I just wanna know if we draft rivers at ten could we use him to pry rondo(pipe dream), Ray Allen, or KG from Boston with doc rivers. Ray Allen helped Kevin durant develop his shot in Seattle and could be instumental in improving aminu's, bellinelli's, davis's, and Xavier henry's shots and give EG a few pointers. KG very unlikely to get him but Anthony Davis, would more likely reach his tremendous potential. Also Okafor (if not also shipped), Ayon, and Smith would improve, too. (Chris Kaman's expiring contract would probably be sent as well.) Ahhh.... pipe dreams
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Learning from the Mistakes of Past Regimes
The Hornets had a transcendent superstar for six years, and had one playoff series victory to show for it. Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.
About twenty games into his rookie campaign, every Hornets fan knew we had something special in Chris Paul. Coming out of college, Paul was expected to be a very good player, but by no means was he a sure thing- as evidenced by the fact that the point guard starved Atlanta Hawks passed on him for the immortal Marvin Williams. But after a Rookie of the Year campaign, the Hornets brass saw an opportunity to catapault themselves to the top of an aging Western Conference. Just two years later, they got there, but their stay at the top was short lived.
Now the Hornets have been granted a second opportunity to build a championship caliber team that can contend year after year for the rest of this decade and beyond, if Anthony Davis is as good as we all think he will be. They have won the right to take a true game changer in a sport where one player can have an enourmous impact. But even if he lives up to expectations, the Hornets have to put the proper pieces around him, not only to win championships, but just to ensure he stays here into and through his prime.
The name is still the same, but the regime has changed and it is on this current group to look to the past so that they don’t repeat it. Seven years from now, none of us want to read about Davis going to LA or New York. So let’s look back to ensure that we properly move forward.
Mistake #1: Missing in the Draft
I have been on record saying that Chris Paul was part to blame for the Hornets poor drafts during his tenure, and I will stick with that. PART to blame. Chris Paul was so good early on that the Hornets missed out on the opportunity to pair another high pick or two with him the way that Kevin Durant got Russell Westbrook and James Harden in subsequent years. The 2005-06 Hornets should have been one of the three or four worst teams in the league that year, but because of Paul’s brilliance, they almost made the playoffs. Instead of a top 5 pick in a draft that was very top heavy, they had picks 12 and 15 (from Milwaukee).
A top pick could have meant Brandon Roy or Rudy Gay next to him and David West, but instead the Hornets grabbed Hilton Armstrong and Cedric Simmons. This is why I say that it was only part Chris Paul’s fault- he didn’t draft those two. Thabo Sefolosha was a guy the Hornets actually liked, but passed on in favor of Hilton Armstrong. Paul Milsap was actually highly productive in college, but the Hornets took an upside guy in Cedric Simmons instead, and passed on him again in favor of Marcus Vinicius.
It didn’t get any better the following year when the Hornets took Julian Wright despite the fact that they never brought him in for a workout. As we later found out, Wright fell because of the immaturity he showed in interviews, but apparently the word never got back to George Shinn’s mom and pop operation, and the Hornets got stuck with one of the most frustrating players in the league. A world of talent, but no desire to refine it. How nice would Wilson Chandler have looked in teal instead? How about getting Jared Dudley to stretch the defense? Or even a combo guard like Rodney Stuckey?
The 2008 NBA draft is still talked about today, as Hornets fans watched Darrell Arthur (a projected top 15 pick) fall all the way to them at 27, only to see him traded for our old friend “cash considerations.” To this day, Mr. Considerations still hasn’t scored a point or grabbed a rebound. DeAndre Jordan and Omer Asik were on the board as well and went in the next couple of picks. Heck, Mario Chalmers (the guy I personally wanted that year) would have been a nice backup point guard for a team that desperately needed one.
2009 finally saw the Hornets turn it around with the selections of Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton, but by then it was too little, too late. The missed picks in the draft forced the Hornets to overpay veteran talent, and the team was saddled with too many bad contracts to put the talent around Paul that he needed. Eventually, both guys were traded by the new regime in an effort to keep Paul happy. Too little. Too late.
In short, the team reached for guys with “upside” as opposed to guys who were productive in college. They also ignored guys who were standouts in specific areas in favor of “jack-of-all-trades” kind of guys. When you aren’t drafting high, the proven formula is you take a guy who has at least one A+ attribute, even if they are deficient in other areas. A guy like JJ Reddick might never be a starter, but he will be in the league for 12+ years. When you already have your superstar, there is no need to swing for the fences. You take a double and simply don’t risk the strikeout. Look at the guys who panned out- Darren Collison, the definition of a safe pick, solid double if I ever saw one. And Marcus Thornton, a guy with an A+ skill (scoring) who was deficient in other areas.
