The Missing Piece: Searching for Bruce and Danny

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Published: March 23, 2013
Missing Piece Four

When fans dream of offseason acquisitions, they think of the ‘Big Fish’ – the current All-Stars and the guys who could be perennial All-Stars. Two or three guys every year fit that description, and more often than not those guys stay where they are or go to a big market. After those guys are off the board, the next tier gets vastly overpaid because all of those teams who saved their money for the studs but missed out are now just dying to use that space on somebody. Then comes the mid-level guys who either take the full MLE or choose to take less to go to a contender. The last crop of guys left in the offseason fight each other for the few remaining guaranteed minimum contracts. In that final step, however, lies a very unique set of guys. They are guys with some upside defensively who just have not found their nitch offensively and those guys are usually plucked by the “smart teams”. The Pelicans need to become one of these smart teams.

In the Summer of 2001, the Spurs signed Bowen for $715,000 with a team option for a second year. At the time, not much was expected by the fan base, and Bowen was thought to be a journeyman of sorts. He had a solid season the year before, hitting 103 three-pointers for the Miami Heat, but that was more than he had hit in his previous six NBA seasons combined. He was considered an intelligent defender who tried hard, but most scouts said he didn’t have the athleticism to be a lock down defender. Of course, we all know now that the Spurs probably don’t win their last two titles without him and it probably goes down as one of the best off-season signings ever when you factor in cost.

Danny Green is a slightly different story. He was drafted by the Cavs, but was let go early into his second season. The Spurs picked him up and gave him some time in the D-League before bringing him back for the final month of the season and seeing what he could do. The following year Green made the team in training camp and took off as the Spurs premier perimeter defender and corner three-point specialist. This year he has taken another step forward and is really thriving because of his high basketball IQ and athleticism.

High basketball IQ seems to be a common denominator, as does the ability to recognize a guy who is willing to put “we” above “me”. The fact is that a small market team can not have a star at every position, because they won’t be able to pay them long term. Eventually, the Hornets will have to hit on a gritty perimeter defender who can space the floor, and is willing to sacrifice shots and potentially money for the good of the team. This year, there are a few guys with the potential to fit this profile, so let’s take a look at some possible candidates:

Chris Singleton, Washington Wizards

Coming out of Florida State two years ago, Singleton was considered the best defensive prospect in the draft and was taken by the Wizards with the 18th pick. He played in every single game last year and had some solid moments, and even showed more potential from beyond the arc than he displayed in college. He hit 35% of his three’s and put up 2 steals and a block per 36 minutes, but after the Wizards traded for Trevor Ariza and acquired Martell Webster this summer, there was no room for Singleton in the regular rotation.

After being completely removed from the rotation in January, he has gotten spot minutes since Bradley Beal went down, but with Beal now back, his minutes figure to be cut again. The Hornets could probably get Singleton for a future 2nd, and it might just be work the risk. Singleton can’t get his own shot, but his defense is phoenominal and he has shown that he is capable of being a solid three-point shooter. Take a chance on the kid and have somebody feed him 1000 corner three’s per day in practice until they become like layups to the kid. The good Old Fashion San Antonio way.

Damion James, NBDL

James is another young, lengthy small forward who got buried on a team that went the veteran route, and now he is wasting away in the Developmental League. After being taken in the first round and playing in 25 games his rookie year, he has played in just 9 over the last two seasons, and was not extended a new contract by Brooklyn after a 10-day contract expired in January.

James showed that he has the ability to be a tremendous role player and defender back at Texas where he teamed with Kevin Durant to form one of the best frontcourts in America. James is a fantastic rebounder for his position and has the length and agility to really disrupt perimeter players. He also showed a nice shooting stroke at Texas, hitting over 37% of his three’s between his sophomore and senior seasons. He’s a guy that is out there right now, available to be picked up on a 10-day contract. Might not be the worst thing in the world to give this guy a look.

Alan Anderson, Toronto Raptors

Hands down my favorite guy on the list, and the one most likely to become the next Bruce Bowen if he is picked up by the right team. Despite having Rudy Gay, DeMar Derozen, and Terrance Ross, I have seen several games this season in which Alan Anderson was the best wing player on the entire Raptors roster. Like Bowen, he wasn’t really given a shot his first couple of years in the league and now he is 30, having a breakout season.

