The Missing Piece: Getting On Point

Published: April 6, 2013

If you are one of the few people who still believe that Greivis Vasquez is the long term answer at point guard, stop reading now. However, if you view Vasquez more as a fantastic bench player or a quality asset that Dell should look to move this summer in the search for this franchise’s next great point guard, then please continue reading. The fact of the matter is that while Dell Demps will explore any and every option this summer, the #1 objective will be to find the point guard who he can plug into the starting lineup with Anthony Davis for the next ten years.

Vasquez has been solid this season offensively. Quite frankly, he has produced more than any of us expected and given 100% in every game during a season in which the Hornets were pretty much out of the playoff hunt by December. Unlike Baron Davis, it is not his effort, energy, or desire that is in question – it is simply a LOFT problem (Lack Of Freaking Talent). Vasquez has the bad luck of being in the NBA when the point guard crop is faster, more athletic, and just frankly better than it has ever been. His lack of lateral quickness and pure speed costs the Hornets dearly on both ends, and when you are in a conference where the elite teams have Ty Lawson, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Mike Conley, and Stephen Curry at the point, a guy like Vasquez simply won’t cut it.

The top priority for the Hornets should be acquiring a point guard who can actually pressure the ball at the point of attack. The lack of pressure on the ball this year has led to a defense that ranks 29th in steals and 24th in 3-pointers made against. Disrupting an opposing team’s attack starts with forcing its point guard into areas that he doesn’t want to go, but because of Vasquez, teams get to whatever spot they want against the Hornets. Offensively, Vasquez does a fine job of spot-up shooting and he can make the pocket pass on the pick and roll, but New Orleans needs a guy who can get this team out in transition more frequently. Anthony Davis is one of the fastest big men in the league sprinting from rim to rim and Ryan Anderson is perhaps the most dangerous shooter in transition in the entire league. It is imperative that the next point guard for this franchise can utilize the unique skills of these two tremendous players.

Luckily for Dell Demps, he should have several options this summer when looking for his next floor general. The draft offers some intriguing prospects, as does the trade market, and free agency. In this edition of the Missing Piece, we take a look at his options and what it is going to take to get them.

Draft Possibilities

Marcus Smart

How To Get Him: Smart’s team was one and done in the tournament and he didn’t have a spectacular showing, but in all likelihood he will be a top-3 pick in the draft. If the Hornets don’t get a top-3 pick, they can add some assets to their pick and move up, seeing that most scouts and GM’s believe that all the prospects in the top 6 or 7 are pretty close. In 2005, the Jazz traded the 6th pick, the 27th pick, and a future protected first to move up to #3.  In 2008, the Grizzlies took back a bad contract in Marko Jaric and gave up Mike Miller to move from #5 to #3. If the Hornets are in love with Smart, they can give up Vasquez, Lopez, or a future pick, and possibly take back a marginally bad contract in order to move up to get him.

What He Brings: From day one Smart will bring the defensive intensity and pressure that Monty craves, with the ability to create havoc on the ball and jump passing lanes. He is the point guard equivalent of LeBron in the sense that he can cover three positions due to his fantastic combination of size, strength, and athleticism, which will allow Monty to hide his weaker defenders on the opponents worst perimeter player. He will also give the Hornets their first one-man fast break option since Baron Davis, as Smart is almost impossible to stop in the open floor once he gets a head of steam. And he figures to be one of the best rebounding point guards in the league once he gets starters’ minutes.

In the half court, Smart will likely be a better facilitator than scorer when he first enters the league. He has a tremendous knack for finding guys when he drives to the bucket and he is also a very good post-up player for his age. If teams put a point guard on him, Monty could out him in the post, where he can score at will against guys 20 pounds lighter than him or find teammates when he gets double teamed. If teams opt to put a two or a three on him, he is tremendous at driving to the bucket and picking up fouls, as evidenced by the fact that he was 2nd in the entire Big XII in free throw attempts this year.

What He Lacks: Marcus Smart isn’t an NBA caliber shooter right now. In fact, he is very close to what Tyreke Evans was coming into the league, when he shot just 31% on jump shots and 25.5% from three. Smart will have to take the occasional jumper to keep teams honest, but he won’t be a threat from outside and that could hurt the Hornets spacing on the offensive end. Smart also has a tendency to turn the ball over at times, as he tends to try to make the high risk, high reward pass as opposed to the simple one, but that is typical of a 19-year old freshman point guard.

He also has a tendency to be overly aggressive at times and he can get into foul trouble. The good news for all of Smart’s flaws is that they are the one’s that over time have been the most correctable. It is very rare that you see a prospect change his athletic profile once he gets to the NBA, but improved shooting and decreased turnovers are the most common changes in a perimeter players game.

Trey Burke

How To Get Him: Burke’s stock has never been higher, with some projecting he can go as high as 5 or 6. Once he gets measured at the combine and when he runs mediocre times for agility and lateral movement at the Combine, he should slip a little bit, meaning that I would put it at 90% he will be there when New Orleans picks.

What He Brings: Burke is a fiery leader who knows what it takes to win and has nearly every intangible you would want in a point guard leading your team. He has a high basketball IQ and despite the fact that he is a terrific scorer who can get his own shot, he is always looking to get his teammates involved and is talking to them throughout the course of the game. He is a very good jump shooter, both spotting up and off the dribble and while it might take him a year or two to adjust, his range will likely extend beyond the NBA three-point line.

He also is a solid rebounder for his size and has a knack for taking good gambles on the defensive end that result in a decent number of steals. What is most impressive about Burke, however, is the way he understands pace and angles – something that most point guards don’t figure out until their mid-20’s, if ever. He moves quickly, but is never in a rush or out of control and he even has that little CP3 trick where he gets by the big on a P&R and pins the defender on his back, essentially creating a 5-on-4 in the halfcourt. A very cerebrial point guard with the ability to score and lead a team means that Trey Burke will be some teams starting point guard for the next ten years.

