Offseason Targets: Centers

Could we see the return of the Crescent City Connection next year?

Prior to his injury in February, many Hornets fans were arguing that Emeka Okafor was playing at an All-Star level. His numbers decreased dramatically after his injury (11.1 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 60% field goal vs. 8.7, 8.2, and 52%) and he had a horrible showing in the postseason against the Lakers. Because of that, some Hornets fans are again questioning whether or not Okafor is the long term answer at the Center position. Okafor’s backup, Aaron Gray, played fantastic at times (and horrible at others), but he is likely to decline his player option and hit the market as an unrestricted free agent.

Monty Williams has said several times this offseason that the Hornets have to get bigger at their power positions. This was obvious as we saw the Lakers simply dismantle the Hornets down low whenever they felt like it. In the next series, Dallas was able to sweep LA, in large part, because they have a long and active big in Tyson Chandler. If the Hornets are going to make a huge leap forward in the West, they are going to have to add some size to compete with the monsters that this conference has down low. When it comes playoff time, the Hornets will be forced to deal with  guys like Dirk, the Gasol Brothers, Bynum, Chandler, Z-Bo, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Tim Duncan. No matter who occupies the other three spots on the floor, it will be hard to win three playoff series against guys like that with an undersized power forward and an undersized center.


1. Keith Benson, Oakland

If Benson were to try and bang with NBA centers today, he would get eaten alive. Put it this way, Hilton Armstrong would go for 30 and 15 against this guy if they were to go head to head tonight. But long term, Benson could be a legitimate NBA center if he could add some weight and if he continues to add different aspects to his offensive repertoire. He might remind Demps of a guy he worked with in San Antonio (and a guy he pursued in free agency last year) Ian Mahinmi. I know that name doesn’t excite people, but Benson could have an impact down the road as a backup center who can change shots and occasionally surprise you with his ability to score.

2. Jordan Williams, Maryland

The good news is that Williams was a terrific rebounder in college and that usually translates well to the pro game. The bad news is that he is just another undersized center who probably can’t play power forward. Williams is only 6’9″ and he does not have the great athleticism that can sometimes make up for lack of height (30 inch vert, 12 percent body fat). What he does have, however, is a developing pick and pop game and a knack for getting to the glass- two things that the Hornets covet.

3. Rick Jackson, Syracuse

I have always been a fan of guys like Reggie Evans; guys who do the little things, handle all the dirty work. Jackson is one of those guys. Like Williams, he is undersized and not extremely athletic, but he is excellent at throwing his weight around. You want a guy who can crash the offensive glass or set a bone-jarring screen for CP3? Rick Jackson is your man. There is some worry that he is coming out of a zone system, but he shows the hunger and desire on the defensive end that is needed to succeed.

Other possibilities: Greg Smith, Fresno State; Michael Dunigan, International

Free Agency

1. Tyson Chandler (Mavericks)

I must confess that I feel like a jerk listing Chandler in this piece, mostly because I do not think the Hornets have a shot at signing him and I hate getting people’s hopes up. Then again, I have read several Psychology Today articles about the benefits of dreaming big. So with that in mind, let’s talk about Chandler. He would provide the length and size that Monty says the Hornets so desperately need and he obviously has a familiarity with CP3 and David West. Signing Chandler would be expensive and it would likely result in the end of the Emeka Okafor era, but I think Hornets fans would get over that if it meant that the Crescent City Connection was back.

The concern with Chandler is that his foot is still not 100% and it never will be again. But the guy did play 95 games this season and seemed to hold up just fine. Dallas was able to limit Chandler’s minutes (28 per game in regular season) due to their outstanding depth, and you would think that New Orleans would have to do the same. The question then becomes: Would you rather have Tyson for 28 minutes a game or Emeka for 35? I guess that all depends on who the backup is.

2. Marc Gasol (Grizzlies)

Another guy that the Hornets likely have no shot at acquiring, Gasol is actually number one on a lot of Hornets fans’ lists because he does not have the injury baggage that Chandler does. Gasol’s low post game would fit beautifully with David West and his massive size would be a welcome addition to the Hornets front court. The question is whether there is any offer that Memphis would not match for their 26 year old center.

