The Trevor Ariza Conundrum

Published: December 20, 2011

The Hornets have a problem of sorts. It’s not a problem in the sense that it can’t be solved, or that it’s going to ruin their future, but it’s a problem nonetheless. They have Quincy Pondexter and Al-Farouq Aminu, two young guys who both right now fit most naturally at the three, sitting on the bench behind Trevor Ariza, a veteran who is clearly much more valuable to a contending team than to a rebuilding team.

But are the Hornets really rebuilding? Monty isn’t someone to take time off from winning. Talk to him for two minutes and tell me otherwise. Guy thinks about winning more than Charlie Sheen did during his prime. He’d rather tongue kiss a maggot than… oh wait. Nevermind. Let’s just say that he really wants to win games. He’s sees that as his sole job as coach.

The team has brought in veterans like Carl Landry for what, on paper at least, appears to be an attempt to put together a team that could compete for a playoff spot, at least for the first few months of the season. Monty told me, “We don’t want to give away games”. Hornets fans don’t want them to give away games either, as evidenced by our most recent poll. 69 percent of Hornets fans want to see the team try to make the playoffs this year, at least initially.

But that’s a problem. You don’t dedicate so much time to developing Quincy (Monty spent two weeks working with him one-on-one before the lockout) and then bring on Aminu, if Ariza is the SF of the future. I asked Monty Williams about the conundrum the Hornets face, and he told me, “That’s something Dell and I are talking about as we speak. We need to get those guys on the floor.” He went on to say, “We want to put guys in a position so we can win, but at the same time they need to develop”.

The Hornets are facing an identity crisis of sorts. They are obviously not real contenders even if they play their best players, but they are talented enough that they could make a run at a playoff spot if things go well. The obvious downside to competing all year long is that they forfeit what could be a franchise-changing lottery pick in a deep talented draft. If they become a doormat though, they risk losing the allegiance of some of the new season ticket holders that they worked so hard to win over in the past year.

Who will this years Hornets actually be? Tough to say right now, but the decision on what to do with Trevor Ariza will likely define who this team is both this year and into the future.


  1. yourmomsballs

    December 20, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    We need Ariza now more than ever, he’s a defensive hawk and was 2nd on the team last year in steals behind Chris Paul. Although he’s not THAT great on offense, he’ll give you double digits per game. This team won’t generate as much points as we think they will and because of that, we need to take care of defense as much as possible and maybe even more so than we did last season.

    Ariza is the guy to do that against the opposition’s best scorer, albeit he’s a 2 or 3. I hear Eric Gordon is great on defense too, that’ll be two guys that can lock players down, coupled with Jarret Jack who had a bundle of steals this past preseason game. We NEED defense, and we NEED energy and points from the bench, things that we’ve lacked in the past.

    Don’t get rid of Ariza just to let QPon or Aminu start (these guys are unproven defensively AND offensively), let them develop this year, play them interchangeably and not make the team look stupid and turnover prone in close games.

  2. RyanCaz

    December 20, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    I think Ariza is someone you wait to trade at the deadline. Wait to see what teams are contending, and who could use an excellent defender such as Trevor. Try and get a young player in return.

  3. NOH Domination

    December 20, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    I think the same reasoning applies to Okafor as well. Yea he’s good to have on the team, but he’s not in our future. We don’t have anyone behind him to develop, but his contract length is going to be an issue and we do have Kaman for now.

  4. Tyler

    December 20, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Tomorrow’s game will be a key deciding factor in this particular discussion. Lets see how Al plays @ the 3 and 4. Also, I want to see Quincy @ the 2 some more.


    December 20, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    So we have three guys in this situation: ariza, okafor, and jack (all vets with long term contracts). It’ll be interesting to see what we do with them.

  6. 504ever

    December 20, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Great post and comments.

    THe SF situation will play out over months not days. Not just a trade of Ariza, which I only see happening in March when PGs Brooks, Mills, and Bledsoe may be available. It will take months to get quality playing time and work in at the SF for Q-Pon and Aminu, and to see Q-Pon at SG and Aminu at PF. That will also give managment time to see how our two 2012 1st Round draft choices fall out.

