Dunk that Sh!t: First Edition

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Published: May 19, 2011

Over the summer, we will solicit questions from those of you in the community to be answered in our new daily piece, Dunk that Sh!t. No power layups here, just straight, hard core answers and facts to all of your questions. To submit your questions, either hit us up via Twitter (@hornets247) or on Facebook. Or you can email Michael McNamara at mcnamarahornets247@yahoo.com. Now, on to the questions. Since this was 42’s brain child, I will honor him with the first question.

42 (from NASA): Mike, I was dreaming of muffulettas last night and woke up wondering: Is Belinelli worth his $3.4m qualifying offer to someone? How about Smith’s $3.1m? Andersen’s $2.7m team option? If so, should we sign them, then trade them away for a player or a pick? Or is that too risky before the new CBA?

Michael McNamara: You’ve got me thinking about the Hornets as a muffuletta now. Who is the olive salad of this team? The provolone? We all know CP3 would be the capicola because “Its ‘da best”, but does that make West the ham or the salami? I digress. Back to your question. Let’s start with the easiest one first, David Anderson. Anderson is obviously not worth 2.7 million dollars in this market, or any other conceivable one that we might see in the new CBA. The only reason the Hornets would pick up his option would be if they had a trade worked out with another team before June 30th and they needed his salary to make the trade work.

As for Smith and Belinelli, their situations are slightly different because the Hornets only have the ability to extend them qualifying offers. Those qualifying offers, in essence, make the player a restricted free agent, but would not allow the Hornets to trade those players until those offers are signed. So, if the Hornets do extend those offers, they must do so with knowledge that it is a very real possibility that neither of those players will get better offers on the market, and as a result, those players will be back on the team next year at those exact salaries.

To judge whether or not those players are worth those salaries, I would first rank those players in the upcoming free agent market and then look to free agent acquisitions in the past to determine what teams might be willing to offer. Belinelli will likely be the 7th or 8th best shooting guard available on the market, depending on whether guys like Shannon Brown and Mickael Pietrus opt-out of their current contracts. Last season, there were a couple of guys who were of similar age to Belinelli and were in that same range with regard to their free agent class: Anthony Morrow and Randy Foye. Randy Foye got a 2 year/8 million dollar deal with the Clippers, while Morrow got a 3 year/12 million dollar deal with the Nets.

So last year, the marketplace for somebody who has shown that they can be either a fringe starter or rotation reserve player at the shooting guard position was 4 million dollars. The new CBA would like to reduce player salaries by 15-20 percent, meaning that the estimated market value of one of these players in the new CBA would be 3.2-3.4 million. So, from that analysis, it looks like the Hornets can justify going either way with Belinelli. It might be to their advantage to start off the year with Belinelli as the starting shooting guard and wait until the trading deadline to make a move for a guy that they can get at a cheaper price than they can get now.

Think back to last year. The Charlotte Bobcats would have asked for a ton in return to move Gerald Wallace before the season started. They had just come off a season in which they made the playoffs for the first time and had high hopes. But by mid-February, they gave the guy away for pennies on the dollar. In my opinion, it is much more likely that the Hornets can get their impact shooting guard at some point during the season than they can prior to the season beginning. In the offseason, almost everybody is a buyer, and that drives prices up. During the season, there are fewer buyers and more sellers, so it is a better time to strike. In the meantime, maybe Belinelli develops and proves to be a long term piece or at the very least, increases his trade value.

As for Jason Smith, the numbers just do not support giving him the qualifying offer. He would likely rank 11th or 12th on the free agent power forward list and his skill set is limited in such a way that certain teams just could not use him. Last year, the Golden State Warriors signed Louis Amundson to a 2 year deal that was worth 2.2 million the first year, with a player option for 2.4 million in the second year. If Amundson and Smith both hit the open market together, Amundson would be more sought after. So, the numbers say that Smith is not worth the qualifying offer.

One last thing to consider is how the decision of David West plays into all of this. If he ops-in at 7.525 million, perhaps the Hornets realize that they will not have the cap space to compete in the free agent market and instead start looking for value through trades and smaller pickups. In that case, I could see them extending the qualifying offer to Belinelli with their sights set on acquiring a big piece down the line- be it at the trade deadline or next offseason.

But if West opts out and the Hornets find themselves in a position where they only have 42 million dollars in salary commitments, perhaps they explore some bigger moves. In that scenario, the Hornets would want to clear as much space as possible and that means not extended qualifying offers to anybody. The problem is that West is likely to wait until the last minute before declaring what he will do with regard to his option. But, if he doesn’t, and he lets management know early, or signs an extension, it might have an impact on what the Hornets do with regard to Belinelli.

I hope I sufficiently answered your question. Now, enjoy your muffuletta.

(To submit your questions, either hit us up via Twitter (@hornets247) or on Facebook (Hornets247). Or you can email Michael McNamara at: mcnamarahornets247@yahoo.com.)

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