The NBA Draft is set for Thursday night and it may be your last bit of basketball for awhile. The league and player association are meeting to flesh out a new collective bargaining agreement, what with the old one set to expire June 30.
That said, it’s nice sometimes to get a view from the outside of what folks expect and want out of the Hornets. Sometimes we – and by we, I mean writers – are too close to the subjects and need to pull back some.
So that’s why we brought in Ryan Schwan of the blog Hornets 24/7. If you follow the Hornets and don’t go to the website he’s a part of, you’re missing out. It’s one of the better ones in the area devoted to the Hornets. They send out a gaggle of guys to cover games and events and are on top of transactions throughout the year.
Here’s a brief bio for Schwan:
“Ryan Schwan writes for the blog Hornets247.com, which is part of ESPN's Truehoop Network. He has covered the Hornets since 2008 and has contributed to ESPN.com, Yahoo.com and Slam Magazine. He loves advanced stats, thinks trading Chris Paul would be sacrilege, and will fix you with a cold glare if you mention Baron Davis in his presence.”
Now let’s fix our attention to the following Q & A. Schwan gives some dandy answers to our dandy questions.
WWLTV.com: The Hornets have only one pick this year, No 45 in the second round. You can get good value in the second round, but is this too deep to get a true contributor?
RYAN SCHWAN: There are usually a half-dozen or so successful selections in the second round of the NBA draft, and the Hornets experienced a rare success just a couple years ago with the selection of Marcus Thornton. However, the second round in the NBA is anything but a sure thing. According to my research, since 1984, the 45th pick has yielded seven players who have played more than a handful of minutes in the NBA, which means it's more likely this pick will do nothing for the Hornets than produce a contributor.
Weirdly, the 45th pick has a better track record at producing usable NBA talent than any other pick in the second round. So the Hornets at least have a better chance of getting a contributor than anyone else in the second round . . . unless you believe in the law of averages. Let's keep with the happy thoughts . . .
WWLTV.com: Speaking of needs, which we haven’t yet, let’s talk about needs. What do you see as the hole(s) the Hornets need to fill?
SCHWAN: As of right now, the Hornets only have five players under contract, and they need depth everywhere but at point guard. Personally, I'd like to see them grab a shooting guard or small forward, since the Hornets got the least amount of production from those positions last year, but if there's a big man available that has a prayer of contributing, they shouldn't hesitate in snapping him up. Tall people are rare.
WWLTV.COM: The Hornets did have a first-round pick, but traded it to Portland for point guard Jerryd Bayless…who they traded to Toronto along with Peja Stojakovic for Jarrett Jack and David Andersen (and Marcus Banks, who never dressed). Looking back, was this a good trade in your eyes?
SCHWAN: Most of the scouts and draft experts have declared this to be a very poor draft. The 19th pick in the draft pans out with a rotation player about 40% of the time and a good to great player 8% of the time. Me? I'd take a fringe starter in Jarrett Jack (which is what the trades boil down to at this point) for a 40% chance at someone who could end up like Jarrett Jack.
WWLTV.COM: The Hornets have two players they can issue qualifying offers to (Jason Smith and Marco Belinelli), two more with player options (David West and Aaron Gray) and another with a team option (Andersen). How do you expect it to play out with all five of these guys?
SCHWAN: I expect the team to not exercise their option on Andersen, whom they used extremely sparingly last year. He's not worth more than the veteran's minimum, and he's slated to make two and a half times that. I don't expect Jason Smith to receive a Qualifying offer either, for much the same reason. The league specifies his qualifying offer would need to be about $3 million and he's could probably be brought back much cheaper that that if the Hornets still want him on the roster.
I expect Aaron Gray to opt out of his player option and become a free agent. He played well enough in the playoffs that someone will offer him more than the near-minimum contract he's being paid right now. Usable backup centers don't grow on trees. He can get paid more.
David West also falls into the same category as Aaron Gray. He may have suffered a season ending injury, but his player option is for $7.5 million. A player capable of putting up 20 points and 8 rebounds a game generally makes about 50% more than that. Even with him being on the wrong side of 30 and concerns about his injury, there is no way he won't get a contract averaging more than $7.5 million a year from some team. Even if something shocking happens and he can't get an offer for more than $7.5, if he even signs for a 2-year $12 million deal, he's still guaranteed himself more money than he's guaranteed now.
The last player, Marco Belinelli, may be a 50-50 proposition. His qualifying offer of $3 million is probably about what he'd be worth on the open market, so it would make sense to extend that offer to him. However, GM Dell Demps may value having that extra $3 million in cap room to sign or trade for a more expensive and productive player. What happens with Belli over the next nine days interests me greatly.
WWLTV.COM: From a fan’s perspective, are the Hornets doing enough to keep the community’s interest in regard to on-the-court moves?
SCHWAN: They are trying, but they are facing an up-hill battle right now. There's a looming lockout, and it's also somewhat difficult to get people excited for a draft where their team only gets a 45th pick. I will say this, however, "Dealer" Dell Demps, from the moment he took over in New Orleans, has never hesitated to pull the trigger and he's consistently been willing to spend future assets to improve the team right now and make it appealing to Chris Paul in the long run. Somehow, I don't expect Draft night to go by without Demps making some sort of move - either to acquire one of the "young veterans" he covets so much - or to simply move up in the draft and grab a player who fits his philosophy of hard work and defense first.