Dunk That Sh!t: New Star

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Published: May 27, 2011
42 Dunktastic Superstardom
42's Dunktastic Superstardom

42

Every team has a bench, and on that bench there may just be the next superstar . . . but it’s likely that the backup just hasn’t been exposed as not being worth the role of backup . . .

As I sit here at Highland Coffees in Baton Rouge with my ladyfriend and the guy that chose me as his best man . . . I enter the fray as your backup for Mike today . . . hit my music . . .

Apologies in advance . . .

With only one further ellipsis . . .

Ben Matthews (from the U.K.): Do you really see Demps making a move to aquire a star-type player to pair with Paul keeping in mind that the proposed CBA deal doesn’t really help the Hornets out that much?

42: First of all, thanks for reading, writing, and participating. Also, this is a question that is on the mind of many, so good call there, as well. Jolly good!

Also, if you like what you read here, or don’t, head on over to the survey and express yourself. Comment away as well!

The short: I don’t think Dell Demps is going to pick up a star.  Rather, I expect him to retool the roster in a manner similar to last year, just to a lesser degree but with greater effect.

The long: Restricting our timeframe from today until the trade deadline for the upcoming season, if there is one . . . I don’t think Dell Demps is going to pick up a star.  In my mind, there are 4 ways to get a star, onto your team, which are, in no particular order: Drafting a star, signing a star in free agency, trading for a star, and developing a star. The same goes for non-stars, too, and I’ll be discussing that even though that wasn’t what was asked.

To be clear, I’m going to be talking about stars, but I would be remiss if I didn’t define what the hell a star is in my mind. If the guy has one name, he’s a superstar: Dwight, Kobe, LeBron, Wade, whatever. If they guy doesn’t need an introduction, but your work buddy doesn’t think of the player when you ask about basketball excellence exemplar, he’s a star. These guys have real talent, and while they may elevate a team, their departure doesn’t send a franchise into total disarray . . . a marginal max contract guy. Using the Hawks as an example: Johnson, Horford, Smith.

Yes, I know these are not good definitions, but I think they frame the conversation for us about as briefly as possible . . . throwing up counter-examples to these definitions doesn’t derail the points herein . . . and if you keep the sass up, you’ll get a notwithstanding or heretofore . . . recognize . . .

Drafting

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We can forget about drafting a ready-made star (e.g. Wall) . . . we don’t have the pick to do that, we wouldn’t’ve had the pick even if we kept our first rounder, and we won’t get the pick unless we trade for it . . . which starts us down the long road of trades . . .

Plus, the draft is weak, so why trade unless we can get the #2 pick (#1 is locked in)? I don’t think we can anyway since other teams could offer more for it.

So let’s go ahead and get this out of the way . . . Your New Orleans Hornets Squad as it stands today:

Chris Paul, $16.4m, player option after this year

Emeka Okafor, $12.5m, 2 guaranteed years after this one

David West, $7.5m, player option this year, no additional years

Trevor Ariza, $6.8m, 1 guaranteed year after this one, one player option year after that

Jarrett Jack: $5.2m, 1 guaranteed year after this one

Quincy Pondexter: $1.2m, 1 guaranteed year after this one followed by 2 team options

Aaron Gray: $1.1m player option, no additional years

That’s 5-7 players depending on player options (we’ll know how those go by July 1) for a total of $50.1m (my numbers may differ due to rounding). For completeness, we have a team option on David Andersen that we won’t pick up, and we can make qualifying offers to Marco Belinelli and Jason Smith if we choose, but our core for this year is those 5-7 players.

I’ll go a step further and assume that David West does not go through the trouble of opting out, but I’ll assume Aaron Gray does. David is not worth $7.5m injured, so he’ll keep the deal he has, and Aaron is worth more than this option, so he won’t.

As an aside, under the current salary structure, a cap set at $58m implies that a guy who nets a single win for you is worth $1m. To analyze these situations properly, you have to look at not only the guy on the roster, but also the other guy he’d be displacing by his roster presence (opportunity cost, economics in the house!), but Aaron helped us win more than 1 game, so he’s worth $1m. Under a cap that is 80% of the current one, that is still the case with Aaron, despite the higher bar the lower cap imposes. Drilling into the advanced stats, he got 1.1 win shares in 41 games, not including the playoffs. (Paul, I’m saying good things here . . . I know you are a protective fan, so I want to make sure you can enjoy this article as much as possible.)

