Tag: New Orleans Hornets

Draft Hornets Basketball

The Inbounds: A Hive In Construction; How to Protect Anthony Davis With Robin Lopez


Hang on to your monitors, I’m going to get through the rest of this column without mentioning the busted CP3-to-the-Lakers trade. You ready? Break!

When the Hornets agreed to terms with the Suns and Wolves in a three-way trade Sunday night, it wasn’t anything that was going to be bust over Ichiro Hamel’s new deal A-Rod breaking his hand. It was a minor deal. But it was yet another example of what has become the modus operandi of Dell Demps this offseason. It’s an understated move with positional variability which sacrifices neither cap space or crucial assets.

Here’s how quickly these things shift. Had the Suns just recommitted the money to Robin Lopez, who has never established himself as the center Phoenix needs, but has consistently scraped the ceiling of legitimacy enough to keep people interested, it probably would have been panned. Now, the Hornets reached good value on Lopez at three-years, $15 million according to Yahoo Sports, but part of that value is inherently due to what a legit center means for New Orleans, versus what it means for Phoenix.

The Suns, with Marcin Gortat, didn’t need to overpay for Lopez. (After all, they’d already overpaid for Michael Beasley, badum-ching.) They needed a little extra money going forward and to dump Hakim Warrick’s deal. It would have been a better move had they not already gone on a spending spree to try and remake the team immediately after Steve Nash’s departure and been more patient, but moving dead money long-term for short-term dead money (Brad Miller’s retired contract) isn’t a bad thing. It’s a good thing.

But the Hornets? They needed Lopez. They needed a center, and they needed to not overpay for a center. Lopez gives them everything they need. He’s a fill-in, a decent starter for a lottery team, a player who could surprise everyone and make the leap but if he doesn’t, you’re not drowning at that position. Long-term, there have to be upgrades at every spot but shooting guard and power forward for the Hornets. And that’s fine. They’ve got time. But the biggest key to next season for the Hornets is cohesiveness and the development of Anthony Davis.

Since the Hornets liquidated Emeka Okafor along with Trevor Ariza in the deal to clear cap space in a move for buyout-able Rashard Lewis, there has been talk about what it means for Davis’ positional future. Even in an NBA that is hurtling towards positional liquidity like the big-boned kid off the diving board, you can’t simply expect any player to be any position. They still have to have the ability to succeed at any given position’s set of requirements. In the case of center, Davis fails several smell tests. He’s incredibly long, but razor thin, it’s going to take years for his frame to catch up with his length, and there’s no guarantee that will happen at all, though muscle training will only make him more versatile and dangerous. I like to put this in perspective by saying that Michael Kidd Gilchrist has a substantial weight advantage on Davis. Think about that.

This isn’t to question Davis’ ability to succeed, far from it. We’re on the verge of seeing one of the truly most unique and impactful defensive players of the past ten years make his debut, I believe, and Davis’ talents can make up fora great many physical mass issues. But it’s crucial that the Hornets put him in a position to succeed right away, and depending on him to handle guys with considerably more muscle weight. It’s fine to speak to the lack of talent at the center position, but if you give a big guy the ball in the post with someone he can slam his shoulder into and create separation, there’s going to be scoring. More importantly, though, there’s going to be damage to the smaller player as the impact alone will wear on and injure a player like Davis having to play down in position to that degree.

It’s best put this way. The Lopez move, along with re-signing Jason Smith, adding Ryan Anderson and throwing in Hakim Warrick means that Davis won’t be slotted at the five, and will be best placed in a position to use his singular talents, as I always felt were best expressed here:


With Davis as unstoppable pterodactyl, there are a great many things Monty Williams can employ with Lopez along. While the rest of the league is gearing small-ball line-ups, the Hornets can throw out a big lineup with Ryan Anderson, Davis, and Lopez that doesn’t surrender much in the way of pick-and-roll containment or perimeter length. Anderson’s defense needs help defenders behind him, and Lopez will require double-team help if faced against a post player who can dribble and chew gum at the same time, and absolutely, there will be times when Davis is just a rookie getting schooled.

But it puts Davis in the best position to succeed.