He’s putting up nearly 12 points per game in just 24 minutes for Toronto and playing really smart defense. His has great lateral quickness, as evidenced by his lane agility time (10.32 seconds), which was one of the best ever recorded. He can also knock down the three ball, as he is shooting over 35% this season, knocking down nearly 2.5 three’s per 36 minutes. Even better, he is shooting nearly 39% on his corner three’s this season. Need more evidence? Go ask the Knicks how they feel about him after he put 35 on them last night while frustrating Melo into committing seven turnovers.

Tyler Honeycutt, Houston Rockets

Honeycutt was a guy who came out of college early and was just starting to realize his potential. He needed to be drafted by an organization who knew how to develop young talent and give him a specific role. Instead, he got picked by the Kings. After a year and a half of inconsistent minutes, no role, and no real plan, he was thrown in to the Thomas Robinson – Patrick Paterson swap and now he is wasting away after being released by Houston three weeks ago.

Honeycutt has tremendous length and athleticism, but doesn’t possess anywhere near the strength Bowen or Green have, and is an inconsistent outside shooter at best. Still, he showed tremendous flashes at UCLA and really improved his three-point shot from his freshman to his sophomore year, so you can see that there is potential for growth in his game. At just 22 years of age, he is a low risk, high reward candidate that the Hornets might want to take a look at this summer.

Darius Miller, New Orleans Hornets

Is it possible that our Danny Green is already on the roster? Remember, Green’s first year with the Spurs was mostly spent in the D-League and picking up the system; he didn’t actually get much playing time with San Antonio. He learned the system the first year, got some feedback on what he needed to work on in order to make the team and crack the rotation the following year and he did just that.

There are actually a lot of similarities when you compare Miller and Green, starting with their college careers. Both were fantastic role players who stayed the entire four years and won a title in their senior season. Green hit 184 career three’s on 37.5% shooting from deep; Miller had 175 on 37.9% shooting. Their turnover, steal, block, and assist percentages are nearly identical, as were their  True Shooting Percentages. Lastly, Danny Green was 24 in his takeoff season with San Antonio, and Miller will be… you guessed it, 24 next year.

Is Offense Really Priority #1?

Whether it is on Twitter or Message Boards or in Comments on this site, I just keep reading that we NEED a scorer on this team. That people don’t care that a guy like Shabazz doesn’t provide anything else, scoring is our #1 need, so we are willing to overlook that. I just have one question for those people –  Have you actually been watching our games?

The Hornets are 16th in offensive rating, without Gordon for half the year and with guys in Davis and Rivers who will only get better offensively next year. Even Gordon figures to be 10-20% better on that end, seeing that he will be a year removed from his injury and he should be fully healthy. They are a middle of the pack offense that projects to be a top 10 offense next season even if they don’t make any significant additions. Meanwhile, they are 28th in defensive rating. 28th!! They allow a Effective Field Goal Percentage of 51.7%, they foul too much, and they never turn the opposing team over as evidenced by the fact that they are 29th in steals.

Is offense really the problem? Is that the side of the ball that needs drastic improvement?

Sorry, rant over.

Checking in on Other Tankers

– Andre Drummond went through his first practice in almost two months on Thursday and says he feels great. Since Drummond went down, Detroit has the 2nd worst record in the NBA because they have nobody to protect the rim and they lost their one big advantage – rebounding. If Drummond returns for the final few weeks, the Pistons should be able to get enough wins to finish ahead of the Hornets, mainly because they have Charlotte (twice), Toronto (twice), Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Minnesota still left on their schedule.

– Kevin Love could return by the end of this month and Chase Budinger returned on Thursday after missing almost three months. Minnesota has three very winnable home games in April (Detroit, Phoenix, and Toronto). If they win those, and just one or two more on top, they should finish well ahead of the Hornets.

– Cleveland might be without Kyrie Irving for the rest of the season, and it looks like Dion Waiters could join him. The Hornets host Cleveland at home on March 31st, but win or lose, I still don’t see how the Cavs finish with less wins than the Hornets this year. They might not win another game this season.

