Ranking the Assets

Published: December 5, 2011

It’s time to be honest with ourselves and realize that it is a foregone conclusion that Chris Paul will not re-sign with the Hornets once his current contract has expired. He has given this franchise hundreds of brilliant moments, and can arguably be called the GHAT (Greatest Hornet of All-Time), but we will soon have to move on with Paul in the rear-view mirror. Unlike Cleveland or Toronto, however, it looks like we will be moving on with some assets.

Although Paul would love a chance to play with good friends Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudamire in New York, he knows that that simply cannot happen due to New York’s lack of assets. Instead, Paul is willing to look for a situation that will benefit both he and the Hornets. Several teams fit that criteria, but four have emerged from the pack as likely destinations for the GHAT. Boston and Oklahoma City have essentially taken themselves out of the running, choosing instead to stick with their own All-Star point guards despite Paul’s superiority. Both Los Angeles teams, Golden State, and the Atlanta Hawks are now considered the odds on favorites to land Paul. So it is time to more closely examine their assets, in order to get an idea of what the future of this Hornets team might look like.

Honorable Mention:

Lamar Odom, Monte Ellis, Joe Johnson

All three of these guys are good players, but they do not fit with the direction of this team for various reasons. Odom, because of age and a declining skill set; Johnson because of his massive contract; and Ellis because of the fact that he does not fit philosophy wise with what Demps and Monty are trying to build. What could happen with any of these guys, however, is that they can possibly be moved to a third team and that third team would give the Hornets assets more to their liking.

10. (tie) Eric Bledsoe (LAC) and Klay Thompson (GSW)

Both guys are young and could be ten year starters in this league. They could also be busts that never see a second contract once their rookie deal expires. Odds say they will both fall somewhere in the middle.

Bledsoe is just learning to play the point guard position in the NBA after having played off the ball at Kentucky. He has an impressive wingspan and does several things well, but nothing great. Next to his upside, his biggest plus is his contract, as he is only owed 3.3 million over these next two years. The Hornets would have a couple of years to see if he is a starting point guard in his league, and in the meantime he would serve as a more than capable backup.

Thompson can simply light it up on the wing and the best part of his game is that he can score in different ways. The Hornets have had one dimensional wing players for far too long, so Thompson would be a welcome addition. Like Bledsoe, Thompson would be on a rookie deal for the next couple of years and could come along slowly as the Hornets begin their rebuilding process.

9. Dorrell Wright (GSW)

Last year Wright finished third behind Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge for the NBA’s Most Improved award. Not bad company. Wright hit 194 three-pointers for the Warriors and set career highs in PPG (16.4) and steals (1.5). He also has a friendly contract, with two years and just under eight million dollars remaining on the deal that he signed just last year. He would be higher on the list if not for the small sample size and the fact that the Warriors offensive pace greatly exceeds the pace that the Hornets play. It is just not known if Wright can produce in a slower, more conventional offense.

8. Al Horford (Atlanta)

A 6’10 banger on a $12 million per year contract that is too big to play power forward, but too small to match up with quality centers night in and night out in the NBA. Tell me, where have we heard this before? Al Horford is Emeka Okafor with a more well-rounded offensive game. Any team that has Horford as a building block will have a quality player and a quality person, but they will have to find the perfect compliment to him in the front court in order to be a serious contender.

7. Al-Farouq Aminu (LAC)

Aminu came out in the same draft class as Bledsoe and showed some flashes as a rookie, including a 20 point performance against the Hornets that featured two geourgeous alley-oop dunks. He is still probably a year or two away from being a legitimate starter in the league, but his upside is tremendous on both ends of the floor. He will make a little over 9 million dollars in the next three years of his deal, giving the Hornets a young quality player at a price that will let them spend elsewhere.

