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Tag:Chris Paul
Posted on: January 28, 2010 5:13 pm
 

2009-2010 New Orleans Hornets Midseason Report

Not a whole lot was expected from the Hornets at the beginning of the season.  Fans, onlookers and critics alike took a glance at the roster and saw a good, not great, team that should make the postseason but probably won't do much damage when they get there.  So think of my panic when the team started off getting blown out in almost every game at the beginning of the season.  They had no bench play.  Julian Wright was a flop as a starter.  Tyson Chandler's presence looked missed more and more as each day went on.  The Hornets, only nine games into the season, went into full panic mode and everything seemed lost.  At 3-6, and following a blowout loss on national television to the Phoenix Suns, the Hornets fired Byron Scott and inexplicably hired back Tim Floyd, this time as an assistant coach, and promoted Jeff Bower to the head coaching position.  The Hornets financial problems were well documented in the offseason and even moreso after that firing, so rumors of Chris Paul heading everywhere from Houston to San Antonio came out and the team looked doom for the next few years at least.  But then, the Hornets started winning.  Never blowing anybody out, the Hornets would run off stretches of successive victories by small margins, always finding ways to win basketball games but never really showing any sort of dominance in victory.  However, very slowly, the Hornets have worked their way back into the eighth seed in the playoffs and are ready to make a second half push.  Furthermore, coach and general manager Jeff Bower has improved the team by giving lots of minutes to the bench and has also done wonders in the front office, finding a way to put the Hornets under the luxury tax and allow them to coast into the offseason where they can finally move Peja Stojakovic's and Morris Petereson's then expiring contracts. 

Right now, Hornets fans have to be pleased with how the team is playing but they dug themselves quite a hole at the beginning of the year.  So it's hard to evaluate the season, so far, as a whole.  I want to give the first half of the first half an F and the second half of hte first half somewhere around a high B.  So we'll now evaluate player by player the New Orleans Hornets team as a whole.

PG: # 3 Chris Paul (37 Games, 20.5 PPG, 11.1 APG, 4.6 RPG, 2.3 SPG, 86.0 FT Pctg., 41.1 3PT FG Pctg., 50.5 FG Pctg.) - Still holding down the spot as best point guard in the entire league, Chris Paul shook off some early ankle injuries to really play some great ball since his return from injury.  He's developed his jump shot to the point where it's almost automatic if left uncontested, and his fadeaway has become almost unguardable.  Add to the fact that he's shooting a terrific percentage from three point range and Paul's offensive aresenal has greatly improved.  Now more than in recent years, Paul is being looked to to take big shots down the stretch.  When the game's in a tight spot, Paul not only has the ball in his hands to create, Bower's given him the green light to take the shot.  He's really overcome a slow start to pick up his game and, if not for some injuries, a better team record and some early season frustrations, Paul would probably be at an A plus right now.  But instead, we'll leave it where it should be.  Grade: A

# 2 Darren Collison (39 Games, 6.7 PPG, 2.9 APG, 1.8 RPG, 87.3 FT Pctg., 29.4 3PT FG Pctg., 41.9 FG Pctg.) - When Collison was taken in the first round, a lot of fans criticized the move as it wasn't (obviously with Paul on the team) a glaring need for the roster.  I, for one, really wanted the Hornets to nab DeJuan Blair but liked the Collison move and have been thoroughly impressed with Collison's play so far this season.  When Chris Paul went down to injury and things looked bleak in New Orleans, the rookie Collison calmly stepped in and led the Hornets to a 4-4 record without Paul and the team was able to stay above water.  Even though Byron Scott was reluctant to play either Collison or Thornton (or any rookie for that matter), after Bower took over Collison's minutes went up significantly.  Now with the trade that sent Devin Brown to the Bulls, Collison will probably be asked to do even more in the second half of the season.  But so far, he's done well in his role as the team's backup point guard.  Grade: B

SG:
# 5 Marcus Thornton (39 Games, 9.9 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 75.8 FT Pctg., 36.2 3PT FG Pctg., 43.5 FG Pctg.) - Similar to Collison, Thornton didn't see many minutes at the beginning of the season with Scott running the show.  Even though he impressed in the summer league and preseason, the LSU product was a 2nd round rookie and was not expected to do very much.  Instead, Thornton has played so well off the bench that he's started the last two games (and scored 19 and 18 points respectively) after the Hornets traded Devin Brown, and looks like he'll maintain that position for the rest of the season.  Showing off a better three point shot than originally believed, Thornton has stepped into the Hornets lineup and contributed immediately; a fresh face in the same familiar core that's been in New Orleans the past three or four seasons.  I'd like to see his all around game improve as time goes on but he's still a rookie and, as a 2nd Rounder, has exceeded all expectations already.  Grade: A

# 24 Morris Peterson (10 Games, 4.2 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 100 FT Pctg., 23.5 3PT FG Pctg., 29.6 FG Pctg.) - My how far Peterson has fallen.  Two years ago, he started 76 games for the Hornets as they set a franchise record for wins in a season, won the first division championship in franchise history and went to the conference semifinals.  Now, even after last season's debacle, Peterson was given the starting shooting guard position with this season's team and was given a fresh start.  Instead, Peterson was yanked by the sixth game of the season and wasn't even dressing for the Hornets as the team went with Devin Brown at the starting shooting guard position.  Peterson, to his credit, hasn't sulked or complained about the lack of playing time, but he really can't because when he's been in there he's been awful.  It's a shame to see how quickly he's fallen, especially because when the team brought him I thought he'd really flourish with the Hornets.  Instead, he's largely dissapointed.  But now with Brown off of the roster, Peterson will start to get playing time again and hopefully he does something with it, or else the Hornets thin back court will come back to hurt them.  Grade: F

