A Hornets Guide to the 2010 Free Agent Market

Being over the salary cap in the NBA is never ideal, but because it’s technically a soft cap, there is some breathing room for teams that find themselves looking to improve. Two years ago the Hornets found themselves in a similar situation, and in what should have been the greatest move in franchise history, wound up using it’s entire MLE (mid level exception) on James Posey. Unfortunately the deal was made under the impression that Posey would bring his magic pixie dust with him. When he showed up empty handed, each and every lawyer that overlooked including that requirement in the contract was burned at the stake.

Let’s just say it’s a good thing that heading into this off season, team management knows that it will take more than the magic of one player to make the next step. After what can be described as a tumultuous year, the team is looking forward this summer and can be expected to add at least three or four new players, either via the draft, or through the MLE. The team also has a bi annual exception they can utilize worth around just under two million a year for up to two years.

So what can the Hornets realistically do this summer?

Nothing (or just about)

As usual, doing nothing is a possibility. The team is already five million over the luxury tax line with only 10 players under contract for next year. Assuming they sign the 11th pick and two veterans under the minimum, they will have the league minimum 13 players under contract  and will be a total of 9 million dollars over the luxury tax line.

At this point there’s no real basis to speculate on what type of owner Gary Chouest will be, but to think that he might add on another seven million dollars in contracts before his teams takes it’s first shot might be a little far fetched, even if he winds up being of the Mark Cuban variety (he won’t).

It’s true they have roughly 26 million in expiring contracts to play with, but heading into the season 16 million dollars over the luxury tax line isn’t that smart for any owner, especially a rookie just getting his feet wet.

At the bare minimum there will be three new players come fall.


Throw most of, if not all of the MLE at these guy and hope they sign

David Lee- Fact is, Lee can’t play defense. That’s OK though, since the Hornets are about two moves away from being able to utilize a run and gun style. David Lee excels on the pick and roll and in transition, which is where roughly 45 percent of the Hornets offense came from last season. In reality Lee probably won’t be coming to New Orleans for just the MLE, no matter how many years are offered. A sign and trade remains the most likely way for him to wind up a Hornet.

Mike Miller- He’s been declining for a few years now, in large part to a change in his methods. Widely considered one of the best spot up shooters in the league, Miller has taken to becoming more of a point-forward for some reason. Big mistake. Mike is at his best when catching and shooting. If Peja struggles again, the team will sorely miss having someone capable of spreading the floor. This season Miller was the seventh best spot up shooter in the league, averaging 1.27 points per possession. At four million per, for a couple season, he would be a great addition. Some might liken his game to Peja’s, but if Peja was making 4-5 million a year, I doubt anyone would be complaining.

Brendan Haywood- If he can be signed it would shore up the front court problems that the team has. He’s not going to get any better, and is on the wrong side of 30, but a short deal seems like it would go a long way toward improving the Hornets porous defense.

John Salmons- A nice big shooting guard with lots and lots of skills. He’s been a key player just about everywhere he goes, but never seems to be afforded the opportunity to stick around too long. He has a player option for just under 6 million It’s pretty unlikely that he’ll opt out just for a contract of equal size, even if it is longer. Still, I can dream.


Offer less than the full MLE, but more than the bi annual

Kelenna Azubuike- Active defender, great rebounding two guard, good scorer, and a 40% three point shooter. His value should be pretty solid also, since he missed most of last season with an injury.

Ronnie Brewer- Young, athletic, and a pretty good defensive stopper. Brewer really is one of my favorites here if he can be had for the right price. He brings a whole new dynamic defensively to the back court that our current squad of guys just doesn’t have. Although he’s doesn’t score in bunches, he’s efficient.

Ian Mahinmi- This guy plays sparingly in SA, normally hanging around the bench or even the D-League, but he’s good. He boasts the third best PER in D-League history (whatever that’s good for) and he’s played relatively well so far in limited time with the NBA club. His PER of 21.68 last year was in limited time, not quite so limited that it can totally be ignored however. I’d like to think that the Bi Annual exception would be enough, but he’s a young, promising, 6-11 power forward, so it probably will take more.

Shaq- Yeah, I said Shaq. If Cleveland doesn’t win the title it’s a virtual certainty that Shaq won’t be back. He still has a few more years left in those legs, which is surprising considering how many games he’s played and how large he is. New Orleans might be a good destination for him given he played his college ball for LSU. What he would provide is the size the team needs alongside West and Okafor. He’s still a monster at the pick and roll, averaging 1.22 points per possession, good for 17th in the league. Defensively, he’s nowhere near as bad as advertised. He gave up only .84 points per possession to his mark. Aside from the pick and roll he’s actually pretty good still. And no, I don’t think this will be happening.

Travis Outlaw- Some might see him as being more valuable than a few of the other guys on this list, but I’m not one. Just a very average player overall. There’s a reason Portland didn’t try to keep him.

Matt Barnes- Yes! Yes. Yes. Si. If there was ever a team that needed a tough nosed defender willing to get his hands bloody, it’s the Hornets. Ever since being shoved around by the team which must not be named in the series that didn’t happen, the Bees just seem to get bullied. He’s a small forward, very good defensively, and an exceptional rebounder. Sign me up.

Josh Howard- Seems his days as a lock down defender are over. Although he would theoretically fit in well, he’s going to be paid this summer based on his big name, and what he’s done in the past. If he can be had for 3 or 4 million it would make sense to take a shot, but anything over that is pushing it for a guy who very quickly passed his prime.

Anthony Morrow- He’s active defensively, albeit overwhelmed. Otherwise he’s already one of the best shooters in the league from long range, has room to improve and is one of the best offensive rebounders in the league, which is very, very unusual for a spot up shooter. If the Hornets plan to run and gun next year, he would be a good guy to have on board.

Roger Mason jr.- Not that much to love or hate about Mason. He’s an excellent three point shooter and a decent defender. He’s passable as a ball handler, but it’s not a strength by any means. The team could do a lot worse than to wind up with Roger for under three million a year.

Use the Bi annual exception

This isn’t really that big of a deal, unless we choose to use it instead of the MLE, thereby retaining the MLE until next offseason. The team should be able to pick up a decent reserve if need be, but who that may be is just a shot in the dark at this point.


Did I miss anyone? What do you think we should do with our MLE this summer?


*I intentionally left off Tyrus Thomas since he doesn’t deserve a big contract right now, and wouldn’t be of much use to the Hornets anyway. He’s an overrated defender, and a poor offensive player. His grandmother was very nice, but I just can’t let that sway my opinion. I do have integrity once on a while.


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