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Offseason Targets: Small Forward

Published: June 16, 2011

Andre Iguodala and Wilson Chandler might be too hard to pass up if they are available

Last offseason, the small forward position was overhauled as Trevor Ariza was brought in via trade and Quincy Pondexter was selected with the 26th pick of the NBA draft. The two brought athleticism and a much needed defensive mentality to the position, but were suspect at times on the offensive end. Ariza shot under 40% from the field for the second straight year (30% from three), and hit just 70% of his free throws. Pondexter, meanwhile, was in and out of the rotation and showed flashes of being a poor man’s Bruce Bowen as he worked on his deep shot, in particular the corner three.

In the playoffs, we caught a glimpse of the Trevor Ariza that we all were expecting when the Hornets first made the trade. His percentages rose across the board, as did his scoring (from 11ppg to 15.5) and his rebounding (5.4 to 6.5). The question that most Hornets fans have is whether the playoff series was a sign of things to come or was it an aberration? Did Ariza finally turn the corner and figure out how to be more aggressive in Monty’s system or was he just amped up because it was the playoffs and he was facing his former team?

Ariza had a stretch in January where it looked like he turned the corner, putting up over 13PPG while shooting 45% from the field and 38% from deep. For no reason in particular, the wheels fell off in February and March as Ariza played awful before finally picking his game back up in April and through the playoffs. Demps has said in the past that CP3, West, and Okafor are the core of this team, meaning that Ariza is likely viewed as a piece that will be moved if a substantial upgrade becomes available. The possibility also exists that Ariza can be moved to sixth man or (to a lesser degree) shooting guard, should an elite small forward be acquired.


1. Jerome Richmond, Illinois

Ironically, Richmond likely projects as a Trevor Ariza-like player in the NBA. Incredibly athletic and feisty on the defensive end, Richmond is just oozing with potential. Like Ariza, he also lacks polish and adequate ball handling skills. He just turned 19 three months ago and likely wouldn’t contribute until the 2012-13 season, but the Hornets have a chance to get their hands on a player with tremendous upside before he develops any bad NBA habits that take years to unlearn. If they take Richmond and are patient, he has the pedigree and the potential to be a starting small forward 2-3 years down the road.

2. Jimmy Butler, Marquette

A physical, hard working player who has the potential to be a lockdown defender and an adequate enough player on offense to demand respect, Butler could turn into a Sam Young/Ryan Gomes type of player. The true question with Butler is whether he can play the four in the NBA. If he can, he goes from a below average athlete at small forward to an above average athlete at power forward, making him more of a weapon for a team that will get out and run. Like any prospect who may still be available at No. 45, Butler is limited, but he has the tools to crack the rotation.

3. Chandler Parsons, Florida

Full disclosure, I have played with Parsons more than 100 times (Mostly while he was a senior in high school) and he has embarrassed me on dozens of occasions, so I have plenty of incentive to trash him here. But I won’t. Parsons is a uniquely unselfish player who can do a little bit of everything on the basketball court. He stood in the shadows of Nick Calathes (both in high school and in college), but finally came into his own this year at Florida.

To be honest, I never thought that Parsons had the potential to be an NBA player, mostly due to his lack of foot-speed, but he really impressed me this year at Florida and could make it in the NBA as an 8th or 9th man if he takes his perimeter game to the next level. There is no reason that he can’t become some kind of Ryan Anderson/Mike Miller hybrid on the offensive end, but the concern will always be that there is not a position that he can defend on the defensive end.

Others: Justin Harper, Richmond; Kyle Singler, Duke; Justin Holliday, Washington

Free Agency

1. Wilson Chandler (Nuggets)

Chandler is a restricted free agent, but most believe that he would be the odd man out if Denver had to choose between him and Aaron Afflalo. Chandler spent much of his time with the Knicks playing power forward prior to Amare Stoudamire’s arrival, before transitioning to the small forward position both in New York and in Denver. Some argue that he can play shooting guard, and there is some evidence to that, as one of Denver’s best units was a unit that saw Chandler at the 2 (Lawson- Chandler- Gallo- Martin- Nene).

But the numbers show that Chandler was far more effective on both ends of the court playing small forward. His shooting percentage was 19% higher while playing the three and his defense on opposing small forwards was superb (a 9.7 PER for opposing SF’s). So the question becomes what to do with Ariza if Chandler comes aboard. Do you try to play the two together or do you move Ariza to the bench? Perhaps you try to move Ariza for some size or you package him in a deal for a shooting guard that fits nicely alongside Chandler. I don’t know the answer, but it would be a good problem to have.

