The Missing Piece: Handicapping the Field

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Published: October 27, 2012

Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, and Ryan Anderson are here, but one more piece will be needed to ascend to championship contender. In this series, we look at the guys who could be the missing piece

Monty Williams came out last week and showed Dell Demps hand, but boy are we all thankful. The head coach who recently received an extension and some long term security, talked about the goals for the team this season and beyond. In doing so, he announced that this would be a year for Austin and Anthony to grow before they spend their money next summer and move forward with their plans for world domination.

Okay, I might have exaggerated that last part, but the rest is true. Monty and Dell plan to add another big piece at some point between now and next October, but at Hornets247, we don’t have the patience to wait. We want to know who that missing piece is NOW! Every Saturday, The Missing Piece will look at the possibilities, be it from the 2013 draft, the free agent crop, or the trade market.

In our first piece, we will lay out exactly what the needs are and who might be in Dealer Demps crosshairs.

The Core

Look, we all want Vasquez, Aminu, Henry, and Rivers to succeed but if you get the chance to grab a sure thing, you don’t pass it up for somebody who has “potential.” The Trailblazers are still kicking themselves for passing on the opportunity to take Chris Paul because they had a raw point guard with potential named Sebastian Telfair. The Mavericks let Steve Nash go because they had Devin Harris waiting in the wings. Nash won two MVP’s, played in seven All-Star games, and at 38, is still a better player today. A young guy with “upside” that has yet to show anything in the league gets coaches and GM’s fired far more often than he gets them extended.

With that in mind, you can simplify the Hornets core down to three: Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and Anthony Davis. They are all locked up for four years and the only way that any one of them gets moved is for another star. Jason Smith is a solid piece, but he will be going into the final year of his deal once we hit next summer and it is highly unlikely that Dell gets him at a bargain rate again. Of all the other players on the roster, Rivers is the most likely to establish himself as part of the core this season, but he will have to exceed expectations to do so, because if you are going to pass up the opportunity to go after a Steph Curry, a Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, or even Chris Paul, you better be sure that you have a sure thing on your hands.

What is Needed

If those three are the core, the Hornets need a backcourt player and a frontcourt player. Notice I didn’t say a point guard and a small forward. Eric Gordon is a versatile player, one that has showed he can run the offense and guard either position on defense. Ideally, he would pair with a guy who could play equally well with the ball or off the ball. A neccessary component of the complimentary guards game would be the ability to knock down the open shot from deep. Gordon will have the ball a lot in the pick and roll, so a kick out option is a must.

In the front court, the Hornets are even more flexible with the type of player that they can insert. Ryan Anderson is a 4/5 who can play like a three on offense, while Davis is a 4/5 on offense who can cover 3’s, 4’s, or 5’s on the defensive end. You can grab a prototypical SF and put Davis at center full time. You can grab a PF who can bang on the block, effectively playing 5 on offense and 4 on defense. Bottom line is that the Hornets can make almost anything work and that will allow them to target the best player available, as opposed to just targeting a position and possible settling for a lesser player.

The 2013 Draft

The Hornets could choose to emulate the Thunder and add their James Harden this summer, while using their money to take care of their own. They can give Jason Smith a “Nick Collison-like” signing bonus and negate the huge rate he might get in 2014. If they go this route, there are a couple of guys to keep in mind if the Hornets land a pick between 3 and 8 in 2013.

Tony Mitchell, Forward, North Texas

A bit of a tweener, Mitchell is a beast who can flat out score. And unlike most guys who transistion from college to the pros, he has the body to take an 82 game beating right away. He can play the four on offense and can cover three’s or four’s on defense.

Otto Porter, Forward, Georgetown

I am a huge Georgetown fan, and to be frank, I can’t believe he is in the discussion for top-10 pick. He is a smooth, natural small forward but he does not possess one elite attribute. Imagine a poor man’s Andre Iguodala.

James McAdoo, Forward, North Carolina

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that I have a lot of love for McAdoo. He was a 6th man on a great North Carolina team last season and now he gets a chance to be a stud. If he is who I think he is, expect a huge season.

Alex Poythress, Forward, Kentucky

80% of what MKG gives you on defense, 110% of what MKG gives you on offense. Poythress is an athletic three who goes all out on both ends of the court and has Gerald Wallace in his prime type potential.

Steven Adams, Center, Pittsburgh

If Monty wants to play a big next to Davis for the next ten years, Steven Adams could be an uber talented version of Robin Lopez. A legit 7-footer with size, Adams could pair with Davis to form a duo that would be impossible to score on down low.

Other Possibilities: Rudy Gobert, International; Isiah Austin, Baylor; Cody Zeller, Indiana

The Unrestricted Free Agent Class

Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks

Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis, and Josh Smith would all technically be listed as “power forwards” but I personally believe that they could form an amazingly complimentary front line. Smith and Davis could rim run and/or pop out for mid range shots on offense while Anderson shoots threes. On defense, Smith or Davis could cover SF’s and they would have crazy length to double down on elite low post bigs like Bynum or Howard.

