Hornets Beat: Gordon, Ayon, Okafor, and Kaman

Published: February 7, 2012

This week our writers focus on whether or not Okafor is the best active Hornet, Ayon’s playing time, the Kaman situation, and Eric Gordon.

Kaman was ice cold in the second half against the Kings

1. Fact or Fiction– Emeka Okafor is the best active player on the Hornets

James Grayson: Fact, has to be right? With all these injuries I won’t be surprised if he’s the only one out there in a couple of weeks. Okafor is having a decent season, but he’s having trouble getting a decent amount of minutes as he’s averaging the least amount per game of his career.

Mason Ginsberg: Fact. In an indirect way, that was kind of a sub-plot to my column on Okafor last week. He isn’t the team’s best player on offense or on defense, but he is probably the team’s best all-around player not named Eric.

Jake Madison: Fact–though I’m very hesitant to say that. His improvements on offense are pretty impressive, and his defense is still solid. Of course this changes once Gordon comes back.

Joe Gerrity: Fact. I wouldn’t say that if his offensive game hadn’t taken a clear step forward over the lockout.

2. Fact or Fiction– Gustavo Ayon will average more than 20 minutes per game the rest of the year

James: Fiction. I love Ayon, but I just don’t see Monty Williams giving him the time even though he thoroughly deserves it. If the Hornets manage to trade one of their assets he might be able to do it, but there’s just to many big-men that Monty has to fit into his rotation.

Mason: Fiction, but just barely. Between Landry’s current injury and the inevitable trade of Kaman before the deadline, Ayon should get close to 20 mpg from here on out. If the Hornets end up dealing both Landry and Kaman, then this answer becomes fact.

Jake: I’m coping out on this one: I don’t know. Monty’s rotations have confused me at times this season, but I’m hoping he realizes the season is lost and starts to give extended burn to the younger players. I don’t know if Ayon will reach that magic 20 mark, but his minutes should start going up soon.

Joe: Fact. Ayon is one of the few guys on the roster whose future in town seems relatively certain (turnover has been crazy lately), and as the season gets more and more out of hand and other bigs are traded, Ayon will see more than enough time to further familiarize himself with the NBA game.

3. Fact or Fiction– The Hornets have handled the Chris Kaman situation well so far

James: Fiction. I know Demps has been in some tough situations before, but it has to be awkward coming back to a team you know doesn’t want you. As well now you are risking injury to Kaman, something you set out to eliminate by pulling him.

Mason: Fiction. I’m not sure what Demps & co. were thinking with this one. Teams already know what a veteran like Kaman can bring, so his value won’t be immensely affected in either direction based on two months of action. Sitting him to keep him from getting injured and to give the younger Hornets more playing time made sense; why not stick with it and simply wait to trade him closer to the deadline?

Jake: Fiction. By bringing Kaman back to the team, the Hornets let the world know that there were no good offers on the table. Yes the Hornets have time on their side, but why would a team make a competitive offer when no one else is banging down the door to get him?

Joe: I lean toward fiction here, but I’ll argue the other way. While they obviously didn’t get any bites, Kaman is one of the best big men who will become available this year. By throwing him out on the market at a high price early on, they gave a number of competitive men (GM’s) a chance to add a key piece to their team early on enough to get him in sync with the system before the playoffs. It isn’t that far fetched to think a contender could have bitten and sent out a young guy, a late first rounder, and a crappy old player on two year deal that they no longer want. Sure there were restrictions in place for deals like that, but that’s what lawyers are for.

4. Fact or Fiction– Without Eric Gordon, the Hornets are the worst team out West

James: Fact a hundred times over. The Hornets do not have anyone else on their roster that you can count as a go-to-guy. Defensively they’ve kept games close, but only because the roster is stacked with guys who’s specialty is defense.

Mason: Fact. While New Orleans is a much better coached team than Sacramento, there’s too much talent on that Kings team for them to be considered the worst team in the Western Conference. The Kings are built in such a way that they’ll undoubtedly get blown out in more games than the Hornets, but they’ll also win more games thanks to their wealth of young talent.

Jake: That is absolutely a fact. If the Wizards or Bobcats were in the West there might be some debate, but right now the Hornets are five games behind the second to last place Kings.

Joe: Fact, but if he and the rest of the team had been healthy so far this season, I don’t even think they would be in the conversation.

5. Fact or Fiction– Eric Gordon sitting out the rest of the season would be best for the future of the team

James: Fact. The reason is long term future. Now, it gets very tricky when it comes to the Gordon contract situation because in some ways you don’t know what you’re playing with. Does Gordon fit in, do some of the players currently on the roster play well with him etc. However, the second Eric is back on this team is the second they start to win games again. Now, the lottery is in place to prevent tanking, but you always want the best odds.

Mason: This is a tough one, but the answer to that question is probably fact. Not only would the Hornets almost be guaranteed a top-5 pick, but by sitting out for the entire season, Gordon’s market value would inevitably take a hit. However, would that make him decide to take his qualifying offer instead of becoming a restricted FA? I still say no, but it’s not out of the question.

Jake: Fiction. You need to do something to energize the fan base and that is letting them see how good Gordon can be. From a coaching standpoint you also want to see how he plays with the rest of the team and let them develop some chemistry on the court.

Joe: Goodness! Glad I finished the questioning with this doozie. I’ll say fiction, but if he comes back and leads the team one some stupid, worthless winning streak that eliminates their chances of getting pick numero uno despite the fact that the playoffs are far out of sight, I’ll be pissed off.


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