Tournament Recap

Marcus Smart and the Oklahoma State Cowboys were one and done in the tournament, as they were upset by No.12 seed Oregon. In what will likely be Smart’s final college game, he was unimpressive in some areas and spectacular in others.  He couldn’t hit from the perimeter and his free throw stroke was suspect as well, but he controlled the boards and got 5 steals on the defensive end. He had some poor turnovers as well and just seemed to be trying to do too much at times. Overall, it won’t effect his stock – he is a lock to go in the top five, and he could go as high as #1 depending on who gets the pick.

Trey Burke had a poor game offensively, going 2-12 from the floor, and defensively he was not too impressive either. Granted, he was going against one of the best scorers in the nation in Nate Wolters, but Wolters is likely not going to be an NBA player and he made Burke look slow and off-balance the majority of the times Burke tried to cover him. Burke will have a chance to redeem himself today against VCU, and a win gets him a likely matchup against #1 Louisville, but this game made me see why most experts think of him as a guy more likely to go 15-25 than in the lottery.

I want to love Anthony Bennett, but I just see too much Aminu in him. He has such a high ceiling, but there is no passion in his game, no flair. I kept my eyes on him the entire game, and I can honestly say I never saw him run once while playing half court defense. He walks around the paint, never talks to his teammates, and is always a step slow on rotations. And like Aminu, he never shows an ounce of emotion – just that same dead face. Offensively, he is a lot like Al Jefferson. He could dominate the paint all night if he wanted to, but instead he drifts out to the perimeter and settles for jumpers far too often. Long story short, I hope somebody else takes a chance on him. He would be perfect for Phoenix, where he can be mentored by Michael Beasley.

I love Victor Oladipo, I can’t deny it. I can’t take my eyes off him when he is on the court and I don’t want to. He is the exact opposite of Bennett; always talking on defense, always moving. He tells his teammates when to switch picks, when to hedge, etc. He watches the ball when someone other than his guy has it, yet he never loses track of his man. He is always crashing the offensive glass as well, but again he does it so intelligently, as he waits until the perfect moment so he can get to the rim when he is at full speed, allowing him to get up and grab the ball at its highest point. He throws a bounce pass when he should throw a bounce pass and a chest pass when he should throw a chest pass. Just little things, but those little things are a sign of a guy who understands the game and has a hunger to learn. I just love that guy.

Shabazz Muhammad has had a tough week. First his UCLA team lost the Pac-12 Championship game, then it was revealed that he has been lying about his age, and finally, his Bruins suffered a 20+ point loss to No. 11 seed Minnesota. Shabazz went 0-7 in the first half before turning it on in the second half, but it was too little, too late. He made a handful of jumpers and got to the bucket a couple of times, but his three-point shot was off throughout the entire game, as he went 0-6 from deep. Also, in typical Shabazz Muhammad fashion, he did absolutely nothing else but score. Four offensive rebounds, 1 assist, and a turnover is all that he added to his 20 points. He will score in the NBA, but don’t expect anything else.

Last, but not least, we likely saw the last game of Otto Porter‘s college career as No. 2 Georgetown got shocked by Florida Gulf Coast. The loss wasn’t Porter’s fault. In all honesty, Georgetown was a one man squad all year that was bound to be exposed sooner or later. The Big East as a whole is being exposed in this tournament, and Georgetown built their record off the back of a conference that got hyped up because of reputation this year. Porter could have been better early in this game, but there is so much good tape on him and so much upside, that this game won’t matter in the long run.

Games to Watch this Weekend

Michigan vs. VCU, Today at 11:15 CST

Shaka Smart has his VCU team playing terrific basketball and they are going to put a ton of pressure on Trey Burke in this game. We should really get a good feel for Burke’s athleticism and basketball IQ in this one. If the pressure that VCU applies gives Burke problems, I expect Burke to fall in this draft. But if he can push Michigan past one of the hottest teams in the country, it could do wonders for his stock.

