Dunk That Sh!t: New Star

Published: May 27, 2011
42 Dunktastic Superstardom
42's Dunktastic Superstardom


Every team has a bench, and on that bench there may just be the next superstar . . . but it’s likely that the backup just hasn’t been exposed as not being worth the role of backup . . .

As I sit here at Highland Coffees in Baton Rouge with my ladyfriend and the guy that chose me as his best man . . . I enter the fray as your backup for Mike today . . . hit my music . . .

Apologies in advance . . .

With only one further ellipsis . . .

Ben Matthews (from the U.K.): Do you really see Demps making a move to aquire a star-type player to pair with Paul keeping in mind that the proposed CBA deal doesn’t really help the Hornets out that much?

42: First of all, thanks for reading, writing, and participating. Also, this is a question that is on the mind of many, so good call there, as well. Jolly good!

Also, if you like what you read here, or don’t, head on over to the survey and express yourself. Comment away as well!

The short: I don’t think Dell Demps is going to pick up a star.  Rather, I expect him to retool the roster in a manner similar to last year, just to a lesser degree but with greater effect.

The long: Restricting our timeframe from today until the trade deadline for the upcoming season, if there is one . . . I don’t think Dell Demps is going to pick up a star.  In my mind, there are 4 ways to get a star, onto your team, which are, in no particular order: Drafting a star, signing a star in free agency, trading for a star, and developing a star. The same goes for non-stars, too, and I’ll be discussing that even though that wasn’t what was asked.

To be clear, I’m going to be talking about stars, but I would be remiss if I didn’t define what the hell a star is in my mind. If the guy has one name, he’s a superstar: Dwight, Kobe, LeBron, Wade, whatever. If they guy doesn’t need an introduction, but your work buddy doesn’t think of the player when you ask about basketball excellence exemplar, he’s a star. These guys have real talent, and while they may elevate a team, their departure doesn’t send a franchise into total disarray . . . a marginal max contract guy. Using the Hawks as an example: Johnson, Horford, Smith.

Yes, I know these are not good definitions, but I think they frame the conversation for us about as briefly as possible . . . throwing up counter-examples to these definitions doesn’t derail the points herein . . . and if you keep the sass up, you’ll get a notwithstanding or heretofore . . . recognize . . .



We can forget about drafting a ready-made star (e.g. Wall) . . . we don’t have the pick to do that, we wouldn’t’ve had the pick even if we kept our first rounder, and we won’t get the pick unless we trade for it . . . which starts us down the long road of trades . . .

Plus, the draft is weak, so why trade unless we can get the #2 pick (#1 is locked in)? I don’t think we can anyway since other teams could offer more for it.

So let’s go ahead and get this out of the way . . . Your New Orleans Hornets Squad as it stands today:

Chris Paul, $16.4m, player option after this year

Emeka Okafor, $12.5m, 2 guaranteed years after this one

David West, $7.5m, player option this year, no additional years

Trevor Ariza, $6.8m, 1 guaranteed year after this one, one player option year after that

Jarrett Jack: $5.2m, 1 guaranteed year after this one

Quincy Pondexter: $1.2m, 1 guaranteed year after this one followed by 2 team options

Aaron Gray: $1.1m player option, no additional years

That’s 5-7 players depending on player options (we’ll know how those go by July 1) for a total of $50.1m (my numbers may differ due to rounding). For completeness, we have a team option on David Andersen that we won’t pick up, and we can make qualifying offers to Marco Belinelli and Jason Smith if we choose, but our core for this year is those 5-7 players.

I’ll go a step further and assume that David West does not go through the trouble of opting out, but I’ll assume Aaron Gray does. David is not worth $7.5m injured, so he’ll keep the deal he has, and Aaron is worth more than this option, so he won’t.

As an aside, under the current salary structure, a cap set at $58m implies that a guy who nets a single win for you is worth $1m. To analyze these situations properly, you have to look at not only the guy on the roster, but also the other guy he’d be displacing by his roster presence (opportunity cost, economics in the house!), but Aaron helped us win more than 1 game, so he’s worth $1m. Under a cap that is 80% of the current one, that is still the case with Aaron, despite the higher bar the lower cap imposes. Drilling into the advanced stats, he got 1.1 win shares in 41 games, not including the playoffs. (Paul, I’m saying good things here . . . I know you are a protective fan, so I want to make sure you can enjoy this article as much as possible.)

