The Missing Piece: Handicapping the Field

Published: October 27, 2012

Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, and Ryan Anderson are here, but one more piece will be needed to ascend to championship contender. In this series, we look at the guys who could be the missing piece

Monty Williams came out last week and showed Dell Demps hand, but boy are we all thankful. The head coach who recently received an extension and some long term security, talked about the goals for the team this season and beyond. In doing so, he announced that this would be a year for Austin and Anthony to grow before they spend their money next summer and move forward with their plans for world domination.

Okay, I might have exaggerated that last part, but the rest is true. Monty and Dell plan to add another big piece at some point between now and next October, but at Hornets247, we don’t have the patience to wait. We want to know who that missing piece is NOW! Every Saturday, The Missing Piece will look at the possibilities, be it from the 2013 draft, the free agent crop, or the trade market.

In our first piece, we will lay out exactly what the needs are and who might be in Dealer Demps crosshairs.

The Core

Look, we all want Vasquez, Aminu, Henry, and Rivers to succeed but if you get the chance to grab a sure thing, you don’t pass it up for somebody who has “potential.” The Trailblazers are still kicking themselves for passing on the opportunity to take Chris Paul because they had a raw point guard with potential named Sebastian Telfair. The Mavericks let Steve Nash go because they had Devin Harris waiting in the wings. Nash won two MVP’s, played in seven All-Star games, and at 38, is still a better player today. A young guy with “upside” that has yet to show anything in the league gets coaches and GM’s fired far more often than he gets them extended.

With that in mind, you can simplify the Hornets core down to three: Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and Anthony Davis. They are all locked up for four years and the only way that any one of them gets moved is for another star. Jason Smith is a solid piece, but he will be going into the final year of his deal once we hit next summer and it is highly unlikely that Dell gets him at a bargain rate again. Of all the other players on the roster, Rivers is the most likely to establish himself as part of the core this season, but he will have to exceed expectations to do so, because if you are going to pass up the opportunity to go after a Steph Curry, a Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, or even Chris Paul, you better be sure that you have a sure thing on your hands.

What is Needed

If those three are the core, the Hornets need a backcourt player and a frontcourt player. Notice I didn’t say a point guard and a small forward. Eric Gordon is a versatile player, one that has showed he can run the offense and guard either position on defense. Ideally, he would pair with a guy who could play equally well with the ball or off the ball. A neccessary component of the complimentary guards game would be the ability to knock down the open shot from deep. Gordon will have the ball a lot in the pick and roll, so a kick out option is a must.

In the front court, the Hornets are even more flexible with the type of player that they can insert. Ryan Anderson is a 4/5 who can play like a three on offense, while Davis is a 4/5 on offense who can cover 3’s, 4’s, or 5’s on the defensive end. You can grab a prototypical SF and put Davis at center full time. You can grab a PF who can bang on the block, effectively playing 5 on offense and 4 on defense. Bottom line is that the Hornets can make almost anything work and that will allow them to target the best player available, as opposed to just targeting a position and possible settling for a lesser player.

The 2013 Draft

The Hornets could choose to emulate the Thunder and add their James Harden this summer, while using their money to take care of their own. They can give Jason Smith a “Nick Collison-like” signing bonus and negate the huge rate he might get in 2014. If they go this route, there are a couple of guys to keep in mind if the Hornets land a pick between 3 and 8 in 2013.

Tony Mitchell, Forward, North Texas

A bit of a tweener, Mitchell is a beast who can flat out score. And unlike most guys who transistion from college to the pros, he has the body to take an 82 game beating right away. He can play the four on offense and can cover three’s or four’s on defense.

Otto Porter, Forward, Georgetown

I am a huge Georgetown fan, and to be frank, I can’t believe he is in the discussion for top-10 pick. He is a smooth, natural small forward but he does not possess one elite attribute. Imagine a poor man’s Andre Iguodala.

James McAdoo, Forward, North Carolina

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that I have a lot of love for McAdoo. He was a 6th man on a great North Carolina team last season and now he gets a chance to be a stud. If he is who I think he is, expect a huge season.

Alex Poythress, Forward, Kentucky

80% of what MKG gives you on defense, 110% of what MKG gives you on offense. Poythress is an athletic three who goes all out on both ends of the court and has Gerald Wallace in his prime type potential.