It’s not that Davis can’t spend time at the five. He should. It’ll be good for him to learn about post position in the NBA, challenging guys on-ball with frame advantages that prevent him from being able to block it, and will allow him to give weak-side help off that previously-mentioned weak center class, where he should be electric. But it’s important that Davis not be faced with covering for the roster issues of a team in a rebuild. The Hornets will have positional weakness, but they have to protect Davis from those. Some tough love is good for him. Breaking his spirit and body with a set of positional demands that put too much physical and emotional strain on him is not a good plan for development.

The Hornets will still run plenty of small-ball lineups. Anderson and Davis should see substantial time on the floor together, and should a center come available wherever the Hornets draft next year, you have to imagine they’ll be examining that player, along with the best available point guard (Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon on the same team is a whole other boondoggle). You can expect to see Davis and Warrick, Davis and Smith, Anderson and Smith, and a more traditional Anderson and Lopez, which gives them an opening night rotation down low if Davis isn’t ready yet. But Lopez is going to get the job done next to Davis, and on the list of players who you look at and think they may be able to take a leap in production, he’s on there. He could wind up being a steal for the Hornets. A hidden element in the NBA as of late has been the development timelines at different positions. Point guards blossom early, wings sometime around 24 to 25, and bigs closer to 27. Lopez will be 26 in the last year of his deal, and may be giving the team an idea of what he can do. He fits both as a place-holder and a possible long-term investment.

Like I said, subtle, quiet, and important, the Dell Demps offseason.

Now about where the Hornets would be if Stern hadn’t blocked that trade…

Hornets match Eric Gordon’s offer sheet on Saturday

Eric Gordon

Update 6:16 p.m.: The Hornets officially matched the offer this afternoon. Gordon is under contract to the New Orleans Hornets for four years. Damage control time!

The Hornets weren’t kidding around. They weren’t bluffing, joshing, yanking anyone’s chain or pulling anyone’s leg. They were always serious, and on Saturday, they’re making it real. They’re matching the Suns’ offer sheet for Gordon.

From the Times Picayune:

Although Eric Gordon proceeded with his exit plan after expressing his desire to play for the Phoenix Suns, the Hornets are expected to match the Suns’ four-year, $58 million offer sheet today to retain him, sources confirmed.

Gordon signed the Suns’ offer sheet Wednesday and the Hornets had three days to match. By using their entire 72-hour allotted time, they prevented the Suns from pursuing other players in free agency because Phoenix does not have enough salary-cap space to accommodate Gordon and another addition.

via New Orleans Hornets expected to match Phoenix Suns’ offer for Eric Gordon today | NOLA.com.

This is not brain surgery. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure this out. Something else involving a complex and high-level intelligence necessary for a profession. Eric Gordon is a top-five shooting guard in this league (which may say more about the quality of shooting guards in this league, but he’s still very good), and the Hornets traded Chris Paul for him, among other things. The Hornets believe he is the star of their future next to Anthony Davis, and have no intention of letting him walk just because he decided to pout on the front lawn for a few days about not getting to go where he wanted.

His heart may be in Phoenix, but his shoe laces will be in New Orleans. Gordon’s a professional, and in all likelihood there will be no problems, especially after Gordon gets a chance to see how good Anthony Davis is. The Hornets have a good plan in place, and that’s going to lead to wins. And wins convince guys to stay more than anything.

So Gordon gets re-signed, gets his money, the Hornets get their star. If he really wants to make a fuss, then he can, and Demps and Williams might facilitate a trade. But that doesn’t seem like who Eric Gordon is. As it stands, this works out for everyone, despite Gordon’s disappointment.

Also, pretty hilarious that the Hornets intentionally waited to punish the Suns for signing their guy to an offer sheet. Gotta love the chess match.

Report: Hornets in talks for sign-and-trade for Ryan Anderson

Ryan Anderson

This is unexpected.

Yahoo Sports reports that restricted free agent Ryan Anderson will not re-sign with the Magic and will be moved in a sign-and-trade. Shortly thereafter, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the Hornets are in talks with the Magic for a sign-and-trade of the stretch four.

