To be honest, losing Chris Paul might be not a bad thing after all. If Eric Gordon can stay healthy, they have a big-time scorer and shooting guard of the future, and they have two lottery picks this season. After finishing 21-45, the Hornets are in-line to receive a top five pick and, with Minnesota’s first round pick, a top ten pick. But rebuilding this team won’t be easy.
This team struggled to score points, managing only 89.6 ppg (29th in the league), but their defense was stellar, giving up only 93.4 ppg (8th in the league). Head coach Monty Williams did a very good job with this team despite their record. Gordon played in only nine games this season but he averaged 20.6 ppg. If they can sign him to a long-term deal that would be huge, if not, I think Xavier Henry will be the shooting guard. Jarrett Jack and Greivis Vasquez split time at the point (Jack got the majority of the minutes) and both gave solid production and their contracts are not outrageous (Jack is making $5.4 mil and Vasquez 1.1 mil). I think Emeka Okafor is extremely overpaid ($13.4 mil) for the production that he doesn’t give the Hornets (9 ppg and 8 rpg). Chris Kaman is an unrestricted free agent and gave the Hornets some solid production (13 and 7.7 in 30 mpg), but he was paid $12.7 mil last season and I don’t feel the Hornets should re-sign him if he wants anything near that amount. If you want to know more about the Hornets contract situation just click here.
As I mentioned earlier, Kaman is an unrestricted free agent, but so is Carl Landry and Marco Belinelli. The Hornets have a total of $36,611,200 under contract for next season if they sign Gordon to a $5.1 mil qualifying offer and guarantee Gustavo Ayon’s $1.5 mil contract. If the salary cap stays at $60,000,000 for next season, the Hornets would have $23,388,800 to spend on draft picks, free agents, and re-signing players.
Despite the positive things I said in the above paragraphs, I don’t think Jack is the long-term solution at point guard, but maybe Vasquez is? I am not high on Trevor Ariza or Al-Farouq Aminu. Okafor is untradeable, unless you can trade him to a contender for a young player who needs a change of scenery.
In all reality, here is what the Hornets have: one (starting/backup?) point guard (Vasquez), two shooting guards (Gordon and Henry), two backup small forwards (Aminu and Ariza), a backup power forward (if they re-sign Landry), and one overpaid center (Okafor).
So what should they do?
They have two lottery picks. They need to hit on these two lottery picks or, at the very least, one of these picks need to become a star. Of course we don’t know what number pick they are going to get, but we are going to act like one pick will be a top five pick and the other will be between picks 6-10. They should focus on either a small forward or a center. If they want a small forward, they should look no further than North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes. I understand that Barnes struggled in the NCAA tournament, but there is no denying the kid’s potential and talent. His offense is better than Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Hornets need offense more than defense right now. Of course there is always the “rookie learning-curve”, but I think Barnes is the better long-term fit and player for this team. Or they could pick a player who I think is overrated, but has serious potential. That player would be Connecticut’s Andre Drummond. Drummond was a massive under-achiever in his freshman season at UConn. I still think he has a lot of promise, but he might turn out to be the next “Emeka Okafor”.
With their second lottery pick, they should look to upgrade the point guard or power forward spot. If Drummond is still available when they pick again, I think taking Drummond would be a good move. But if Drummond isn’t available I could see the Hornets taking North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall or North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller. Marshall is a pure point guard with a scoring ability that is a few years behind his passing skills. He is a solid defender with good size. He would be the long-term solution at point guard. If they don’t go the point guard route, drafting Zeller would be just as good. Zeller has size (7 ft) and could play either the power forward or center position. He can block shots and has a nice post game. I like Zeller a bit more than Marshall and drafting two North Carolina guys will build some team chemistry.
You can’t fill all your needs through the draft. Free agency will play a pivotal part in improving this team and they will have some money to spend. Let’s say their starting lineup is Vasquez, Gordon, Barnes, Zeller, and Okafor. Their bench is Jack, Ariza, Aminu, Henry, Jason Smith, and Gustavo Ayon. Improving their bench should be their main focus. Here are some possible targets for the Hornets: Michael Beasley (SF), Kris Humphries (PF), C.J. Miles (SF), Joel Przybilla (C), John Lucas III (PG), and Robin Lopez *RFA* (C).
I could see the Hornets re-signing Kaman and Landry if the price is reasonable, but they need to focus on bringing in players who can score and make this team better.
June 28th can’t come soon enough in the “Big Easy.”
- Hornets hurt Rockets’ playoff hopes, 105-99 in OT (newsok.com)
- Hornets deal blow to Rockets’ playoff chances (scores.espn.go.com)