Off-Season Targets: Forwards

Published: July 4, 2012

We take a look at the free agent forwards that Dell Demps should be targeting during this summer

As of right now, the Hornets have Al-Farouq Aminu and Darius Miller at small forward, while Anthony Davis and Gustavo Ayon figure to get the bulk of the minutes at power forward. Add it all up and you have a grand total of three years of NBA experience. The Hornets need some vets to come in and provide some depth and maturity to this unit, and could possibly look to add a long term piece at the power forward position if the Hornets brass projects Davis as the center of the future. It would be nice to bring in a small forward to push Aminu, but Nic Batum is the only legitimate one on the market and he is going to get 12 million per year. No thank you. Instead, I offer these alternatives:

High End

1. Ersan Illysova, Milwaukee Bucks

As much as I love JaVale McGee for this team, it is Illysova who would top my list if I were Dell Demps. First of all, unlike most of the other premier free agents in this crop, Illysova is unrestricted. No need to wait and see if the other team will match, just sign him the second the moratorium is lifted and proceed to the next order of business. Illysova is reported being offered the mid-level by several teams, but has a “big offer” to play overseas. It would probably cost the Hornets something like 4 years and $35-40 million to secure his services. (Bucks currently have 5 years/$40 million offer on the table)

Illysova was fantastic last year, especially in the second half, and he just turned 25 this off-season. His spot of numbers were fantastic, as he averaged almost 1.2 points per shot and shot over 48% (49% on spot-up three’s). He was similarly good as the roll man on the pick and roll- usually choosing to pop and hit the mid-range jumper. He also defends the post fairly well and is quick enough to defend the pick and roll. An excellent free-throw shooter, Illysova hit nearly 90% two years ago (fell to 78% last year).

The lone problem with Illysova is that he has no chance at playing the small forward position on the defensive end, so if the Hornets bring him in he will have to play the four, a position that is currently overcrowded. If Davis can fill out, he can be a full-time center in two years, but until then, he will mostly play the same position as Illysova. The Hornets can sign Illysova and then move Gustavo for an upgrade at point guard or small forward and finish games with an Ersan/AD combo or they can just put Davis at center right away and force other teams to adjust to them on the offensive end, while being undersized for the time being on the defensive end.

Though I will admit it is not a perfect fit right now, the Hornets can make it work once SkyNet bulks up. Sign me up.

2. Ryan Anderson, Orlando Magic

The Magic are a mess right now and they appear to have already drafted Anderson’s replacement in Andrew Nicholson, so why not swoop in and grab the man who beat out Illysova for this year’s Most Improved Player award? Anderson is not as good as Illysova spotting up, but he is actually a superior player in the pick and pop game and of cuts. Like Illysova he is fantastic in transition, which would be ideal for a Hornets fast break that could see Davis sprinting to the rim while Anderson sets up behind the three-point line.

On the defensive end, Anderson might actually be a better fit because his synergy numbers indicate that he was much better covering players on the perimeter. Honestly, he and Illysova are alike in many ways, with each having their minor advantages. Illysova is a better rebounder, while Anderson is an elite FT shooter and slightly less turnover prone. The tiebreaker goes to the fact that Illysova is unrestricted, but the Hornets should be happy if they can land either one.

3. Jason Thompson, Sacramento Kings

If the goal is to get a long, athletic player who can get out and run with Anthony Davis, Thompson should be atop the Hornets free agent wish list. His offensive stats were mediocre across the board, with the exception of his transition game. Thompson scored on 82% of his transition opportunities and average 1.444 ppp in this opportunities, which was 11th in the NBA. He also had the strength to finish and get an ‘And-One’ in about 15% of his transition opportunities.

Defensively, Thompson is good in the pick and roll, using his length to show and then get back to his man. He isn’t great defending the post, but on the plus side he does not foul at a high frequency when put in that position. He can play the four or the five and quite honestly, gives you some of the same things that JaVale McGee does at a fraction of the price. After having just drafted Thomas Robinson, I can see the Kings letting THompson go if someone throws 4-5 million per year at him.

Bargain Basement

Earl Clark, Orlando Magic

Clark is Al-Farouq Aminu if Aminu didn’t get obsessed with drifting out to the perimeter.  An above average defender with length and the ability to score at the rim, Clark has the potential to develop into a solid rotation player if he is given a specific role. A minimum contract or something close to that gets you a guy to compete with Miller and Aminu for minutes.

Jeremy Evans, Utah Jazz

Last year’s slam dun champion is obviously ultra-athletic, but he also possesses a bit of a post-up game and is a very good close-out defender. With a team that rotates as much as the Hornets do on the defensive end, Evans can be a nice fit.

Anthony Tolliver, Minnesota Timberwolves

Tolliver was one of the worst statistical players in the NBA last year, but that had more to do with Adelman’s new system and his reluctancy to make Tolliver a consistent rotational player. The year before, Tolliver was one of the best shooting big men in the league, hitting over 40% of his three’s. He also did well in post-up situations when utilized. Defensively he leaves a lot to be desired, but as a shooter off the bench, Tolliver can be a good value at a minimum salary.

Amnesty Candidates

Tyrus Thomas, Charlotte Bobcats

Eventually, this is going to happen. The Bobcats need to open up some playing time for Biyombo and MKG, and Thomas’s huge salary has to go. He was absolutely horrible last year, but was solid the two years prior, putting up over 10 points and 6 rebounds in just 21 minutes per game. A change of scenary and a specialized role is necessary to save his career, and if the Hornets can put in a small bid, locking him in for around 2 million per year, it is worth the risk.

Other Possible Targets

Andrei Kirilinko- Love the idea of AK47 of this team. This is the guy Aminu should model his game after. What better way than to watch him in practice every day?

Jared Jeffries- Perfect guy for Monty. Can defend four different positions and never asks for the ball.

Ivan Johnson- This team needs an enforcer for when teams try to send a message to SkyNet. No better guy in the league for that role than Johnson.

Ronny Turiaf- Smaller, but craftier Ivan Johnson. Plays the same role.

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