Offseason Targets: Power Forwards

Published: June 19, 2011

David West has a lot to think about this offseason

The dominoes will begin to fall soon, and it appears that the first one to topple will be the David West domino. It is possible that his decision (whether to opt in for $7.525 million) could start a chain reaction that will send this franchise in any number of directions. If he opts-in, the Hornets have a quasi All-Star returning at a number far below his market value and will not have a third gaping hole to fill (starting SG and back-up C). If he opts out and eventually signs elsewhere, it will officially mark the end of an era and likely lead to Dell Demps being forced to move Chris Paul. And not to get too grim, but a team with Chris Paul on it will be much easier to sell than a team in rebuild mode. Just saying.

The Hornets two other power forwards, Carl Landry and Jason Smith, are also hitting the free agent market this summer. Landry played last season for 3 million and will likely see his salary double. Meanwhile, the Hornets have the option of making Smith a restricted free agent, but aren’t likely to extend him the qualifying offer ($3.135 million). Smith is working out here in New Orleans and did have some bright spots last season, so it would not be out of the question for the Hornets to bring him back for a number closer to 2 million. As for Landry, he played well after West went down and both Monty and Demps have said multiple times that they want him back. The question is whether the Hornets will be willing to pay him starter’s money to be a backup if West comes back. If West is not back, can a Landry/Okafor duo compete when they are each giving up several inches at their respective positions?

Ideally, both West and Landry will be back at a manageable number. If West opts-in and Landry could be brought back into the fold for 4 years/22-25 million, then the Hornets will be dedicating 13 million dollars to the position, about the same amount that the Bulls will be paying the shrinking violet known as Carlos Boozer. The worst case scenario is that West opts out and a team like New Jersey throws a monster contract at him, forcing the Hornets to either match and overpay West or let him go and start the rebuilding process. While the Hornets would love to keep Landry, they will not overpay him if West is coming back. Luckily for the Hornets, there are not many teams in the market for a power forward (Indy and New Jersey are the only two with cap space that come to mind), so the odds of keeping both West and Landry seem pretty high. But just in case, let’s take a look at some potential targets.


1. Kenneth Faried, Morehead State

I have not done this in any of the other pieces, but for this one, I will make an exception. There is no way that Faried will be there at #45, but if Demps gets a chance to get into the first round, I believe that Faried will be the target. If the Hornets still had their own pick (#19), I have no doubt that they would hand the card in immediately if he was still on the board. Since Portland is supposedly in love with him (picking 21st), the Hornets will likely have to get in front of them to land Faried. Minnesota supposedly is looking to dump the 20th pick. Two trades come to mind:

1. Martell Webster and #20 for the Hornets #45. Minnesota dumps Webster’s salary ($5.25 million) and picks a Euro that they can stash away with the 45th pick. Hornets get another shooter and Faried.

2. Hornets send a future 1st (protected) to Minny for the pick. Minnesota does not want to add two more rookies to an already young roster, so they acquire a pick for next year in exchange for this year’s pick. (They do not have the rights to their own 2012 pick)

If it makes sense, I can see the Hornets jumping up to get Faried because I don’t think there is a single player in this draft who fits the Hornets philosophy more. Faried has a non stop motor, is a relentless rebounder, and will do all of the little things that will help a team win. Offensively, he only has two or three moves that he can rely on in the low post and in the paint, but he will find a way to get a couple of garbage buckets every game.

2. Malcolm Thomas, San Diego State

Now that I had my little Faried pipe dream, I will get back to reality and look at the guys who will be there for the Hornets at #45. Thomas is a guy who did not get much national attention playing for San Diego State, but he has a defensive mindset and some of the raw tools necessary to make an impact on that side of the court. Imagine a poor man’s Tyrus Thomas.

With a 7’2″ wingspan and a nearly 40 inch vert, Thomas has the ability to protect the rim despite being only 6’9″ 220 pounds. If he can add another 10-15 pounds of muscle over the next year or two without sacrificing any of his athleticism, Thomas can be the exact type of energetic defender off the bench that Monty needs.

Other possibilities: Jon Leuer, Wisconsin; Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Washington; JaJuan Johnson, Purdue (and before you jump down my throat, both Rick Jackson and Jordan Williams will be in our Centers piece)

Free Agency

1. Kenyon Martin (Nuggets)

K-Mart is the type of player that you hate, until he is on your team. If the Hornets lose either West or Landry, Martin would be a perfect compliment to whichever player remained. He gives the Hornets the ability to have a big man who can defend perimeter oriented bigs and he can form a poor man’s version of the Crescent City Connection with Chris Paul on the offensive end. Injuries are always a concern with Martin, but with a reduced role, perhaps he can stay healthy.