3. DeAndre Jordan (Clippers)

Two and a half years ago, Chris Paul saw Jordan skying over the rim in warmups and he whispered to Byron Scott, “We gotta get this guy.” Now, Jordan is a free agent and the Hornets have a chance (albeit a small one) to get a guy who could be the next Tyson Chandler, minus the foot problem. Jordan is athletic and active around the rim, with the ability to wreck havoc on both sides of the court. Like Chandler early in his career, Jordan has never really played with an elite PG, so you begin to salivate when you think about what CP3 could do for his game.

Other possibilities: Nazr Mohammad (Thunder), Louis Amundson (Warriors), Joel Prybella (Bobcats), Jeff Foster (Pacers), Ryan Hollins (Cavs), Sam Dalembert (Kings)


1. Ronny Turiaf (Knicks)

I know that everybody wanted to see Dwight Howard’s name here, but I did enough wishing in my free agent selections. Now it is time to get back to reality. Turiaf is a feisty, undersized center that could give the Hornets the toughness that they often lack down low. His salary is a little high for what he brings ($4.36 million) and because of that, the Hornets might be able to acquire another asset for taking on his salary. Perhaps a guy like Bill Walker, who can add some athleticism on the wings.

2. Greg Oden (Blazers)

I have floated this idea several times now and still can not figure out who would say no. Oden, Batum, and Roy for Ariza and Okafor. The Blazers get two guys who they can pencil in for 80 games per year next to Aldridge and Matthews while the Hornets swing for the fences by gambling on Oden (and to a lesser extent Roy). When salary is considered, Batum is a better value than Ariza and he might just be the better overall player regardless of salary.

If Oden can get healthy and Roy can give 25 minutes a night, the Hornets would have a chance to be special. If not, then at least you tried to make this team a perennial contender. Signing Nazr Mohammad and Jason Richardson is not going to do that. Swing for the fences with Oden and go for the dynasty. If CP3 is gone anyway, at least you went out with guns blazing (no pun intended).

3.  Robin Lopez (Suns)

Lopez was a huge disappointment for Phoenix last year and Marcin Gortat seems destined to take the majority of the minutes for the Suns next year. Perhaps a change of scenery is necessary to reinvigorate his game. Phoenix could be in salary dump mode once they finally do the right thing and trade Nash. Using two different TPE’s, Lopez and Josh Childress for Q-Pon and conditional 2nd rounders in 2085 and 2087 works under the rules of the CBA.

4. Andrew Bogut (Bucks)

Where there is smoke, there is usually some fire and although Milwaukee is denying the rumors that Bogut is on the block, the truth is that they are probably listening. And why wouldn’t they? Yes, Bogut is talented, but he has also been injury prone the last two years and he is one of the few pieces of value that the Bucks have on their roster. They made some horrible decisions last summer, and it might turn out that the only way to rectify those poor choices will be to part with Bogut.

I think most teams would take Bogut over Okafor if you could guarantee that both men will be able to give 75+ games per year, but obviously you can’t. The question then becomes: Is Bogut a big enough upgrade to overlook the recent injury concerns? If the Hornets decide that the answer is yes, they will likely put together a package that includes a swap of the two big men, with the Hornets also taking on at least one bad contract from Milwaukee. Bogut and Maggette for Okafor, Ariza, and Anderson works, but I don’t think it makes the Hornets a better team.


We all want to know which Emeka we will be getting next year. Will he be the guy who was quite possibly our team MVP in the first half of the year? Will he be the overwhelmed center we saw in the playoffs? Is it possible that he will be more determined than ever after having his first taste of the playoffs and respond with a career year?