What He Lacks: For all the wonderful things I just said about Burke, it might be hard to believe, but I don’t think the Hornets will have any interest come draft day because of what he lacks. Monty and Dell have hinted in the past that they would prefer a point guard who could spearhead their defensive attack, applying pressure to the ball while having the speed to make good rotations and contest shots. Burke is going to have trouble doing all of those things in the NBA. He is a solid athlete, but the point guard position in the NBA is full of elite athletes who are not only quicker and faster than Burke, but much bigger too. Burke measured in at 6’0″ in shoes over the summer, and although his wingspan was above average for his size, he would still be among the five shortest starting point guards in today’s NBA.

Guys like CP3 or Tony Parker have thrived in the NBA in spite of their size due to elite athleticism, quickness, and ballhandling. Trey Burke doesn’t possess any of these things. In fact, watching him numerous times this year, I was alarmed by how many jump passes he needed to make to get the ball where he needed it to go. He gets away with it at that level, but he can’t make that a regular habit in the NBA. In the long run, I don’t have any doubt that Burke will find his way offensively and become a 17 and 8 type of point guard. I have compared him to Terrell Brandon in the past and I stick by that evaluation. On a team with very good perimeter defenders at the 2 and 3 who can switch with him and cover a guy like Russell Westbrook while he hides on Sefolosha, he will be just fine. But Monty and Dell want something different from the point guard position, and for that reason alone it is very hard for me to imagine Burke as a Pelican next year.

Michael Carter-Williams

How To Get Him: Unless MCW has a meteoric rise up the boards, he will probably be there when it is our time to draft.

What He Brings: Michael Carter-Williams is a pass first point guard whose length disrupts the offense on the other end. This season he was first in the NCAA in both total assists and steals, ranking 3rd and 5th in those categories respectively when it came to averages per game. In fact, he was the only player in the nation who was in the top five in both categories. His is #1 in assist percentage in the history of the Big East, which is saying a lot, and he is also extremely reliable and durable, as he led the NCAA in minutes played this year.

His size and athleticism make him a terrific rebounder for his position, as he racked up five per game, which is even more impressive when you consider that he is at the top of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone at all times. By comparison, Dion Waiters rebound rate last year was half of what MCW’s was this year, so Carter-Williams likely projects as a 4-6 rebound per game point guard in the NBA. You also got to love the fact that Carter-Williams has taken his game to another level in the NCAA tournament, scoring 24 in an impressive victory over #1 seed Indiana and following that up with 12 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 steals in the Elite Eight against Marquette. The kid is a quadruple-double threat waiting to happen every night, and the closest we have seen to Rajon Rondo since he came out, with regard to how many different ways he can impact a game.

What He Lacks: Similar to Marcus Smart, Michael Carter-Williams will not strike fear in opposing defenses when he is spotting up on the perimeter. This season he shot 40% from the field overall and just 30% from deep. He shows flashes, like in the Indiana game, where he can knock down perimeter shots, but even in that game he went just 3-6 from the free throw line. The fact is that he just isn’t a good shooter, but as I said, it is common to see a guard improve in that area of his game. And even if he is like Rondo, and he never becomes a great shooter, he has the ability to impact so many other areas of the game that he could get away with it.

The other area of concern has to be his defense. Not that he is bad, but the fact is that we have no idea what kind of on-ball defender he is because he plays in the 2-3. People thought Wesley Johnson would be a great defender coming into the league because of his athleticism and his block and steal numbers, but that just wasn’t the case. The guards simply don’t move their feet much in the Syracuse zone, and MCW’s length, along with the system is what does most of the damage. Who knows what he is as a man-to-man defender. For a team that is looking for a ballhawk that they want to pressure the elite point guards in this league, that has to be a big concern.

Free Agent Targets

Brandon Jennings

How To Get Him: Milwaukee’s three top guards will all likely be free agents this summer, and in all likelihood, they will probably only keep two of them. JJ Reddick has already talked about returning, so Milwaukee will likely be forced to choose between Jennings and Ellis. Jennings has the ability to fetch Milwaukee something in a sign and trade, and you would think that a package of Vasquez and Lopez would be intriguing to Milwaukee because it will allow them to fill two positions for half the cost that Jennings will command. Jennings has threatened to sign his QO and bolt next summer, so Milwaukee only has two options: Sign him to a big contract- something they were reluctant to do last summer – or work a sign and trade. If it is the latter, the Hornets have better pieces to offer than their main competition, the Dallas Mavericks.

What He Brings: As I have always suspected, Brandon Jennings has changed his game now that he has some quality offensive talent around him for once. Known as a chucker by most, Jennings has become much more of a distributor since the JJ Reddick trade and since Ilyasova has started playing better and Larry Sanders has blossomed. Prior to the All-Star break, Jennings was taking 17 shots per game and dishing out just 6.1 assists, but in the 23 games since, he is taking just 13.5 shots while dishing out 8.3 assists. And usually when a guy shoots less and passes more, his turnovers go up, but Jennings has actually reduced his turnovers in this span.

Jennings is also a guy who loves to pressure the ball on defense, sometimes as far out as three-quarters court, and has been consistantly in the top ten amongst point guards in steals every season, averaging over one and a half per game. He has extremely quick hands and is one of the fastest guards in the league, which helps him make quick rotations. And on the offensive end, he gives you another very good pick and roll threat, either as a passer or a long distance shooter. Jennings is in the top three amongst all starting NBA point guards, shooting 41.5% from three as a pick and roll ballhandler. Finally, he loves to get out in transition. He has taken 211 shots in transition this season (hitting 52% of them), while Vasquez for comparison has taken just 86 (50%). Jennings gets the Bucks out and running, something Monty desperately wants the Pelicans to do next season.

