The Missing Piece: Searching for the Next Ryan Anderson

There is an argument made by Hornets fans and some national analysts that gets stated as fact despite a growing amount of evidence to the contrary that I just can’t let slide any longer. The argument is that cap space is somewhat meaningless to a small market team such as ours because we can not attract quality players and/or we have to overpay for quality players to come here. How can we accept this argument as fact coming off the summer that we just had?

Ryan Anderson and Robin Lopez were both free agents that saw an opportunity in New Orleans to be a part of a franchise on the rise, signing four and three year deals respectively. They both mentioned Monty Williams in their press conferences and the respect he has around the league, while citing an opportunity to showcase their talents as a primary reason for joining the Hornets. The two signed modest contracts that will cost the Hornets right around $13.5 million annually combined, and in return the Hornets have received just over 29 points and 14 rebounds per game from the duo. Ryan Anderson has perhaps the best contract of any player not on a rookie deal in the NBA when you take production into consideration, and Robin Lopez has a PER higher than several highly paid centers including Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Marcin Gortat, and DeAndre Jordan.

Dell Demps has shown what he can do with cap space and he is getting more of it this summer. The dead money that this team is paying Rashard Lewis and Matt Carroll comes off the books, as does the salaries of Al-Farouq Aminu, Roger Mason, and Xavier Henry. The Hornets figure to have between 16 and 21 million dollars in cap space this summer depending on some decisions that they make on other players on the roster, and that is far more money than it cost for them to land the two guys who lead the team in production this year. Demps needs to identify the next Ryan Anderson- an undervalued player who is capable of producing at an elite level. Even a couple of Lopez-type signings wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. With that in mind, here are a couple of guys to watch out for:

Jeff Teague, PG, Atlanta Hawks

Most people think that Ryan Anderson really made a leap last season, but in reality he was pretty much the same player as he was in the season prior, he just got more minutes and shots. The same might be said for Teague, who is posting career highs in points and assists this year because of his increased role in the Hawks offense. But the reality is that Teague has actually been quite good for a couple of years, as his per-36 numbers have been nearly identical over the last three seasons. In fact, Teague has actually seen a drop in his true shooting percentage this season, partly because he doesn’t have another playmaker on the court that can allow him to play off the ball from time to time. Eric Gordon could do a lot of the things that Joe Johnson did with the Hawks, handling the ball in the half court, and that is when Teague was at his most efficient offensively.

The Hawks are said to be in the market for CP3 this summer and if they chase him, one could see a scenario where they take for granted the 24 year-old blossoming point guard that they have right under their nose. In that case, a sign-and-trade could be in the works or perhaps the Hornets could just put a deal in front of him that the Hawks refuse to match. When you look at the deals signed by other point guards in his class this summer, a deal that is similar to Anderson’s could be all it takes to bring in a starting point guard that would drastically improve this team on both ends of the court.

Chase Budinger, SF, Minnesota Timberwolves

Before he got hurt this season, many felt that Budinger was looking like a guy poised for a breakout season. He hadn’t found his three-point stroke yet in Rick Adelmen’s offense but he was shooting nearly 70% on two-pointers, attacking the rim and hitting a newly developed mid-range shot with consistency. A career 37% three-point shooter coming into this season, that part of his game was likely to take off as well, seeing that the Timberwolves acquired him partly because he shot 52% on his corner three’s the year before. Budinger has a lot of aspects of his game that fit into what the Hornets are trying to do at the SF position offensively and this coud be a place where he finally gets consistent minutes. He has never gotten more than 24 minutes per night in his career and was in a timeshare for all three years in Houston. Budinger is an unrestricted free agent this summer and a modest contract could bring him in; a contract that could very easily be greatly exceeded by his production.