SF:
# 16 Peja Stojakovic (43 Games, 11.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.3 APG, 89.1 FT Pctg., 37.2 3PT FG Pctg., 40.0 FG Pctg.) - Even moreso than last season, Stojakovic's game has really declined.  The Hornets tried to use him as instant offense off the bench at the start of the season but that experiment didn't work.  Even though he's played well this season, he's even worse than he was last year (a year in which his game sharply declined) and he's getting older, it seems, every game I watch him.  To his credit, he's got bad knees and a bad back and for a 6'10" swingman those are kryptonite.  He's shooting around the percentage he was shooting last season and he's still good for a couple three point makes a game.  However, he doesn't explode at all like he used to.  He used to be good for at least 10-15 great games a year; he really, aside from a game at Boston, hasn't gone off at all this year.  But he's been steady and I like him so I'll round his grade up a letter.  Grade: C

# 41 James Posey (45 Games, 5.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, 85.7 FT Pctg., 34.0 3PT FG Pctg., 37.7 FG Pctg.) - Even though his numbers and shooting percentage are down across the board, Posey has been important for the Hornets this season.  He's hit a couple game winners this season, is usually in the game during crunch time and still brings those intangibles and toughness that help the Hornets win so many close basketball games.  His presence is necessary to this team and I think that's why you don't hear him and his bad contract so often in trade rumors.  He hasn't missed a game this year (although he hurt himself in last night's game at Golden State) and has hit some clutch shots, so even though his numbers are down I'm going to be generous with his grade.  Grade: C

# 32 Julian Wright (34 Games, 3.2 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 73.3 FT Pctg., 47.1 FG Pctg.) - Oh what was supposed to be.  After showing some flashes as a rookie during that great 2008 year for the Hornets, a lot was expected of Julian Wright moving forward as a franchise.  He's largely dissapointed.  After falling off big time last season, the Hornets were going to force the issue and start the season with Julian Wright getting the starting minutes at the small forward position.  He flopped in that role and by game 7 the team had inserted Peja back into the starting lineup.  After that, Wright didn't even get into the game in most cases and looked to sulk on the bench.  Lord knows what's been done to his confidence level, and unfortunately he may suffer the same fate as Hilton Armstrong did (just a lot of talent that, for whatever reason, never materialized) and may never reach his full potential.  Bower's given him minutes as of late and I really like him so I want to see him crack the rotation again.  But he didn't impress at all when he was given his chances and has to work hard to prove to Bower he deserves more minutes.  Grade: D-

PF:
# 30 David West (44 Games, 17.7 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.2 APG, 86.4 FT Pctg., 48.8 FG Pctg.) - West's numbers are down across the board at the moment but he's really come on as of late for the Hornets.  A lot is always asked of he and Paul on this team and for the last two years he really delived.  But this season, West's slow start really was replicated in the team's slow start.  He's so crucial in taking pressure off of Paul and creating some offense inside that if he's not doing anything the team will really struggle to opperate as a whole.  He's been solid lately, though, and the team has begun winning as a reuslt.  Hopefully he can keep it up and return to the form that made him a two time NBA All Star.  Grade: C+

# 9 Darius Songaila (45 Games, 7.1 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 81.4 FT Pctg., 52.2 FG Pctg.) - Songaila has been the most stable and consistent player off the Hornets bench the entire season.  Take that as you want as the team's bench has largely underproduced, but the fact of the matter remains that Songaila has been the one staple the team has looked to off the bench and that's good, because he's all they have off the bench in the frontcourt.  Given that Songaila is really being asked to do more than I think he's capable of, I've been impressed with his production and ability to play solid minutes night in and night out.  He's never going to wow you or blow you away, but he's been steady and without him the Hornets wouldn't be in the mix for the postseason as they are right now.  Grade: B

# 1 Ike Diogu (Has Not Played Due To Injury) - Coming off of a fantastic last couple games at the end of last season with Sacramento, Diogu's pick up at the end of the offseason was looked at very optimistically by Hornets fans.  Given the team's thin frontcourt and struggle to produce any offense off of the bench in that area, he was to be expected to assume some of that role.  Instead, Diogu never played in the preseason or the regular season due to a knee injury, and back in December decided to undergo microfracture knee surgery to fix the problem.  The front office and the team as a whole seems to really like him but, when and if he heals from the knee injury, I couldn't care one way or the other if he returns or not next season.  Grade: Incomplete

C:
# 50 Emeka Okafor (45 Games, 11.1 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 60.0 FT Pctg., 52.9 FG Pctg.) - After the Hornets traded the ultra popular (among teammates and fans) Tyson Chandler to the Charlotte Bobcats for Okafor, the move was met with optimism again by Hornets fans.  Okafor was looked at as a better all around player with a shorter contract (for this season, the season the Hornets were going to struggle financiallly) and it looked like a win/win.  While Okafor has put up solid numbers and has produced this season for the Hornets, he hasn't really blown anybody away on either side of the court.  He puts up a lot of quiet numbers and sort of dissapears down the stretch.  However, he's been important to the Hornets, playing in every game and bringing a stability to the center position that a lot of teams across the league would love to have.  He could still be moved before the trade deadline, and I don't think Hornets fans would feel strongly one way or the other about seeing him go.  Grade: B-

