Hornets Off-Season: What do the Hornets need?

Published: May 29, 2008

The Hornets got the first thing they needed yesterday, when Byron Scott had his contract extended.  Scott has caught more than his fair share of criticism over the last couple years for things as wide-ranging as his comments about liking Oklahoma City to his substitution patterns to claims that he gave up on some players too early.

There is one thing, however, that is undeniable about Byron Scott:  This is his team.  Now, I don't want to confuse what Byron does with what Jeff Bower does.  Bower gets the players, and Scott coaches them, but Scott won't tolerate players that don't work hard or that make lots of mistakes on the defensive end.  Bower knows that, and it has a strong impact on the sort of players the Hornets try to acquire – or trade away.  The results are telling.  This is a team that I love to watch, more than any other Hornets team in the past.  I'm glad Scott will remain.

The next thing the Hornets need is for Chris Paul to sign on the dotted line for his extension.  We can offer him more than any other team can, and he seems to be committed to the Hornets and New Orleans, so I feel fairly confident he will sign. 

What I think remains to be seen is if he'll ask for a shorter, three-year deal like Dwayne Wade and LeBron James, or take the full five year extension allowed by the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Why would Paul take a shorter extension, risking a couple years of guaranteed money?  It's due to the way the CBA sets up maximum raises per year for a contract – and the maximum a veteran can be signed to in a year.  I won't bore you with the details, but base salaries for a veteran of 7 years are 5% higher than those players can sign for earlier in their career, so Paul can make more net salary if he becomes a free agent at the start of year 8 and signs a new maximum contract.

Of course, who cares about the money.  Paul needs to be signed to whatever he wants.  And Shinn has already said he'd do that.

On to the rest of the team.  For this post I will be evaluating the roster for what the Hornets need before moving on in later posts to talk about what the Hornets can or should try to get considering their salary constraints.

The starting five is good.  In the 1208 minutes they the were on the court together, they scored 1.15 points per 100 posessions and allowed 1.05.  The sixth man, Pargo, despite flaws that I sometimes have a hard time getting past, actually helped form an even more potent quintet of Paul-Pargo-Stojakovic-West-Chandler, posting an offensive efficiency of 1.19 and defense of 1.03.  That's a pretty potent starting five and sixth man.

The bench is better than it appeared.  All year long it was hammered by pundits as a detriment to the team, when the reality is it on average extended our lead by 1.9 points per game.  Like I've said in  earlier posts, this is due to the second units stellar defense, which allows it to overcome it's abysmal offense, which produced a league worst 96.6 points per posesssion.

So do the Hornets stay put?  No.  Not a chance.  There were nine benches that out produced ours this year.  In order of production, they were: the Pistons, Lakers, Jazz, Nuggets, Celtics, Spurs, Rockets, Magic, and 76ers.  Having a better bench than 20 other teams is nice, but as you can see the teams the Hornets need to gain ground on – Detroit, Boston, LAL and San Antonio – all have better benches.  Much better, in fact: in the case of those four contenders, their benches out-produced the Hornets bench 4 to 1 or better.

To gain ground on those teams, The Hornets need to pick up at least two more bench players.  The ideal bench is to have a backup guard, a backup wing, and a backup big, and let the rest of the roster get spot minutes.  Pargo is decent as the backup guard.  I hope Jeff Bower will make a push to re-sign him if he opts out and then focus on the other two spots this off season.

A backup wing is what Bonzi was supposed to be, but the longer he played, the more lethargic he seemed to get.  "Lethargic" is not how I want to describe a player on my favorite team, so I'd prefer to see him walk this summer(forgive me, munciemug).  Julian Wright has shown the potential to be a good wing, but as of right now, potential is all he's shown.  The Hornets should try and pick up another wingman to push him/cover for him while he's developing.

The backup bigs on this team were terrible.  Ely loved him some turnovers, and hated him some passing.  His rebounding was adequate.  Armstrong questionably outdid Ely by showing even more love for turnovers, less passing, and about the same rebounding.  Andersen didn't show anything at all during his stint.  Of these three, I think Armstrong still has the best potential to be termed 'serviceable', since a player usually takes three years to blossom and he's only just completed his second year.  Ely is in his sixth year and Andersen is 29.  They aren't going to improve much.  That leaves us with a need for a big man, since hoping for a bad player to develop and become useful seems to be a bad gamble to me.

In summary, in order of importance, this would be my list of off-season priorities:

  1. Chris Paul's extension
  2. Sign/trade/draft for a backup Big man
  3. Re-sign Pargo
  4. Sign/trade/draft for a backup Wing man

Tomorrow I'll hit the draft and talk about the prospects I like for the team.  Next week I'll make my list of veteran players I'd like to go after either as free agents or in trades.

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