Gerald Henderson, SG, Charlotte Bobcats

If you want to find a young vet who has been quietly improving every year, Gerald Henderson is your guy. Henderson has been on a horrible team the past couple of seasons, and because of that most people haven’t noticed that he has turned himself into a nice player who might be able to really blossom if surrounded by some complimentary talent. His PER has risen dramatically every year he has been in the league, and is up to a very respectable 16.7 this season. His true shooting percentage is in the top ten amongst starting shooting guards mostly because he has significantly improved his three-point shooting this year. The problem with Henderson has been injuries, and he was banged up again this year but has returned from a foot injury and is playing wonderfully. Again, a modest contract could take him away from a Bobcats team that is suddenly loaded at the guard position and the Hornets could land a guy who is at the point in his career where he is primed for takeoff.

Other Possibilities: Andray Blatche (2nd amongst PF’s in PER), Brandan Wright (6th amongst centers in PER), Rodrigue Beaubois  (high assist rate/low turnover rate)

All Eyes on Eric Bledsoe

It is nice to fantasize about the players that Dell can land next summer, but if he wants to make a move this year that can set the franchise up for the foreseeable future, the target in his sights has to be Eric Bledsoe. The Bucks are sticking with Jennings this year as they make a playoff push, so he is off the table, but Bledsoe is very much on it because of the position that the LA Clippers find themselves in at this moment. The Clippers are all about winning big this year, as well they should be, because a first-round exit could also mean an exit by Chris Paul. Bledsoe has been fantastic in his limited minutes, but he is stuck behind both Paul and Chauncey Billups at the point and can’t find minutes at the two because Jamal Crawford is having his best season as a pro. Bledsoe is the Clippers most valuable trade asset that they can afford to part with and they need size on their front line to compete with Marc Gasol, Dwight Howard, and Tim Duncan once they reach the playoffs. A trade built around Bledsoe and Robin Lopez as the key components just seems to make sense for both teams, with perhaps Vasquez thrown in as an insurance policy for the Clippers.

The beautiful part is that if Dell can make this trade work, he will actually find himself with extra money this offseason to fill in the three position and find a replacement for Lopez. Meanwhile, Bledsoe and Gordon would take the Hornets perimeter defense from horrid to elite overnight. For so many reasons, this is the ideal move for the Hornets to make between now and the trade deadline, and Dell will have added another chapter to his legacy if he can pull it off.

Game to Watch

It sounds odd, but check out tonight’s Canisus vs. Syracuse game tonight at 6:00 CST on ESPN3/ESPN Full Court. Canisus is actually good this year, but the guy you will actually be watching for is Syracuse super sophomore Michael Carter-Williams, a 6 foot 6 point guard who is leading the nation in assists. Carter is still somewhat raw offensively, but the potential is almost limitless with this guy. I grew up watching a lot of college basketball in the 90’s and it is hard not to see a lot of Fab Five Jalen Rose in his game. Fun kid to watch, even if it is against Canisus.

The Missing Piece is a weekly feature that you can find every Saturday only on For previous issues in the series, click here.


39 responses to “The Missing Piece: Searching for the Next Ryan Anderson”

  1. MM, got a few follow up questions for you.

    1. What do you think the odds are that we acquire Bledsoe, or at least publically make it known that we tried to?
    2. What might cause us or LAC to say no?
    3. If we do acquire Bledsoe, do you think he starts right away (even with Vasquez still here)?
    4. Being on a young team like the Hornets where he can blossom and get heavy minutes, describe the best case scenario for the type of player he can be.
    5. Finally, with Bledsoe, would we still go after another PG like Jennings? If not, where do you think we target spending all our cap room money next summer?

    • 1. Odds- 20%. I think Clippers have to trade him. At that point it becomes- who offers more, us or some other team. Looking around the league, teams that would give up a solid package for a PG include: Dallas, Orlando, Utah, and Sacramento. I say, one of those teams or us end up with him in February, so 20%.
      2. We might say no if we think we have a good chance at Jennings or Paul or if we think Rivers has better long term upside than Bledsoe. Clips say no if Utah throws a Milsap or Jefferson on the table.
      3. If Vasquez isn’t part of the deal, he probably still starts while Bledsoe learns the offense, but I think he would be a part of that deal or a seperate deal. No purpose in having Bledsoe, Vasquez, Rivers, and Roberts.
      4. Best case scenario for Bledsoe is poor man’s Gary Payton. He could be Payton-like on defense, but will never be as skilled offensively. Maybe Mike Conley on offense, Gary Payton on defense as his ceiling.
      5. If you have Bledsoe, Rivers, Gordon, and Roberts, you are not targeting another high priced guard. Would have about 22 million for a small forward and another big at that point, use draft pick on BPA

  2. Bledsoe would be a great addition to NO. Before the Clips would let Bledsoe go, they would have to be certain that Paul will commit to an extension.