I think saying “advanced stats,” and then quoting some right after ensures both Ryan and Michael are going to jump me in the parking lot later . . . for completely different reasons . . . maybe they’ll fight each other first as it happens in cartoons . . .

Trading

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So we have a core of 6 people. Last year we had a large contingent of folks who were under contract to start the season, and most of them got traded away. The purpose of that was largely to get rid of bad contracts, as far as I can tell. The major casualty of that was Darren Collison, but no other trade piece met with negative reactions, unless you count head-scratching. Each of the trades made were one that was unexpected. These weren’t surprises like the Utah-New Jersey deal this season; they weren’t that high profile. They were just trades that involved guys in the NBA that don’t get that much attention unless they go 12 for 12 in a game.

Our 6 core guys are starters except for the ‘tweener, Jack, and the rookie . . . making small forward our most locked down spot . . . yes, I just typed that. As mentioned here and in the forum, there is a contingent of people who think Jack would make a great 2-guard with Paul, even if he wouldn’t be a good 2-guard with other point guards. He can spell Chris at point and give someone like Willie time at the 2, which serves to give some leadership to the second unit, keeps the system going with a good point guard, and keeps the ball out of Willie’s hand, at least as an initiator.

But I’m getting ahead of myself . . . looking at those 6 pieces and the empty spots on the team, what do we have to offer another team in trade for a star? What can we part with? Trade injured David West for a better player who isn’t hurt? Trade Emeka? For whom? Trade Ariza? Which team has too much offense and just needs to score a little less to really get over that hump? You get a point if you just thought of Digital Underground.

As mentioned above, we don’t have valuable picks to trade away. We could trade our first round pick in the draft that follows the possible pre-trade-deadline exit of Chris Paul . . . who wants to sign up for that? Actually . . . me . . . but we can’t trade first rounders in back-to-back years, and we traded one away this year. The only way to get a pick is to take on a bad contract, and the best ones of those are large contracts for a single season. For reference, the Baron Davis + pick deal was for a guy with 2 massive years after this summer, and the Cavs sent talent back to the Clips, which brings me back to: who do we have to offer in trade? So we aren’t getting a good pick unless we take on an odious deal . . . you know . . . the kind Dell spent his 6 months ridding us of, losing Starvin’ Marvin in the process, for whatever reason. Whatever the reason was, it hasn’t changed.

Also, consider the relevant portions of the draft discussion above.

So we aren’t trading. Maybe we can swing a deal as a `third team’ and pick up a guy from a team who needs to make some roster space, but that seems that is something that takes place closer to the trade deadline rather than the Summer. While this could occur, and we could get a player this way, it won’t help us get a pick in this draft to help us this year, and we certainly won’t land a start as a `third team’.

Free Agency

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We have 6 players under contract in my little scenario, and those players cost us $49.6m. If the cap is $45m, we are toast . . . but it won’t be. Let’s be generous here and assume a $60m cap with exceptions as the initial phase of the CBA as we transition to a hard cap. We can sign a $10m-new-CBA-free-agent, then use an exception for an 8th man of reasonable price (mid level), putting us at about $66m with 8 players signed. We could fill out the roster with minimum salary, Willie Green type players, maybe, and end up a little over the tax line.  If we need to stay under the tax line, we can sign a couple of free agents totaling $10m, then sign fewer vets. This will also accomodate a more modest cap.

The primary issue here, of course, is the looming lockout. With the lockout shortening the offseason, there will be very little time to negotiate deals with free agents before the season picks up. Additionally, the order in which you sign players is very important in the current CBA, and, therefore, the likely initial phase of the new CBA.Â

Then, there is the fact that Dell prefers not to deal with free agency, at least the aspect that I’m discussing.