It is hard to say, but there has been a constant theme this offseason if you listen to every Demps and Monty interview: We NEED to get bigger. What good is getting bigger at backup center if that guy is only going to give you 10-15 minutes, none of which come at crunch time? I have a feeling that, as much as they love ‘Mek as a person, Demps and Monty will move him in a second if they have a chance at landing a guy like Chandler, Gasol, or even Jordan. Heck, they might even prefer Dalembert if they can get a guy like Iggy or Monte for Emeka.

But if Emeka does return, additional size is certainly needed and the Hornets might have to explore the possibility of playing Okafor at the four for a couple of minutes per game. The West is stacked with an assortment of quality big men, and the elite teams in the conference all have size that trumps anything that the Hornets currently have on the roster. If they are going to be considered legitimate contenders, they are going to have to add some size down low and I don’t mean adding a 4th big that is 7+ feet. If Landry, West, and Okafor are all back, the fourth big is unlikely to get much time on the court. Adding “size” means letting one of those guys go- maybe two.

For a look back at the entire series: point guard; shooting guard; small forward; power forward

33 responses to “Offseason Targets: Centers”

  1. I don’t understand why trade option #2 isn’t #1. If you are talking about trying to keep a superstar happy why not go for it all?

    • I agree. If I am the Hornets, I make that deal in a heartbeat. One thing you would know, either we will be REALLY good (most likely b/c everyone is healthy), or we’d be REALLY bad (b/c everyone is out hurt). Next year is do or die anyway for the CP3 era in New Orleans so why not go out swinging!

  2. I like the idea of having Dalembert. If we can get equal value for Okafor in the form of an Iggy or Monta, then that seems like a win-win deal, but I just don’t see other teams valuing him nearly as much as we think they should. I think a more realistic trade would come down to us having to get rid of Okafor for Rip Hamilton and MAYBE Austin Daye, and that’s still unlikely to happen because it really doesn’t make us any better. It all depends on how much other teams value Okafor, and I don’t think they have him that high on their lists UNLESS they have a very good back court, or a really good PF. I guess we will just have to wait and see what it boils down to when it comes to trades.

    As for free agency goes, I think we would have to sacrifice another season without a legitimate starting SG to get Tyson, Gasol, or maybe even Jordan. I think Tyson is actually the least exciting of the bunch with his durability issues and one-dimensional offense. Gasol is a pipedream, but would be an amazing fit with his advanced offense. Jordan is also highly unlikely, but maybe we can throw enough money at him and woo him with propaganda to come and play here. He’s a freak athlete with great rebounding and shot blocking ability, but still to this point his offense is very one-dimensional. However, he’s still a young player and with the right coaching he can develop some new moves. The cliffhanger remains with signing an expensive free agent center though. Would we have to keep Okafor, dump him for spare parts, or hopefully get some decent value for him in the form of a shooting guard. We shall see. There are too many factors to count and try to predict what will happen this offseason.

    As an added note, I like the trade idea with Portland. Great write-up altogether.

    • They say you never trade big for small, so I cant see us trading Okafor for a wing player unless we have a big locked up to replace him. I’d rather have a solid center and weak wings anyday over solid wings and no inside man. If we play D we can still win with a center downlow, but play D with no center and its very tough to win, especially in the West.

  3. I’ve been catching up on the blog today after being gone a while. Great work guys.

    I attend a Summit League school and have watched Keith Benson plenty. The guy is a smart player that has the intangibles. But, as you said, he’d be demolished right now. If that guy works hard in the weight room I see him being a very good backup in a year or two. One unfortunate thing for him this year was watching his free throws drops. He shot about 75% as a Junior. I love big men who can hit at the stripe, but he fell around 10% this year.

    I love the idea for the trade with Portland. Everytime I see it, I wish you were the guy calling the shots so it’d happen. It’s well documented on the history of Monty and Batum. Brandon Roy could take 20-25 minutes a game and use Marco/Green and Jack to do the work at the 2 when Roy is resting. And, I’ve wanted to take the shot on Oden since last summer. When he’s been on the floor, he’s golden. I’ll take the shot on that move in a heartbeat.