What He Lacks: Jennings shooting percentage is below average for a point guard, and it is mostly because he is awful at finishing at the rim. He has taken nearly one-third of his shots at the rim this season and converted just 41.8% of them. He also isn’t nearly as good driving right and shooting as he is when he takes the ball strong with his left hand and pulls up. He is shooting just 28% on his mid-range jumpers when he goes right, compared to 37.1% when he goes left. Teams know this and try to force him to this area, so if he can’t improve on that, it could be a huge weakness that teams will exploit when playoff time comes.

Defensively, he has all the potential in the world to be a fantastic on-ball defender, and when he is motivated he is, but for long stretches he just coasts on that end of the court. Scott Skiles got on him for three and a half years about it, before he couldn’t take it anymore and basically quit. One would like to think that Monty could get through to him, and you could also argue that without such a heavy burden offensively, perhaps he can use more energy on defense. His size also limits him in some ways, as he is obviously too short and too thin to cover any position other than the one, and even though he is able to rotate and contest, players will still be able to shoot over him with ease.

Jeff Teague

How To Get Him: Either overpay or hope that Chris Paul bolts for Atlanta. If Paul goes to Atlanta, or anywhere else for that matter, it could completely start a game of musical chairs at the point guard position. Atlanta would likely look to do a sign and trade with Teague or they might have to just release him and his cap hold if they are holding out hope on bringing in Paul and either bringing back Josh Smith or luring Dwight Howard. If the Hawks don’t get CP3, it will likely take a $10 million dollar a year type of offer to keep Atlanta from matching.

What He Brings: While there is nothing that we can point to and say Jeff Teague does exceptionally, there is nothing that we can say he does poorly either, and there is something to be said for that. His shooting percentages are average, his assist percentage is average, his steal, block, and defensive rebound rates are average for a point guard, and most of his defensive stats with regard to points per possession allowed are average. Offensively, perhaps you can argue that he is an above average isolation player, as he ranks 51st in the league in this category, scoring .88 points per possession in those situations, shooting 42% from the field and 44% from deep. Other than that, however, everywhere you look, you will find Teague right in the middle amongst starting point guards.

Where he does seem to shine, however, is in big games and that goes right along with what an Atlanta Hawks employee told me a little over a month ago. Their evaluators knew when they drafted him that in both high school and college, he got up for games against big opponents or opponents that had another elite point guard, but that he would take off other games. In each of the last two seasons, Teague has been much more aggressive in the postseason than in the regular season and has scored more points while drastically reducing his turnovers. He is a guy who likes to shine bright when the lights are on, but more times than not, he is just plain average.

What He Lacks: Again, because he is average in nearly every category, he doesn’t really lack much if you want him to be your 4th or 5th piece on a championship team, but he does not have the ability to carry a team for stretches like a lot of the other guys on this list do. The scariest part of Teague’s game, is that he has seen his turnovers rise dramatically this season as Atlanta gave him a bigger role in the offense once Joe Johnson left. In the same exact number of minutes he got last season, he is averaging a full turnover more per game (3.0 vs. 2.0 last season), and his shooting percentage has dipped 2.5% (45.1 vs. 47.6 last season).

This just goes to show that Teague cannot have a huge role on a team offensively, but with Gordon taking some of the ballhandling duties the way that Joe Johnson did for Atlanta, perhaps Teague can get back into a role that is better suited for him. He is a solid spot-up shooter, especially from 2 spots – the right corner (50%) and the middle three (43%). But again, these are all supporting role characteristics that Teague displays and this summer he figures to be paid like a star. Somebody is going to pay him well above-average for average. Not ideal.

Tyreke Evans

How To Get Him: Tyreke Evans is playing his best basketball just as his contract is coming to an end. Smart man. GM’s will see a guy who took the league by storm and won Rookie of the Year and will blame his poor play since then on the fact that he was stuck on a dysfunctional team. A four year contract averaging 9-11 million per year is what Evans will command, and even if he agrees to it, the Kings could very easily match it.

What He Brings: This season, the Hornets guards are horrible at finishing at the rim. That is not the case with Tyreke Evans, who takes nearly five shots per game at the rim, and converts on nearly 64% of them. Evans has actually taken more layups this year (344) than jump shots (340) and because of that he is having his most efficient season as a pro, posting career highs in True Shooting Percentage (55.8) and Effective Field Goal Percentage (50.6). Evans turnover rate is also at an all-time low this year and his steal rate is at an all-time high. To top it off, he is getting to the line more than he ever has since his rookie year and is shooting a career high 79%.

Evans has been well above average in both isolation situations and as a pick and roll ballhandler this year, but the area where he has really added a new dimension to his game is in the post. He is averaging 1.07 points per possession when he goes down to the block, which is top five in the entire NBA according to Synergy Sports. What is remarkable is that he draws fouls on 46% percent of his possessions in the post. He is just too much for any point guard too handle down there, and even when teams put their small forwards on him, he has a quick spin move that they can’t keep up with. I spent the good part of a Thursday afternoon watching every single possession Evans has had in the post this season, and that is by far the most impressive part of his game. If he develops that part of his game, he can easily take the next step and realize all of the potential he showed in his standout rookie season.