In any free agent dealing, there are the whims and wishes of players, families, and agents that come into play, along with competition from other teams with deeper pockets or more cap room (non-exclusive-or, for Ryan and the other computer / logic nerds out there . . . respect).Â

We really haven’t been in the free agent `mood’ since we spent the exception on Posey and that blew up in our collective face. Talent aside, we haven’t been able to sign anyone . . . anyone . . . since then . . . so maybe that and Ariza are causing us to undervalue $6m players. There has been mention of our inability to attract free agents despite the presence of Chris Paul, but the financial situation just hasn’t supported such signings regardless of whom we are or are not attracting, so that dry spell doesn’t enter into the calculation for me.

Development

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That leaves development. Looking back at last year, and considering that home fans can be prone to extremes in evaluating the talent on their team, I would still say that Dell got good value in his deals, and that the players he brought in while constrained with deals such a Posey’s. Each of those players that saw time (looking at you Marcus Banks . . . at least, I would if I knew what you looked like) showed us more than a little of what we were looking for. Belinelli frustrated us not because he missed so many shots, but because he showed that he could open 3 of 4 from behind the line on more than a few occasions. Coupled with his good defense on the likes of Dwyane Wade, and you get a higher level of frustration when the ball is clanking around. For Metallica fans, think of the acoustic pieces of Master of Puppets (the album) making the harder parts harder, except backwards. Smith had great energy and made his shot . . .yeah, that single shot. Willie came to work, and he had to be dragged from the game no matter how he was playing.

Dell and Monty got what they wanted from these guys, and I’d say that these guys had a little bit of a bump up in their careers here, to a man.

Make no mistake about it, we’re going to get a new crop of cast-offs. I think this crop will be better and will have more potential than this crop. There are two reasons for this: we can be more selective in our deals for players since we don’t have to get rid of bad contracts . . . our trades will send recently signed players with reasonable deals according to the CBA. Also, we will be able to select among the available vet free agents.Â

Monty and Dell  . . . and I think Chris and David . . . have built a culture here, and when we get a critical mass, there is great potential for something wonderful to happen. I truly believe that. One can point to the good streaks as easily as the bad ones we had, but in the end we showed the capacity for greatness.  That is real. We got there on the backs of our key players, Paul and West, their lieutenants, and players who were tossed away . . . maybe rightly.

This tells me that we can make a bang without a star, but rather with an army of the right kind of soldiers. Tough. Smart. Hungry. Fraternal. Humble.

So . . .

Again, no, I don’t think we’ll sign a star. I think we could sign one, meaning we have the capacity, but I don’t think that will be our primary focus, especially given the ownership situation and how that may sit with bigger-time free agents. If Dell gets a lead on one, he’ll sign him. We are more likely to get a star in this manner than by the other means discussed.

I don’t think that this is our most likely course of action, however. I think the most likely place we improve is through developing undervalued talent. The second most likely place to improve is through sub-star (the Jupiters of the NBA) signed in free agency, or maybe two or three. The third most likely place is though a trade involving more than one core player, with the draft being mentioned as the least likely just for completeness.

I’ll leave you guys with a parting thought before going to dinner where I hope the chocolate tiramisu is on the dessert menu tonight.  This is the one chance, the only chance, that Dell and Monty really have to put forth their case to Chris, and they have a real chance to do it given the cap situation and the relatively empty roster, at least in terms of role players. Last year was a glimpse though the fog, distorted by the death throes of the previous age.

This is it.

This what we’ve been waiting for.

This should be very exciting even if my prediciton of no star players arriving turns out to be true.

We have a star.

We have a superstar, too.

Will what we manage to cobble together be able to contend with the Heat? Doubt is natural here, but does that matter? Will a ‘Heat’ be possible in the new era?

Players want minutes, money, and wins. Chris is going to get the first two anywhere. We just have to match the next best option that he’d actually go to given his will and the rules of the CBA, not the best team in the NBA.

This, I think, is the real question behind the question asked, at least for some. My answer: We have good chance to keep Chris, assuming the CBA limits Heat-like teams in some indirect fashion and allows some sort of designated player. I think 50-50 is where we are with all that, and I’ll take those odds any day.

Dunk That Sh!t is series exclusive to Hornets247.com. Click here to browse through the series.