    And while you’re at it, I’ll take that Suns deal too. Trade exemptions and a 2nd round or two, 10 years from now for Robin Lopez and Josh Childress.

    And then our draft pick, give me Norris Cole. Our local cable (from Ohio) has a network that covers 80% of Cleveland State basketball games, so I watched him play about everytime I was home from school for a weekend. I love this guy and think he’d be a great backup. Then bring back either Marco or Green.

    PG – Paul, Jack, Cole
    SG – Roy, Green/Marco
    SF – Batum, Q-Pon
    PF – West, Landry
    C – Oden, Lopez

    Someone like Jack can also play a lot of minutes at the two where I think he’s great. We can run some small lineups with West and Landry on the floor together. In this situation, there are 11 guys. That 12th spot? Jon Diebler. Sign him cheap as an undrafted free agent. He’s a shooter, nothing more. Let him get a few minutes on the floor. If he’s hitting, he’s a difference maker, if not, sit him back down. Low risk guy that could be the last line of the rotation.

    I’m done dreaming. I’m ready to get this offseason rolling!

    • I forgot the Suns deal we would also eat Childress’ contract. So, I’d place him after Q-Pon. Meaning, if we signed Diebler like I’d hope, he or Childress would have the short straw on being out of the rotation. So, maybe have Diebler start on the outside, if Josh doesn’t produce or Diebler is shooting well, make the switch.

    • Man that team is GOLDEN! I’d pay twice the price of my normal season ticket price to see that team on the floor every night. I BEElieve would be an understatement to the potential and buzz the team would have around here. Like you said though, I’m done dreaming too but it was fun. LoL

      • No doubt man. The trade with Portland would be an obvious risk due to injury history. But, I want to see some gambles from this front office now. Take a shot in the dark. If Roy and Oden stayed healthy, my goodness that’d be amazing.

        The Suns trade, I hadn’t thought about until reading this post. But it’s true, if Suns trade Nash and go to rebuild mode, they’d love to ship out bad contracts like Childress. I’m not a huge fan of Fropez, but as a backup, I’ll take him and a contract for some exemptions and future 2nd rounds.

        Demps showed this year he will wheel and deal. I really hope we take a big chance. If Paul leaves, I can only hope the organization went down going big. I love my fantasies.

    • how would you get this roster? what pieces would you trade away and how do you know that this deal can go down. plz explain! I know its your fantasy but if you can piece together the pieces it might could become a reality. I’m jus sayin!!

    • Dont forget Patrick Ewing Jr. is also in that small/power position to help Landry & David (when healthy)

  4. Instead of getting a player “like” Reggie Evans, why not just go get the real Evans??

    No Varejao in the equation here, do you not feel he would be a capable center in our type of system? He makes about $4 mill less than Okafor, and if I had to choose between the 2, I’d probably take Varejao plus another upgrade at another position with the $4 mill we saved. Would us taking on the huge Jamison salary with Varejao be an upgrade over what we have? It wouldn’t make us a contender which is the goal, but we’d improve IMO.

    I think only the POR trade makes us a potential contender right away. Everything else is just small upgrades that won’t make CP3 happy enough to extend his deal IMO.

    • Great points.

      Is the repeated “undersized with motor” description on the majority of the players mentioned in the post intended irony?

      Why not look at all the adequate or over sized centers and pfs, see whether they’re stiffs or not and determine the probability of bringing them in. Talks of swapping similar parts hoping for some miraculous “better fit” just does not excite…

  5. I, for one, want DeAndre Jordan. Bad.

    But sounds like the Clippers are all in on him. We might have to grossly overpay for him.

    • I love DeAndre Jordan too. I wish the Clippers weren’t in love with him like I am. I think he’s going to get overpaid this summer. But man, I would love to have that guy on this team.

  6. I’m sorry, but I would rather take my chances with someone else than Oden. I mean, his right foot is 1 inch longer than his left. If he stayed healthy he would be gold. I just don’t know if he has the body to do it. I like DeAndre alot. Supposedly, he’s an extremely popular guy around the league, so I bet he and CP are good friends.