What He Lacks: It is a good thing that Evans can finish at the rim, because he is terrible from almost every other spot on the floor. From 8-16 feet, he shoots 28%. From the elbows on jumpers between 16-23 feet, where a guard is most likely to shoot if opponents go under the pick and roll,  he shoots 30%. He is very good from the right corner and the left-center three, shooting a combined 45% from those areas, but everywhere else is well below average for a perimeter player. For a team looking to space the floor more so Davis can rim run and Gordon can penetrate, Evans might not be the best fit.

Evans is also pretty bad defensively, often losing track of his man when he is playing off the ball. On the ball, he isn’t horrible and he shows some potential there thanks to his quickness and size, but it’s not quite clear what position he can guard. He isn’t quick enough to guard most point guards and he isn’t long enough to bother most shooting guards and small forwards on the perimeter. Sacramento’s best lineups with Evans feature Isaiah Thomas and John Salmons next to him, and usually Evans takes the slowest, most physical perimeter player when that trio is out there. If the Hornets could land a versitile small forward who can cover shooting guards occassionally, Monty should be able to utilize Evans on defense.

Trade Targets

Eric Bledsoe

How To Get Him: Some combination of two of the following four will have to be a part of the trade – 1. Vasquez 2. Lopez 3. Protected 2014 pick 4. New Orleans takes back a contract like Caron Butler or DeAndre Jordan. CP3 isn’t the biggest Vasquez fan, but Lopez would give them the size they need off the bench, and perhaps a 3rd team could facilitate the trade if the Clippers would prefer a rotation player to the 2014 pick.

What He Brings: Eric Bledsoe is a straight up monster on the defensive end. He is a rare physical specimen that has quick feet and active hands to match his unreal athletic ability and muscular frame. On top of that, he plays every minute on that end like it is his last and is quite possibly the most relentless defender in the league right now. His steal percentage is 3rd in the entire NBA and his block percentage is 1st amongst all guards. Non-believers say that he can only play that way because he gets limited minutes and there is no way he can keep that up if given starters’ minutes, but those people would be dead wrong. In the 12 games he started this year when CP3 was out, he averaged 2.5 steals per game and 1.3 blocks. Those numbers would make him 1st in steals and 20th in the league in blocks. No other guard cracks the top 50 in blocks. In fact, Eric Bledsoe has more blocks than any other guard in the entire league this season and he only plays 20.7 minutes per game!

Even the non-believers usually concede that Bledsoe is a great defender, but they worry about his lack of offensive game. Again, Bledsoe has shown to be a more than adequate offensive player when he has gotten his chances. In those same 12 games, he put up 14.2 points and dished out 5.3 assists in just 34 minutes. He also has shown the ability to be a better shooter this season, knocking down 41% of his shots from deep, including 44% over the stretch when he was the starter. He is good from nearly every spot behind the arc, with the exception of the left-center, and shoots 59% at the rim as well. He also ranks amongst the top players in the league in scoring off of offensive rebounds and on cuts to the basket.

What He Lacks: Eric Bledsoe possesses absolutely no mid-range game right now. He only takes about 1.5 shots per game from between 16 and 23 feet and he hits just under 33% of them. He is either going to get to the rim or hit a spot up three. If he takes any other shot, it isn’t likely to be successful. He has a solid little floater in the paint when he doesn’t get all the way to the rim, but his pull-up game has a long ways to go. Also, you can argue, that he doesn’t draw fouls nearly as much as he should for a guard that is so quick and physical. Per 36 minutes, he is only averaging 3.2 free throw attempts per game.

But the biggest worry about trading assets and committing yourself to Bledsoe with a long term contract is that we haven’t seen him run a team for a large enough sample size. He has started just 38 games in his entire career and has had the luxury the last two seasons of having Chris Paul be the vocal leader and director of the team. What happens when Bledsoe gets his own team and the buck stops with him? Can he lead other young men? Will he take responsibility when he makes the wrong decision late in a game or will he throw his teammates under the bus? No amount of tape watching or stat crunching can tell you that. It will just be the gamble that some team will have to take to get all of the tremendous gifts that come along with a player like Bledsoe.

Rajon Rondo

How To Get Him: Danny Ainge always falls in love with one or two prospects come June, so you would have to think that our 2013 pick would have to be the centerpiece of the deal if the Celtics were to move Rondo. The Celtics also reportedly wanted to pair Austin Rivers with his father, so he would be part of the trade as well if the Celtics decided to blow everything up and rebuild. If the guy Ainge loves is still on the board when New Orleans picks, a trade of the pick, Rivers, and Lopez would give the Celtics two top-10 picks on rookie contracts to build around, along with the best center they have since Kendrick Perkins was traded if they decide to blow it up this summer.

What He Brings: Rajon Rondo is one of eight or ten guys in the league who starts off the season with a legitimate chance at MVP. He impacts a game that much, and in a variety of different ways on both ends of the floor. He obviously is a tremendous passer who has averaged over 11 assists each of the last three years and led the league in assists per game the last two seasons. He also is a tremendous on-ball defender that can pressure both point guards and shooting guards because of his elite combination of length and quickness. He is also a terror off the ball because he can jump passing lanes and he has a knack for leaving his man and sneaking up on ballhandlers to get the steal. Over his career, he is averaging over two steals per game, and the only other active point guard in the NBA who can say that is – you guessed it – Mr. CP3.

Rondo is also a terrific rebounder, not only for a guard, but in general. In fact, his defensive rebound rate is higher than Robin Lopez’s. If Aminu leaves this summer or has his role reduced, it will be imperative that the Hornets point guard can grab some rebounds, because we know that Eric Gordon isn’t going to help out there. Also, Rondo’s poor outside shooting has been greatly exaggerated. He is actually an above average shooter from 15-24 feet, making 46% of his shots from that range. And quite possibly the biggest thing that Rondo would bring to the table is playoff and championship experience, an invaluable trait for a young team.