The Hornets didn’t pay attention to this formula early on in the CP3 years, and consequently struck out too many times to ever recover.
Mistake #2: Rushing the Process
Armed with the Rookie of the Year and an improving David West, the Hornets headed into the 2006 off-season determined to round out their starting lineup. They shipped locker room leader PJ Brown and the often frustrating JR Smith to Chicago for Tyson Chandler, in a move that was simply a stroke of genius. But they followed that up by giving a declining Peja Stojakovic a $64 million deal that would cripple the franchise for years to come. They also handed multi-year contracts that combined to average $8 million per year to two below average players- Bobby Jackson and Rasual Butler. By the end of the summer they were at the cap and destined to stay there for the forseeable future, with a roster that was top heavy, but lacked depth.
The next off-season they knew that they had to add a shooting guard to complete their starting five, but instead of seeking out an athletic guy who could run with CP3, they found another slow spot-up shooter in Morris Peterson. In theory, surrounding Paul with shooters is a nice idea, but good defensive teams were able to stay on shooters or close out aggressively, knowing Mo and Peja couldn’t attack the rim. The result was an offense entirely built around one play- the pick and roll.
2008 was the last straw, as a Hornets team that appeared to be on the verge of a title run, completely disregarded the future in favor of a short term approach. Julian Wright, who was showing signs of coming along at the end of the previous year, was pushed aside in favor of James Posey- who signed for four years, despite the fact that he was on his last legs. When you consider the fact that the aggressive pursuit of Posey was in part the reason they sold their draft pick (Arthur), it was just a disaster. For Posey’s price tag, the Hornets could have kept Arthur, re-signed Birdman (signed for minimum in Denver) and signed Chris Duhon and Mo Evans that summer. Who would you rather have: Posey or Wright, Arthur, Evans, Birdman and Duhon? The lack of youth and depth killed them.
Again, there was simply no effort made to build a roster that was sustainable and that could withstand the injuries that are bound to occur in the NBA. They also didn’t maintain flexibility with the roster or the cap. On the court, the team was not able to play multiple ways because they failed to surround Paul with guys who could create on their own. Off the court, they clogged up their payroll, leaving them little to no chance of improving the roster via trade or free agency.
In the NBA, you cannot rush the process. Becoming a great team takes time, and it often requires adjusting at a moment’s notice. The Hornets quickly saw after the San Antonio series that they would need to take some of the offensive burden off of CP3’s shoulders, but lacked the flexibility to do what they knew needed to be done. Couple that with the fact that they weren’t developing any guys that could remedy the problem in-house, and you see why the Hornets success was short lived.
Mistake #3: Unevenly Allocating Resources
If you just look at the team’s payroll over the CP3 years, you can’t really fault owner George Shinn for not spending. But if you look behind the curtain…….
George Shinn ran a mom and pop organization that tried to do everything on the cheap. As Ryan correctly points out in this article (written in 2010, but seems like a lifetime ago), Shinn spent money for players. What he didn’t spend money on or allocate resources for where the other necessities that are the true foundation of your organization. Under-qualified employees where hired to run parts of the basketball operations, scouting departments where minimized, and nothing was ever done to add first class facilities or luxuries that premier organizations make sure their players, employees, and coaching staffs have at their disposal.
There is nothing wrong with being fiscally responsible when it comes to running a business, but the truth is that it made the Hornets a bit of a laughing stock around the league- and believe me, word gets around to players. When players hear about the conditions of your locker room and that your team’s GM often stays in a Motel 6 on scouting trips, they roll their eyes at the prospect of coming to that team. And why do you think every major Hornet player in the history of the franchise has asked to be traded? Is it just a coincidence, or has this franchise always been viewed a particular way by the players in the league? I have been told more than once it is the latter.
Monty and Dell have already done so much to change this perception, but now it is Tom Benson’s turn to step up to the plate. Maintain or increase front office staff and scouting, build a beautiful new practice facility, and connect with the community in such a way that we never have to worry about “attendance clauses” again. Building a roster is an inexact science, one that can never be mastered, so failings in that area might be somewhat forgiveable- but this is entirely within Benson’s control. Get ‘er Done.
Not since Kevin Garnett’s tenure in Minnesota have we seen such a talented players’ prime years wasted. Chris Paul was a top five player in this league for 3-4 years and finished his tenure with the Hornets with one playoff series victory. That is inexcusable. But maybe it was all just a test- a test we failed, but one that will prepare us for the next test. Let’s call this Hornets AD. This new opportunity is one that simply can not be wasted, and similar mistakes simply can not be repeated.