The news comes as a shocker with huge implications. It was assumed that Anderson would be re-signed as the face of the future of the Magic, after a year in which he was very much a candidate for Most Improved Player. He shot the lights out in an expanded role and continued his rebounding ways. The Hornets could look to pair him with No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Davis in a small-ball lineup that would spread the floor for Davis to work in the pick and roll and attack the basket.

The Hornets’ biggest problem last year was making shots and Anderson can score, defend, and rebound. He averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds per 36 last season for the Magic, shooting 39 percent from the arc. He’s an all-around player who can’t create on his own but can punish teams with his range and versatility and attacks the glass all the same.

For the Magic, the first words that come to mind are “Dwight Howard.” Any move like this that indicates a rebuilding effort and a reshaping of the roster would lean towards the Magic prepping for a trade. Ken Berger at CBSSports.com reports the Nets are trying to package three first-rounders to send to Orlando. That would require a third team wanting to give up a first-rounder to overpay Brook Lopez, but isn’t inconceivable.

UPDATE 4:17 p.m.: Surprisingly, word out of Orlando is that this is not a precursor to a Howard trade. The Anderson deal is a 4-year, $36 million sign-and-trade according to Yahoo Sports. CBSSports.com reports Gustavo Ayon is a centerpiece being sent to Orlando, which shows you how much of a cash dump this is, despite Ayon’s upside.

The Wizards and a future of risk

Wizards uniform, logo

You know what I’d be angling for, were I an NBA GM?

A boat. Because those guys make a lot of money and I want a boat.

I’d also be angling for the Washington Wizards’ 2014 and 2015 first rounders.

Getting future firsts is difficult in the NBA. NBA front offices take a lot of flak for their decisions, but in general, they understand that you never know what can happen and you want to hold onto those things. Most teams have a pretty good sense of what the future holds. But the Wizards? They seem like they understand what the future holds, but they’re just not considerably concerned with it. As long as they win now, that’s what matters.

The Wizards’ trade of Rashard Lewis and his buyout-able contract to clear cap space to New Orleans for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza wasn’t a horrible move. There have been considerably worse trades made over the course of the past five years by other teams, and a few by the Wizards. A lot of it comes down to this: if you’re going to get nothing for Lewis, and then have to overpay with long-term contracts for veterans to move forward as a franchise, why not get something for Lewis and get contracts which have a shorter (but not expiring) shelf-life?

It’s a reasonable approach. It doesn’t mean that they can’t draft the best player available with the third pick. It doesn’t mean that they can’t move forward with the remaining young players that they have. It just means they didn’t give out money to veterans who would have wanted five-year deals. It does, however, mean that they are in win-now-while-building-for-the-future mode. That’s a popular approach right now. The Denver Nuggets are a great example of that. They can compete right now, make the playoffs, excel, but they’re also set to make a big move if one comes available. The Houston Rockets are right below them in that regard. So that’s kind of the approach. “Get better for the future while also getting the fanbase to appreciate you not being terrible.” That doesn’t sound so bad, right?

The problem is that the Nuggets have affixed themselves with players of high value and low-cost with younger assets on cheap deals while the Wizards have gone after veterans on big money with more miles on them. This isn’t building an exciting team that can also swing for the fences. It’s building a tolerable team that is just waiting to die. It’s a mix somewhere between the 2010 Bobcats and the 2012 Sixers.

There are any number of risks here, my biggest fears hidden in the idea that the rookie they draft this year doesn’t need heavy minutes. It’s true that rookies don’t play 40 minutes a night. There’s always room. But consider the situation. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Thomas Robinson would be entering into a situation where a coach who just made it out of the interim tag is coaching for his job, and has the option of playing a veteran who knows what he’s doing and knows how to win 30-35 minutes a night or splitting those minutes with a rookie who more than likely is going to need quite a bit of development. (If Bradley Beal falls to them, everything works out great and there are puppies and rainbows. This is a pretty likely scenario.).  In that case you’re risking limiting the kid’s confidence and hurting his development, all because you know that Trevor Ariza isn’t going to get completely lost chasing his guy off the backscreen or helping on the pick and roll recovery.