What He Lacks: Well the first thing Rondo lacks is the ability to play basketball right now. He went down on January 25th with a torn ACL and we have seen the recovery timetable be anywhere between eight months and a year for that type of injury. Best case scenario is that Rondo is ready to go when the season start, but it is possible that he doesn’t play until next January, and its likely that he might not be back to 100% until the 2014-15 season even if he does play next year. The other concern is that he isn’t mature enough to be a leader of a team, as he has had issues in the past with being a bit of a crybaby if he doesn’t get his way, and nearly every report indicates that most of his teammates don’t like him.

He also has a knack for turning the ball over quite a bit and disappearing for long stretches at times. On top of that Bob Ryan and other Boston reporters have speculated that the Celtics played better after he went down with the injury because he killed the ball movement on the team, holding onto the ball so that he could get the assist. He is also a terrible free throw shooter for a point guard and has bumped his share of refs over the last few years. Tons to like about Rondo’s game, with a few minor concerns on the court, but it is in the intangible and health department where we see the real red flags.

Point Guard Big Board

When taking everything into consideration – age, contract, assets we would need to give up, production, potential, and team fit – this is how I would personally rank the crop of point guards Dell will target. Please leave your rankings below and your reasoning for each ranking. Thanks!

1. Rajon Rondo – When you have a chance to land a star, you do it no matter the cost. Rondo’s contract is reasonable and he should be ready to go by the time the season starts. A fresh start could be great for Rondo and I think Monty could get the best out of him.

2. Eric Bledsoe – If the Hornets can land Bledsoe, they will maintain maximum flexibility this summer because he will only count for 2.6 million against the cap next year before he becomes a restricted free agent. Defensively, he will help solve a lot of the problems and he has good upside offensively.

3. Marcus Smart – I really don’t want a 19 or 20 year old running this team next year, but Marcus Smart can be the 1B to Davis’s 1A if he reaches his ceiling. He is that good. He won’t be ready to step in next year the way Damian Lillard did this year, but 20-25 minutes of all out defense and attacking the rim should be reasonable to expect.

4. Brandon Jennings – If Jennings could be had for 8-10 million per year, he might top this list, but seeing that it will take the max or close to it to get him, there are a few other options I would prefer.

5. Tyreke Evans – Evans is the best scorer on this list when he is on his game and Monty might be the coach that gets him to reach his full potential. The worry is that he isn’t a true point guard and his defense is average at best.

6. Michael Carter-Williams – It’s close between MCW and Burke, but Carter-Williams has the potential to be the disruptive defender that Monty wants at the top of the key. Also, his ability to see over the defense could mean tons of lobs to Anthony Davis and his rebounding could be essential if we lose Aminu.

7. Trey Burke – I really want to love Burke, but this team needs a defensive presence up top and his frequent jump passes also worry me because defenders are going to be bigger, faster, and longer in the NBA. I wouldn’t be miserable if he was the pick, but I highly, highly doubt he will be.

8. Jeff Teague – Teague is going to get paid based off of potential. The problem is, that I think he is already pretty close to his ceiling. I don’t see how he gets much better. He is a 5-6 million dollar a year player that will get paid close to twice that. That likely price tag puts him at the bottom of this list.

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


  1. GerryV

    April 6, 2013 at 7:55 am

    So Mike….what have i been saying to you for months? Close your eyes and hear my voice talk about the point guard position…..what do you hear? Do you hear my crystal clear presentation explain the situation?………do you?

    I enjoyed my coffee while reading your post…nicely done my fellow hoop junkie.


  2. phelpsalot

    April 6, 2013 at 8:16 am

    To me, there are only two options:

    1) luck out and draft high enough (top 3-thanks Stern!) and draft Smart.

    2) Get BLEDSOE either this year for hopefully minimal assets lost even if we take on a bad contract like Jordan or Butler. I am also fine with waiting one more year (GV again I know) and taking him in RFA after Paul chews up their cap space this summer.

    3) too many problems with the rest of the options imo. I’ll spare you my opinions there lol

    Researching the point guard class for next year…

    Great job!

    • 504ever

      April 6, 2013 at 9:04 am

      No thanks to Rondo’s age and ALC and Jennings’ attitude. They are off of my board. Otherwise, I basically agree with Michael. Nice Work!

    • Nate

      April 8, 2013 at 2:55 pm


      Smart, Bledsoe or BUST!

    • Nate

      April 8, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      Or perhaps we could get so lucky as to draft Smart AND trade for Bledsoe.

      I’m not certain how that would work but it does give us more options.

      Likely Smart comes off the bench or shifts to the 2. (Goodbye Gordon!)

  3. Eli

    April 6, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Hey, if the bad contracts we would be getting back in a Bledsoe trade are Butler or Jordan, I would like that trade even more! Butler and Jordan are still very serviceable players.
    Butler is better than most small forwards we can get in FA this summer, and at the very least is a floor spacer, shooting 38% from deep this year. Having him around for 2 years might not be so bad, as we likely won’t be competing for a championship, but he will provide our young team with veteran leadership, and help get us to the playoffs, where our young players will gain valuable experience for when we do become championship contenders.
    Having Jordan to pair with Davis would be sick. Two athletic defensive freaks locking down the paint? I’d take that, and almost all decent centers are overpaid anyway. The biggest concern with him is his FT shooting, as it is at a laughable 39%. My grandma can shoot a higher % than that… using her cane as a baseball bat.
    If this trade were to go down I’d rather have Bledsoe and Jordan instead of Bledsoe and Buter, and then look to FA to fill the SF spot with someone like Corey Brewer if we don’t use this year’s pick on a SF.

