Hornets Unlikely to Extend Qualifying Offers to Belinelli or Smith

Published: June 28, 2011

With time running out for the Hornets to extend qualifying offers to Marco Belinelli or Jason Smith, it’s looking more and more likely that both will enter free agency unrestricted. The Hornets hold a 3.1 million dollar qualifying offer on Smith, and a 3.4 million dollar offer on Belinelli. The two players both played big roles last year for the team, with Marco averaging 24.5 minutes in 80 games, and Jason contributing 14.3 minutes in 77 games.

The Hornets may be interested in bringing one or both back, but it seems increasingly unlikely that GM Dell Demps will see it in his best interest to extend a qualifying offer to either player. Neither is particularly young or raw, and both recorded PER’s well under 13 last year and during every other year of their respective careers.

Of the two, Belinelli is the more intriguing player despite Smith’s 7-foot frame. At times last year it seemed that the Italian was on the verge of becoming a legitimate starter in this league, so let’s start with him.

Marco Belinelli

Early on it appeared Marco had made major progress on defense in particular, but as the season continued he proved that was more a reflection of the team’s defensive system (which also struggled to maintain it’s early season performance). In stark contrast to 8 months ago, it’s now hard to make the case that Belinelli is an above average defender. Statistically his season on defense was a bit confusing, so let’s see who has been paying attention in the near decade this site has been around.

Best answer wins a free Hornets247 t-shirt!

Synergy Sports says that he allowed 1.04 points per possession to his mark on defense (447th in the league). In isolation he got creamed, giving up 1.17 points per possession (346th), and he repeatedly struggled to challenge his man on spot up jumpers, allowing 1.18 ppp (165th).

82games.com represents his season a little differently. While Marco was in at shooting guard, his opposing counterpart put up a PER of only 13.8. Defending small forwards, which he spent 1/6th of his on-court time doing this year, he gave up a PER of only 9.8.

How could that be? Best answer wins a Hornets247 T-shirt. If there are a few really good ones, then we’re happy to hand them out to more than one person.

Offensively Marco’s bread and butter is and should be the three pointer. He had a career year behind the arc, taking four a game at a stellar 41.4 percent, but it was the ones he didn’t take that hurt him. Frankly, the guy isn’t very good from anywhere else. Where he especially does damage from long range is when he’s spotting up (40.6%) and in transition (49.4%). He took 284 of his 347 three pointers last year in those two situations.

Too many times, though, he passed up seemingly open threes in favor of a pump fake and then an inefficient drive, or jump shot from a step inside the line off the dribble. If he can stick to taking catch and shoot three pointers, and can advance again in regard to making them, then he can be a nice compliment to any team’s offense.

As I’ve said in the past, I think it’s crucial to get Chris Paul a guy who can hit open three pointers in order to maximize his ability to create in the half-court throughout a game. Marco is in a position to be that guy next year. I’d like to see him back to get another crack at it, just not at 3.4 million. Nobody will offer that on the open market.

It would also probably benefit Marco as a player to spend another year in a system just to get some continuity in coaching. The guy has played for three teams in four years already in America alone.

Jason Smith

I’ve always thought of Jason Smith as a Darius Songaila/Ryan Bowen hybrid of sorts, which isn’t a good thing for a guy looking to get over 3 million a year. Even if Smith just turned in a decent year on a playoff team, he’s still a jump-shooting big man who has has displayed no three-point range as of yet. He has no real post moves, and struggles to make plays around and above and around the rim both as a scorer, defender, and rebounder.

All in all he’s not really a liability on offense, but he’s not even close to being someone that you have to worry about beating you. Just keep someone near him, and despite his size, he has a hard time getting an effective shot off. After the first five games of last season where he did it twice, he scored ten or more points only three times throughout the rest of the season. Synergy tells a similar story, as Smith managed to record only .83 points per possession (364th in the league). He does set decent picks, and has a pretty good understanding of the offense, but that’s not enough to make up for everything else.

Defensively it’s a similar story. He gave up .93 points per possession (304th in the league), and 82games shows that when he opposed centers they recorded a PER of 14.8. Against power forwards that number was 15.2.

Where Smith makes his mark on a team is through his infectious energy and ability to guard both the 4 and the 5. Often the spark plug for rallies, it was a common occurrence to see Jason sprawled out for a loose ball when other players would have (and sometimes already had) just given up. You can feel the energy that he plays the game with from the stands, and there’s no question that he gets the crowd riled up more often than other players with a similar basketball skill set. There’s a reason teams win more at home than on the road, and guys like Jason Smith have something to do with that.

He will undoubtedly find find himself on an NBA roster next year, but he won’t be making 3.1 million unless someone made an error.

Other guys to think about

  • Although I haven’t seen any official announcement, it’s very, very hard to see the Hornets picking up their team option on David Anderson’s final year (2.7 million). Especially considering he has reportedly signed a deal with the Italian team Montepaschi Siena.
  • Michael and I thought (and Ryan seemed to agree) that Aaron Gray was a goner in part 2 of our Hornets season review. That remains the case, as he opted out of the last year of his deal with the Hornets. As I said then, “he’s a big man who played big in the postseason and made peanuts this year. While he’s surely a capable backup, someone is going to overpay him to commit moving picks and dumb fouls away from the ball,  for multiple years. That team really shouldn’t be the Hornets. While he made some good progress this year physically, his work ethic and dedication to conditioning remain a question mark going forward.”

And be sure to check out our Journal Section, with new posts from OldRepublic– Free Agents That Might Not Be On Your Radar, and F********–Free agency and one opportunity for improvement

Update- Jimmy Smith from the T-P says that “League sources, however, believe it’s likely the Hornets will exercise their option to retain Belinelli’s rights, and that the decision could come Wednesday.”

If that’s the case, I won’t be shocked. Surprised, but not shocked. 3.4 million isn’t a ton of cash for Marco, but I’m betting he doesn’t get anything better in free agency. If Hornets extend that offer, I would expect to see him back on the team next season.


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