2. Tracy McGrady (Pistons)

It seems like a big fall from Chandler to McGrady, but there is a reason for that. After Chandler, you have a bunch of guys who would just be marginal upgrades to Ariza or whose differential would be negligible (T. Prince, S. Battier, AK47, Caron Butler, etc.). Bringing in a guy like that would just lead to the same musical chairs that we saw at the shooting guard position last year. If you aren’t going to bring in a significant upgrade, you have to look to a guy who will have a clearly defined role.

I believe McGrady would find that role on this team as a reserve small forward who handles the ball and dictates the offense. It is becoming clear that Jarret Jack is more of a two-guard, so why not pair him with another player in the second unit that could handle the PG responsibilities? A foursome of Jack, Q-Pon, T-Mac, and Landry would compliment each other extremely well off the bench and like Marion and Peja did for the Mavs, T-Mac would bring that veteran hunger for a ring.

3. Mike Dunleavy, Jr. (Pacers)

Another vet that I think has plenty in the tank if he is being asked to play a reserve role, Dunleavy can bring ball handling and shooting to the second unit. Like McGrady, he could fit well with Jack and Q-Pon, bringing an added dimension to the team. Dunleavy also has an incredibly high basketball IQ and is the type of player that will never hurt his team provided that he stays healthy.

Other possibilities: Luc Mbah a Moute, Jamario Moon, Kelenna Azubuike, Shawne Williams, Derrick Brown, Josh Howard


1. Andre Iguodala (Sixers)

Iggy makes just over 13 million next season and is seen as expendable by his current team, mostly because they have young guys on much cheaper contracts that can take his place. Like Chandler, the question with Iggy is whether he and Ariza can co-exist. Another question is whether the Hornets have the resources to acquire the man known simply as “Iggy.” If Ariza is part of the package, then there is no problem. However, what if it is a straight swap of Mek for Iggy?

More likely than not, such a trade would only occur if the Hornets had Emeka’s replacement in their back pocket. Pipe dreams of Tyson Chandler float through all of our minds, but if Demps can somehow make that a reality, then a Mek for Iggy swap might not be out of the question. It would be the types of bold moves that would show CP3 that we are all in with him, hopefully setting the table for a long term extension to be signed prior to the summer of 2012.

2. Jared Dudley (Suns)

If Phoenix does the smart thing this summer and trades Steve Nash to a contender, then they could look to blow the whole thing up. One of the guys who benefits most from Steve Nash’s presence (and not so much from PG of the future Aaron Brooks) is Jared Dudley. Dudley would fit in perfectly on this team, bringing much needed three-point shooting and scoring to the wing position.

The question is whether or not the Hornets would have to take on a horrible contract to get Dudley. They might have to eat the contract of Josh Childress just to get in the sweepstakes or perhaps just Mickael Pietrus would be enough. Use our TPE to absorb Pietrus’s contract, then pick up the option on David Anderson’s contract and send him and Q-Pon for Dudley. David Anderson wants to play overseas next year, so Phoenix negotiates a buyout, thereby dumping 9.8 million dollars of salary in a rebuilding year and picking up a player for the future in Q-Pon.

3. Corey Maggette (Bucks)

His contract is awful (2 years/21 million remaining), but he is a terrific scorer off the bench and he gets to the line a ton. The Hornets would be fools to take on Maggette and let him eat up all of their space, but perhaps the Bucks can throw in some assets for us to take him off their hands. They have the number 10 pick in the upcoming draft and they also have some pieces that would look good on this roster, specifically Larry Sanders, Ersan Illysova, and Carlos Delfino.

A trade that sends Ariza out of town, along with Anderson, and some TPE’s for Illysova, Maggette, a future first, and Larry Sanders would sit fine with me. Illysova gives you a lot of things that Ariza does at 35% of the cost, Maggette becomes your bench scorer, and Larry Sanders reaches his ceiling of Theo Ratliff/Ben Wallace in the next two years.


The coaches have to go back and look at the tape to see if Trevor Ariza’s offensive game is salvageable or if he is destined to be a 40/30/70 guy in this league. If it is the latter, the team has to look hard at finding an upgrade or replacement. Q-Pon has showed that he is willing to work and improve, meaning that he has the chance to be a regular in the rotation next year, with an outside shot of being a fringe starter in a year or two.

There are some quality options available on the market, and quite frankly, the Hornets would be better served if Ariza could play shooting guard, but he can’t. The free agent crop of shooting guards is weak, while the crop of small forwards is probably the strongest of any position. Therefore, if Ariza could net the Hornets a quality big man or shooting guard in a trade, the Hornets might go after a guy like Prince or Butler to fill the void he leaves behind. But the Hornets have to decide first on Ariza, and due to his up and down play, that will be a tough decision to make.


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