    • scott

      April 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm

      I couldn’t agree more with this. I suggested the same thing a few weeks ago and got blasted for suggesting deandre Jordan and his bad contract aren’t THAT bad.

      The only bad thing is that I feel like this trade is too good for us. I think it would take Vasquez, Lopez, and taking back Jordan’s “awful” deal for the clippers to take it. However, I’d still do it in a heartbeat, because Bledsoe will be worth it.

      Now just draft ideally- porter/ likely- shabazz and were in pretty solid shape.

    • Hank

      April 6, 2013 at 5:37 pm

      I just get the feeling though that GM Chris Paul feels that Jordan is well worth that contract and that they’ll keep Jordans contract if it means keeping paul

  4. JJacob

    April 6, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Rajon Rondo isn’t on my big board.

    A) Torn ACL
    B) Coasts through regular season games
    C) Haven’t seen how he would play without a big market and winning team
    D) He’s always had a guy like Garnett in the locker room. In N.O. he’ll have… Eric Gordon. (gulp)
    E) By the time he’s 100% health-wise, he’ll be on the last year of his contract (2014-2015)

    Rajon Rondo isn’t on my big board.

    • da ThRONe

      April 6, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      And you still have to factor in cost. Boston isn’t letting Rondo go for cheap. Rondo has a personality that rubs people the wrong way. You want your PG to be a person the whole team respects. And this team is lacking scorers. I want a PG that can shoot the ball.

  5. Jared Ennis

    April 6, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Great post. I love reading stuff like this to get me excited for the off-season. I would love Eric Bledsoe. I have always enjoyed him play and he seems like a Monty and Dell type of guy. If Brian Roberts can go for 13 and 18 in any game, Bledsoe should match that and then some. I love watching players who hustle and give it everything they have. Bledsoe is that guy. As far as the draft, I really like Oladipo. I would absolutely love to watch an Oladipo and Bledsoe guard tandem for years to come. Two guys with great D who will ball out.

  6. thouse

    April 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    Nice read.

    I agree with the guys above that having to take on Jordan’s contract isn’t that bad. He’s only on the books for 2 more years at that price. Would you rather pay 28 year old Jefferson/Pekovic $12-13mil/per for the next 4 years or 25 year old Jordan $11mil/per for the next 2?

    Where did you hear that Ainge wants to bring Austin to Boston? If true, Dell needs to fleece him for a father/son reunion.

    • thouse

      April 6, 2013 at 2:39 pm

      Also my pg board-

      Carter Williams

      I’d rather go young than overpay for the vets listed in the article.

  7. da ThRONe

    April 6, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    “Once he gets measured at the combine and when he runs mediocre times for agility and lateral movement at the Combine, he should slip a little bit, meaning that I would put it at 90% he will be there when New Orleans picks.”

    Wow can you give the winning lottery numbers? Clearly you can see into the future.

    I have yet to see people question Burke’s quickness. If anything it’s often listed as his strength. He’s not Kemba Walker quick but neither are guys like Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Steph Curry, and those are some of the best in the game.

    • da ThRONe

      April 6, 2013 at 4:38 pm

      For me option one would be to draft Burke. I feel he’s the best player in the draft. He’s the closest I’ve seen to the ideal true PG since Chris Paul.

      He’ll most likely be there when we draft so there’s no need to package anybody to trade up. He’s a much better defender than he’s being given credit for. He’ll get his teammates involved while adding a much needed boost to our offensive production.

    • Michael McNamara

      April 6, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      Those are some of the best OFFENSIVE point guards in the game. On that list, only CP3 is a good on-ball defender. If you read what I say about Burke, I dont think I make one negative comment on him offensively. Monty and Dell want a point guard who can be an excellent on-ball defender at the point of attack. Not average, not “not horrible”. Excellent.

      I have compared him to Terrell Brandon, and I think Brandon was a top 8 offensive point guard in his day and would be top 12 in the league today, but he would not be coveted by Monty and Dell.

      And yes, I can see the future. If you look at every single mock draft on the day after the lottery was held last season, only one listed Austin Rivers as the Hornets pick at 10 and it belonged to the guy who wrote this article. Dell and Monty have been pretty forthcoming in what they want to add to this team and Burke just does not fit that profile. To me, it’s just that simple.

      • jsl05

        April 6, 2013 at 8:15 pm

        I love to watch Rajon Rondo; however, I would not love to watch him on the Pelicans.

        1. He is cancerous.
        a. He was the cause for the greatest 3-point shooter of all time in Ray Allen.
        b. He gets in clashes with Doc Rivers, one of the most well respected and best coaches in the league. If he can’t respect Doc, how what makes one think he will respect Monty?
        c. We already have one seem-to-be cancer in Eric Gordon: why acquire another?

        2. Next year we are starting the Pelican (not Duck) Dynasty. Rondo, like Gordon this season, will be out for too long. Players will be in mid-season form and developing chemistry (which is essential for a point guard to have) while he will just be starting to play at a high level.

        I am not in favor of getting Trey Burke, but he has a much better chance at being picked up by us than does Rondo.

        1. Dell and Monty love guys with heart, desire, and will to win. I would say that both have those qualities. Burke, however, does not coast during the regular season like Rondo. Burke doesn’t clash with teammates and coaches like Rondo.

        2. Does Monty or the rest of the team want to go through the same thing we went through this season? Theyll wait 2-3 months for the one of our best players and start off terribly. Then we’ll be commenting “If only we had Rondo those last 30 seconds…”, “We’ll be fine when we get Rondo back…”

        3. Rondo’s contract will expire the season after he’s (presumably) fully healthy.

      • jsl05

        April 6, 2013 at 8:17 pm

        And sorry for the somewhat not-on-subject comment. I didn’t mean to post the above comment as a reply.