26 comments
Stefano from Italy
Stefano from Italy

I only want to observe that Beli has a good 41% from 3 during regular season, and 40% in his career, exactly the same of Peja, one of the best shooters of the last decade. It's true that he has to improve a lot in the postseason, but he is still very young and in his first playoff was in a matchup against ARTEST, one of the best defenders of the world right now.

504ever
504ever

Just for the record. I tried to hit teams that I thought were (well) over your $60M cap and stopped at 6 for 6. It wasn't a random draw (and wasn't trying to imply it was), just one that stopped at 6 so I didn't know how many there really were. But again we are on the same page. The 2011-12 Hornets will likely change evolutionarily not revolutionarily. The evolution will come from developing existing players or finding slightly better ones to replace them. With a little luck the Hornets could become a consistent 50 win team. Wouldn't that be nice!

42
42

Then you still have your luck intact. Use it wisely.

504ever
504ever

42, I wonder if the Cap level you picked is too low for the 2011-12 season. There are a number of teams way over $60M cap figure already, some with 10 or few players under contract. And what about teams with free agents they need but can't sign with that cap figure? What cap tricks/gimicks do you think will NBA teams be allowed in the 2011-12 season with that $60M cap figure?

42
42

The largest salary cap in NBA history was $58.7m a couple years ago. It dropped, the came up slightly, but never returned to that level. Therefore, picking that cap seems reasonable and conservative for my purposes. The NBA functioned with lower caps throughout the the cap era. I'm sure the teams and free agents will be able to make it with the cap however it ends up. Remember, teams salaries drop on July 1 when some contracts end (not CBA related . . . Just the natural contract end dates), so the teams that are over $60m now (us) may not be over $60m then (us).

504ever
504ever

The what is the tax line under your proposal? (I was using 2011-12 cap figures in my previous post.) Literally the first six teams I checked were all well above the $60M cap figure with (much, in some cases,) less than 10 players under contract for next year. There is another group of teams who will be over the $60M cap after they sign their own free agents. There has to be a mechanism to let team sign their own free agents and other free agents to fill out their rosters. Otherwise you will have two classes of players: those with contacts signed before the 2011-12 season and those that don't. The first group will be much richer than the other, even with the proposed salary roll backs, if the hard cap is at $60M. (And you didn't factor a salary roll back in your calculations) So that isn't happening in your version of your 2011-12 season.) Don't get me wrong, I completely agree with your overall conclusion. I just think we will be keeping a lot more of 'this year's cast offs' than you so we can continue to develop them; none were even in camp with the this coaching staff. What mechanism do you see to allow includes a higher hard cap/tax line figure than $60M. If I were involved in the NBA negotiations, I'd just make the tax line penalty $2-3M for every $1M over the tax line. Then you would make everyone happy. Player still get (over)paid by some crazy owners. Big market teams still get to use the financial advantages of their market to outspend other teams if they want. But now small market teams get much more tax line producing 'revenue sharing' with big market teams.

42
42

You are correct about the rollback that I did not factor in. The latest reports were that there would be a transition to a hard salary cap over a couple of years, so I am assuming the CBA next year is very similar to the one this year, at least in terms of `hardness'. I use that higher cap figure in the argument about free agents not as a proposal, but as a way to reasonably frame the circumstance for the `best possible' free agent we could get . . . and if max deals are rolled back early on, we can get a near-max free agent. Then I claim that I consider this to be unlikely (not undesirable, mind you . . . unlikely), and go on to discuss what I consider to be the most likely use of resources. And I fully expect some of our current players not in our core to still be on the team, but not for lack of trying to replace them with better players. Also, Kings, Clippers, Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Thunder, Nets, Wizards, Pacers, Suns, Nuggets, Pistons, Bobcats, Warriors, Hornets, Raptors, 76'ers, Spurs, Bucks, Grizzlies, Rockets, Jazz are all under my toy cap line for next year. I would expect the tax line to increase by $2m-$3m in this case. You are lucky: if you were sampling randomly, there is only a 0.0001415 chance of hitting 6 of the 9 teams not on this list in 6 straight draws. Yes, I calculated that . . . this would be governed by a hypergeometic distribution for those playing the 42 Home Game. I'm not considering what a tax would look like during this transition period because I do not expect us to exceed it unless we land a top tier player, and I do not expect this.