Because of Davis’s immense talents, the Hornets might never have another pick as high as ten, so they can not afford to strikeout in a year that has an above average amount of good, young players. Moving forward, they have to continue to surround him with quality players, even if they are drafting in the teens and twenties. Just look at Indiana, a three seed this year that doesn’t have a guy drafted higher than ten on their roster. If you draft as well as they did, but start off with Gordon and Davis, you are talking about a dynasty.
Patience is a virtue in free agency, and handing out a multi-year deal to any player over 26 should be met with a chorus of boos. Remember, depth and flexibility is key. And lastly, remember that players come and go, but franchises can maintain success if you create a proper infrastructure. If you can do that, you don’t have to rebuild, you simply reload.
When that happens, other teams start to learn from you, taking notice in a positive way.
I really think the Hornets need to do whatever they can to try to trade up and get another top 5 guy in this draft. Reason being, like Michael said, Davis' addition probably makes the idea of pairing him with another top 5 pick in future drafts like Westbrook or Harden very unlikely. We are sitting at 10, have flexibility to take back some money for at least one year, and there are 4 or 5 guys that if we pair with Davis could be special. Think about moving up and adding a guy like MKG, or Beal, or Barnes, or even (gasp) Drummond. You basically are using the OKC model of pairing top 5 picks, just fastforwarding a year. You could make a freakish Drummond-Davis frontcourt. Or have Beal or Barnes be the mismatch, Harden-like 6th man off the bench. MKG teaming up with AD once again. All of that sounds much more exciting than henson, or zellar, or austin rivers, etc. Those guys are role players, the other guys could be special. Point guards should not even be a consideration at 10. None are worthy of a top 10 pick, considering what else will be on the board.
Have to say a huge part of the problem was Byron Scott. He couldn't develop anyone, seemingly because he didn't have the patience. He was also behind several bad deals, including signing Peja to a max contract. Scott was allowed to have such control because the front office was so weak. Don't see either problem this now. Monty is already talking about Smith and Beli as 'posters' of the high quality player development program the Hornets have established, and more, new to us, young guys are in the player development pipeline (signed Vasquez and Henry, hopefully resigned Dyson and Thomas, and maybe Aminu will improve, too). [I'd put Ayon there but he is older and pretty skilled already. All he needs is to learn how to survive the rigors of an NBA season.] Monty also says players currently under contract elsewhere see the Hornets' player development and want to come here! Dell has made skillful deals in which the Hornets came out ahead: guys now out of the league for Smith and Willie Green (currently enjoying success with Atlanta) in one trade and Beli in another, or a future 2nd rounder for Henry. Or deals in which the deal was at worst (from the Hornets point of view) equal for both sides: Q-Pon for Vasquez, Bayless (plus junk) for Jack (plus junk). The only questionable move is our 2011 1st rounder (#21) for Bayless (Jack), and that is only questionable if you say we would have drafted Kenneth Faried at 21. I am not sure anyone on the board beside Faried helps the Hornets (and I am not sure how the Hornets survive this year without Jack at PG). So I am OK with that trade, too. To me, it looks like all Benson has to do is keep the coaches and front office intact. The Hornets are already poised and positioned for greatness in the future.
This article is painfully accurate from a "What was wrong stand point". Not sure what type of owner Benson will be. I fear he may have purchased the Hornets solely to monopolize the sport scene in New Orleans and increase the value of that area year round. Instead of making the Hornets a competing team. Lets not forget Benson hasn't always been the model owner.
Fantastic article. You read the Hornets organization like a open book. Too bad most of the fans in New Orleans lack insight or knowledge about how to build a NBA team. As we speak alot of so-call Hornet fans want this organization to resign Kaman. This guy got a sweetheart deal that paid him 14 million. Know what type idiot would think resigning a 30 yr old player that type of money, makes sense? Yet that's what alot of the dumpies in this city are clamoring for.
Great article Michael, One thing I'm really hoping is that Benson gives Monty & Dell the time to turn this team in to a championship contender. It would be a real worry if we just missed out on the playoffs next year and Benson lost his patience and wiped out the front office. It's a process, you can't take short cuts, you can't cut corners, or we will once again be mired in mediocrity. I think we need to be cautious with EJ, if the offer sheet is to much we might need to work on a sign and trade (if that's even allowed) because as you pointed out, that Peja contract crippled our championship aspirations and I would hate for EJ to be the result of our failures. I love Eric Gordon when he's on the court, but I'd be nervous about offering him more than 12M. PS: The Clippers are the new Tumblewolves for 2012. I'd love to see CP3 back in NOLA next year so let's bury those suckers!