    Also, I don’t see the Hornets moving other veterans (Okafor, Kaman, Jack) this season for a lot of reasons: staying competitive, need at those positions, and the minimum required team salary. We have the luxury of rebuilding over time and will use it.

  7. Jo D

    December 20, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Personally, I think Ariza needs to go even if we plan on winning. With DWest and CP3 gone, he is suddenly a veteran leader on a young team. Each of the past three years on his respective teams, he has become more of a leader and less of a role player. And in turn, he has taken increasingly more shots(from the perimeter) and has become less and less efficient as an offensive player. He needs to be on a team where a veteran superstar can keep him in check. He just isn’t a great chemistry guy on a young team…

    And we can still trade Mek and Ariza and be above the salary cap floor…just fyi

    Another quick fact, Jacks contract isn’t terrible. Considering we don’t have a young guy to develop. 5mil for a slightly above average pg isn’t bad… He also isn’t as long term as ariza or mek, they both have 3 years remaining, jj has just 2

  8. Trey

    December 20, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    I say we keep Ariza. Hes not old (only 26) and he’s our best defender. If we want to develop q-pon and Aminu i say have pondexter backup the 2 and aminu backup the 4.

    • Jo D

      December 20, 2011 at 4:34 pm

      I personally want the guy gone, I respect him as a defender, but if I have to watch him throw up 14 jumpers a game from my section 205… I just might stop coming to games…his overconfidence on offense negates his effectiveness on D…

  9. David

    December 20, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    i think Okafor is here for the long haul. #1 if you trade him off, you will get very little for him (pennies on the dollar, if you will) because the team trading for him is going to look at it as a salary dump. Okafor is relatively young, durable, and is our anchor on defense. I still think if you pair him with a stud PF he would be a quality starter on a championship caliber team. Also, if we need to clear his space to upgrade in free agency, we will still have our amnesty option in our back pocket. If we get a good offer for him, pull the trigger, but if not hold on to him. Good, productive big men are hard to find in this league. Denver could be an option, because they have a ton of trade assets and could use a defensive big man to pair with Nene’ (which would be ideal for Okafor, as I stated previously)

    I also don’t think Jack is going anywhere. He is also relatively young, and with him at the helm a young team will only get better. Putting a young PG in charge of a young team will only retard growth, IMO. Not to mention that Monty loves him, and his contract is reasonable, I think he sticks.

    Ariza is a different animal. If he starts out this season playing like he did vs. the Lakers, his trade value would definitely go up. The Knicks would value him, as would the Lakers, Clippers, Thunder, or pretty much any other contending team. If he comes back trying to pick up the scoring load left by CP and West, then we will have to use him as a salary dump and hope for a 2nd round pick in 2032 or something in return to get him off the books. He goes either way. His future is dependent on two things. 1.) How he plays and 2.) How QPon and Aminu develop. It will be interesting.

    Landry and kaman represent two good frontcourt players with 21 million in expiring contracts. They will be in high demand at the deadline, especially if the Hornets struggle. They represent the biggest bang for our buck at the trade deadline – I could see a contending team dropping a good young player and a 1st round pick for frontcourt help or a non-contender dropping a semi-star with a big contract (Iguodala w/ Philly, Milsap with Utah, Jameer Nelson with Orlando?) in a straight salary dump. If a good enough offer doesn’t materialize, I wouldn’t be suprised to see the hornets keep them, let them expire, and try to re-sign one or both of them to cheaper deals.

    • Jo D

      December 20, 2011 at 4:38 pm

      With teams like Houston Cleveland and Toronto in need for a center, we can get much more than pennies on the dollar for him…

      • xxNOLAxHORNETSxx

        December 20, 2011 at 8:38 pm

        Cleveland doesn’t really have anyone to trade besides sessions (irving and thompson ain’t gettin traded), toronto is ten times worse than cleveland because derozan is their only trade bait but he’s also their best young player (calderon and bargnani have ridiculously large contracts for what they produce, and haven’t lived up to them), but I do think the rockets have some good young trade assets such as flynn, hill, patterson, lee, dragic, budinger, and marcus morris.