I think saying “advanced stats,” and then quoting some right after ensures both Ryan and Michael are going to jump me in the parking lot later . . . for completely different reasons . . . maybe they’ll fight each other first as it happens in cartoons . . .



So we have a core of 6 people. Last year we had a large contingent of folks who were under contract to start the season, and most of them got traded away. The purpose of that was largely to get rid of bad contracts, as far as I can tell. The major casualty of that was Darren Collison, but no other trade piece met with negative reactions, unless you count head-scratching. Each of the trades made were one that was unexpected. These weren’t surprises like the Utah-New Jersey deal this season; they weren’t that high profile. They were just trades that involved guys in the NBA that don’t get that much attention unless they go 12 for 12 in a game.

Our 6 core guys are starters except for the ‘tweener, Jack, and the rookie . . . making small forward our most locked down spot . . . yes, I just typed that. As mentioned here and in the forum, there is a contingent of people who think Jack would make a great 2-guard with Paul, even if he wouldn’t be a good 2-guard with other point guards. He can spell Chris at point and give someone like Willie time at the 2, which serves to give some leadership to the second unit, keeps the system going with a good point guard, and keeps the ball out of Willie’s hand, at least as an initiator.

But I’m getting ahead of myself . . . looking at those 6 pieces and the empty spots on the team, what do we have to offer another team in trade for a star? What can we part with? Trade injured David West for a better player who isn’t hurt? Trade Emeka? For whom? Trade Ariza? Which team has too much offense and just needs to score a little less to really get over that hump? You get a point if you just thought of Digital Underground.

As mentioned above, we don’t have valuable picks to trade away. We could trade our first round pick in the draft that follows the possible pre-trade-deadline exit of Chris Paul . . . who wants to sign up for that? Actually . . . me . . . but we can’t trade first rounders in back-to-back years, and we traded one away this year. The only way to get a pick is to take on a bad contract, and the best ones of those are large contracts for a single season. For reference, the Baron Davis + pick deal was for a guy with 2 massive years after this summer, and the Cavs sent talent back to the Clips, which brings me back to: who do we have to offer in trade? So we aren’t getting a good pick unless we take on an odious deal . . . you know . . . the kind Dell spent his 6 months ridding us of, losing Starvin’ Marvin in the process, for whatever reason. Whatever the reason was, it hasn’t changed.

Also, consider the relevant portions of the draft discussion above.

So we aren’t trading. Maybe we can swing a deal as a `third team’ and pick up a guy from a team who needs to make some roster space, but that seems that is something that takes place closer to the trade deadline rather than the Summer. While this could occur, and we could get a player this way, it won’t help us get a pick in this draft to help us this year, and we certainly won’t land a start as a `third team’.

Free Agency


We have 6 players under contract in my little scenario, and those players cost us $49.6m. If the cap is $45m, we are toast . . . but it won’t be. Let’s be generous here and assume a $60m cap with exceptions as the initial phase of the CBA as we transition to a hard cap. We can sign a $10m-new-CBA-free-agent, then use an exception for an 8th man of reasonable price (mid level), putting us at about $66m with 8 players signed. We could fill out the roster with minimum salary, Willie Green type players, maybe, and end up a little over the tax line.  If we need to stay under the tax line, we can sign a couple of free agents totaling $10m, then sign fewer vets. This will also accomodate a more modest cap.

The primary issue here, of course, is the looming lockout. With the lockout shortening the offseason, there will be very little time to negotiate deals with free agents before the season picks up. Additionally, the order in which you sign players is very important in the current CBA, and, therefore, the likely initial phase of the new CBA.Â

Then, there is the fact that Dell prefers not to deal with free agency, at least the aspect that I’m discussing.