L_REAZY
L_REAZY

As a Chris Paul fan (and I also claim him as my favorite player too) I must say that this would be a ‘STEAL’ for the Hornets if the trade was; CP3 for Westbrook, Harden, & Nate Robinson, along with extra cap room. Why would the Hornets turn that trade down? They would have a potential superstar replacement in Westbrook who tries to score often like we wish CP3 would. The Hornets would also have there starting 2-guard with Harden. Lastly, they’d round out their guard rotation by adding Nate Robinson alongside of Jarret Jack off the bench. Now all the Hornets would have to do is focus on Big Man help during free agency for next season. Who could argue with: F- West, Landry F- Ariza, Pondexter C- Okafor, ? G- Harden, Jack G- Westbrook, Robinson West would be excellent as the 2nd scoring option with Westbrook as the 1st, and Harden would keep his familiar scoring role as the 3rd option. CP3 always forced D-West to be the main scoring option … which he is NOT!!! I think some Hornets fans, including myself, struggle with the enivitable … Chris Paul leaving the Hornets within 1-year. It’s going to happen. So, let’s get what we can … and what we can get right now isn’t bad!!! L_REAZY

504ever
504ever

So ask yourself: Why would OKC do this? The obvious answer is: They wouldn't.

42
42

Great points are being raised here. I'm just really excited about really having so much freedom while approaching the various player markets. All you guys seem as excited as me about pieces of this, too, and that's great. We need a little excitement this summer after last Summer's malaise, the rollercoaster of the season, and the lockout coloring things this offseason.

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

well said.. I don't think we need a star like Iggy or Granger. What we need are consistent contributors. Ones that can give you a sure 10 pts each game + good defense or get rebounds + good defense or .. you get the point.. the most important thing is to get CONSISTENT contributors. Using advanced statistics, if Paul stays at the same level he plays right now with a WS/48 of 0.232, David West plays slightly worse at 0.132, Okafor plays better(numbers he had before the injury) 0.150, Jack plays the same, 0.082, Trevor improves a bit at 0.082, Pondexter stays the same at 0.060, and Aaron Gray plays the same at 0.100... now we resign Landry and he plays better the way he did during his tenure at Houston when he was very comfortable being the 6th man( say at 0.150). If we give them the following minutes breakdown, Paul - 34, West and Okafor - 30, Landry - 24, Gray - 10, Jack - 25, Ariza - 34, Pondexter - 14.. that's already a 45 win team! if we add a SG who can play at least 0.100 WS/48 balling(which is the average) then we'd get to be a 52 win team. get the picture? it's all about finding the right SG to fill those minutes. We have Paul. We have a GREAT defensive coach. with the right SG to fill our needs, we'd be great.

L_Reazy
L_Reazy

'nikkoewan' ... what about signing Mikeal Pietrus at the right price? F-West, F-Ariza, C-Okafor, G-Pietrus, G-Paul F-Landry, F-Pondexter, C-Landry G-Jack, G-Jack L_REAZY

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

Aaron Gray has a ways to go before becoming starting caliber, that I can say.. Belinelli just needs to get confident with his set shots(mind you those are set shots, not off the pick shots) and he'll be a good scorer for us.

L_REAZY
L_REAZY

Agreed! However, I wonder about Belinelli's toughness and confidence that he believes he can compete with the best. Pietrus has played the LeBrons and Kobes tough in the past, and has been to an NBA Finals. I still prefer Iguadola and a slimmer Aaron Gray! L_REAZY

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

not really liking Pietrus, too much going on in his head to be of real importance. What i'd really like to see is for Belinelli to make the same jump Afflalo did :P

L_REAZY
L_REAZY

... One more thing ...: The only player from the Hornets that seems capable of being developed at this stage is Aaron Gray. Shit, if he lost 50 pounds over the summer he would be a STUD! He has every skill you could want in a BIG MAN. His lack of dedication to conditioning is his real problem! Imagine Aaron Gray at 255 -265 ! If that was all you had to change or develop about a player (conditioning / weight loss) instead of enhancing their skills wouldn't that be worth it? Based on my trade proposal, envision: F-West, F-Ariza, C-Gray (50 lbs lighter), G-Iguadola, G-Paul ! I like that ... how bout you? L_REAZY