# 4 Sean Marks (9 Games, .7 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 50.0 FT Pctg., 40.0 FG Pctg.) - Sean Marks has a soft spot among Hornets fans.  We like him, sure, but didn't like it when we had to watch him play 60 games last season and get heavy minutes.  He's gotten spot duty this year while battling an ankle injury and this is about the role I've always wanted to see him play on the team.  He plays hard when he gets in the game and always brings a lot of energy to the court.  He's just not talented enough to be a regular in a rotation for a successful team.  But he always brings it in practice and plays hard when given the minutes, so since he won't match last season's 60 game total and career high in minutes per game, I'm going to give Marks a great grade so long as he doesn't crack the rotation regularly again.  Grade: A

# 34 Aaron Gray (Has Not Played Yet With the Hornets) - Gray was brought in from Chicago in the Devin Brown trade and may or may not be asked to do a lot in New Orleans.  Because of the short term memories of all fans, we all remember Marks when he got into the game and therefore anyone will suffice at the moment.  Gray's a big, untalented body who won't be asked to do much but could maybe give Okafor rest for 5-10 minutes a game.  However, if he starts making me wish that Marks was on the floor instead, I'll ask for his head on a stick.  Grade: Incomplete

And I haven't forgotten about all of the other players who put on that very illustrious and exclusive Hornets jersey this season.

G # 23 Devin Brown (39 Games, 9.7 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.5 APG, 80.2 FT Pctg., 36.7 3PT FG Pctg., 39.4 FG Pctg.) - Being a San Antonio resident and a UTSA student, I've always had a soft spot for the UTSA alumn Devin Brown.  When the Hornets brought him back last season, I had huge hopes for him off the bench because of what he did for the Hornets when the team was depleted due to injuries in their last season in Oklahoma City.  After a forgettable year in Cleveland, Brown came back to the Hornets and really helped off the bench at the point guard and shooting guard for the Hornets and eventually took Morris Peterson's starting job this season.  He had some huge games, including a career high 30 points in a game at Utah, helping the Hornets win there for the first time in 4 years.  Brown is an infinitely better player than Gray so the trade is kind of tough to swallow, but the 100 thousand dollar difference in contracts is just enough to get the Hornets under the luxury tax.  So it had to be made.  I'll miss his stability on the team and wish him well in Chicago.  Grade for his time with the Hornets: B

G # 6 Bobby Brown (22 Games, 6.6 PPG, 2.1 APG, 100 FT Pctg., 25.8 3PT FG Pctg., 39.5 FG Pctg.) - Bobby came over in the Darius Songaila trade in the offseason and I really didn't think he'd make the roster.  Because of Byron Scott's stubborness with rookies, Brown got a lot of minutes at the start of the season over Darren Collison.  He didn't play bad and, in fact, helped win them a couple games at the start of the season off the bench.  But he only served as a stopgap until it was time to put Collison into the fray.  He was invaluable as a backup whenever Paul went down due to injury, but now that Paul is back and getting a lot of minutes, he really had no place on the team.  After being traded to the Clippers, he's now their back up point guard and I, again, wish him the best of luck.  Grade for his time with the Hornets: C

F/C # 12 Hilton Armstrong (18 Games, 2.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 46.4 FT Pctg., 38.0 FG Pctg.) - Much like Julian Wright, I look at Hilton Armstrong and shake my head.  He has the physical tools, he's shown glimpses of putting it together, and was given chances to succeed.  I'm dissapointed that he never did.  Armstrong played soft out on the court and really just never worked out in New Orleans.  He'll be given minutes in Sacramento and I hope to see him succeed, as he said his confidence was just shot here with the Hornets.  However, he has no one to blame but himself for never working out here with the team.  Even with all that said, I'd rather have him on the roster than either Marks or Gray.  But I understand that Armstrong's rookie contract as a first round lottery draft pick is more than either of there's.  So I understand, again, why this move had to be made.  Wish you could have worked out, Hilton!  Grade for his time with the Hornets: D

Coaches:
Byron Scott (3-6) - I loved Byron Scott as the head coach in New Orleans.  He put in place a system and used that as stability for the Hornets franchise when they went into rebuilding in 2004.  He was a proven player in the league, had won two Eastern Conference Championships with the New Jersey Nets and won the 2008 Coach of the Year here in New Orleans leading the team to the Southwest Division Title.  However, over time last season and definitely coming into the season, he lost this roster.  When they won, they would win close but when they lost, they would lose big.  We're talking huge lapses of time where the team would struggle and just get destroyed in games.  It was evident in last season's postseason, which was highlighted by a 58 point loss at home in a crucial game 4 to the Nuggets, and in so many games this year at San Antonio, at home against Toronto, at the Lakers, at Phoenix, etc.  They weren't even exhibiting an ounce of effort.  So when he was fired it was met with a lot of backlash, but it was something the team needed to do.  Would I have prefered a better coach to take the reigns?  Most definitely.  But the team, although very slowly, has responded well to Bower and are playing competitive basketball as a result.  They're not winning every game, but they're giving themselves chances to win and that's all you can ask of your coach is for them to put you in position to win basketball games.  Scott wasn't doing it.  Therefore, his Grade for his time with the Hornets: D