      • da ThRONe

        April 7, 2013 at 8:00 am

        Be careful there Michael you don’t want to pull something patting yourself on the back. Lol

        You’ve given Burke his due offensively. It’s the defensive side of the ball where I think you’re short changing Trey. If you watch him when he locks in he can give opposing ball handler fits. He’s just like Paul in that regards. CP wasn’t committed to on/off ball defense early in his career either. He always had the tools and TB has those same tools and little bit more if you add his length.

        I give TB3 some leway for his lack of effort (because once again if you watch him his defensive issues were almost all due to a lack of effort) because he was forced to expend so much energy scoring, creating, and protecting the ball on offense. Is Burke going to be Avery Bradley or Eric Bledsoe defensively hell no, but he’ll be a massive up grade from Vasquez. Most importantly though if he locks in consistently he’ll be like Paul defensively. Good not great on ball, that will take the ball away from handlers who aren’t skilled and/or isn’t careful, and will be disruptive in the passing lanes.

      • Michael McNamara

        April 7, 2013 at 8:23 am

        I couldn’t disagree more, but hey we are all entitled to our own opinions and that is what makes the world great. I dont think he will be nearly as bad as Vasquez, but he won’t be close to Paul either. Somewhere in the middle. Better than Nash. Maybe in the Lillard range- which is far less than what Monty and Dell want.

        If you can, go back and watch the game from last night. Syracuse down 53-47, and Triche has the ball at the top of the key 1-1 with Burke. Triche is a 2nd round prospect at best, and he just blows by Burke with ease and Burke fouls him for the And One. It is no coincidence that at the end of the game, with the game on the line, Michigan pulled Burke off Triche.

        He won’t be Vasquez, but he wont be close to Paul. I agree that he gets the occassional steal and can pressure average college players, but the NBA is littered with fantastic point guards. I say Brandon on offense, Lillard on defense, which several teams would take over their current situation, I just dont think we are one of those teams

      • da ThRONe

        April 7, 2013 at 9:54 am

        That’s one play. He guarded MCW who is this list and did a good job. Once again Trey much like last year he seems to have worn down. Most of the shots he’s missing are ones he makes with ease.

        We know he doesn’t committee to defense on a regular basis. The question is does he have the tools? If he does a guy like that will develop the conditioning to play at a high level on both ends. Clearly we disagree on his ability to play good on ball defense.

  8. mateor

    April 6, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Rondo is an absolute monster. Every couple months he becomes my favorite basketball player again, after no-showing his way out of the spot intermittently.

    I would be a nervous wreck if he was starting for the Pelicans, but an excited nervous wreck.

  9. kwilly

    April 6, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Maybe one of the missing pieces is a good coach. If you get your wish and the Hornets/Pelicans acquire Rondo, last night’s incident with Gordon will be tame compared to the dustups he’ll have with Monty. If Doc Rivers had trouble controlling Rondo despite winning a title with him, do you honestly think he is going to listen to and respect Monty Williams?

  10. marios123

    April 6, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    I agree that we shouldn’t go after rondo for the reasons mentioned above. Also, gordon will be a pelican next year simply because we can not get any valuable assets from trading him, given his injury history and the way he played this year.
    A bledsoe/gordon backcourt doesn’t sound good to me for the following reasons.
    1)Bledsoe is not the leader we so desperately need. All contenders have a guard that has this role (wade,parker,westbrook,cp3,lawson) and gordon is clearly not the answer.
    2) We need a guy that can space the floor to give gordon the ability to penetrate more
    3)They lack size.

    So the no 1 choice for me is marcus smart. He has the potential to become a player similar to westbrook.

    • Nate

      April 8, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      I think Smart has the potential to be a Westbrook/Wade type of player.

  11. saZam

    April 6, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    No way would I want Rondo on the Pelicans. If we no longer have GV then the leadership on this team would be terrible w/ Eric Gordon and Rondo in our starting backcourt. TERRIBLE

  12. Mickey Chatman

    April 6, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    I will go out on a limb and say that I believe Austin can be our starting point guard for this team. Derek Fisher, Andre Miller, Eric Snow, and others were never superstar points but they do what it takes. I truly believe that Austin Rivers is of that mold and we should worry more about a wing like Otto Porter in the draft

    • mateor

      April 6, 2013 at 9:27 pm

      Wow Eric snow shout out.

    • Will

      April 6, 2013 at 9:30 pm

      I agree. I think that be could be our PG of the future; big emphasis on ‘could’ but I have found that his on ball D is quite good and his passing instincts are there. And his handles, assuming this injury makes him more comfortable with his off hand, are top notch.

      Seeing him and Roberts make the same defensive rotation simultaneously was a little depressing but I’ll blame it I Roberts; I think I saw him and Vasquez do the same thing against the Clips.

      I’m relying on these articles to prepare me for the off-season. I mostly watch Hornets games exclusively in the regular season and only watch college ball during the tourney so these help me sound like I know what I’m talking about.

  13. Sam Patching

    April 6, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Great piece Michael.

    I’m salivating at the thought of Rondo distributing to Ryno and AD. Every issue you’ve menti

    • Sam Patching

      April 6, 2013 at 6:45 pm

      *every issue you’ve mentioned with Vasquez distributing in the fast break are strengths of Rondo’s. He’d be so good for Ryan Anderson and obviously he’s a huge upgrade in the pick and roll.

      I’d be happy with any of these guys but if we can bring back Rondo (who’s on a great contract) it has to be done.

  14. ImSorryMonty

    April 6, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    No thank you to Jennings.