L_REAZY
L_REAZY

Look what happened to Marc Gasol when he got serious about losing weight and improving his conditioning! L_REAZY

L_REAZY
L_REAZY

Trade Emeka Okafor for Andre Iguadola ! We need a 2-guard & the Sixers need a Center. Since their aren't any elite Centers in the league, the Hornets can sign a serviceable big guy via Free Agency! That's how you keep CP3 ... give him a scorer / defensive minded backcourt mate at the expense of a limited / undersized Center. Bad contract for Bad contract ... need for need ... the Sixers would do it! L_REAZY

hornetboy22
hornetboy22

luv this proposal... emeka does't come across others teams as a offensive threat..iguadola certainly does. DING! DING! DING! this screams CHRIS PAUL TO STAY all over it. Chris'll stay but it wont happen by letting other players develop...trade emeka for iguadola+aaron gray commits to conditioning=CHRIS STAYING&CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER for new orleans

L_REAZY
L_REAZY

oh yeah ... throw in Pondexter and the deal is nearly 'dollar-for-dollar'! L_REAZY

crazyb1125
crazyb1125

By the way I didn't meant to say that throse guys are superstars just pieces to start making a team come alive SORRY! but real superstars Like Dwight Howard and yes I guess you can say Danny Granger, Monta Ellis, and Andre Iguodala, besides I know those players are on superstar type levels especially Monta Ellis! I think overall the Hornets should trade up for him and/or Dwight Howard. if the hornets can do whatever it takes trade for them two without trading Paul or/and Maybe West. that would be a squad to be feared more than the Lakers, Spurs, Heat, Mavs, Celtics, and Thunder!! Believe In That!!!

crazyb1125
crazyb1125

Yes i agree with majority of what 42 is trying to say, but if the Hornets really want to get somewhere they need to stop playing it safe and start living Dangerous (sought of speak)! what I mean they need to be risk takers, and sometimes go over the limit (WWE ha! ha!). Go after a superstar like Zach Randolph, J.R. Smith,Nick Young, Tayshaun Prince, heck Tim Duncan for I care (wait wait wait maybe not him), but you get the picture, hornets isn't going anywhere by trying to develope what they have and to keep Paul happy you simply gotta do a couple of things: Trade, sign, or draft enough players to make a championship calibur team or simply give paul away!!!! Let Yu-Gi-oh say and I quote "Your Move" Hornets. Ooh I haven't watch that in a long time ha! ha! ha!

chiefyoungblood
chiefyoungblood

I'm not saying this is how you a acquire a star but if the Hornets want they could get a 2 in the draft by either moving up slightly ( threw a team like the bulls ) too get Marshon Brooks or maybe even int the lottery for Alec Burks and though I don't this is very likely you know it could technically. If we keep our current pick more than a few options should still be on the table ( Scotty Hopson , Deandre Liggens, David Lighty ) if we want to address the two guard that way. Just a little draft spin. I know a guy who got married in baton rouge today

edbballin504
edbballin504

Good job 42. Michael would be proud of the way you stepped up in his absence. I honestly think the Hornets make their biggest improvement via trade. Demps seems to understand that the best way to be make a splash is to "rob" another team of assets because we have the flexibility and ability to do so. With the new CBA changing the landscape of the NBA, teams will have to "dump" salaries and players to comply. That's where a team like us can take advantage. We are equipped to do just that, and I think you see us land an impact player or 2 because of it. The undervalued players we pick up via free agency or trade will still be there as well, but I think we grab a savvy veteran off a team that needs to make a move because of the new CBA. If there is anytime to be flexible and have cap space, its this offseason. We are in that position.

Brazilian Hornet
Brazilian Hornet

Do you really believe that players like Belinelli and Green could be developed to make the Hornets a top contender? Honestly, I think you should stop reading fables and science fiction' books. What the Hornets need is talent around Chris Paul. We have no time to wait for Belinelli learn to shoot balls and have a decent average. That's what I think.

notoriousBEE
notoriousBEE

Did anyone think JJ Barea was capable of what he has done this year?