Trade made with an eye toward 2013

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Published: December 15, 2011

After game one of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, Hornets fans were convinced that anything was possible as long as CP3 was on our side. Against a team of giants and an all-time NBA great with five rings, Chris Paul masterfully picked his spots and gave New Orleans fans hope in a series that was predicted by most to be a sweep. He wasn’t a part of a ‘Big Three’ (heck, he didn’t even have a second banana) but on that afternoon it didn’t even matter. He went into his new home, the Staples Center, and showed the Western Conference favorites that he could take down their team of stars with a team of castoffs and also-rans.

Now, the team must move on after Wednesday’s mega trade, and we all have to come to terms that the guy who could single handedly keep us in any game is gone. Instead, the team will have to be rebuilt, hopefully with more balance and cohesiveness. Chris Paul was so good that he could make up for glaring weaknesses up and down the roster, but Chris Paul isn’t here anymore, and Eric Gordon should not be forced to place the weight of this franchise on his shoulders the way Paul had to these past few years.

Instead, the Hornets will build the right way. They have two wonderful pieces to start with in the newly acquired Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu. They are also likely to have multiple lottery picks this year, and perhaps another in 2013, as they try to develop some of the younger talent on this roster. While the present is always important, and can not be taken for granted, the future is where the promise lies for this team, and that promise could turn into something really special starting in 2013.

If the Hornets are patient over the course of these next two years, it is within reason to see them walk into the summer of 2013 with Gordon, Aminu, three lottery picks on rookie contracts, four or five additional young assets, and over twenty five million dollars in cap space to go after a free agency class that could include Stephen Curry, Tyreke Evans, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez, Russell Westbrook, and some guy named Chris Paul.

Okay, so CP3 might be a stretch, but the point is that the Hornets could easily find themselves in a position where they have one of the best young rosters in the game AND the ability to add a star or two in a free agent class that will be super deep. Combine that with the fact that 2013 will be the first season that the NBA will be going to their more punitive luxury tax formula, and cap space will be twice as valuable as it is currently.

To get there, though, the Hornets will have to make some tough decisions along the way. They will have to resist the urge to win now at all costs. Undoubtedly, teams will be calling over these next two years with packages that could improve the roster instantly at a cost of financial flexibility. The class of 2012 will offer some short term fixes at positions of need as well. Steve Nash, Andre Miller, and Chauncey Billups would all be drastic upgrades at the point guard position and it is going to be hard to resist putting someone like that next to Eric Gordon. Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett will be available at drastically reduced prices in a summer where the Hornets will have some money to spend, but Demps and Monty will have to resist adding the type of players that normally every coach and GM would kill to have.

Demps will likely have to make tough decisions with guys on the current roster as well. In order to dive into the 2013 free agency class, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza will have to be taken off the books- either via trade or through the leagues amnesty and/or stretch provisions. Okafor will be easier to move than Ariza, and perhaps a phone call to Toronto for their overpaid point guard Jose Calderon and a future pick would be a move that would benefit both teams. The Raptors get the defensive minded center that they covet and the Hornets get a stop gap point guard who just happens to come off the books before the summer of 2013.

If the Hornets can not move Ariza, they can always use their amnesty on him prior to the opening of free agency in 2013. The move would wipe his 7.7 million dollar salary off the books, giving the Hornets between 25 and 30 million dollars to spend, assuming they haven’t taken on any additional long term contracts and also assuming that they will give Eric Gordon a max deal of around 5 years/74 million.

From there, the sky is the limit as far as what kind of roster the Hornets can build. This should come at a time when the Heat seriously have to think about trading one of the ‘Big 3′ due to the tax and as the Thunder have to decide which two to keep out of Westbrook, Harden, and Ibaka. The Grizz should be on the way down, with Randolph, Gasol, and Gay eating up their entire cap, and the Mavs, Lakers, and Spurs could be in the beginning stages of a rebuild.

This is all best case scenario, I know, and it is entirely likely that the 2012 draft is a bust and Eric Gordon turns down a max contract to stay. Those things are possible, but not at all probable, and the odds say that if the Hornets stick to the plan of targeting the 2013 free agent class while simultaneously developing the young players on the roster, the future could be extremely bright. But will Demps and Monty have the patience and fortitude to build that way with no long term security? Will the new owner be able to resist from making a big splash?  Will fans buy season tickets again next year knowing that the playoffs is not likely?