  7. Javale McGee has once again come up in trade rumors. Any speculation on that? Obviously I would love that to happen.

    • I’ve heard that he’s another chandler, forget who I heard it from but I know It was somebody here. Anyway he’s a big upgrade from Oakfor if you ask me, 10 ppg,10 rpg, in the top 3 for BPG in the league, and he’s a 7’0 ft. It would be awesome if we added D.Jordan but i’m hearing that the clippers are so attached to him. Dan I hope we can make these deals happen just by having these two alone is a big step up.

  8. Rick Jackson and Jordan Williams are Power Forwards.But i know this guy wont be with any team this year maybe but checkout Giorgi Shermadini of the Republic of Georgia i’ve seen his youtube videos he’s a beast we should get him in the second round or Mike Tilsdale of Illinois both of theses guys are 7’1.Other centers Gary McGhee 6’10 of Pitt,Jarrid Famous 6’11 of South Florida,Brian Qvale 6’11 Montana and Mamadou Diarra 7’0 of Chaminade

    • wow you’ve done a lil research huh, but the Question is…….. Can anyone of those guys pull a Marcus Thornton and make an impact on the team.

  9. Great write up Mac, but why did you list so many unlikely candidates in the Free Agency section? Is it because there’s so few to choose from? Anyway, based on your list and overall likelihood, I would go for Ryan Hollins. When I first saw him play, I thought he was Javale McGee 2.0. Once I realized we could not get McGee, and I still don’t think we can, I was hoping for Hollins since his last days in Minnesota.
    As for your trades, I think Rob Lo is the way to go. The other guys are too old or have bodies made of glass.
    As for your draft picks, I’m starting to notice a pattern of you picking young fellas out of Chicago. As I have stated many times, I have no personal bias for my city’s players, e.g. my lack of adoration for Wilson Chandler, however when comparing your picks of J-Will, Rick Jack, Smith, and Dunigan, I’d go for Dunigan. Why? Because he’s the tallest, has the longest wingspan, and is the most efficient. The other guys put up serviceable numbers but; uncharacteristic of ACC players, J-Will is fat and can’t jump; Rick Jack faced adversity in the Big East, but did so with average fundamentals; “JuJu” Smith has foot long hands and a megalodon body, but he played in the WACk conference, and seems low on basketball IQ. It’s 2011 and I still don’t care what anybody says, I want my JuJu back. If not Wright, then Smith will suffice, but based on the aforementioned draft picks Hornets should go for Dunigan IMO.

  10. I believe all of your free agent and trade options are unrealistic, don’t improve the team, or both. So that means Okafor is coming back. No surprise there.

    I would have liked to see you address what Gray’s contract size might be on the open market. Can you?

    • Free agents- unrealistic? Very true, but I had to address these guys because it is what the people demand. I can only be the voice of reason for so long! Don’t improve the team? That I disagree with. Do any of them make us “the team to beat?” No, but Robin Lopez would be an upgrade over Aaron Gray, DJ Mbenga, etc. SO would Ronny Turiaf.

      As for Gray- I think that he will get something along the lines of 2 yr/5 million or 3 years/7 million. Similar to what Louis Amunson got last summer. People watched New Jersey overpay Petro last offseason and that will keep Gray’s one good playoff game in perspective. Still, it will be a nice little pay increase for Gray, whether it is here or somewhere else.

      • Thanks for the reply Michael.

        As far as the trades you mentioned making us better, who/what do we give up to get Turiaf or Lopez. If it is a trade exemption, why not use it to get a starting or back-up SG?

  11. other people dream of Portland trades involving batum and ogden too!!!

    wether we get a new PF or C will probably be dictated by the level of player we get. If we cant get a Deandre Jordan type (at least as good- i’ll be pissed)

    Two PF possibilities that could off-set our need for another center.
    BUT could we possibly trade for a PFAnthony Randolph (not LSU homerism—but did see that he had immeasurable gifts at LSU and) HE had 19.9ppg and 6.6 reb. in his last 5 games (and over a block)
    Free Agent Josh mc Roberts isn’t your protypical cracka, he averages about as many points as D. Jordan and maybe two less rebounds per game. he’s a lengthy forward with hops.