    • Doesnt it remind you of our Collison situation a few years ago? Show CP3 its all about him by letting go a promising young PG only to be left high and dry. Might be deja vu in June 2013. Haha.

  3. I’d be soooooooooooooo bucked up if we got Bledsoe! I’m so mad we didn’t get him in the CP3 trade. I hope somehow we can pry him away from the Clippers. A lineup with Bledsoe/Gordon/Anderson/Davis sounds amazing to me. If we can just pick up a good SF too, we’ll be set for the future. Even with that lineup I think we can make a great push for the playoffs

  4. I think another guy that could fall into this category is Larry Sanders. He provides great defense with blocks and rebounding. I’m not sure how we could get him, though.

  5. This is a big what-if, but what if the Hornets did acquire Bledsoe, and then turned around and signed Andre Iguodala? I dont think he is going to resign with Denver considering how his experience there is going.

    Would a Bledsoe-Gordon-Iggy-Anderson-Davis lineup be the best defensively in the league?

  6. One of my all-time favorite articles here. It was great to read such a well written and well reasoned piece about how we have been successful as a small market team, with such solid ideas about how we can continue that success. (And it’s not just Bledsoe or bust; we have other realistic options.)

    • How do you define “success”? We have the worst record in the West and the 4th worse winning percentage in the whole league.

      • Success is signing Anderson and Lopez. They are free agents we signed who are young and are out performing their contracts while playing every night. Anderson has a PER of 20.8 and Lopez 19.3. These are both top 50 PERs in the league!

        Just because you didn’t see this coming doesn’t mean management didn’t. And it doesn’t make them less successful players or signings.

      • I get they are good players the league weren’t really checking for. However the word success should be reserved for a winning team or at least one that record is trending upwards.

        Both really good signing though no doubt.

        FYI I’m not a big PER guy. I perfer to lean more on watching guys impacts on their teams.

      • So, ThRONe, if Demps had built a team of old guys on expiring contracts who were playing .500 ball and set to be the 8th seed in the West you would call that successful? That seems exceptionally narrowly focussed, as does your “record trending up”.

        I think success is making significant improvements to the roster without over paying. This is just want Dell has done with his two free agent signings from this summer, and they are young players, too. Call it “talent trending up”.

  7. How can you point to Anderson and Lopez to make your arguement? There was serious question whether or not Anderson could be as affective without Howard and nobody wanted Lopez.

    In order to make a legit counterpoint we would have to snag a well sought after free agent. Both Anderson and Lopez has played some really good ball and an you can make an strong case both are out performing their contracts(Robin really isn’t even a question at this point) however neither qualify as highly “sought after”.

    • I understand what you mean.. though I think both have proven their worth, I honestly believe Anderson is on the second best non-rookie contract in the league, after Mayo. Anderson, to me, is very close to an All-Star, and we’re paying him less than 10 a year. I think it’s important to point out that marquee free agents, aka superstars, are more often traded than released into FA. So whether we can attract the top-level guys, idk.. but the Jennings types? I believe we can make a pitch to them.

    • A shrewd move is NOT going after somebody who everyone else is also seeking. That’s easy and usually results in overpaying. I think the point is that we picked up two guys that have outperformed expectations because management was able to better judge their potential. We need to continue to avoid mistakes (Gordon, Aminu, and Henry?) and select winners that either improve our team or have great trade value (Ayon, Anderson, Lopez, Smith, and maybe Vasquez and Roberts). Davis doesn’t count because there was never a more obvious pick….

  8. We will have some solid cap space, however, it will have to be distributed among several players. So chance of hitting the FA jackpot might be low.

    However, some of the players you mentioned could be real possibilities and would definitely help.