So that’s not a great scenario. But the Wizards feel like they need to win now. That they have to throw the fans a bone. And it’s true you have to get out of the cycle of losing and change the culture. But you do that by drafting quality players. I’m even fine with the Nene acquisition, that gives them the old guy to be a rock for this team. Throw in some low-minute veterans on affordable contracts.

But instead?

The Wizards are more than likely pleased that the contract for Okafor and Ariza expire just as John Wall is coming up for an extension. But consider that final year. Assuming neither player opts out (and  if they do, that’s actually worse, because now you’re already committed to the win now concept but just lost one of your valued veterans — Okafor has an Early Termination Option and Ariza a Player Option for 2013-2014), they’ll be going into that season with a 28-year-old Ariza, and a 31-year-old Okafor and Nene. If things go as planned, they won’t have a very good pick in the 2013 draft, because they’ll have improved enough to either escape the lottery or be at the very far reaches of it.

So you enter the final year of Ariza and Okafor’s deals trying to convince John Wall after having either made the playoffs and been vanquished in the first round under any conceivable matchup (does that team beat the Bulls without Derrick Rose, even?), or having won 35 games but barely missed the playoffs. You’re trying to convince John Wall to sign the extension (which he inevitably will, either during the season or in restricted free agency; guys don’t leave off their rookie years, just doesn’t happen). And so that’s when that team either has to sell out to try and make a big jump, or, if they haven’t really accomplished anything or if they get off to a bad start because of the way the team is constructed, they have to blow it up, tanking out.

So then that next year holds even more promise for a return to the high lottery as Nene turns 32 before the start of the season.

As long as you don’t trade them a player that makes them so considerably better that they improve to the point of avoiding that situation? You could wind up with quite the asset by obtaining a draft pick from Washington in either year.

These are a lot of ifs and contingencies. The Wizards could also flip Okafor with an ETO next year for a nice package or prospect. They could move some combination of players. John Wall could make the leap. But it shows you the danger of moving in this direction. The Wizards want to win now. But they need to be careful to make sure that they realize that if this thing starts to turn south, they need to bail for the friendly waters off Rebuild Island. The only sure way to develop into a respectable team long-term is through the lottery, to keep being terrible until you get the right combination of players to change things organically. The Wizards are trying to inject a techno-virus to change everything.

We’ll have to see if the patient survives the shock to the system.

Report: Hornets will match any offer for Eric Gordon

New Orleans Hornets v Phoenix Suns

One of the ways people found to discredit the Hornets’ trade of Chris Paul to the Clippers (as opposed to trading him to the Lakers for three old guys, one of whom is a space cadet) was the question of Eric Gordon’s free agency. Either he wasn’t good enough as a return trade piece, or if he was, the Hornets wouldn’t be able to keep him in restricted free agency. Which is a little nuts.

First off, players, especially stars, almost always re-sign with their team coming off their rookie contract. The money and years is pivotal for establishing the raise structure and financial security. It’s just what’s done. It’s exceptionally rare that a quality player with significant money on the table walks away from the extra year and raise structure he gets from re-signing.

Second, the Hornets have the ability to match in restricted free agency. From there it just comes down to whether his injury history indicates that there would be a reason not to match. The New Orleans Times Picayune reports that that amount is apparently “more money than anything, ever” and that anything below that, the Hornets are matching and keeping the shooting guard.

But all indications point toward the Hornets making a concerted effort to re-sign their restricted free agent, shooting guard Eric Gordon.

New Orleans appears ready to match any offer Gordon might get on the open market, even if means extending him a maximum-money contract of five years worth $80 million.

via Trade gives New Orleans Hornets salary cap room for free-agent shopping | NOLA.com.

Honestly, given his injury history and everyone’s assurance that the Hornets will match, especially after clearing off that dead weight from their cap in the trade with Washington (thanks, Wiz! Enjoy Trevor Ariza’s 3-point percentage!), it’s likely that the Hornets get a break on him. They may not have to put the full max down for him. If so, great. If not, they’ve got a star shooting guard to pair with Anthony Davis and whoever they get with the No. 10.

That’s a foundation you can build on. This isn’t rocket science. It’s nice to talk about Indiana or whatever, but the most likely scenario in all circumstances is Gordon playing in the green and gold next year. He’s not going anywhere.