Are you a small market franchise that just lost the best player in franchise istory? Trying to understand how to move on after losing the best player to ever don your laundry? Are you the New Orleans Hornets?
Then have no fear! I’m here to show you the road to redemption in five easy steps. You, yes you can be back in the playoffs and hunting a title within three seasons. All you have to do is follow my easy recipe and send $49.99 to P.O. Box… what’s that? You need the money to cover the massive deficiency in sold tickets you’re going to suffer through now? OK, how about I drop some knowledge for free?
Step 1: Take a deep breath. OK, so the league just pushed you into trading the best player you’ve ever had for a good young player and a bunch of flotsam (no offense, promising young wing Al-Farouq Aminu). You may be tempted to start throwing some money out to fill the roster and try and compete. You may want to see if you can move a player for more. But take a step back. This is not the time for rash decisions. It’s like a breakup. You need to see if you can live on your own. Take your time and see what you do and don’t want from this relationship with the new players. Rushing into decisions maks a bad situation worse. Rebound relationships are bad, unless it’s actually rebounding, but even then, not like that’s going to save you.
Step 2: Determine what identity you want… two years from now. Don’t look at the team you have and try and determine what the goal is, because that’s like looking at a pile of wood and trying to figure out what kind of cabinets you’re going to get. Build the house first. But have in mind that you do want nice cabinets and you need to build the kitchen accordingly. A fast team? A slow team? A balanced team? Dangerous offense? Grind-it-out defense? Young and athletic? Veteran and experienced (hint: you don’t want to go that route)? Identify what you think makes a winner and gear your team in that direction.
Step 3: Clean the books no matter the win cost. Emeka Okafor has to go. Jarrett Jack has to go. There is no value to any player with a contract of any size. They have to go at some point. Bring in a D-Leaguer if you have to. Bring in whoever you need. But everything must go. You want a clean slate. Your coach will hate it, but this is part of it. There can be no big deals, no wasteful spending. You’re going to be terrible you might as well get the value for it. e
Step 4: The Draft is the key. The Hornets have a chance at two top-ten picks in the best draft class since 2003. They can remake their team if they get a top 3 pick and a pick between 7 and 12. There is virtually no chance the Wolves do better than that. Take the best player available that fits with the plan from Step 2. Want defense? Get Anthony Davis. Think you need a lockdown wing? MKG. Want a small forward who can fill it up? Harrison Barnes. Think center is the most important position? Draft Andre Drummond and then send him to the D-League for three years to lift weights. This draft class is your salvation. Combine it with Gordon and go forward.
Step 5: Let it grow organically. Don’t rush things. Sam Presti had plenty of opportunities to go after big name, big price free agents and trade assets, but he didn’t do it. He bided his time until his move was just right, acquiring the big man the Thunder thought they needed, then they swung. They caught Dirk on a bad year. But by not running into big contracts for veterans early to “get them over the hump,” they have the ability to re-sign all their young stud players and continue to build a supporting system. That’s how it’s done.
There’s a future in New Orleans. You just have to go out and get it.