Off-Season Targets: Centers

Published: June 30, 2012

With Emeka gone and Kaman soon to follow, the Hornets will look to target somebody in the middle this summer

It’s that time of year again where we take a look at potential off-season targets. Grayson put up a big board of potential free agents, and now we go a little more in-depth. First up is the center position. As of today, the Hornets do not have a true center on the roster, though Jason Smith has been looking to add weight in order to play the position and Anthony Davis has the length to play center in spurts. After figuring in cap holds for Gordon and the rookies, the Hornets are about 17 million dollars under the cap. One way or the other, the Hornets are going to have to add another big. Perhaps they fill the position permanently with somebody they acquire this year, or they could just get a short term fix and wait for other options to become available.  In either case, there are some quality big men available.

Free Agents

1. JaVale McGee, Denver Nuggets 25.2 Mpg, 11.3 Ppg, 7.8 Rpg, 2.2 Bpg, 56% Fg

Dell went after McGee at the trade deadline and I expect him to do it again if the price is right. MeGee’s per 48 minutes stats are off the charts (22 points, 15 rebounds, 4 blocks) and he has the ability to be the perfect fit for this Hornets team. McGee was an elite pick and roll defender last season, giving up just .76 points per posession in those situations, which was top 20 in the entire league.He was even better in isolation situations when he had to switch and was matched up against a guard- giving up less than .7 ppp, ranking 12th in the league.

Having McGee and Davis out there at the same time would not only clog up the lane, but it would allow the Hornets to have an infinite amount of options on the pick and roll. They could hedge, show hard, or even switch everything. That is what gives McGee the edge over Roy Hibbert, at least on the defensive end in this new era of the NBA where the Thunder and Heat rule the roost. Miami exposed Hibbert’s lack of lateral quickness and when Indiana’s season was on the line, they actually pulled Hibbert in those final four minutes of game six to give themselves more speed.

Offensively, most would be surprised that Hibbert and McGee are dead even when it comes to points per possession and FG% in post-up situations. McGee, as one would expect has elite numbers off of cuts and rolls to the basket while Hibbert is the better mid-range shooter. McGee is also an awful free throw shooter, something Hibbert does quite well for a big.

The tiebreaker, however, likely comes down to the fact that Indiana will match whatever Hibbert is offered, while there is reason to believe that the right price can get keep Denver for matching on McGee. Anything over ten million per year will put Denver into a position where they could become a luxury tax team after they pay Ty Lawson next year. A contract in the neighborhood of 4 years and 45-50 million would make it hard for Denver to match, and might be worth it for the Hornets when you consider that Anthony Davis will be severely underpaid over those same four years. While McGee might not be worth 12 million per year, you could easily argue that the combo of McGee and Davis are worth 18 million per year, especially when you consider that McGee is just entering his prime years and showed considerable growth after he was traded to a real team last year.

2. Omer Asik, Chicago Bulls, 3.1 Ppg, 5.3 Rpg, 1 Bpg, 51% Fg

Those stats obviously won’t excite you, but if you look at his numbers per 48 minutes you  are talking about 10 points, 18.3 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks. Unfortunately you are also looking at 6 fouls a game as well, so Asik is a guy better served giving you 25 minutes a night. What Asik does give you is a defensive presence that can not be underestimated. The Bulls, already a very good defensive team, gave 10 points less per 100 possessions when Asik was on the court. That’s huge.

When it comes specifically to his fit with the Hornets, you gotta love his ability to defend the post. Anthony Davis will be an excellent weak side and off the ball defender immediately, but he will get pushed around down low from time to time, until he puts on some weight. Asik can defend the post and he also can play the pick and roll. The question with Asik is how much is too much to play a 25 minute per game player who likely won’t be on the court at the end of games. Any reasonable figure will likely be matched by Chicago, so you might have to overpay him. 4 years and 32 million would probably be what it takes to pry him away.

3. Ian Mahinmi, Dallas Mavericks 5.8 Ppg, 4.7 Rpg, .5 Bpg, 55% Fg

Mahinmi was actually on this same list two years ago as a sleeper to watch out for, and he has worked his back way here to the big boys list. Mahinmi is still only 25 years old and would be an ideal guy to hold down the fort until the Hornets can get a big skilled enough to move Ian to the bench. Mahinmi was top ten in the league in defending the pick and roll, allowing just 0.7 ppp. He also was more than adequate on offense in the post and as the roll man in the pick and roll. If the Hornets can’t land a big target, getting Mahinmi to share the position with Jason Smith for a year is not a bad alternative.


Spencer Hawes, Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez

Nice to think about, but they can’t be pulled away from their current teams.

Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby

Two guys who could be short term options, but they will likely look to play for contenders and they don’t fit the “young veteran” criteria Dell said he is seeking out in this class.

Trade Targets

Won’t waste anybody’s time with this. The Hornets don’t have any assets that can get a legit center, and taking on a salary dump like Andris Biendris.

Amnesty Candidates

The Hornets can actually get the biggest bargain by putting in a bid on a guy who will get amnestied this summer. Teams can amnesty a player between July 11th and July 17th. Highest bid wins the players services for the remaining length of his current contract.

Brendan Haywood, Dallas Mavericks

Haywood is not a bad player, he is just vastly overpaid (owed nearly 38 million over next 4 years). If Mavs amnesty him, might the Hornets put in a small bid? If you get him, great. If not, no harm. How about an 8 million dollar bid? You pay him 2 million dollars a year for the next 4 years to be a rotation player- that’s a steal.

Looking Ahead

Obviously Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard are free agents. Don’t hold your breath. But the draft offers some possibilities if the Hornets get another high pick. Cody Zeller and Steven Adams are both legit seven footers who figure to be top ten picks in the draft, and there are actually some interesting middle level free agent big men who can fit with Davis. Nickola Pekovic is just entering his prime and is a tough, nasty guy that would look great next to Davis. Al Jefferson will also be available and could provide the low post presence that Monty covets.

Next Off-Season Targets: Forwards


  1. Pingback: Off-Season Targets: Forwards | New Orleans Hornets |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.