    I’ve always really liked Bledsoe. He has always passed the 5 minute watch test. But his bad AST/TO ratio has always made me wonder. Is he a budding starter or simply a guy who is good enough to start, but someone you probably want coming off the bench (e.g., Vasquez, Darren Collison, etc.). Only time will tell.

  9. Michael, wouldn’t getting Bledsoe stop Austin Rivers from being the starting PG of the future that I thought he would be? I really don’t like him at the 2, at least at this point.

    • I could see Rivers finding a role as a Jason Terry type off the bench that gets starter’s minutes and there would be 100 or so minutes to go around for a hypothetical trio of Rivers/Gordon/Bledsoe. We saw Monty play Rivers/Roberts/Vasquez at the same time and it worked in short spurts. Could play that unit for 8 minutes a game, meaning you would have 104 minutes to distribute amongst the three, basically giving them all starters minutes.

      Rivers has played 1000x better off the ball in these last two weeks and Gordon obviously can as well. Bledsoe plays off the ball when paired with CP3 and is electric when Paul penetrates and kicks it to him on the weakside, so I think those three can switch in and out, all play well with the other two and cause other teams fits. Not like our backcourt of Vasquez and Mason doesn’t do that already, but this could be even better

  10. I thought Lopez was on a one year deal with a team option next year? I’m guess I’m wrong, so anybody know the specifcs of this 3 year deal?

    • Year two is partially guaranteed ($500,000). Year 3 is a team option with nothing guaranteed. Great contract by Dell.

      • OK, thanks. And I completely agree with trying to get Bledsoe. If we trade Vasquez and Lopez and draft either Shabazz or Zeller and sign a big name at SF or C, whichever one we don’t draft, I think we’ll be pretty set.

        Also, I think it would be a good idea to try and bring Aminu back cheap. Sign a cheap veteran PG next year and we could be looking at a playoff team.

        Roberts,Miller and Lance Thomas

        Of course, this all relies on the big IF that is Eric Gordon……

      • I wouldn’t get your hopes too high Scott. We’re a long way away from being just mediocre, let alone being a playoff team.

  11. I don’t know if this guy would fit in this article, but how would y’all like MarShon Brooks. He’s only played in 15 games and averages 11.5 minutes a game. I would love to get him.

  12. Staying on the Missing Piece topic, ESPN Insider has up an article about potential trades for Derrick Williams (MIN). They list us as a potential landing spot. I pasted the text in the next paragraph. What do you guys think about this? I say no thanks.

    New Orleans Hornets
    The deal: Williams for Austin Rivers and Jason Smith

    This would essentially be trading Williams for the 2012 version of himself in Rivers, one of the biggest rookie disappointments this season. Why would this make any sense at all? If you throw in Smith, it not only makes the guaranteed money close to a wash for the remainder of the deals but also set things up better for both teams and the players involved. Minnesota would be taking the chance that Rivers will evolve under the tutelage of Adelman and Roy, and the Hornets would clear the way for their highest-paid player, Eric Gordon, to blossom at shooting guard and land a possible upgrade to Al-Farouq Aminu at the 3. I’m still not entirely sure how all the pieces would fit together on this team, but a Greivis Vasquez, Gordon, Williams, Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis starting five doesn’t sound too bad.

  13. Maybe a SG…We could use someone who steps up when someone injured… maybe…:

    News: Belinelli had 19 points to help Chicago defeat Brooklyn on Saturday night. [-]
    Impact: He also hit two 3s and shot 6 for 9 from the field. He’s averaging 17.1 points in seven games as the starting shooting guard.

    Karma is a bitch…(and JJ and Landry and Beli, and all, lol…)

    • Beli has played great recently. I’m happy to see that. I didn’t think he would ever play like this, but right now he’s doing it.

  14. If the Hornets give Andray Blatche a contract, Demps has lost it.

    Why not move for Isaiah Thomas of Sacramento? He was fantastic last year, but taken a step back as the Kings have returned to Tyreke. His minutes have been cut and the Kings roster is full of ball needy guards. The Maloofs are broke- deal Aminu (expiring and does not need the ball) for Thomas and Travis Outlaws’s remaining 2 years at $3million.

