG. Gibson

C. Gray

F. Alexander

(Jamison would be a great asset to this team. He would be a great back up to West, but can also play the 3 position and allow the Hornets to play a big lineup with Okafor/West/Jamison/Ariza/Paul. Gibson gives the Hornets another combo guard, who is a DEADLY 3 point shooter, and who has better ball handling skills than Green. 8 man rotation: Okafor/West/Ariza/Belinelli/Paul/Jamison/Green/Gibson)

Both of these trades would put the Hornets a step up in the West. Maybe not to beat the Lakers quite yet, but I’m sure enough to force the Lakers to take New Orleans seriously, and look at them as a threat. 

I’m going to have to apologize for such a long essay. I hope you all enjoyed my article, and please keep an eye out for more of my work as the season progresses and the teams roster becomes better to analyze. 

Til next time, this Agent Ziko, signing OUT!!!





This post was submitted by AgentZiko.


  1. DownUnder

    October 17, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Im looking forward to your future journals. It’ll be good to here some new trade scenarios from a persons perspective that knows what there doing (I can’t say I put the most intelligent trade ideas together) keep it up.

  2. TopherPrice

    October 17, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    A couple of things. You can’t trade Smith with anyone else until December due to restrictions. Also, the team is already over the Cap, but below the tax threshold. Do you really think Alexander is going to be on the team come next week, much less the regular season?

    I can not see this team taking on Rip’s three remaining years on an old guard under old CBA rules leading into a new CBA that will most likely mean more ownership friendly contracts. The Brain Trust has already exhibited their plan seems to be to limit guaranteed money moving forward so they can maximize flexibility by making the Brackins/Songalia trade and how all signings have been 1 year deals. I think this is less about the old “cheap Hornets” mentality and more about Dell wanting to have the most flexibility to mould this team into the team he wants it to be. As long as The Brain Trust keeps Chris a part of the process and he feels a sense of ownership in the design, I think he will go along with this season no matter the results just short of a 30 win season.

    I do look forward to the rest of your articles. Thanks for the work and thought provoking work.

    • AgentZiko

      October 22, 2010 at 3:37 pm

      By the way TopherPrice,

      Totally forgot to respond to this. But from what I understand, the Hornets are VERY high on Alexander. They know he’s a project, but I guess they like his potential? He is VERY athletic. and I guess has some potential as a 3rd string Forward, but if it were up to me, I’d release him. I think we’ll find out in the next few days what happens. Will they keep 15? If they drop someone, itll be Jerrells or Alexander.

  3. Hornet

    October 17, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    I like the Cleveland deal for a right now trade but the problem is that it doesn’t put us with the Lakers and at best I see us contending with Dallas for the division. The big downside with the trade is that it offers us no flexibility and I can’t think of any moves we can make after the trade is done that will get us over the hump.

    Good ideas though and I like your thinking. Looking forward to more from you.

  4. Agent Ziko

    October 17, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    @ Down Under
    Thanks Bud!

    Yes, I figured that they’d have to wait until December to trade Smith. I probably should have noted in the blog, it would be best to wait until Trading Deadline to to make any major moves. Especially since Green/Smith have contracts that can’t be traded until December like you mentioned.

    Hamilton is a gamble, I know. His contract for 3 years make him a tough guy to bite on. But being the guy that he is, his experience and veteran presence is something that would bode very well alongside Paul and West. And his great defense has been noted against great players such as Kobe/Wade. Acquiring him was more so a thought of showing CP that they want to acquire the “winning mentallity”, which Rip has respect in the league for.

    Aside from acquiring Carmelo Anthony/Birdman for Stojakovic/Ariza/Thornton/2 future 1st rounders (which Denver wouldn’t bite on), there is pretty much nothing that the Hornets can do THIS SEASON to hang with the Lakers/Celtics/Heat.

    There just aren’t those type of caliber players available to push the team over the hump, unfortunately. But the rest of the West is a dog fight, with NO clear cut number 2-4 spots. Dallas and OKC seem to be the logical choices to fight for 2nd, but I have my doubts in both. I believe Utah, San Antonio, and Portland will fall unexpectedly this season due to age/injuries, and I don’t think Phoenix will make the playoffs at all. Houston is the dark horse in the West. If Yao is healthy, they’re dangerous.

    One or 2 small moves can make all the difference to get home court in the playoffs. Thats what we look for.

  5. F******

    October 18, 2010 at 4:03 am

    It would be idiotic to trade for Jamison. He was brought in so many times to get teams over the hump, but always failed. He is no winner!

    • all4thornton

      October 18, 2010 at 11:06 am

      Couldn’t agree more about Jamison. If we don’t get the backup PG spot fixed, this year could be a repeat of the 08-09 season with Chris Paul leaving the game with the team up by 15 and coming back in down by 7.

  6. Ryan Schwan

    October 18, 2010 at 11:53 am

    I’m not sure you need to give up that much to get Jamison. He’s got a multi-year deal and he’s not really worth it.

    Oh, and any trade that brings Richard Hamilton to New Orleans is a non-starter from me. He has declined for three straight seasons – and he’s got three more seasons to go on a bloated contract.

    He’s going to be more useless than Peja the next couple years.

  7. DeenaP

    October 21, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Well all I have to say is I am looking forward to reading your future journals! You have some great ideas!

  8. Miro_from_Pologne

    October 22, 2010 at 11:43 am

    How about getting Varejao instead of Jamison?

  9. AgentZiko

    October 22, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    LOVE Verajao, but the Cav’s would NEVER trade him. Especially for Peja.

  10. Nithenz

    October 26, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Yup, Varejao would be really nice, but cant see the Cavs letting him go for Peja, i think they would consider trading him for an asset, but no for cap space.

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