2. Glen Davis (Celtics)

If Landry leaves, I could see Big Baby coming right in to fill a very similar role. Davis followed up his best regular season with a postseason that probably cost him a couple million dollars, but I have a feeling that a change of scenery might do him good, and what better place to go than back home? Like the other power forwards, Davis settles for the jumper far too often, but he does have a nice touch around the basket and he lead the league in charges taken last season- something the Hornets desperately need.

3. Brandon Wright (Nets)

Wright hasn’t done anything in his career thus far to make you think that he can fill the void left by Landry or West if they were to leave, but small market teams have to gamble sometimes and Wright has the highest upside of any power forward on the market that can be had for cheap. Wright is long and athletic with a soft touch around the rim, but not much else. He could be a project for the coaching staff that could pay off big down the line if they press all the right buttons.

Other possibilities: Yi Jianlian (Wizards), Chris Wilcox (Pistons), Dante Cunningham (Bobcats), Reggie Evans (Raptors), Joey Dorsey (Rockets), Josh McRoberts (Pacers)


1. Josh Smith (Hawks)

If David West leaves, we could see Dell Demps set his sights squarely on Josh Smith, as there has been much talk in and around Atlanta centered around moving him. Smith would compliment Okafor brilliantly on the defensive end and would allow the Hornets to get out in transition on the offensive end. In the half-court, it would be hard to envision the Hornets being able to space the floor with an Ariza-Smith-Okafor front line, but perhaps a gunner at shooting guard can help that.

Acquiring Smith would likely require the Hornets to take on another bad contract (Marvin Williams) or get a third team involved, but it is not impossible. What will be hard is controlling Smith if he were to arrive in the Big Easy. He falls in love with his jump shot far too often and is simply a knucklehead at times on the court. With all that said, he is still only 25 and he would bring much needed athleticism and length to the front court.

2. Michael Beasley (T’Wolves)

Remember what I said about sometimes needing to take risks? Beasley is the ultimate risk/reward type of player and if the Hornets lose West, they might have to gamble on somebody like Beasley if they want to have any chance of re-signing Paul. Beasley can easily become a 25PPG scorer someday in this league and he seems destined to follow the career path of a guy like Zach Randolph. Eventually, Randolph “got it” and maximized on his talent, leading the Grizzlies to Game 7 of the second round. The question is whether or not Beasley ever matures and which team will reap the benefits once he does.

3. Kris Humphries (Nets)

If David West does in fact sign with New Jersey, a sign and trade might benefit both teams, as West goes East and Mr. Kardashian himself comes to New Orleans. Can you imagine both Kim and Reggie sitting court side? Anyway, I digress. Humphries does not have much to offer offensively, but when compared to West and Landry, he is a far superior rebounder. I don’t know who would start, but a Humphries/Landry combo wouldn’t be horrible and could offer multiple options for the Hornets on both ends of the court.


Sooner than later we will know what David West’s decision will be. If I were him, I would wait all the way up until the last minute to decide, but I am sure Demps would love to have an answer prior to the draft. I think, either way, the Hornets are determined to bring West back next year, unless a team throws a boat load of cash his way. With Oklahoma City spending its money on Perkins and moving Ibaka to PF full-time, Indiana and New Jersey are the only two teams that can possibly offer West a contract outside of the Hornets price range. West doesn’t seem like a great fit in Indiana, leaving New Jersey as the lone threat.

Supposedly New Jersey loves Humphries and I don’t know if they want their one big splash this offseason to be a over-30 power forward coming off a surgery that won’t allow him to start the season on the active roster. As for Landry, I think several teams will make a run at him, but I can’t see anybody guaranteeing a starting job and a salary over 6 million per year. If all things are equal (backup role and similar salary), I think Landry re-signs in New Orleans and continues to improve as he gets more familiar with the system.

If one or both were to leave, the free agent market offers several options that can help at a reasonable price. West opting out could make the Hornets players in the free agent market, allowing them to throw a bunch of money at guys like Tyson Chandler, Jamal Crawford, or Marc Gasol before refocusing their efforts on the power forward position. It is also possible that West opts out and then re-signs here long term, making him a Hornet for life. The good news is that we will get one of these answers soon enough.

(Side note: Don’t forget to check Joe out on Fox 8 tonight at 9:30 if you are in the area. They will be talking about the Hornets draft targets and who they might pursue in FA.)


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