    • The kings haven’t returned to Tyreke.. Aaron Brooks is cutting into his minutes as he’s starting at the 1.
      Thomas is solid, but he’s a back up PG in the mould of Barea.. We’ve already got two back up PG’s in Roberts and Vazquez.

      • Basing a player’s usefulness on how the Kings use them is a fool’s errand.

        Even if he only turns out to be a backup, Thomas is better than both Roberts and Vasquez. He was a fantastic last year. With the ownership mess and the dysfunctional talent on board, he could be a cheap pickup.

        From Grantland’s final rookie rankings:

        “Unlike Rubio and Irving, who led the Rookie Rankings from the beginning of the season and never dropped out of the 1 and 2 slots except for injury, Thomas didn’t get his opportunity to shine until later in the season. Once he did, however, he showed why he deserved to be drafted a lot higher than 60th. Right now, Thomas is a brilliant scorer in pick-and-roll situations. He’s so good because he mixes up his moves when he uses ball screens. According to Synergy Sports, Thomas shoots jumpers 51.3 percent of the time when using screens, he attacks the rim 28.3 percent of the time, and he drives away from the screen 14.2 percent of the time. In all three of these situations, Thomas posts PPP numbers that rank no lower than the league’s 85th percentile.”

        “The fact that Thomas can attack in so many different ways not only makes him tough to defend, but it also makes his job easier. While a player with a weak shot might try to drive too often or a player who can’t beat his man might look to pull up for an outside shot, Thomas’s well-rounded skills allow him to make the easiest play in most situations. If the defense gives him the shot, he’ll take it. If they play him tight, Thomas can use his nifty hesitation move and get to the basket. If they overplay him against the screen, he can reject the screen and drive in the other direction. You can’t game-plan against a guy who takes whatever you give him in the pick-and-roll.

        Thomas may be a very efficient scorer, but he could be even better if he learns to commit fewer turnovers. In the half-court, Thomas loses the ball on 14.2 percent of his possessions, according to Synergy Sports. We examined this last week; Thomas hangs on to the basketball too much and often picks up his dribble in bad spots.”

      • That’s great..

        And you know who it sounds like? Barea..

        I don’t recall saying he wasn’t better than Roberts or Vasquez. I recall saying we don’t need a 3rd back up PG because we already have Roberts and Vasquez.

        We need a starting callibre PG, and it’s pretty unlikely that Thomas is that good. He’s a free agent next year though so if we get rid of our other PG’s then i’d be happy to have him in their place. I just don’t want him as well as Robert’s and Vasquez.
        As Mike mac said earlier, no reason to have Robert, Vasquez, Rivers and Bledsoe. Same goes for Thomas.

      • Also, I don’t think Thomas is 3 mil better than either Vasquez or Roberts. While he’s solid, would you rather effectively pay him 4.5 mil (+ outlaws contract) next year or would you rather continue to pay Vasquez the min to be our backup?

      • “I don’t think player x is very good.”

        “Here is an article using evidence from real games how player x is one of the best in the league at this particular skillset.”

        “That’s great that you have data points. But I still don’t believe that player x is particularly good.”


        As for the pg logjam, that’s just silly. If the players they have were any good, then yes I see your point. But Roberts and Vasquez are backups at best. Thomas may be as well, but he’s still better than either guy.

        An elite PnR pg is worth the $4million per that he and Outlaw cost combined this year and next.

      • Thomas to Barea is a fairly good comparison.

        Both players have good value as part time starters or off the bench, depending on the situation.

        One odd, Achilles heel type, fact about Thomas is that he has an extremely poor AST/TO ratio, in addition to high TOs overall, whcih is very odd for a player who is below 6 feet.

        Many other aspects of his game on offense are, however, pretty solid.

        And comparing him to Barea doesn’t mean he’s bad. Barea is a solid player and was a rotation player on a championship team.

  15. If we trade Amino and Jason Smith for Grant Hil, Eric Bledsoe and Trey Thompkins i think this can help us in the SF and get our loved Bledsoe.

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