Looking to the Future: Veteran NBA Prospects

Published: April 7, 2012

Time to go off the grid as we look at some candidates for Demps to pursue with our two top-10 picks.

In every edition of this column, we have looked at college players that the Hornets might draft this June, but what if those picks are used to grab guys already in the league? What if Demps looks at his draft board and doesn’t like what he sees, and instead, decides to go the veteran route? When healthy, the Hornets have looked like a fringe playoff team this season, and you gotta believe that Demps has noticed as much. If the ping pong balls don’t bounce our way, could Demps use his two top 10 picks to grab some young veterans that can help right away?

If our pick falls to 5 or 6, you have to think that this is at least a strong possibility. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, and Thomas Robinson are almost too good to pass on, but can the Hornets and their new owner afford to spend 2-3 years waiting on Andre Drummond? Are Harrison Barnes, Bradley Beal, or Jared Sullinger guaranteed difference makers? Maybe, maybe not. But what I can guarantee is that Monty and Dell will feel the pressure to succeed in the final year of their contracts, and the new owner will want to make some sort of splash after spending $350 million on his new toy. Also, think of the push to re-sign Eric Gordon. He would be far more excited to stay if you put an All-Star veteran next to him, as opposed to a mistake prone 19-year-old. And if none of that persuades you, here is one more little nugget- the Hornets are the only team in the league that don’t have one player they drafted on the roster. Now, all of a sudden they are gonna add two?

So, in this edition we will assume the Hornets have the fifth pick and the tenth pick in the upcoming draft. We will look at young veterans that are both proven and still have some room for growth and teams that might be willing to move them. Think 2001 when the Chicago Bulls fell in love with Tyson Chandler and traded a young future All-Star in Elton Brand for him. And with that in mind, here are some older prospects that the Hornets could land with their pick(s):

Rajon Rondo, G, Boston Celtics

Why Do It: If the Celtics are one and done in this year’s playoffs or they get swept/embarrassed in the 2nd round, they could blow the whole thing up, and apparently they are not in love with the idea of Rondo being the leader of the new core. Obviously, the Celtics have to be intrigued with the idea of pairing Doc Rivers with his son, and they also could fall in love with a guy like Harrison Barnes, who could become the next Paul Pierce. For the Hornets, pairing Rondo and Gordon would give the Hornets the best back court in the NBA and could give them the best trio of wing defenders in the league (w/Ariza).

Why Say No: For the Celtics, it might be hard to sell the fan base on a total rebuild. Rondo has a reasonable contract for a quasi-Superstar, and whoever they draft is just an unproven kid, and this franchise is used to chasing banners- not going through a rebuild. The only worry for the Hornets would be Rondo’s attitude, which could disrupt what appears to be a pretty tight clubhouse. Rondo wants to be THE MAN, and you would think that Eric Gordon has similar desires, so it might be difficult for a coach on the last year of his contract to get two young guys to put their egos aside and play for team.

What it Would Cost: The Celtics gave up the 5th pick in the 2008 draft for Ray Allen, and he was at the end of his prime. Rondo is just entering his prime, so you would have to believe that they would have to give up more than just their first pick. The Celtics have two first round picks themselves, though they will be in the 20’s, but the two teams can get creative if they want to get a deal done.

The Deal:

Hornets select Harrison Barnes (5th) and Austin Rivers (10th), then trade their rights, along with Greivis Vasquez to Boston for Rajon Rondo, Brandon Bass, and Boston’s two first rounders.

Josh Smith, PF, Atlanta Hawks

Why Do It: If the Hornets have four of the five starting positions penciled in next year, and those names include Jack, Gordon, Ariza, and Okafor, then what you need is an athletic player who can change shots on the defensive end and get buckets at the basket on the offensive end. Smith fits in perfectly with that lineup, and the Hawks need to shake things up or risk staying in the middle of the pack forever.

Why Say No: The Hawks will have a lot of interest for Smith this summer, and would rather attach him to a bad contract like Joe Johnson or Marvin Williams, if possible. The Hornets might not want to give up too much because Smith will be a free agent after the 2012-13 season and could leave for nothing.