There is no way to answer all of these questions right now, but if we can all be patient and let things play out over the next two years, we can from supporting a transcendent player to rooting on a transcendent TEAM.

 

11 comments
BRballboy
BRballboy

Been looking for your take before the dust cleared, Mac. Where ya been? With Oke the only big contract going forward, how low could we go if he was traded? Jack? Ariza? How many expiring and rookie contracts could we pack on our roster? Would that be optimal? Compared to the money position we were in where we couldn't add any big pieces to go for a ring, this seems very exciting. Take 2, Mac?

Tim
Tim

If we don't draft a PF, grabbing Love would be AMAZING.

Mikey
Mikey

Mike, The biggest wild card in your deck is the one thing that you left out, the ownership situation. Ideally, the Hornets would be better-served by an owner that will want some continuity in his coaching staff and front office (i.e. keeping Dell and Monty). That is a HUGE if however. How do we know the Hornets won't get an owner that wants to just blow everything up and clean house, or an owner that comes in with an admittedly shortsigted "well, why CAN'T we win now" attitude? An even worse scenario would be to get an out-of-town owner that wants to eventually move the team, and turns his back on this city to the point we can't wait for them to leave. Think this scenario is impossible? Ask a Seattle Sonics fan. If the Hornets can attract an owner that will A) commit himself to this community, B) bring top-down stability to the Hornets organization, and C) build a winning culture that we in New Orleans can be proud of, then this season is a HUGE success. That, above anything else, is what I'm looking forward to. What happens on the court this year really doesn't matter that much. This is a year of player development.

scooter
scooter

i understand the whole rebuilding thing, but who's to say this still isn't a playoff team this year? i feel we could do the same as last year (8th seed, out in the 1st round).. not quite "tanking" in my opinion. sure they could tank on purpose, but i don't think they will

pschafer
pschafer

I'm fully prepared for a rebuilding season or two. To me the fact that the team may lose more than win (in the short term) isn't important, so long as we are building a future winner. Frankly I would have felt differently about a team with the likes of Kevin Martin and Luis Scola on it - that team would have been better, but not future-oriented, and I think I would have been vaguely depressed knowing that the team wasn't really going anywhere. I wonder what Demps is thinking.

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

if it were me? i would love drafting Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd Gilchrist, both of them could pair with Gordon to have 2 potential superstars, with another one being a GREAT role player/borderline all star. Don't want to jinx it though, so i will cheer on hoping we lose a lot of games, and play hard. hopefully we lose enough games to get the 25% chance of getting the 1st overall pick.

Tim
Tim

I like Gilchrist a lot too!

Blattman
Blattman

There is no better situation for rebuilding. With the harsher tax, a lot of teams will have to make some cap space, so they'll need teams like hornets to dump their dumb contracts. There wil be plenty of team willing to offer their draft picks just to save major money. Even if the minny's pick ended in the late lottery, it would allow hornets to draft a great duo like Marshall/Davis, Cody Zeller/Barnes, Sullinger/Rivers or Drummond/Jones. A core with two of them plus Gordon/Aminu/Pondexter is a very nice core to start.

GecGreek
GecGreek

that's a good way to say the team is gonna be bad for at least one season ! I want y'all to think about this: Minny has a talented roster. They had a decent one last year and this year they added Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio. The main reason they sucked was: KURT RAMBIS. Now they changed Coach from the worst of them all to one of the best overachiever of his generation, they have more talent and they are young and have a lot of guys to play what will be an intense schedule. Aren't we overrating Minnie's pick? It may be a 10th or 12th pick.

BigEasyBaller
BigEasyBaller

I agree they could be very good, but at the same time two draft picks don't turn your team into a contender. There is a chance that they are the same old Timberwolves team as before. I think it could go either way, we will just have to wait and see, but I shall be cheering against the Twolves every game they play.

cmac81
cmac81

I was already excited about all these things but just seeing them written out here makes me SO EXCITED and SO HAPPY to be a Hornets fan.