I read some silly article that charlotte should try to trade up. How many future draft picks would the bobcats have to give up for you to consider trading the pick? The bobcats should still be a bottom 5 team for a few years.
Not rushing it is an important thing to remember. I think you can stay competetive while not committing a ton of money. Would you rather drop a ton of money on Goran Dragic, Nic Batum, and javale McGee and eat up all your flexibility at once, or instead bring in stop gap guys and bargains that keep you competetive, flexible, and with the ability to throw big contracts on real superstars once we get good. Think about it like this, next summer, because they invoked their player options, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul cannot sign an extension until their deals run out. They have to become free agents, at least for one day. If we have Ariza off the books, the ability to amnesty Okafor, sign Gordon to a less than max deal, don't tender guys like Henry/Vasquez/Aminu, and let Jack expire, we can offer two near max deals to Paul and Howard w/ Gordon and Anthony Davis on the roster. What if OKC decides it needs to move Ibaka or Harden or Westbrook because of money? You can wait for things like that, or you can pour all your money into Javale McGee, Goran Dragic, and Nic Batum. See where I'm goin?? Here's the way I'd like to see things play out: 1.) Upgrade at the 1, move Jack to the first combo guard off the bench. Jack is an important piece of this puzzle. He's a leader, versatile, and effective in certain situations. I'd like to bring in a true PG, but unless someone shakes loose through a trade, I'd prefer it to be a veteran guy. I don't like any of the PG's in the draft really, especially at #10. Young vets like Dragic, George Hill, Lowry would be good fits at the right price, but they will either cost assets or enough money to hamper your flexibility going forward. I want a vet who can get us into the offense, make smart plays, and help our young guys develop. Jason Kidd, Andre Miller, Kirk Heinrich come to mind. Monty knows Andre Miller from Portland, he would come to New Orleans because he wants to start, and splitting minutes with guys like Jack and Vasquez would keep him fresh. 2.) Find a guy who can score to plug into the 2nd unit. Our 2nd unit will be one of our biggest strengths going forward. The one problem they have is that when the offense breaks down, nobody can get their own shot. sliding Jack in there will help, but I think bringing in a wing who can get his own shot off the bench is a must. I think this is where our draft pick should be used on a guy like Lamb, Rivers, or my preference, Dion Waiters. My favorite idea, however, is trying to trade up to get a guy like Barnes or Beal. 3.) Try to move Ariza, plug Aminu in at the 3, but be sure to bring in competition at the 3. Again, I want to bring in a scoring wing, preferably a 3, for our 2nd unit. If Aminu flops, then we can plug in that bench guy into the starting lineup. How about this trade: Ariza, Biedrins, #10 and #30 to Philly, Iguodala and a NOLA future lotto protected 1st rounder to Golden St. , #7 and GS 2nd round pick to N.O. Philly moves Iggy, gets Ariza to fill in at the 3, picks up Biedrins as a backup big on an expiring deal, and gets two 1st round picks. Golden St. gets their guy, giving up all their picks in the process, and picks up a future pick from the Hornets. Hornets move up 3 spots and pick up a 2nd basically for Ariza and a future pick. Hornets take Harrison Barnes at 7, makes him the 6th man off the bench, and if Aminu flops, he slides into the starting lineup. 4.) Don't address the Center position: yet. Beauty of drafting Davis: w/ our best player being so cheap, and the way Okafor fits with him, Okafor can be kept around and be effective. Though undersized, Okafor is a rugged post defender, rebounds well, and blocks a ton of shots. A long, bouncy 4 like Davis cleaning up for him is the perfect running mate. Okafor, Davis, and Aminu, although offensively challenged at first, would be the longest best rebounding frontcourt in the west. Sign and trade Kaman for something. Okafor-Davis-Smith-Ayon is a solid four man rotation. Maybe need one more body, possibly Landry, but with him it would be tough to find minutes for everyone and he can't play any center. I say pick up another Monty favorite, an oldy but goody, Marcus Camby. He can show Davis the ropes, get some burn at the 4 and the 5, and we can overpay him on a one year deal bc we have the cap space. 5.) Find me a sniper! We don't shoot 3s worth shit. We need a guy who, when teams collapse on our offensively challenged frontcourt, we can put someone on the court who scares the crap out the opposition. The solution: Unrestricted free agent Steve Novak from the knicks. Other than his shooting, he is completely useless. However, him being 6'10 means we can plug him in at positions 2-5 and have him sit at the three point throw line and play 4 on 4 in the lane. Think Peja Stojakovic except making 1.5 million a year. Andre Miller-Gordon-Aminu-Davis-Okafor Vasquez-Jack-Barnes-Ayon-Smith Novak as the matchup guy, with Camby the 5th big, Henry as the swing 2/3. Lance Thomas and Dyson in suits all day. Bellenelli in Italy somewhere. This team would compete for a playoff spot, and have appx. 32 million of salary committed, with about 9.5 million that could be trimmed by declining options on Ayon (1.5), Vasquez (2.1), Aminu (3.7), or Henry (3.2). First year of a max deal starts at about 15 million/year - which means you could decline the option on Henry and Vasquez and afford two max offers in summer of 2013. The future is bright!
