This morning, excellent basketball writer Rob Mahoney published a thought-provoking piece on the New York Times’ NBA blog, Off the Dribble, exploring a potential plan for the Hornets. The strategy that he presents for the team to consider is geared towards, not so surprisingly, convincing Chris Paul to remain in New Orleans beyond next season, when he is able to opt out of the final year of his contract. His idea, in a nutshell, is to basically wipe the entire roster clean and subsequently give Paul the keys to reconstruct the roster exactly as he chooses. Obviously, there is a ton of risk involved, and a new owner would be a necessity before this idea could begin to take shape, but I believe that it may be the best option for the Hornets. After the jump, I explain how it would be possible, and why it could be in the team’s best interest to pursue this course of action.
The New Orleans Hornets’ 2011 season kicks off Wednesday night in the New Orleans Arena as the team takes on last year’s #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Chicago Bulls. The CP3-led Hornets will try to rebound this season after suffering a first round playoff defeat by the Los Angeles Lakers in six games. The Bulls, on the other hand, are coming off an Eastern Conference Championship defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat, and are poised to make another run at a championship behind last season’s regular season MVP, Derrick Rose.
…What’s that? There’s a lockout, you say? Well, that’s one hell of a buzzkill. I already wrote a game preview and everything! I may as well share it with you guys, right? Without further adieu, let’s take a look at the keys to tomorrow night’s fictitious season opener.
As a result of the lockout eating up a large portion of what is normally the NFL’s free agency period, the 2011 free agent class was sent into total chaos. Events that normally take months to unfold started happening in days, resulting in transactions that may not have unfolded during a regular offseason. While teams aren’t completely done bringing in new faces or re-signing familiar ones, we are now at the point where we can take a step back and begin to examine all of the transactions that the Saints have made since the end of the 2010 NFL season. The following is a breakdown by position group which aims to evaluate how good of a job New Orleans has done improving its roster throughout the offseason. The only position not included is quarterback, since no significant moves were made at that position (we have Brees, other teams don’t, end of story). As always, please feel free to post your own thoughts on the matter in the comments section below!
Well, it didn’t take long for the Saints to find someone to replace Reggie Bush.
A sad, sad day for Saints fans, as Reggie Bush has been traded to the Dolphins. You can say a lot of things about Reggie when reflecting on his tenure here in New Orleans.
Looking for all of the Saints’ 2011 offseason transactions? Look no further, as we at HoopDat aim to provide a continuously updating list of New Orleans’ free agent additions, re-signings, rookie signings, and departures throughout this process.
The Hornets decided this afternoon to pick up SG Marco Belinelli’s $3.38 million qualifying offer for next season. In a nutshell, this means that any other NBA team is allowed to make Beli a contract offer, but the Hornets can match any proposal made which would require him to return to New Orleans. If no other team offers him a new deal, he will play out next season for the amount of the qualifying offer, and then become an unrestricted free agent. Conversely, New Orleans made the decision not to exercise PF Jason Smith’s qualifying offer of $3.14 million, which will make him an unrestricted free agent immediately (and by immediately, I mean as soon as the lockout ends).
I can’t say this decision was unexpected, but it was by no means a sure thing which still makes it pretty difficult to stomach. Hornets’ forward David West has decided that the smartest decision for him is to opt out of the $7.5 million guaranteed to him for next season and see what he can get in free agency. Coming off of ACL surgery, this is somewhat of a risk on his part, but I don’t think it is as big of a risk as some are making it seem, and that is why I understand the move from his perspective. Even if no new team ends up offering him a long-term deal because of the injury, one of two things will happen. Either A) he signs a short-term deal worth, at worst, slightly less than he is making now (I’m thinking around 2 years/$12 million range) or B) the Hornets re-sign him for an extended deal that no other team would touch due to the injury. Either way, the potential reward greatly outweighs any risks associated with opting out in my opinion, so this really shouldn’t come as a big shock to anyone.
First of all, all my thoughts and prayers go out to David West right now. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time for him, as he was a couple months away from cashing in on his last big long-term contract (hopefully with the Hornets). Now, he’ll have to seriously wonder what he can get on the open market recovering from an injury like this. I feel for him; I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, not even Kobe.
From a basketball standpoint – the brutal reality is that this team was going to have a tough time making it out of the first round as it was. Now, it’s going to be close to impossible. Even if Carl Landry can come close to replacing West’s point totals offensively, he won’t be as efficient, doesn’t rebound as well, isn’t quite as good on defense, and by moving into the starting lineup, he leaves the Hornets with Jason Smith as the backup PF. Bad news all around. I can’t wait to see Landry try to defend Dirk/Gasol/Duncan in the paint in a seven game series. Ugh.
UPDATE: As Rohan from At The Hive points out, it might make sense to make Jason Smith the starter, and quite honestly, I completely agree. Jason Smith is a better rebounder and has a better jumpshot than Landry, but isn’t as good in almost every other aspect. Smith can be an asset when playing with CP3 and the rest of the starters, but coming off the bench, he is almost useless. Therefore, why not give Smith about 15 minutes per game, all played with CP3, and then give Landry the other 30 minutes or so? Landry can create his own shot in the post, so he doesn’t need to play with the starters to be effective. Additionally, he can feast on other second string PFs, which was the original hope when the Hornets first acquired him. The point here is that, although there is no replacing David West, the Hornets don’t suddenly become a totally inept NBA team without him.
If you’re a Hornets fan desperately looking for a silver lining, there may actually be one. If I’m David West, I can’t imagine that I’d opt out of my 2011-12 player option for $7.5 million now. I seriously doubt any team will offer a bank-breaking long-term deal to a guy with one healthy ACL, even a player as good as West. Therefore, I expect West to remain a Hornet next season. There’s even a chance that he could negotiate an extension with the Hornets if he feels the urge to guarantee financial security. Granted, this is purely speculation on my part, but I’d say that the odds are better than 50/50 that at the very least, West picks up the last year of his deal to re-establish his market value as a Hornet next season.
That’s my quick take after learning about the severity of the injury just 15 minutes ago. Feel free to share any comments, questions or concerns that you may have in the comments section below.