6. Pau Gasol (LAL)

Gasol is the best player on this list, but he sits at number six because of his contract and his age relative to the other potential assets. Gasol is owed $57 million over the next three years and he just recently turned 31 years old. Neither of those things are good for a franchise looking to rebuild. Perhaps the Hornets go for it now, though. Is that out of the question? If they could find a multi-team deal that will get them a quality point guard back for Odom and they grab some wing players in free agency, they can easily compete with those pieces plus a Gasol/Okafor front court.

5. Josh Smith (ATL)

Smith is a bit of a headcase, and he has a knack for doing some pretty dumb things on the offensive end of the court. All that said, he might be the most naturally gifted player on this list. He is a game changer on the defensive end and he has steadily improved every year offensively. His contract is not bad and it’s not great, as he is owed 25.6 million over the next two years. Ideally, Smith would be a part of a three team deal in which the Hawks recieved another player (Monte or Odom) and the Hornets landed Smith.

4. Andrew Bynum (LAL)

If not for the injury issues, Bynum would be number one on this list. Then again, if not for the injury issues the Lakers would not entertain trading Bynum; not even for Paul. Andrew Bynum is the rarest of rare in today’s NBA- a true seven footer who can change the game on both ends of the floor. He and Dwight Howard are the only two players in the NBA who fit that criteria. But because of the injury concerns, Bynum checks in at number four on this list. If the Hornets could be guaranteed 75 games per year from Bynum, I think they would do this swap straight up. But they can’t, so they will ask for other pieces to protect themselves from his next injury, should it occur.

3. Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first round pick (via LAC)

Some people would put this higher, but I am not so sold on the fact that the Timberwolves will be terrible this year. They have an incredible amount of talent on their team and have incentive to make a move to try and win this year, due to the fact that they do not have their own pick. Imagine a scenario in which they can get somebody like Danny Granger or Iguodala for a Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley. Pair Granger with Love, Wesley Johnson, and Rubio and you have a team that could give anybody fits in this shortened season. Heck, as currently constructed they will be a headache.

But if the Wolves do suck again, you are looking at a top 3-5 pick in a draft that some say is as good as the 2003 draft class. Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis, and Andre Drummond all can be franchise players, while there are 6-10 other guys who can easily be perenial All-Stars. Combine that with the fact that they will all be on rookie contracts, obviously, and this is one of the most enticing assets available to the Hornets.

2. Eric Grodon (LAC)

Gordon is, in some ways, the shooting guard equivalent of Andrew Bynum. As Kobe slowly declines, many say the title of second best shooting guard in the world (behind Wade) is there for the taking. And many believe that Eric Gordon can take it. Like Bynum, Gordon has been plagued by injuries and hasn’t quite shown how dominant he could be over the course of a season. Unlike Bynum, however, Gordon does not come with a gigantic contract that threatens to put pressure on the team’s cap. He will only cost the team 3.8 million this year, before becoming a restricted free agent next summer.

1. Stephen Curry (GSW)

Elite talent? Check. Cheap contract? Check. Tremendous upside? Check? Good system fit? Check. Son of a former Hornet great? Check. Steph Curry fits all the criteria for a player that Dell and Monty would target as the next face of this organiztion- both on and off the court. Curry could step right in at Paul’s old position and help this team transition to the next phase with his vast array of offensive skills.

Curry is not the player Paul is, but he is ahead of where Steve Nash was at this point in his career. Nash is the natural comparison because Curry is an elite level shooter who is getting better at playing the point guard position every year. Like Nash, Curry has a tremendous basketball IQ and a non-stop motor that will continue to fuel his development. Of all the players on this list, Curry is the most likely to reach the elite level that Paul currently occupies, and he is the least likely to fail. When forced to trade a talent like Paul, that’s about the best you can ask for.


  1. Pingback: Chris Paul for Andrew Bynum: Good call? – ESPN (blog) | Basketball News Pro

  2. Pingback: Chris Paul Will Be Dealt Shortly | New Orleans Hornets | Hornets247.com

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