excellent points, my prescription for the new regime: no change we already, thanks to dell have young guys developing at affordable salaries and only one bad contract left we have excellent character guys who have bought into the system and know it well we are not winning a championship this year therefore, draft marshall and let the guys we have help acclimate he and ad to the monty way lineups: 5 - okafor / jsmith / chris johnson 4 - ad / ayon / lance 3 - trevor / aminu 2 - ej / jjack / xhenry 1 marshall / greivis / jjack thats a competitive group already but mostly is a tried and true high chemistry blue collar squad that can lead the rooks in the right direction with the 5 mil left over and possible exception, i would not rush to throw money at anyone unless freakishly we were able to get a good deal for asik, maybe b bass, dont think we can afford ilyasova, dont think lou williams or augustine are monty type of players id say we use year one to get the heads of our future heroes screwed on right and think about making the leap in year two. even then, i doubt we'll see money tossed at top fa's, that's not the rc buford way great points about scouting and other ops. it would be nice to presume that dells turning the scouting around considering the gems hes found in the rough, up to benson to do the rest winter has come and passed, the future looks golden
Bravo. Laser accurate. I said today elsewhere and in other places, Chris Paul set up a 6 year clock, basically. It's ticking now. What happens off the court and in the offices and in the legislature etc. is just as important to keeping Anthony Davis as the on the court stuff. We'll be keeping an eye on all of it. Again, bravo, Mike.
Great article!! I think we have all of the right building blocks. In one of Monty's interviews he said players (although still under contract) would love to play in NOLA. This is a very good sign when you talk about the changing culture of the Hornets. I think Mr. Benson more clearly understands what it takes to make a franchise premier. Rita, his avid basketball fan wife, Mickey and others coupled with Monty and Dell should create an unbelievable basketball culture and an enviable place for players who don't work and/or play in NOLA.
Jay Midi stole all the talent from Julian Wright. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLK4-46PxqU
THIS is exactly what a blog should be: insightful, opinionated, and informed. Kudos for a great article!
Sort of repeating what the other two above me have said, but thank you for this article. This is honestly one of my favorite articles, if not favorite, that I have read on this site. The future seems bright for the Hornets, and I cannot wait to see what it brings to us. Geaux Hornets!! #excited
Couldn't agree with this more: "First off, great article and thank you guys for doing this. Lately, ESPN’s NBA news and “analysis” has become all insider. As a college student living abroad, it is impossible for me to pay for such things. It is great that I get to come here, and get better information for free. Thanks." Now can someone summarize John Holinger's (Insider) Per Diem piece on what the Hornets should do now? Thanks.
First off, great article and thank you guys for doing this. Lately, ESPN's NBA news and "analysis" has become all insider. As a college student living abroad, it is impossible for me to pay for such things. It is great that I get to come here, and get better information for free. Thanks. Secondly, I am a life long saints fan. I'm much more knowledgeable about the workings of NFL front offices, as my questions probably show, than of any NBA team. I wanted to make a comment about Benson stepping up to the plate and improving this team's front office and perception around the league. For a lot of years, a lot of saints fans thought the saints had the same problems you listed, crappy facilities, poor scouting, and a seemingly wallet tight owner. I don't think all of those points are fair when you look back at the history (ie screw the 49ers in the early 90s), but it is pretty clear that poor scouting and below average facilities did exist. However, something changed, even before the Payton/Brees era, the saints got their act together. First, It started with great facilities, and now the saints employ around 2 to 3 times as many scouts as the rest of the league. The last point I want to make is that Benson defers to his experts. Always. He will never be the type of owner that will take power away from the people he employs. Instead, he will try to employ the best people and defer to their expertise. I guess this long post is just meant to say, I think we have a great owner, one that will put us in a position to succeed. I'm excited about the future not just because AD, but also because I think we have the right men (Dell, Monty, and Benson) for the job that has to be done.