Andre Iguodala, Denver Nuggets

Iguodala is the best pure wing on the market and the only 2012 Olympic team member on this list. A Gordon/Iggy combo might be the best defensive wing duo in the NBA outside of Wade and Lebron, and the addition of Iguodala should allow the Hornets to push the pace on the offensive end.

Chris Paul, LA Clippers

Did you really think I could leave him off the list? Look, until he signs an extension, I will consider him a possibility. Their coach and their ownership is a joke and if the Clippers implode this season, I don’t see many scenarios that would be more appealing to Paul than playing with Davis, Anderson, and Gordon – and for Demps and Monty.

Paul Milsap, Utah Jazz

Again, another “power forward” might not seem like an ideal fit but you won’t find many guys in the league who play harder or that are more versatile. Milsap can bang down low or he can step outside, and a frontline of Milsap, Davis, and Anderson would destroy teams on the offensive glass.

Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz

Jefferson would give the Hornets a terrific low post presence that could also step out and hit the 15 footer. Defensively he has the body to bang with big centers and his feet are quick enough that he doesn’t kill you when teams go small and play pick and roll.

Other Possibilities: Corey Brewer, Chase Budinger, JJ Hickson

The October 31st Guys

Teams have the opportunity to give these guys extensions by October 31st, but if they don’t agree to terms, they will become restricted free agents next summer.

Stephen Curry, Golden State

If Curry didn’t have ankle issues, Golden State would have put a max offer in front of him and he wouldn’t be on this list. But like our own Eric Gordon, Curry has missed significant games in recent years and it is hard to give a guy like that max money. If healthy, a Curry/Gordon backcourt would be practically unstoppable with Anderson on the wing and Davis at the rim.

Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets

Of all these guys, Lawson is the one who is most likely to sign an extension next week, but if he doesn’t, the Hornets might be able to snatch him by overpaying. He isn’t worth max money per se, but he is the fastest player on this list and could get this Hornets team off and running.

Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers

With Iguodala gone, the Philadelphia 76ers will be leaning on Holiday to give them some scoring punch from the perimeter, so he could put up a monster season. Holiday isn’t a pure point, but the Hornets don’t need one and a combo of he and Gordon could be as devastating defensively as they would be offensively.

Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks

If you want another guy in the backcourt who can stretch the defense, Jennings is your guy. And if the Hornets are building their team in the image of the Spurs, Brandon Jennings first couple of years have been eerily similar to those of Tony Parker.

Other Possibilities: Jeff Teague, Hawks; Tyreke Evans, Kings

Amnesty Candidates

Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls

At more than $16 million per year, Carlos Boozer is a drain on your cap, but at four to five million, he could be a player that gives you amazing bang for your buck. Boozer gets picked on a lot because of his salary and because he has not been the #2 option Chicago needs, but imagine him as a 4th option making the league average. I’ll take it.

Other Possibility: Amir Johnson, Toronto Raptors

Trade Targets

Rudy Gay, Memphis Grizzlies

If things fall apart for Memphis, look for them to dump some salary- with Gay or Randolph being the most likely candidates. Gay is vastly overpaid and he isn’t the most efficient player, but he would easily be one of the most explosive third options in the league, with the ability to carry the offense at times when he gets hot.

Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers

Indiana is going to have to pay Paul George soon, and when they do, they might have to do away with Granger. Danny Granger would give the city a hometown kid to root for and he would give Monty another legitimate offensive option on the wing who could go off for 25-30 on any given night.

Jared Dudley, Phoenix Suns

The Suns fans love Dudley, and so does the management as he gives them so much production for so little ($4.25 mil per year). The Suns just paid Michael Beasley to play the three for them, so there is a chance that the right deal could help a team land Dudley.

Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets

And here is another team that will be forced to make a financial decision soon. Denver just gave big contracts to Danillo Gallinari and JaVale McGee, so paying Iggy and Lawson while keeping glue guys like Chandler will be tough. Will have about 3 years and $20 million left after this year. If Aminu fails, Chandler could provide a huge upgrade that would give Monty the defensive minded, athletic wing he wants Aminu to become.

Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia 76ers

Last summer Philadelphia gave Young a big contract and saw him as a huge part of their future, but now they have a drastically different offensive philosophy and Thaddeus Young might be the odd man out. A front court of Young, Davis, and Anderson would compliment each other extremely well on both ends without breaking the bank.

Opening Day Odds:

(chances they are the missing piece and are a Hornet on opening day next season)

Andre Iguodala- 6:1

Wilson Chandler- 6:1

Brandon Jennings- 6:1

Otto Porter- 10:1

Paul Milsap- 10:1

Alex Poythress- 20:1

Tony Mitchell- 20:1

Thaddeus Young- 20:1

Chris Paul- 25:1

Josh Smith- 25:1

Al Jefferson- 35:1

Rudy Gay- 35:1

Stephen Curry- 40:1

Carlos Boozer- 40:1

Steven Adams- 40:1

Jared Dudley- 40:1

Danny Granger- 50:1

Jrue Holiday- 75:1

Ty Lawson- 100:1

 

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