State of the Cap: New Orleans Hornets
By Mike Misek
2010/11 New Orleans Hornets Payroll: $73 million
2010/11 NBA Salary Cap: $56.1 million
Roughly: $16.9 million over cap
Peja Stojakovic - ETO for $14.3 million
Darius Songaila - Player Option for $4.1 million
Sean Marks - Unrestricted Free Agent
Ike Diogu - Unrestricted Free Agent
Aaron Gray - Qualifying Offer for $1.3 million
Draft Pick - 11th overall pick
The Good: For the first time since the Hornets drafted Chris Paul, they came away from a draft with a player who was capable of getting on the floor and producing. Actually, they came away with two. It is really difficult for an organization operating with a tight budget to have so little to show from so many picks. The slide of the past two years has been largely due to the team having to fill holes in free agency because their picks could not give them anything. Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton broke that trend, and if those kind of picks are signs of what is to come, New Orleans should be able to start moving their way back into the Western elite mix.
The Bad: Barring an unforeseen occurrence where Peja Stojakovic or Darius Songaila opt out of their deal, New Orleans will enter the free agent season $19 million over the salary cap and, more importantly, $8 million over the luxury tax threshold. The Hornets moved heaven and earth in order to get under the tax this past season, but Jeff Bower will not be able to simply cost cut by dealing the back half of the roster to do so this time around. Whatever move(s) the team makes to get in line with its budget are going to be costly (talent wise) and subject to an army of second guessers.
The Future: As a starter when Chris Paul was sidelined, Darren Collison averaged 19 points and 9 assists per game. He was not Chris Paul, but he certainly looked more than capable of starting for someone. It raises and interesting situation. The Hornets new ownership is not likely to stand by and simply pay the luxury tax. Could the Hornets package Darren Collison and one or two of their many undesirable contracts to a team who is lacking a point guard but possessing cap space? New York, has become the team furthest under the cap and more than anyone else, needs a pass first point to have any chance to make D’Antoni’s system work properly. If the Knicks whiff on the big ticket free agents, would bringing in Darren Collison and absorbing the final year of Peja Stojakovic’s contract while keeping financial flexibility for 2011 be more attractive than some of the other alternative plans? Nothing is going to come easy for New Orleans this summer, but the team is paying heavily for botched first round draft picks (Julian Wright, Hilton Armstrong, and Cedric Simmons) and bad free agent signings (Peja, James Posey and Morris Peterson) from past years. It could very well cost them a successful draft pick or picks to make it happen.
Despite Darren Collison's excellent play, dealing away Chris Paul makes little sense as he's the one true difference maker that the team possesses. Compounding matters is the injury he sustained making his market value lower than his true value. If the team were to even fathom trading away their franchise talent, it's tough to imagine that they could get even value in return. Besides, he's the face of the franchise, he's extremely active in the community and it would be impossible to explain to their fan base.
New, financially stable ownership means the Hornets won't stand pat. Expect the team to add one or two mid-level players (John Salmons, Travis Outlaw, Tyson Chandler) draft a young big (Hassan Whiteside, Cole Aldrich) and trade Peja, Julian Wright and Morris Peterson for cap relief. I don't expect the Hornets to trade Collison to the Knicks unless the package includes DC, Songaila and Peja with the Hornets getting Chris Duhon and David Lee.
Adding Lee would seem odd since the Hornets have David West but, look at the contender's big men rotations:
Lakers-Gasol, Bynum, Odom
Magic-Howard, Lewis, Gortat
Jazz-Boozer, Milsap, Okur
Celtics-Garnett, Perkins, Wallace/Davis
Suns-Stoudamire, Lopez, Frye/Amundson
Blazers-Aldridge, Camby, Oden, Prizbilla
Hornets-West, Lee, Okafor/#1 Pick/FA
Hornets rotation would be:
Julian Wright/Posey/FA draft pick
Collison is a good asset the Hornets should keep. I agree with the article that any move the Hornets would make to dump some bad contracts could really cost them talent-wise. Maybe they can lure some teams into absorbing an expiring plus their 11th pick and maybe future draft picks, but those would be valuable draft picks for the Hornets to give up.