Scouting the Eastern Conference Playoff: Potential Off-Season Targets

Published: April 29, 2012

No Hornets in this year’s playoffs, but could there be some future Hornets?

Because of Chris Paul, Hornets fans were usually busy this time of year watching their own teams’ games and worrying about the present. Now, with the Hornets finishing dead last in the Western Conference, all eyes are on the future. While most people are focused on the draft, you can bet that Dell Demps is simoultaneously scouting the playoffs, especially after Monty’s declaration that the Hornets will make the playoffs next year. A team doesn’t go from 21 wins to the playoffs because of a rookie- it will take vets to get them there. And what better vets to get you to the playoffs than vets with playoff experience? With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Eastern Conference playoff teams and some potential targets.

1. Chicago Bulls

Free agent targets: Omer Asik (Restricted)

Possible trade targets: Carlos Boozer

If Emeka Okafor is amnestied, it will be because his salary simply does not match his production- especially with the new luxury tax penalties and salary cap restrictions coming into play before the 2013 season. The Hornets could probably get a similar player at 5-8 million dollars a year, and Asik should be one of the guys they target. He is easily one of the top 10 defensive centers in the league, even though he is a reserve. His situation is similar to Marcin Gortat’s when he was in Orlando, in that he could probably start for several teams in the league, but he is stuck behind a top notch center in Noah.

Offensively, he is a mess (3 PPG, 46% FT), but his rebound rate is through the roof and over the last two years the Bulls have given up almost 10 points less per 100 posessions with him on the court. Oklahoma City gave Kendrick Perkins a little more than 8 million per year, and I would argue that Asik is a better defender, has more upside, and the difference in offense is negligable since they are both god awful. The Hornets could throw a reasonable contract at him and it is doubtful that the Bulls would match because they are already over the tax for next year.

As for Carlos Boozer, he is owed 46 million over the next 3 years and Chicago might want to take a different route depending on the development of Gibson. The Hornets wouldn’t be head over heels for Boozer, but might consider an Ariza/Okafor for Boozer swap. Okafor can be the Bulls third big as Taj Gibson moves into the starting role, and Ariza gives them a second lockdown perimeter defender. Not a horrible deal for either team.

2. Miami Heat

Free agents: Ronny Turiaf (Player option)

Trade Targets: Chris Bosh

Turiaf has a 1.2 million dollar player option that he likely won’t exercise if he has a good post season, and he fits the Dell Demps profile of hard working, blue-collar players. Okay, now that we have got the boring part of the way, let’s talk about Chris Bosh. If the Heat don’t make the Finals he is gone. Book it. And if he is traded, it is likely that the Heat will want a center in return. Would the Heat consider some kind of package that brings them Paul Milsap, Emeka Okafor, and Trevor Ariza for Chris Bosh and Shane Battier?

The Heat would upgrade at backup small forward, and the combination of Milsap and Okafor would give them more balance in the front court and create more depth. In this scenario, the Hornets would move the 10th pick and perhaps another asset to Utah for Milsap, whose departure would open up more playing time for Derrick Favors. Meanwhile, the Hornets put a defensive minded center like Asik next to Bosh and make him the #2 scoring option next to young Dwayne Wade (Eric Gordon)- a role that suits him better than “the other guy”, which he is in Miami. That is the kind of move that makes you an instant playoff team.

3. Indiana Pacers

Free agents: Jeff Foster, Louis Amundson, Roy Hibbert (Restricted)

Trade Targets: Danny Granger

Amundson is a guy Demps has targeted in the past and Foster could be a quality 5th big. But let’s talk about New Orleans native Danny Granger, and the best big man on the market this summer, Roy Hibbert. The Pacers go as Granger goes, and that might be the reason why they trade him this summer. If he shrinks in the playoffs, the Pacers will know he is not a guy that can lead them anywhere and they might want to see if Paul George will be the guy (who is untouchable, so don’t bother suggesting him as a target). Granger is overpaid, but he might be the best guy the Hornets could get if they are forced to move Eric Gordon, or he could be a guy who could be had for a draft pick- pairing him with Gordon.

As for Hibbert, he will likely get a max contract offer this summer, and if Benson gives the okay to amnesty Okafor the Hornets could get in the mix. He is one of the top five half court centers in this league, and the Hornets are determined to play at a slow pace. He is equally gifted in both the high post and the low post and could be a perfect compliment to a guy like Anthony Davis, should the Hornets be so lucky.