What it Would Cost: Gerald Wallace, a similar player (in some ways) with a similar contract was traded for what should be the 6th or 7th pick in this draft- but that was just a stupid trade. The Hornets won’t give up their top pick for a guy like Smith, but the 10th pick wouldn’t be out of the question.

The Deal:

Hornets send the 10th pick to Atlanta for Josh Smith OR the Hornets send the 10th pick, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Emeka Okafor for Josh Smith and Marvin Williams

LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Trailblazers

Why Do It: Portland showed this year at the deadline that they are tired of being a middle of the pack team, and that they are ready to start over. Some might think that Aldridge is an ideal block to build around, but others like TrueHoop’s own Henry Abbott, believe that he will be past his prime by the time the franchise turns it around. For the Hornets, the argument for Aldridge is similar to the one for Smith, as he would be a perfect fit in between Ariza and Okafor. Another bonus is that the Hornets don’t have to worry about Aldridge going anywhere, since he has three years left on his deal.

Why Say No: The Blazers are far more likely to say no in this deal, simply because their fan base is reeling after losing Brandon Roy and Greg Oden in a span of eight months. Those two, along with Aldridge, were supposed to be the foundation for a Portland dynasty. But perhaps that is the exact reason Portland should move him– start fresh, move on. For the Hornets, the only reason to say no would be if the price was too high, which brings us to…

What it Would Cost: Aldridge is a legit All-Star who still has some upside. Add that to the fact that Portland already has two lotto picks, and it might be hard to do a deal. But what if the New Jersey pick lands in the top three and Portland has to wait at least another year to get it? Then, things could get interesting.

The Deal:

Portland trades Aldridge, Shawne Williams, and the 13th pick for the 5th pick and the 10th pick.

Stephen Curry, PG, Warriors

Why Do It: Obviously the Hornets were in love with Curry in December when they tried to make him a part of a package for Chris Paul. The Warriors balked at the trade then, and must feel incredibly stupid for doing so now. Golden State might want to move on after a frustrating year dealing with Curry’s injuries. They also are shifting their focus to the defensive end and Curry is a below average defensive player. The Hornets can cover this up because Gordon is an exceptional defender who can cover the opposing team’s best back court player. The Warriors do not have the same luxury with Klay Thompson.

Why Say No: Even if Gordon plays the rest of the games this season, he and Curry will have combined for a grand total of 41 games played this season. It’s enough to have one injury prone star, but having two means you are just banking on good fortune to smile on you more often than it does most franchises. For the Warriors, they likely think that Curry can still be a star and heard it from their fans the last time they traded a star player, so they might be hesitant to deal another one.

What it Would Cost: The Warriors are another team that might have a high lottery pick, and they might not. If their pick is in the top 7, they keep it. If it falls outside of that, it goes to the Jazz. Their owner has promised the fans that they will get their pick back or go and get another pick in this draft, and Curry might be the only way to live up to that promise.

The Deal:

Hornets trade Emeka Okafor and the fifth pick for Andris Biedrins and Stephen Curry

Dwight Howard, C, Magic

Why Do It: The Hornets take a big risk here, giving up a potential future star for one year with Dwight Howard, but you get so few chances in the NBA to give yourself an opportunity for a title, that you have to consider anything and everything that gives you a shot. The Magic, meanwhile, have to end this saga and the best thing to do is blow it all up and start over again with youth.

Why Say No: The Magic supposedly want veterans in return for Howard, so that they continue to lie to their fan base by telling them they are contenders. The Hornets, meanwhile, could (and should) be scared off by Howard’s immaturity and wishy-washiness.

What it Would Cost: The Magic have turned down packages that include Andrew Bynum and Brook Lopez, so the Hornets will not only have to give up picks, but they will have to take on bad contracts. They also might have to ship some young guys to the Magic along with the picks.

The Deal:

Magic trade Dwight Howard, Glen Davis, and Jason Richardson for Xavier Henry, Gustavo Ayon, 5th pick, and 10th pick.

Other possibilities: Brandon Jennings (Bucks), Rudy Gay (Grizzlies), Danny Granger (Pacers), Evan Turner (76ers), Anderson Varejo (Cavs), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings)

Looking to the Future is a weekly feature that runs every Saturday only on Hornets247.com. For past articles, click here.


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