      • David

        December 21, 2011 at 1:03 am

        Really? I doubt it. Okafor is a solid starting center for a playoff caliber team. Tell me what we will get back of value for him (without taking money into account)???

      • Jo D

        December 21, 2011 at 10:55 pm

        Ok, first and foremost… These are all expected to be lottery teams… Which means they have valuable draft picks… Thats one… Secondly… With half of this site being bi-polar on jack… Yall love him… Then yall hate him… He is ok… Then he is terrible… Whatever.. I would think yall would welcome a young point guard… Like clevelands ramon sessions… Or phillys lou williams… They have players on their teams worth having and developing… It’s just that some casual fans on here don’t recognize them because their name isn’t big or popular enough yet…

      • Jo D

        December 21, 2011 at 10:57 pm

        Minus the rockets.. They should be in the playoffs… But they are the ones with the most abundant talent to surrender… However they just signed sammy.. So I think they found their guy

  10. nola70118

    December 20, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    That’s too bad. Ariza was pretty amazing down the stretch last season through the playoffs, clearly elevating his game when it really counted. Either way, he is definitely valuable, and we’ll get a solid piece or two in return if we do trade him.

    Also, I do agree that Okafor needs to be moved at some point, but Kaman will likely be moved by the trade deadline, so where does that leave us down low? Is Okafor in our long-term future?

    No doubt, we have a team-wide identity crisis, but definitely not in a bad way. I think this is going to be a great season. Can’t wait to get back to the hive!

  11. nolahog

    December 20, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Can we start this season already!? The waiting’s the hardest part.

    • Jason Calmes

      December 20, 2011 at 5:14 pm

      Every day you see one more card

  12. Pingback: Videos: Chris Kaman, Monty, and the Scrimmage | New Orleans Hornets |

  13. Jalil Davis

    December 20, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    I think Carldell Johnson will make the team and be straight for the time being at the Backup PG spot for now….

  14. da ThRONe

    December 20, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    I say trade them all and start fresh with a younger core. I think all those guys (Ariza, Okafor, and Jack) all have some good trade value and would return good to great young pieces and draft picks. We need to make this year about getting young talented guys and getting them as many minutes as possible. With the Paul trade this franchise instantly became about the future no need in stopping at the Paul trade.

  15. ktrufant

    December 21, 2011 at 1:12 am

    Disclaimer: I haven’t been living in New Orleans for almost five years (meaning it’s been that long since I’ve been to a game) but I feel like as long as the team is exciting to watch, and there is at least one talented player to root for, I think the team can hold on to the growth in fan support ( i.e. season ticket sales). New Orleans is used to rooting for, ahem, ‘underdogs’. It’s all about the marketing … I say trade Ariza if they need to.

  16. Scott

    December 21, 2011 at 10:48 am

    I say keep Ariza. As a defensive stud, you need him to guard the other teams best shooter. Gordon can take the scoring load off Ariza so he can focus on defense. Let the young guys develop as our 6th and 7th man coming off the bench. Bench depth is key in the NBA….Slide Oakafor to PF and have Kaman Start at Center and have Ariza at the 3, Gordon and Jack as the backcourt..That’s a pretty good starting 5…Our bench will be Landry and Smith with Aminu and q-pon interchanged with jack or gordon and you have a solid bench….We just need a back-up pg and we will definately be a playoff contender..

  17. BRballboy

    December 22, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    The object here is to have the best situation for a new owner . Not to have the most competitive team possible this year for the fans. All onerous contacts are rightfully endangered or you need a new GM. Fans that think (hope) that we are going to make the playoffs in a year we lose CP3, DW, and probably Okafor and Ariza are headed for disapointment. But 2 high lottery draft choices, Gordon, and a possibly huge amount of available cap space point to a very bright future that a new owner would be interested in and fans would love.

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