4. Atlanta Hawks

Free Agents: Ivan Johnson (Restricted), Willie Green

Trade Targets: Josh Smith

Ivan Johnson is a nasty, nasty man and Willie Green is still a guy Monty Williams wakes up in the middle of the night longing for, so they are two potential targets for the Hornets ¬†this offseason. Neither can be more than a 10th or 11th man, but the Hornets used 21 guys this season, so 10th and 11th men are essentially starters for this team. The intriguing guy here is Josh Smith, another player who can determine his own fate in this year’s playoffs. If the Hawks lose to the Celtics once again and Smith does not match his wonderful regular season, he could be a guy that they look to move.

If the Hornets land Smith and Monty can get him to stop hoisting jump shots, he could be the best player on the team next season. He can do so many things on the court and guards multiple positions, making him a dream come true for a coach like Monty. The tricky part is that he is going into the last year of his deal next season and probably wants to get paid, but if the Hawks want to move him for Okafor and #10, the Hornets would likely jump on it.

5. Boston Celtics

Free Agents: Brandon Bass (P.O.)

Trade Targets: Rajon Rondo

Brandon Bass is only scheduled to make 4 million next year, so he will likely opt to become a free agent, and a return to the Big Easy is not out of the question. Bass could give the Hornets a more physical version of Jason Smith and could hold down the starting position until a rookie develops. Meanwhile, Rondo would be a guy Demps would go hard after should he become available again. Right now, he is in Danny Ainge’s good graces, but he could say or do the wrong thing in the playoffs and that might be the last straw for Rivers and Ainge.

A Rondo/Gordon back court would be amazing, and would likely force Monty to make this an uptempo team- much to the fans delight. The combo would also give the Hornets two of the best defensive guards in the league and an ability to attack from multiple directions. The price for Rondo would likely be considerably high, and it should be, but Monty’s prediction of a playoff birth would be all but guaranteed.

6. Orlando Magic

Free agents: Ryan Anderson (Restricted)

Trade targets: None

I am not even going to bring up the possibility of Dwight Howard, even though a successful night in the draft lottery would give the Hornets the ammunition to get him without having to give up Gordon. The fact is that he wants to be in a bigger market, so good luck to him and whichever team takes on the Dwightmare. Ryan Anderson, however, is somebody that the Hornets could target and steal from Orlando with the right deal.

Orlando is already at the luxury tax for next year and the new CBA has severe penalties for multiple time luxury tax offenders, so it might be hard for them to keep Anderson. A stretch four might be the way to go for the Hornets, as they look to create more space in the lane for Eric Gordon. Amnestying Okafor and giving his money to a combination of Anderson and Asik could be a coup for the Hornets, giving them more offensive versatility while covering for Anderson’s defensive limitations with the skill set of Asik.

7. New York Knicks

Free agents: Jared Jeffries, Landry Fields (Restricted)

Trade targets: Amare Stoudamire

Fields and Jeffries are two more guys who fit in the Hornets system, as half court players who can guard multiple positions. With the Knicks having to pay Lin, Fields could be gone this summer, while Jeffries could be had if a team is willing to offer more than the vet minimum. But again, the interesting name here is the big money vet, Amare Stoudamire. He just doesn’t fit with Melo and everyone knows it, but the Knicks might be forced to try to make it work because of the contract (3 years/64 million remaining).

A combination of Ariza and Okafor would work here, and the Hornets would essentially be adding on the last year of Amare’s deal to do that trade, as the first two years are essentially even. When healthy and utilized properly, Amre is one of the five best offensive power forwards in the game, and again, a guy like Asik could cover for him on defense. It would be a big risk, one Demps would be highly unlikely to take, but at this time of year you have to consider everything.

8. Philadelphia 76ers

Free agents: Spencer Hawes

Trade targets: Evan Turner, Andre Iguodala

Philadelphia will be out of the playoffs in 4 or 5 games and will be looking at their roster all offseason wondering how they could possibly break out of this mediocrity. Their GM has even taken to Twitter, soliciting advice from the fans on what he should do, so @hornets247 has a suggestion. Trade Evan Turner to the Hornets for Trevor Ariza and the 10th pick. Get some championship experience and another piece to bolster your front court for a guy you can’t seem to find a role for.

Meanwhile, the Hornets get a guy who can be a perfect compliment for Gordon, as the Hornets could go big and play those guys at the 1 and 2 or play fast with the right point guard by playing them at the 2 and 3. Both guys can guard multiple positions, handle the ball, make plays for others, and get to the rim. Turner is at that point in his career where he is ready to take off, but he won’t do it in Philly getting back up minutes. He will be more productive this year than anybody the Hornets could get at #10, and his ceiling is likely just as high. #GetItDoneDell



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