In any free agent dealing, there are the whims and wishes of players, families, and agents that come into play, along with competition from other teams with deeper pockets or more cap room (non-exclusive-or, for Ryan and the other computer / logic nerds out there . . . respect).Â

We really haven’t been in the free agent `mood’ since we spent the exception on Posey and that blew up in our collective face. Talent aside, we haven’t been able to sign anyone . . . anyone . . . since then . . . so maybe that and Ariza are causing us to undervalue $6m players. There has been mention of our inability to attract free agents despite the presence of Chris Paul, but the financial situation just hasn’t supported such signings regardless of whom we are or are not attracting, so that dry spell doesn’t enter into the calculation for me.



That leaves development. Looking back at last year, and considering that home fans can be prone to extremes in evaluating the talent on their team, I would still say that Dell got good value in his deals, and that the players he brought in while constrained with deals such a Posey’s. Each of those players that saw time (looking at you Marcus Banks . . . at least, I would if I knew what you looked like) showed us more than a little of what we were looking for. Belinelli frustrated us not because he missed so many shots, but because he showed that he could open 3 of 4 from behind the line on more than a few occasions. Coupled with his good defense on the likes of Dwyane Wade, and you get a higher level of frustration when the ball is clanking around. For Metallica fans, think of the acoustic pieces of Master of Puppets (the album) making the harder parts harder, except backwards. Smith had great energy and made his shot . . .yeah, that single shot. Willie came to work, and he had to be dragged from the game no matter how he was playing.

Dell and Monty got what they wanted from these guys, and I’d say that these guys had a little bit of a bump up in their careers here, to a man.

Make no mistake about it, we’re going to get a new crop of cast-offs. I think this crop will be better and will have more potential than this crop. There are two reasons for this: we can be more selective in our deals for players since we don’t have to get rid of bad contracts . . . our trades will send recently signed players with reasonable deals according to the CBA. Also, we will be able to select among the available vet free agents.Â

Monty and Dell  . . . and I think Chris and David . . . have built a culture here, and when we get a critical mass, there is great potential for something wonderful to happen. I truly believe that. One can point to the good streaks as easily as the bad ones we had, but in the end we showed the capacity for greatness.  That is real. We got there on the backs of our key players, Paul and West, their lieutenants, and players who were tossed away . . . maybe rightly.

This tells me that we can make a bang without a star, but rather with an army of the right kind of soldiers. Tough. Smart. Hungry. Fraternal. Humble.

So . . .

Again, no, I don’t think we’ll sign a star. I think we could sign one, meaning we have the capacity, but I don’t think that will be our primary focus, especially given the ownership situation and how that may sit with bigger-time free agents. If Dell gets a lead on one, he’ll sign him. We are more likely to get a star in this manner than by the other means discussed.

I don’t think that this is our most likely course of action, however. I think the most likely place we improve is through developing undervalued talent. The second most likely place to improve is through sub-star (the Jupiters of the NBA) signed in free agency, or maybe two or three. The third most likely place is though a trade involving more than one core player, with the draft being mentioned as the least likely just for completeness.

I’ll leave you guys with a parting thought before going to dinner where I hope the chocolate tiramisu is on the dessert menu tonight.  This is the one chance, the only chance, that Dell and Monty really have to put forth their case to Chris, and they have a real chance to do it given the cap situation and the relatively empty roster, at least in terms of role players. Last year was a glimpse though the fog, distorted by the death throes of the previous age.

This is it.

This what we’ve been waiting for.

This should be very exciting even if my prediciton of no star players arriving turns out to be true.

We have a star.

We have a superstar, too.

Will what we manage to cobble together be able to contend with the Heat? Doubt is natural here, but does that matter? Will a ‘Heat’ be possible in the new era?

Players want minutes, money, and wins. Chris is going to get the first two anywhere. We just have to match the next best option that he’d actually go to given his will and the rules of the CBA, not the best team in the NBA.

This, I think, is the real question behind the question asked, at least for some. My answer: We have good chance to keep Chris, assuming the CBA limits Heat-like teams in some indirect fashion and allows some sort of designated player. I think 50-50 is where we are with all that, and I’ll take those odds any day.

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