Steven Adams, Center, Pittsburgh

If Monty wants to play a big next to Davis for the next ten years, Steven Adams could be an uber talented version of Robin Lopez. A legit 7-footer with size, Adams could pair with Davis to form a duo that would be impossible to score on down low.

Other Possibilities: Rudy Gobert, International; Isiah Austin, Baylor; Cody Zeller, Indiana

The Unrestricted Free Agent Class

Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks

Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis, and Josh Smith would all technically be listed as “power forwards” but I personally believe that they could form an amazingly complimentary front line. Smith and Davis could rim run and/or pop out for mid range shots on offense while Anderson shoots threes. On defense, Smith or Davis could cover SF’s and they would have crazy length to double down on elite low post bigs like Bynum or Howard.

Andre Iguodala, Denver Nuggets

Iguodala is the best pure wing on the market and the only 2012 Olympic team member on this list. A Gordon/Iggy combo might be the best defensive wing duo in the NBA outside of Wade and Lebron, and the addition of Iguodala should allow the Hornets to push the pace on the offensive end.

Chris Paul, LA Clippers

Did you really think I could leave him off the list? Look, until he signs an extension, I will consider him a possibility. Their coach and their ownership is a joke and if the Clippers implode this season, I don’t see many scenarios that would be more appealing to Paul than playing with Davis, Anderson, and Gordon – and for Demps and Monty.

Paul Milsap, Utah Jazz

Again, another “power forward” might not seem like an ideal fit but you won’t find many guys in the league who play harder or that are more versatile. Milsap can bang down low or he can step outside, and a frontline of Milsap, Davis, and Anderson would destroy teams on the offensive glass.

Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz

Jefferson would give the Hornets a terrific low post presence that could also step out and hit the 15 footer. Defensively he has the body to bang with big centers and his feet are quick enough that he doesn’t kill you when teams go small and play pick and roll.

Other Possibilities: Corey Brewer, Chase Budinger, JJ Hickson

The October 31st Guys

Teams have the opportunity to give these guys extensions by October 31st, but if they don’t agree to terms, they will become restricted free agents next summer.

Stephen Curry, Golden State

If Curry didn’t have ankle issues, Golden State would have put a max offer in front of him and he wouldn’t be on this list. But like our own Eric Gordon, Curry has missed significant games in recent years and it is hard to give a guy like that max money. If healthy, a Curry/Gordon backcourt would be practically unstoppable with Anderson on the wing and Davis at the rim.

Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets

Of all these guys, Lawson is the one who is most likely to sign an extension next week, but if he doesn’t, the Hornets might be able to snatch him by overpaying. He isn’t worth max money per se, but he is the fastest player on this list and could get this Hornets team off and running.

Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers

With Iguodala gone, the Philadelphia 76ers will be leaning on Holiday to give them some scoring punch from the perimeter, so he could put up a monster season. Holiday isn’t a pure point, but the Hornets don’t need one and a combo of he and Gordon could be as devastating defensively as they would be offensively.

Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks

If you want another guy in the backcourt who can stretch the defense, Jennings is your guy. And if the Hornets are building their team in the image of the Spurs, Brandon Jennings first couple of years have been eerily similar to those of Tony Parker.

Other Possibilities: Jeff Teague, Hawks; Tyreke Evans, Kings

Amnesty Candidates

Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls

At more than $16 million per year, Carlos Boozer is a drain on your cap, but at four to five million, he could be a player that gives you amazing bang for your buck. Boozer gets picked on a lot because of his salary and because he has not been the #2 option Chicago needs, but imagine him as a 4th option making the league average. I’ll take it.

Other Possibility: Amir Johnson, Toronto Raptors

Trade Targets

Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies

If things fall apart for Memphis, look for them to dump some salary- with Gay or Randolph being the most likely candidates. Gay is vastly overpaid and he isn’t the most efficient player, but he would easily be one of the most explosive third options in the league, with the ability to carry the offense at times when he gets hot.

Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers

Indiana is going to have to pay Paul George soon, and when they do, they might have to do away with Granger. Danny Granger would give the city a hometown kid to root for and he would give Monty another legitimate offensive option on the wing who could go off for 25-30 on any given night.

Jared Dudley, Phoenix Suns

The Suns fans love Dudley, and so does the management as he gives them so much production for so little ($4.25 mil per year). The Suns just paid Michael Beasley to play the three for them, so there is a chance that the right deal could help a team land Dudley.

Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets

And here is another team that will be forced to make a financial decision soon. Denver just gave big contracts to Danillo Gallinari and JaVale McGee, so paying Iggy and Lawson while keeping glue guys like Chandler will be tough. Will have about 3 years and $20 million left after this year. If Aminu fails, Chandler could provide a huge upgrade that would give Monty the defensive minded, athletic wing he wants Aminu to become.

Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia 76ers

Last summer Philadelphia gave Young a big contract and saw him as a huge part of their future, but now they have a drastically different offensive philosophy and Thaddeus Young might be the odd man out. A front court of Young, Davis, and Anderson would compliment each other extremely well on both ends without breaking the bank.

Opening Day Odds:

(chances they are the missing piece and are a Hornet on opening day next season)

Andre Iguodala- 6:1

Wilson Chandler- 6:1

Brandon Jennings- 6:1

Otto Porter- 10:1

Paul Milsap- 10:1

Alex Poythress- 20:1

Tony Mitchell- 20:1

Thaddeus Young- 20:1

Chris Paul- 25:1

Josh Smith- 25:1

Al Jefferson- 35:1

Rudy Gay- 35:1

Stephen Curry- 40:1

Carlos Boozer- 40:1

Steven Adams- 40:1

Jared Dudley- 40:1

Danny Granger- 50:1

Jrue Holiday- 75:1

Ty Lawson- 100:1



  1. Pingback: The Missing Piece: Handicapping the Field – Hornets247 | Safes

  2. Lucas Ottoni

    October 27, 2012 at 9:24 am

    “Chris Paul, LA Clippers

    Did you really think I could leave him off the list? Look, until he signs an extension, I will consider him a possibility. Their coach and their ownership is a joke and if the Clippers implode this season, I don’t see many scenarios that would be more appealing to Paul than playing with Davis, Anderson, and Gordon – and for Demps and Monty”.

    Man… If that happens, it will be absolutely fantastic!

  3. Jordan J.

    October 27, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Awesome piece. Crossing my fingers for Jennings/Iggy!

  4. Shawn

    October 27, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Where do these opening day odd projections come from exactly?

  5. mojart

    October 27, 2012 at 9:59 am

    i hope we go SF at next year draft bcoz it is so deep (Tony Mitchell hopefully) so we just need to focus on a PG/C if rivers did not develop to a PG and as well for lopez

  6. Purple Haze

    October 27, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Great article, mac. So many options! Personally I want Iggy or bust. Why do you rank his odds so high? Max offer?

  7. maximumballer

    October 27, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Nice article,

    If we breakdown what is wrong with the Hornets its leadership, scoring and PG play. Of course the only guy on the list with all those qualities is CP3. But if I had to choose from reality, I would try to steal Granger away from Pacers. Guy provides scoring from all over the court and is long defensively. If rivers doesnt pan out after next year, then you need to start looking at veteran PG in the league. I really believe the way of the league is attacking guards like Rondo and Parker. the Heat did not need it bc Lebron and Wade are so skilled with the ball. okc had westbrook. Lets see if Gordon can become that ball handler and playmaker that other teams have before we bring in a PG. With granger giving the scoring punch along with Gordon and AD. that would put us in the mix. If Gordon can average 20 and AD average 15 and rebounds, we just need the third scorer to average around 18ppg and our offense would be set. I dont really look at Andersen as a primary 3rd scorer bc he is mainly a spot up 3 point shooter who cant take it to the rack at will. I envision him to be much like AD, where he is the byproduct of someone else initiating the offense. Rivers has to make an impact this year, wether it is as a decent PG or backup SG.

    • Nate

      October 29, 2012 at 10:51 am

      I like your view on this.

      Smith/Vasquez – 6th/7th man

  8. da ThRONe

    October 27, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Haven’t read the entire piece just noticed something wrong. Gordon has an option for the last year so he’s only locked up for 3 years and this is granted he doesn’t try to use that as leverage to force his way out after the 2nd year. God knows we’ve seen this enough recently in the NBA.

    • maximumballer

      October 27, 2012 at 11:30 am

      I think Hornets are aware of this, it is an experiment on both sides. Hornets knows EG wants out but they are putting him next to a future all star in Davis, winning changes everything. If they dont win in next two years, EG will be traded. I personally like that the contract only runs 3 yrs based on what he is doing NOW, which is nothing

      • Chris

        October 27, 2012 at 2:01 pm

        I really hope winning changes everything for Gordon. He seems like the guy who would be more happy scoring 30 in a loss than 12 in a win. I really hope I’m wrong, but I just get the feeling with Gordon that “getting his” is what’s most important to him.