Jeff Bower (22-14) - Who would have thought that the pudgy general manager who was criticized and blamed for Scott's firing would be the one who got this team back on track?  His very first game as interim coach, Chris Paul went down to injury and it was immediately time to press the panic button.  However, Bower put a rookie who was ten games into his professional career at the point guard position and the team went .500 until Paul came back.  Even when the team started to play better, I never got excited about them like I have the past couple of weeks, really feeling like this team can win basketball games and make a run in the postseason.  I still would like to see a different coach be brought in but I'd love to see Bower be retained as general manager and I wouldn't even mind Tim Floyd remaining as an assistant.  I just don't want him to be the head coach.  But Bower's done a great job at the helm since he was given that spot, and so his Grade for time as the Hornets coach: A

Overall:
The team has really played to their level this season.  When they started slow, a lot of people criticized that they were underachieving and were huge dissapointments, but those same people picked them to finish at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff seedings and I told everyone to be patient, that's probably where they would end up.  It looks more and more like they'll finish in the bottom half of the Western Conference playoffs if they continue to play as they have, but in the wild Western Conference a bad stretch of games is liable to knock the Hornets back out and have them struggling to get back in.  But I'd rather have them control their own destiny.  With the injuries, individual underachievement and with the team's financial problems and changing a head coach during the season, you'd probably expect them to be a lot worse than 25-20.  Instead, there they are above .500 and in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference.  This still isn't a great year by any means, but this team has responded well to all adversity that's come their way and they've shown a great deal of resilience and heart to win as many close games as they have.  They're still not where they can be and there's always room for improvement, but I couldn't expect much more than what I've gotten from them this year.  Grade: B
Posted on: December 22, 2009 2:58 am
 

Worst NBA Contracts Of The Last Ten Years

2010 is coming.  If you have watched basketball at all the last two seasons, all that's mentioned is the future destinations of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and company.  While those two are dynomite and will be worth whatever amount of cash a team throws at them, players like Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer have Juwan Howard written all over them.  Because teams are guaranteed to overspend, we're going to look back at the ten worst contracts of the last ten years, starting in 2000 and ending now.  We'll list each player by the team he signed with, the length and amount of the contract and their statistics for the duration of their contract.

15. Gilbert Arenas, G, Washington Wizards: 6 Years, 111 Million Dollars in the 2008 offseason (27 Games, 21.4 PPG, 7.2 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.1 SPG) - Some people may say that it's way too early to include Gilbert Arenas in this discussion, but why wait for the continuted, inevitable decline of the Wizards franchise?  Two years into this deal, in fact as soon as the ink dried on the dotted line, fans and analysts alike knew that this was bad news for Washington.  Arenas was coming off of the historically fatal microfracture knee surgery and a season which he had only played 13 regular season and 2 postseason games.  Furthermore, the Wizards were coming off successive first round exits in the postseason and had resigned Antawn Jamison to a similar contract in terms of annual salary.  So when they turned around and invested 111 million dollars (outbidding themselves) to retain Arenas, the Wizards had invested tons of money into a team that hadn't even won 50 games as a unit.  Arenas rewarded the Wizards by having a third surgery on his knee and missed all but two games last season.  He's come back and put up decent numbers this season (with a shooting percentage in the low 40's) but the Wizards are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference after being preseason favorites for a run at the postseason.  With a lack of young talent, a lot of money invested in their current players and with the return being constant defeats, things look bad for the Wizards, and they're going to wish they had 111 million dollars to spend elsewhere.

14. Luol Deng, F, Chicago Bulls: 6 Years, 71 Million Dollars in the 2008 offseason (74 Games, 15.4 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.2 SPG) - A really nice player with a really solid game, Deng was acquired as a rookie by the Chicago Bulls and contributed to some solid teams that made the postseason.  He showed flashes of being a solid player, but he never seemed like a superstar.  When the 2008 offseason came, the Bulls were forced with the decision of retaining either Deng or guard Ben Gordon long term; or let both of them walk.  The Bulls decided to give that money to Deng and signed Gordon to a one year offer.  Gordon became the leading scorer for the Bulls, led the team to an almost upset over the defending champion Boston Celtics in the 2009 postseason and turned that into a 55 million dollar with the Detroit Pistons.  Deng watched the postseason from the bench in street clothes.  Deng is healthy and playing solid basketball for the Bulls this season, but there's no denying that he's not worth the money that he's receiving.

13. Erick Dampier, F-C, Dallas Mavericks: 7 Years, 73 Million Dollars in the 2004 offseason (389 Games, 6.7 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG) - Notorious for playing big in contract years and then turning that into a payday, Dampier became a 12 point, 12 rebound force in the 2003-2004 season for Golden State and was looking like a prize center in the 2004 offseason.  Most critics pointed to his increase in production in a contract year being a bad sign, but Mark Cuban ignored all red flags and signed Dampier to a huge long term deal.  Dampier has held down the starting center job for Dallas since being acquired, but it's mostly been by default and because of the paycheck that he's receiving.  There's no denying that he dogged it his entire career only to play big in his contract year and get paid handsomely.  Because he hasn't prevented the Mavericks from continuing to be a solid franchise, Dampier escapes being further up on this list. 
Author's Note: Dampier is currently having the best year of his contract.  One other thing that should be noted, he has the option to opt out of his contract this offseason.  Coincidence?