Indiana vs. Temple, Sunday at 1:45 CST

Man, I love Oladipo, but with the Hornets winning more as of late, they might find themselves considering Cody Zeller this June. Zeller was efficient in the first game and was spectacular running the floor, but he dropped several easy passes and wasn’t a huge force on the defensive end.

Kansas vs. North Carolina, Sunday at 4:15 CST

Ben McLemore struggled in the first round, but now he gets a chance to redeem himself in a game between two storied programs. He took just five shots last night, but he is going to have to be far more aggressive than that if Kansas is going to move on to the Sweet 16.

The Missing Piece is a weekly feature that you can find every Saturday, only on Hornets247.com. For past articles in the series, click here. 

12 comments
nola_fredo
nola_fredo

Right now, I'd go: 1. McLemore 2. Smart 3. Porter 4. Oladipo 5. Muhammad And I agree with the bigger point of the article: the Pelicans have to be smart and find good elements at cut prices to fill out the roster. It seems to me, though, that the hardest thing to find is a quality defender with just enough offensive game to make him worth the minutes of game time. So if any of those listed can do it (and I don't know why but I'm still high on Miller), then good.

NOEngineer
NOEngineer

The Hornets tried that with Posey, but overpaid and his motivation left him after his first season. Bruce Bowen managed to keep his motivation throughout his career. FYI- I found this ESPN Insider link (http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/9074008/nba-nuggets-league-most-athletic-team-correlate-postseason-success?addata=2009_insdr_mod_nba_xxx_xxx) that says that the Hornets are the 2nd-least athletic team in the league, with only Orlando trailing us. Denver is most athletic. They list 3 guys from each team. AD is our top athelete, 18th in the league. Aminu is second on the team, 31st in the NBA. Third on the team is listed as Tobias Harris! Our team ranking feels about right and I'd love to see us get better in this area. However, they also say that athleticism doesn't correlate strongly with championship success, so not to worry....

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

I tend to agree with your last statement. Being the most athletic may be like being the most polite: while it is necessary to have a measure of this quality, maxing out in it puts you way past the point of diminishing returns. I would like a little waterbug of a guard, however.

504ever
504ever

I like the concept, and prefer Singleton, who I loved in college, too. But most of the guys on this list are Animu clones. How much better defenders and rebounders are they than Animu?

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

Nobody on that list is the rebounder Aminu is, but a guy like Alan Anderson absolutely destroys him in literally every other aspect of the game. I personally think this idea of "hoping" that Aminu will one day become an offensive threat is just holding us back and it is time to move on. Go grab a combo like Corey Brewer and Alan Anderson to timeshare the position - they are averaging 48.1 minutes and 23.5 ppg this year combined - and maybe give Miller another year at the league minimum. That would be my plan personally.

504ever
504ever

Michael, Those teams are playing for now, not tomorrow. But you didn't answer my main question: how much of an upgrade over Aminu are these guys, especially on the defensive end which you so clearly point out is the Hornet’s problem?

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

The Heat brought in several role players way older than their core. OKC brought in Fisher for their stretch run this year and last. You can't just have a bunch of 22-26 year old guys. I agree - maybe you don't tie up $15 million in cap space for a 30 year old guy, but this team will bring in some players who will play roles 5-9 that will be quite a bit older than its core to teach them and help them learn the tricks of being a true professional basketball player.

504ever
504ever

My question is: how much of an upgrade over Aminu are these guys, especially on the defensive end which you so clearly point out is the Hornet's problem? Also, I think Alan Anderson is so much older than our core players and even the older (26 years old) complimentary pieces that we won't, and shouldn't, sign him. (The reasons why I like Singleton include youth. He is the best combination of NBA production, athleticism, and youth on the list.)

mattchamp4
mattchamp4

I'm with you on Oladipo, but I really like Porter too. If the choice ends up Oladipo or Porter, who would you take?

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

It would be Porter unless I had a strong offer for Gordon on the table, and then it would be an impossible decision for me personally. Porter is safer, Oladipo has a higher ceiling IMO. It would really be tough

mateor
mateor

Oh man that link to the Shabazz story is just sooo depressing. His dad can't wait to start spending his money. He tried to buy the Times reporter too? Shabazz has probably not had a moment's peace his whole life.