  9. R

    October 27, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Do we have the money to go after both Jennings and Smoove? Starting lineup of Jennings, Gordon, Smith, Anderson, and Davis would push the Hornets into the Western Conference elite.

  10. Snow

    October 27, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Obviously, CP3 would be a dream come true if he came back to play with us. If that doesn’t happen, I’d love Brandon Jennings! He is a nice scorer! Him and Ellis play well together so imagine him and EG! Shoot I’d even think of taking Tyreke Evans if we can get him for a good price. I would want Curry but having EG and Curry injured all the time could push us back, it’d be very risky. I always wanted Iggy to play with the Hornets so that’d be cool if we got him. Imagine a lineup of Gordon/Iggy/Anderson/Davis =D. If that doesn’t happen I really hope we trade for Gay or Granger. I’m TOO excited for this season!!!

  11. Snow

    October 27, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Oh and I know this may be a long shot but do you think Hornets could possibly trade for Eric Bledsoe? Clippers are stacked with Guards

  12. Will

    October 27, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Though I wouldn’t consider Jared Dudley “the missing piece” to our championship team, I would love to have him. I hope we can keep Smith because I really like our front court. AD’s a beast, Anderson and Smith are versatile and Lopez is the bruiser. Of course, if someone better comes along, I’m confident Monty and Dell will do what’s right.

  13. Tony

    October 27, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    I really hope EG10 can get this “injury prone” label off of his name this year. Its amazing how the guy is saying he is excited about this young team knowing it will yake a couple years to be a contender and people still think he wants out. I think he sincerely wants to be here.

    • Nate

      October 29, 2012 at 10:54 am

      Me too.

      I think the whole “heart in Phoenix” was a bluff for a matching offer.

  14. Chuck

    October 27, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    “The Hornets could choose to emulate the Thunder and add their James Harden this summer, while using their money to take care of their own.”

    Speaking of this…why not James Harden on this list? He might be a FA if the Thunder somehow mess up royally.

    • 504ever

      October 27, 2012 at 11:15 pm

      Maybe because Harden just got traded to the Rockets.

  15. NOEngineer

    October 28, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Instead of selecting by position and name recognition, please give us some advanced statistics on these guys, and on some of the guys with better WS/48 that might not be so famous. Those are the guys we should target via trade or free agency. Yeah, I could look it up myself but I’ve only got time to complain instead, and you guys do a great job without me…..

    • Michael McNamara

      October 28, 2012 at 9:20 am

      This is the first post in a series that will stretch through the season and offseason- probably 30-35 posts in all. Advanced stats, fit, etc. will all be covered extensively. This was the prologue.

      Be patient, young padawan.

  16. Eli

    October 28, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Damn, this post just got me super excited, especially because I read it after the James Harden trade. This year’s gunna be crazy!

    I think a very good, very possible scenario could be this:
    Drafting a forward in the draft and signing Brandon Jennings.

    Jennings would be our starter, moving Rivers to be our spark off the bench, our very own James Harden. Jennings and Gordon can handle the ball interchangeably, with the ball handler working the pick n roll and the other one spotting up for a three.

    Starters: Jennings, Gordon, Draftee, Anderson, Davis
    6th man: Rivers
    Bench: ?

  17. tyler

    October 28, 2012 at 1:55 pm


  18. Icebird

    October 28, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    CP3 or Igoudala would both seem like absolutely perfect fits for this time. Naturally I expect our chances of getting either one of them are slim. Not only will their current teams be going all out to re-sign them, but there are going to be a lot of other teams with cap space to burn competing for them as well (I think the Mavericks’ entire team is on an expiring deal bar Dirk). But we shall dream until they sign somewhere on the dotted line.

    You could almost consider this an “audition” season for the Hornets to prove that they have the right pieces to be an attractive free agent destination.

    On the draft front, I’d like us to get Steven Adams just because he’s a Kiwi. I first started following the Hornets when Sean Marks was on the team, and it would be nice to have another “local” player to cheer for. From what I’ve heard, he’s talented, but very raw – he started playing basketball quite late compared to your average American, who I think learns to do a lay-up in the womb and progresses from there. I’m going to be interested to see how he does this season – he could be very available wherever the Hornets end up picking. With the Hornets existing front court, he’d have the luxury of being brought along slowly.

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