12. Michael Redd, G, Milwaukee Bucks: 6 Years, 91 Million Dollars in the 2005 offseason (247 Games, 23.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.1 SPG) - Always a nice player, Redd had been the best player for some really mediocre Milwaukee Bucks teams in 2004 and 2005.  The deadly sharpshooter was sought after by the upstart Cleveland Cavaliers, with hopes that Redd could partner up alongside a young LeBron James and become the nail in the coffin for teams that were paying too much attention to LeBron.  Because of all the attention Cleveland was giving Michael Redd, fan interest forced the Bucks to engage in a bidding war with Cleveland.  What followed was the contract that Milwaukee eventually gave Redd to become their franchise player.  While Redd continued to be as good as he was before signing the contract, he was never a great player and is extremely one dimensional.  Sometimes shooting the Bucks out of games, Redd has become a villian of sorts in Milwaukee as the team has routinely played better when he's not in the lineup.  After leading the Bucks to the postseason in the first year of his contract, the Bucks have become embarassingly mediocre since and Redd is viewed as the most glaring of some bad personnel decisions in Milwaukee. 
Author's Note: Look for Andre Iguodala to become a Michael Redd-type bad contract in Philadelphia.

11. Larry Hughes, G, Cleveland Cavaliers: 5 Years, 70 Million Dollars in the 2005 offseason (251 Games, 13.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.4 SPG) - The Cavaliers were jilted at the altar by Michael Redd, so with all of the free cap space they had, they went after a different shooting guard to become the Scottie Pippen to LeBron's Michael Jordan.  The money they had was given to Larry Hughes.  Always a player with a ton of untapped potential, Hughes became a solid force for some surprisingly successful Washington franchises before his contract went up and looked to have finally reached the level of play he was capable of by the time Cleveland signed him.  However, Hughes never justified the contract that Cleveland gave him.  Cleveland tried him at point guard, shooting guard, sixth man and defensive stopper before growing tired of his inconsistency and knack for injuries.  They shipped him off to Chicago and from there he was shipped to New York where he currently plays.  Hughes and his contract have been heavily criticized and extremely disliked everywhere he's been (and fans have let him know about that) but the Knicks are holding onto his contract for the free cap space it will create this offseason.

10. Samuel Dalembert, C, Philadelphia 76ers: 6 Years, 63 Million Dollars in the 2005 offseason (339 Games, 8.6 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.1 BPG) - A freakishly long and tall player with a lot of shot blocking potential, Dalembert, because of his size and difficult to pronounce name, drew a lot of comparisons to Dikembe Mutombo and was viewed as a solid player on the rise by the time Philadelphia gave him his contract.  Even though he had the ideal body and athleticism to become a dominat rebounder and shot blocker, Dalembert never materialized as anything more than mediocre.  Even though he's held down the starting center position for Philadelphia for the duration of his contract, he's a classic case of someone with all of the potential in the world who just never developed.  Every offseason becomes "maybe this is the year" for Dalembert, and every year he puts up maddingly inconsistent numbers and dissapoints both Philadelphia coaches and fans. 

9. Allan Houston, G, New York Knicks: 6 Years, 100 Million Dollars in the 2001 offseason (229 Games, 20.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.4 APG) - At the time of his signing, Houston a Knick favorite and had led the team to the NBA Finals just a couple years prior in 1999.  Two years later, the Knicks had declined sharply and were outsted in the first round in 2001, the same year that Houston's contract expired.  The Knicks, even though they were financially strapped and largely medicore, gave  Houston a 20.7 million dollar per year contract that prevented the team from making any free agent moves.  The next two years, the Knicks would miss the postseason and would turn to Isiah Thomas to save the franchise (and we'll see how he did later in this list).  After two seasons, Houston would start to have problems with his knee and would miss a large portion of the third and fourth years of his contract.  The injury eventually forced Houston to retire in 2005.  The contract destroyed the Knicks so badly that the NBA adopted an "Allan Houston Rule" which granted NBA teams the option of releasing one player to not count against the luxury tax. 
Author's Note: Look for Kevin Martin to be this generation's version of Allan Houston

8. Kenyon Martin, F, Denver Nuggets: 7 Years, 92.5 Million Dollars in the 2004 offseason (290 Games, 12.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.1 BPG) - At the time of this signing, Kenyon Martin was a fine player who had played on two Eastern Conference Championship teams with the New Jersey Nets.  Once the number one pick in the 2000 NBA Draft, Martin blossomed once the Nets acquired Jason Kidd and became a fan favorite for the ferocity with which he would slam the basketball.  Elsewhere in the NBA, the Nuggets, fresh off of drafting Carmelo Anthony, were viewed as a team on the rise that was one big man away from taking the next step.  It seemed like a match made in heaven.  Only problem is, Kenyon Martin had zero post moves, had Andre Miller to give him the ball instead of Jason Kidd and joined a frontcourt of Nene and Marcus Camby, who were basically the same players as Martin.  Martin struggled to fit into the Nuggets rotation and the team continued to lose in the first round, never taking that next step with Martin on the roster.  Microfracture knee surgeries, being sent home from the team in the postseason by head coach George Karl, and frequently clashing with fans followed and Martin's contract looks worse by the day.  He's rebounded well the last couple of seasons to stay healthy and has emerged as a great defensive power forward, but he'll never be worth every penny the Nuggets gave him.