    Rondo is a concern. We’d be wasting another season essentially if we obtained him and he wasn’t ready by the beginning of the year. Do we really want to be counting on a guy coming off an ACL tear when we have another injury prone player we’re also counting on? This is a move that could potentially KILL any of the youth movement momentum we’ve been building and have long-reaching repercussions were it not to work out.

    • mateor

      April 6, 2013 at 9:29 pm

      That is a good point. I don’t think the Pelicans have any desire to lose another year getting the band together.

  15. Cloud520

    April 6, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Before I even type this I know there is a less than 1% chance of it happening, but what do you think it would take to get He Who Must Not Be Named back here? As I said, I know the possibility is next to nothing, but would CP3 be crazy to consider a return? A team willing to spend, loads of young talent, and a good GM and coach. I don’t really think it would ever happen, but I also doubt he will be with the Clippers next season.

  16. adogg57

    April 7, 2013 at 3:47 am

    I know this sounds like a pipe dream but could John Wall potentially be a possibility? If Washington believes he is too much of a risk and would rather not pay Wall the max that he is seeking, then couldn’t we realistically acquire him? Obviously, with his athleticism, he would fit Monty and Dell’s wishes as a guy who can pressure the ball at he point of attack.

    • jsl05

      April 7, 2013 at 10:33 am

      I would absolutely go after Wall if he were made available.

  17. james24

    April 7, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    John Wall would be awesome but given the way he has been balling there is no way Washington is giving up their franchise.
    But I wouldn’t mind his college backcourt teammate Eric Bledsoe, the boy hustles and plays monster defensive, just gives the opposing point guard fits, and given starter minutes I think he can become a defensive stopper like the Glove, shout out to old GP.
    And what about Avery Bradley from the Celtics, who will be a free agent I believe, can play both the point and the 2, plays hard like Bledsoe with a slightly better offensive game, he has better jump shot, if you ever seen a heat and celtics game then u see first hand the frustration Dwyane Wade has to deal with for 48 minutes.
    Now Tyreke Evans, has the most upside here, a 6’6 big point guard who can get to the basket at will, post up and dominate his smaller weaker opposition, and able to find the open man when double teamed. Can also get out and run and be a one man fast break finisher. The only thing he lacks is what Monty will make him better at is playing hard nose on ball defense, he has the potential, if he can be anything close to what he did as a rookie, I think Tyreke could be the answer Monty and Dell have been waiting for.
    With all these options just in free agency, I believe New Orleans should pick up a small forward that can produce right away, doesn’t have to be a high scorer, just a high basketball IQ, plays good defense, grabs rebounds effeciently, runs the floor and finishes at the rim and can hit a 15-20 foot jump shot to keep the defense honest.
    But I’m not a GM, I’m just a fan who’s ready to watch this young team grow into a contender, go get ’em Pelicans!!

  18. geauxtigers1989

    April 7, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    My preference would be to draft Burke or MCW simply because I’m not sure if there will be anyone else available who is worth drafting at 6 or 7 (maybe Oladipo or Gary Harris). That is of course assuming we don’t get a top 3 pick and land Smart or Porter.

  19. dschmid4

    April 7, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    I think that at this stage of our developing the team, value needs to be considered as a big part of the equation.

    I know GV is not the long-term future at the PG, but he is #3 in assist in the league on a dirt cheap contract. He is 1 of 4 guys on the team who might start on another NBA team. The problem, in my opinion, has been that instead of being a role player he has been asked to be the man. He is not and never will be “the man” on a good team. IF you can trade him for something of greater value at any position – make the trade.
    But I am not sold on Bledsoe. I just haven’t seen enough. If he were available on the cheap -sure. But the package it will likely take to get him – not worth the risk.

    I do not think Rondo is the answer on our small market team. He could very well pull a Bynum. Not worth it.

    Brandon Jennings ? – not sure. Does not seem to have “it”. Just doesn’t seem like a winner. Not playing good defense on a Skiles coached teams = never playing good defense. Sorry.

    Upgrade the 3. Upgrade the 5. Upgrade the bench. We need help everywhere but the 4. Don’t paint yourself into a corner. PG answers may not be out there this year as a FA. If the draft presents an option take it.

    • da ThRONe

      April 9, 2013 at 10:18 am

      I stopped at “We know he’s not the PG of the future” after that IMO everything else is irrelevant. If we were close to begin a great team I would agree. However we have so many holes if we think we can plug one for years to come we have to simple as that.

  20. veezyv

    April 10, 2013 at 9:40 am

    I would gladly take bledsoe and jordan. At least we will have some entertainment and dunks.

  21. scott32

    April 10, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Great stuff Michael. I love wondering about this stuff as much as anybody, but it all depends on what Gordon will become.

    Will Gordon be our smaller but quicker James Harden, 25 ppg guy who’s a ball dominator, running the pick n’roll, euro stepping in the lane? Yea that’s best case scenario but I’m not completely dreaming am I? If that’s the case I would want a versatile lockdown defender next to him that can also hit an open 3 like bledsoe, maybe tryeke Evans, CERTAINLY Oladipo!!

    Or will Gordon stay who he is, or possibly be moved at which point I would want a rondo or jennings. I just don’t see the fit with Jennings and Gordon, that’s a very weak defensive backcourt

    D still wins championships. We need athletes, C’mon Oladipo!

  22. DRobin79

    May 18, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Way off on the Bledsoe topic there is no way I would want Jordan or Butler this will ensure mediocrity. Jordan is only average because of Paul snd Butler cant get key minutes in the playoffs. Im with you about Vasquez but Burke is better than you think and will not drop psst 5 in this draft. He may have settled for jumpers due to floor spacing but the guy has way more upside than anyone else you mentioned.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.