The Missing Piece: Take ’em Off the Board

Published: November 3, 2012

Several extensions before the October 31st buzzer took a few possible ‘Missing Pieces’ off the board, but there are several guys poised to take their place.

The final few days of last month saw a flurry of action in the NBA, as teams were forced to decide on whether or not they would pick up options on some rookie contracts and whether they wanted to extend others. The New Orleans Hornets had some decisions to make, as they picked up the 2013-14 option on Greivis Vasquez but declined the options of Al-Farouq Aminu and Xavier Henry. Those decisions put the Hornets in position to offer a max contract next summer, though there are fewer players who are poised to hit the market than it appeared there would be just one week ago.

Ty Lawson, Jrue Holliday, and Stephen Curry were all on our watch list last week, but no more as they all signed four year extensions ranging from $41-$48 million. In all three cases, you could argue that the players took less than they could have got on the open market if they had played well this year, but the long-term security was too hard to pass up. Their contracts are also interesting with regard to the guys who did not get extensions and are poised to hit the market, as their deals have now set a range for their values. Brandon Jennings, Darren Collison, Jeff Teague, and Tyreke Evans will all be restricted free agents this season, and you better believe that they will be looking at those contracts when they go to the negotiating table.

You can also argue that Danny Granger might be taken off the board, or at least moved to the very back after news came out that he would be shut down indefinitely with a knee injury. Sound familiar? Yeah, I find it highly unlikely that the Hornets will want two injury prone wing players making nearly thirty million per year. Actually, the interesting question would be whether both teams would consider a swap straight up. Benefit for Pacers: They can move Paul George to small forward, and if Gordon can ever get healthy they are a legit contender. Benefit for Hornets: Granger comes off the books after next season. Get out from a bad deal two years sooner, and if Granger gives you anything, that is a bonus.

Moving Up the Board

If someone falls off, another must step in his place, and with the extension of Ty Lawson now official, it looks like the Denver Nuggets will have to make a choice between Andre Iguodala and Wilson Chandler. And it makes it a virtual lock that they lose Corey Brewer, who has looked fantastic since the mid-point of last year. Re-signing Iggy will put them into the luxury tax short term, and long-term, it would make it very hard to keep Kenneth Faried.

And let’s be honest, with the Eric Gordon bombshell dropped on us this year, every single highly touted 2013 draft prospect just moved up our board. The Hornets look like a team that will fight hard every night and will win some games that they shouldn’t, but that’s who they were last year and they ended up with the #1 pick. No way this team is the worst in the league, but they are pretty much a lock to be in the top ten if Gordon misses significant time.

Put ‘Em on the Board

There is a young and athletic small forward who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer that wasn’t even on this list last week. That player’s name is Al-Farouq Aminu, and after his performances against San Antonio and Utah, he has to be in the conversation when we talk about our starting small forward of the future. If he can continue to play the way he did in the first two games, he has just a good a chance as anybody to get a long-term offer from Dell.

And with the news that we got about Eric Gordon this week, you gotta add shooting guards to the board now. You can’t assume that Gordon will ever be completely right, so if the best player on the board when you draft is a shooting guard or you identify a good one in free agency, you might have to pull the trigger. So, UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad is now on the board, along with Kevin Martin and Monta Ellis.

In Our House

The Utah Jazz visited last night and brought with them two possible missing pieces in Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap. Jefferson was not overly impressive, as I think anyone who watched that game would agree that Lopez outplayed him. Jefferson scored 10 points on 13 shots and generally looked too slow to make an impact. Paul Milsap, on the other hand, took Hornets fans breath away with a three-pointer to tie the game with seven seconds left. He only got 25 minutes because his eventual successor, Derrick Favors, was playing so well, but he did a little bit of everything by scoring 11 points on 9 shots, grabbing 6 boards (3 offensive), dishing 3 assists, and getting a block and a steal on the defensive end.

Jefferson just doesn’t look like he would fit with the Hornets, who want to play more uptempo, but you could see Paul Milsap being a rich man’s version of Jason Smith if the Hornets bring him in.

First Week Standout Performances

Andre Iguodala has stood out in a bad way so far, going 8 of 23 through two games. He is filling out the box score, per usual, but if he can’t be an offensive threat, you might as well stick with Aminu.

Brandon Jennings went head to head with Rajon Rondo last night and came out with 21 points, 13 assists, 6 steals, and a victory. According to some Milwaukee writers, Jennings was willing to stay if he was offered 4 years/39 million but that was too rich for Milwaukee’s blood.

Chris Paul has had plenty of chances to say that he is staying with the Clippers beyond the season, but instead, he keeps saying that he doesn’t know where he will be playing. The Clippers are playing well now, but if and when injuries hit and Del Negro starts making Del Negro-like mistakes, Chris could become frustrated and seek a new home. He still loves New Orleans, and he said this week that he tried to get Dwight Howard to come and play here, so why not come back home to play with the new and improved version of Dwight Howard?

Rudy Gay dropped 25 points (on 21 shots) for Memphis in their opening night loss against the Clippers. He followed that up with 18 points on 18 shots in a win against the Warriors. The fact remains that he and Randolph just don’t play off each other very well and if the Grizzlies are struggling three months from now, one of them will have to go.

What to Watch This Week:

The NCAA season kicks off next Friday night, and you can see several top prospects in action. Kentucky kicks off their season on ESPN at 7:30 CST against Maryland. Nerlens Noel is fantastic, but he would be a little redundant on this team. Watch #22 Alex¬†Poythress. You can’t miss him, he is the one built like a defensive end. UCLA plays at 10:00 CST that night and Shabazz Muhammed should score from day one. And on ESPN3 at 6:00 CST you can check out my personal favorite, Mr. James McAdoo and North Carolina as they take on perennial powerhouse Gardner-Webb.

If Aminu is the Answer

Watching Aminu this week, it is hard not to think that we might have our answer at small forward on our roster right now. If he continues to play like this, Dell will follow the Spurs model and give his young forward a multi-year deal that will start around four or five million. Couple that with the Hornets picking up Lopez’s option and the cap hold for their first round pick and the Hornets will be looking at about $10 million in cap room. Based on what the market is set at, the Hornets could grab a quality point guard like Brandon Jennings- perhaps a sign and trade similar to the Anderson/Ayon trade, where they send Vasquez or Rivers to Milwaukee for him.

The Missing piece is a weekly article that can be found only on For past issues, click here.




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