7. Andrei Kirilenko, F, Utah Jazz: 6 Years, 86 Million Dollars in the 2004 offseason (299 Games, 11.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.9 BPG, 1.2 SPG) - In the wake of the departures of Karl Malone and John Stockton, the Jazz franchise shocked everyone during the 2003-2004 season when they narrowly missed making the postseason.  They were led that year by Andrei Kirilenko, known as AK47 because of his initials, number and because he and the gun shared the same birthplace (Russia).  Kirilenko was a multi talented player who filled every stat you could think of and could play multiple positions on the floor.  So after that surprise year, the Jazz signed Kirilenko to this contract extension.  While the team experienced a surge of sorts in the years to follow, the addition of Carlos Boozer and subsequent move to small forward for Kirilenko proved to be fatal for his career.  For whatever reason, Kirilenko's numbers dipped dramatically in the 2006-2007 season and clashed with coach Jerry Sloan on numerous occasions.  Probably most famous for crying over his playing time in the Jazz's 2007 postseason run, Kirilenko has long since noted his desire to leave the NBA.  Even once flirting with retirement, Kirilenko has since promised to play professionally in Russia once  this contract goes up in Utah.  Jazz fans can't wait for that day, either.

6. Eddy Curry, C, New York Knicks: 6 Years, 60 Million Dollars in the 2005 offseason (222 Games, 15.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG) - Once viewed, along with Tyson Chandler (someone else who narrowly avoided this list), as the future cornerstones of the Chicago Bulls franchise, Curry frequently dissapointed and lost in Chicago.  In a contract year with the Bulls, Curry proved to be the team's go to man in the paint and turned out a solid season, although he missed the end of the regular season and all of the postseason due to a heart problem (no jokes necessary).  Still in his early 20's by the time that contract expired, Isiah Thomas saw Curry as a center his team could build around and quickly signed Curry to a long term deal.  What ensued was frequent losses by the Knicks, public humiliation veered towards Curry's weight and injury problems, and Curry becoming the butt of every joke amongst NBA fans and analysts alike.  Curry has suffered a lot of personal tragedy as well and has tried to make it back on the court to play for Mike D'Antoni's Knicks, but he's still a guy that nobody will take on their team and that the Knicks would love to get off of their's. 

5. Stephon Marbury, G, Phoenix Suns: 4 Years, 76 Million Dollars in the 2003 offseason (240 Games, 18.0 PPG, 6.5 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.2 SPG) - Now one of the most notorious players in the history of the NBA, Marbury, without an agent, signed a humongous contract extension with the Phoenix Suns following their first round playoff exit in 2003.  Known as a flashy scorer, team success had always alluded Marbury.  Three months after he signed the extension, Marbury was traded to his hometown New York Knicks to be the franchise player for Isiah Thomas' vision of what the Knicks should be and actually led New York to the 2004 playoffs.  However, that was it.  By the time the extension kicked in in the offseason, Marbury's numbers sharply declined and he would clash with Lenny Wilkens, Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas (following trends he started in Minnesota and New Jersey) before, last year, being famously paid to stay away from the Knicks franchise.  Mike D'Antoni and company were able to finally agree to a buyout with Marbury and he would sign with the Boston Celtics, where he looked awful on the court.  Also involved in a sexual harrasment lawsuit filed against the New York Knicks, Marbury famously threatened Isiah Thomas, stating that he "had things on him" that could prove to be detrimental to Isiah.  Those "things" never came out, but what was revealed was how bad of a blunder Marbury's contract extension and stay in New York had been.

4. Raef LaFrentz, F-C, Dallas Mavericks: 7 Years, 70 Million Dollars in the 2002 offseason (314 Games, 7.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG) - A shot blocking force in Denver, 7'0" Raef LaFrentz could be a force in the paint and could shoot long range jumpers by the time he was traded to Dallas.  After being traded to Dallas, LaFrentz would sign a huge contract in the offseason to be Dallas' center of the future next to big man Dirk Nowitzki.  LaFrentz lasted one year.  One of many Mark Cuban overpaid blunders (Erick Dampier, Michael Finley, DeSagana Diop, etc.), LaFrentz shines above all of those mentioned because he simply did absolutely nothing after signing the contract.  He was traded to Boston, then to Portland, and did not play at all last season due to reoccuring knee injuries.  LaFrentz is now out of the league but Portland used his expiring salary to sign Andre Miller and resign Brandon Roy.  So he lives in spirit.

3. Jermaine O'Neal, F-C, Indiana Pacers: 7 Years, 126.6 Million Dollars in the 2003 offseason (374 Games, 18.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 2.1 APG) - Long viewed as a dissapointment after being drafted out of high school in Portland, O'Neal was traded to Indiana where he received an increase in playing time and rewarded Indiana with an increase in production.  After winning the 2002 Most Improved Player of the Year award, O'Neal followed the season up with another 20 point, 10 rebound season and was a hugely sought after free agent in the 2003 offseason.  Flirting with the San Antonio Spurs, O'Neal was offered the contract by Indiana and quickly signed it, becoming the Pacers' franchise player.  While Indiana was successful during O'Neal's peak years in 2002, 2003 and 2004, O'Neal's injuries and contract contributed (along with the infamous Malice at the Palace) to the downfall of the Indiana Pacers franchise.  Viewed as a symbol for Indiana's failures, Pacers fans turned on O'Neal and he was traded to Toronto.  After a failed stint there, he was traded to Miami where he is now the starting center for the Heat.  Injuries were a big reason why this contract simply did not work out, but at that much money and for that many years, there's no pardon for Jermaine O'Neal.