  12. What people wanting Robin Lopez he’s not like his brother Brook who gets all the glory.Robin is the basketball version of Tim Hasselbeck nothing but an journey man.

  13. If we trade Okafor to the 76ers for Iggy re-sign Gray,MBenga and draft Mamadou Diarra he has a wingspan of 7’4 he’s an second round steal to me

  14. Draft Benson if he is available!! He’s 50-50 to become solid, so let’s figure it out. You don’t get secure value at 45 anyway!
    Trading for Oden and Roy looks stupid to me. It just doesn’t seem like they can play more than 40 games combined in the future, so we will just posting “if-healthy” phrases in the comments here the next years to come…..

  15. I’ve been saying that we should target AnGre Jordan since that off-season target Shooting Guard article.

    ’m so so surprised that Monta Ellis, Kevin Martin, and Dwight Howard wasn’t part of the trade part of this trade article. Personally I would love it if 2 of 3 was on the Hornets. but what’s the odds of that happening. what I’m wondering is what will our Line-up look like………. heres what it could look like if we had a category call Balance D:

    starters Bench
    PG->Chris Paul Mario Chalmers (RFA), Jannero Pargo (Trade)
    SG->Monta Ellis (T) Sam Young (RFA), Deshawn Stevenson (UFA)
    SF->Nicolas Batum (T) Vladimir Radmanovic (UFA) Rasul Butler (Trade)
    PF->David West (Dt Opt) Reggie Evans, (UFA), (Tall) D- Leaguer???(or not)
    C->Javale McGee (Trade) DeAgre Jordan (RFA), (Tall) D- Leaguer??(or not)

    yea I might be exaggerating a lil bit but the Hornets have a chance to get some of these players.

    1) Carl Landry-sign and trade deal w/T. Ariza and Marco Belini & Future 1st RD pick (Opt) for M.E.
    2) Jarett Jack w/current 2nd Round pick for N.Batum
    3) Willie Green/Q. Pond 4 J.P/Rasul Butler (Sign & Trade from CHI) & 2nd Round Pick
    4) Emek & 2nd round pick from (CHI) for J.McGee
    5) everyone else is signed free Agents or RFA
    It could happen!!! Hornets just gotta know how to mouth piece’em or better yet know how to talk to get what they want & stop being so attach to players. only players that need to be attach to is CP3 & D.Dub30

    ALSO R.I.P. in Heaven KIARRA “KI-BABY” DAVIS!!!!! Your spirit is always apart of me, God Bless You!!!

    Anyway I said that we should target Jordan and I came up with a way to Javale McGee adding those two to our squad is Genius and I don’t care what anybody say we should try our best to grab those two at least if we don’t grab Monta Ellis.

    • By the Way I’m quoting myself as proof before Off-season targets- Center article was on her. its jus a reminder for those who have seen this comment before. I’m sticking to that roster thats all.

  16. What could happen is CP3 will be more involved with Demps & Williams this time. Because it’s do or die more than ever.Could we get Dwight Howard no because you’re looking at 2 frist round draft picks 2012 & 2013 or one of those draft picks and players included. It’s a huge risk but if it was an reality but i doubt it you’re talking about getting some mid-level players in free agency. Mostly veterans and youthful players on the bench.Getting Iggy in a trade could be easier than getting Dwright Howard or Monta Ellis because the 76ers want a 2012 frist round pick and Okafor.then you can sign DeAndre Jordan or Samuel Dalembert.

    • I’d be happy with Iggy. I think he can prove to be overrated at times, but he’s a name. Putting names on this team should make Paul happier. I’d wait to make a deal like that though. Last thing I want is to deal out Okafor, and not be able to acquire a worthwhile center to start for us.

      I’d be pleased though if we could get Jordan, then make a Okafor/Iggy base trade.

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