2. Peja Stojakovic, F, New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets: 5 Years, 65 Million Dollars in the 2006 offseason (175 Games, 14.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.2 APG) - Once an intregal part of some terrific Sacramento Kings teams, Stojakovic entered the 2006 offseason coming off an injury riddled second half stint with the Indiana Pacers.  One very young team that was willing to take a chance on the 6'10" sharpshooter was the young Hornets.  With young players like Chris Paul and David West on the roster, the Hornets were looking for Stojakovic to be the efficient veteran to turn to in the clutch to help teach the younger players how to win.  Given a maximum deal and making the first big splash of free agency, Stojakovic signed with the Hornets and immediately dissapointed.  Only playing 13 games his first season, Stojakovic had a strong second season: playing in 77 games and shooting over 44 percent from behind the arc.  But his shooting percentage and overall production declined sharply the very next season and he was subsequently benched this offseason.  Stojakovic has found his way back into the starting lineup and remains a bittersweet fan favorite in New Orleans, but his contract has single handedly halted the development and progression of a young and promising unit.

1. Ben Wallace, F-C, Chicago Bulls: 4 Years, 60 Million Dollars in the 2006 offseason (205 Games, 4.9 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 1.6 APG, 1.2 SPG) - A four time NBA Defensive Player of the Year award winner and even the reigning 2 time DPOY, Ben Wallace entered the 2006 offseason as the prize of a very weak free agent class.  A defensive specialist who was always known to give max effort at the center position, the Bulls, looking for a player to hold down the center position and take the team to the next level, gave all of their free cap space to Ben Wallace to lure him away from the Detroit Pistons.  Outside of his comfort zone in Chicago, and playing on a team that didn't preach defense like the teams in Detroit did, Ben Wallace severely struggled in Chicago.  His numbers went down across the board, his defense slipped and he was exposed big time.  Facing expectations for the first time his career, Ben Wallace crumbled under pressure.  He was eventually shipped to Cleveland where he started on some successful Cavaliers teams but was never the player he used to be, and the player he used to be had no business making that kind of money.  He was eventually traded to Phoenix last offseason and after being bought out by the Suns considered retirement, but Ben has rejoined the Pistons and has found some of his old youth in Detroit.  But Ben Wallace still tops the list of the ten worst contracts of the last ten years.

Posted on: December 2, 2009 5:38 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2009 6:52 pm
 

Worst Teams In The NBA Of The Last Decade

0-17.  That's right; 17 straight losses to begin an NBA Season.  The New Jersey Nets have done the unthinkable and joined an elite list in the NBA's illustrious history.  Three franchises, only three in the entire history of the NBA, have started off a season with 17 straight losses.  No team has lost 18 straight.  While the Nets record indicates they'd be among the worst this decade, it's hard to see where they fall with teams of the past few years.  So I thought it'd be fun to do a little research and come up with my own list of the ten worst NBA teams of the last decade.  Beginning in the 2000-2001 season and concluding last season (which technically only  makes it 9 seasons), all teams were candidates for this list.  The ten that made it had problems with youth, problems with injuries, problems with coaching, problems with talent, problems with attendance and, obviously, problems with winning.  So without further adieu, here's the Ten Worst NBA Teams of the Last Decade.

10. 2006/2007 Boston Celtics (24-58) and the 2007/2008 Minnesota Timberwolves (22-60)
Head Coaches - Boston Celtics: Doc Rivers.  Minnesota Timberwolves: Randy Wittman
Leading Scorers - Boston Celtics: Paul Pierce .  Minnesota Timberwolves: Al Jefferson
Years In Review  - The reason I group these teams together is because at least a handful of players found themselves on both squads as a result of the Kevin Garnett trade.  After injuries to Paul Pierce, Tony Allen and company in 2007, frustration fully showed its face in the Boston Garden.  After finishing the season with a 24-58 record in 2007 and then missing out on the top pick, which would have londed Boston Greg Oden , the Celtics traded five of their players in order to obtain one from Minnesota: franchise player Kevin Garnett.  The players included in that deal (Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes , Sebastian Telfair , Gerald Green and Theo Ratliff ) would go to Minnesota and carry the same amount of inconsistency and agonizing defeat to Minnesota.  Jefferson and Gomes are clearly good players, but they're not capable of taking a team and leading it to any kind of respectability.  And since more than a handful of players carried the same amount of problems into Minnesota in 2007 that they had developed in Boston, these two teams will forever be joined in terms of NBA ineptitude since the turn of the century.

9. 2008/2009 Washington Wizards (19-63)
Head Coaches - Eddie Jordan (1-10) and Ed Tapscott (18-53)
Leading Scorer - Antawn Jamison
Year in Review - After investing over 100 million dollars to retain star point guard Gilbert Arenas , the Wizards, who were coming off of a 43 win season the year before. looked, at the best, destined to be regulars in the Eastern Conference Playoffs each season.  An impressive trio of Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler were supposed to lead the Wizards to success in the Eastern Conference, even though the team had shown no such promise before investing that much money to Jamison and Arenas.  Only a few months after handing Arenas that six year contract, the Wizards received word he would be undergoing another knee surgery and would miss, basically, the entire season.  Arenas played two games and another of the big three, Caron Butler, also struggled to stay healthy; missing 15 games during the season.  Additionally, starting center Brendan Haywood was only available for 6 games that season and things looked bad all season for the Wizards.  Having to rely on very raw big men (Andray Blatche , JaVale McGee and Dominic McQuire), very young guards (Nick Young and Javaris Crittenton ) and career journeymen (Darius Songaila , Mike James and Juan Dixon), it's no surprise that the Wizards stumbled their way to an ugly 19 win season.  They had the talent of a playoff team, but when you lose your best players, you see just how bad things can get.  The Wizards were exhibit A of a top heavy team.

8. 2000/2001 Washington Wizards (19-63)
Head Coaches - Leonard Hamilton
Leading Scorer - Richard Hamilton
Year in Review - In the late 90s, the Wizards were a team with a lot of money invested in a few players but were getting few in return in terms of the win/loss column.  After only one playoff appearance (in 1996/97), the Wizards looked ready to shake things up.  For a few seasons they were an old, mediocre team.  In 2000/2001, they became a team that imploded.  Rod Strickland, Mitch Richmond and Juwan Howard all began the year as a big three for Washington, but Strickland and Howard ended the year in different locations.  The team was led by a head coach, Hamilton, who was a personal hire for then head of basketball operations Michael Jordan.  Hamilton could barely control the roster, famously being cussed out by Tyrone Nesby when Hamilton took Nesby out of the game.  The Wizards were an ugly display of basketball on the court all season long and, the very next  year, Michael Jordan would take off the sport coat and put on the cape.  When the consecutive 37 win seasons that followed were considered a success, it shows how bad things had gotten in Washington; concluding with this 2000/2001 team.

7. 2005/2006 New York Knicks (23-59)
Head Coach - Larry Brown
Leading Scorer - Stephon Marbury
Year in Review - Trying desperately to recapture respectability, the Knicks handed Isiah Thomas the keys to the franchise in 2008.  He followed that up by making a plethora of moves to bring in all kinds of new players in an attempt to shake up the New York franchise.  While it initially ended in a playoff appearance for the Knicks in 2004, the Knicks quickly looked like a makeshift team thrown together in an attempt at a quick fix with no real plans for the future.  Isiah then pulled out the ace of spades and hired the coach who would take the Knicks back to respectability: Larry Brown.  With Brown at the helm, pundits and fans alike immediately predicted big improvements for a Knicks franchise that looked very discombobulated the year before.  What ensued was an insanely ugly season in the city that never sleeps.  Brown immediately clashed with Stephon Marbury and the Knicks actually regressed, losing eleven more games than they had the previous year.  Brown bashed the team publicly, looked very uninterested as the season wore on and would eventually be fired in the offseason.  With insane money being given to a recently retired Alan Houston (20 million), Stephon Marbury (17 million), Jalen Rose (16 million), Steve Francis (14 million), Maurice Taylor (9 million),  Eddy Curry (8 million), Quentin Richardson (7 million), Jerome James (5 million), Jamaal Crawford (7 million), and Malike Rose (7 million), the Knicks were officially a severely bad NBA team that was spending an insanely bad amount of money. 

6. 2007/2008 Miami Heat (15-67)
Head Coach - Pat Riley
Leading Scorer - Dwyane Wade
Year In Review - When your leading scorer for the season only plays 51 games, things are more than likely going to be tough for your franchise.  The fact that this team was only two years removed from an NBA championship made things incredibly worse.  Entering the season with the duo of Wade and Shaquille O'Neal still on the roster, few could have predicted the futility and agony that would be bestowed upon Miami Heat fans the next season.  With starters Udonis Haslem , Jason Williams , Wade and O'Neal missing a major amount of time early in the season, the Heat were immediately far behind schedule in terms of success.  To make matters worse, because big things were anticipated for the Heat that season, they were regulars on national television and fans were forced to watch the putrid display of basketball put on by the squad.  Even when the Heat traded O'Neal for Shawn Marion , a player who had stayed relatively healthy his entire career, even if caught the injury bug and missed a majority of his time with the Heat.  At the end of the year, only Ricky Davis played in all 82 games for Miami.  But with Davis, Mark Blount , Daequan Cook and Chris Quinn becoming regulars in Miami's rotation, the losses piled up.  Mercifully, Wade would be healthy the next season and Miami would make the playoffs.  But that season remains a painful one to observe for NBA fans alike.

5. 2000/2001 Golden State Warriors (17-65)
Head Coach - Dave Cowens
Leading Scorer - Antawn Jamison
Year in Review - Entering the year with really past their prime players like Mookie Blaylock and John Starks still on the roster, Golden State was quickly becoming a regular among the bottom of the NBA.  Things would peak, though, in the 2000/2001 season for the Warriors in terms of futility.  Antawn Jamison was still a young player, currently in his third season, but the rest of the team around him was not producing at all.  Midseason trades for Larry Hughes and Bob Sura were made with intentions fo building for the future, but things were really bad all season long.  With Blaylock, Adam Keefe, Erick Dampier , Adonal Foyle , Chris Porter and Vonteego Cummings **** becoming regulars in the Golden State rotation, things were tough for the fans in the Oracle.  Things would eventually get bright in Golden State for a couple of seasons, but unfortunately for one of the better fan bases in the NBA, things are tough again in San Francisco.

4. 2002/2003 Denver Nuggets (17-65)
Head Coach - Jeff Bzdelik
Leading Scorer - Juwan Howard
Year in Review - Similar to the situation above, the Nuggets were a consistently mediocre NBA franchise by the time the 2002/2003 season came along.  Similar to the situation above, things peaked in a negative way in 2003 when the Denver Nuggets only won 17 games.  After a trade in the offseason for Marcus Camby and rookie Nene Hilario, the Nuggets were expected to make more of a push towards respectability than had previously been experienced in Denver.  However, injuries to Camby quickly followed and the Nuggets became a really bad team really fast.  Players like Mark Bryant, Junior Harrington, Ryan Bowen, Rodney White, Donnell Harvey, Nikoloz Tskitishvilli and Vincent Yarbrouugh (I had to look that up) were receing heavy minutes in Denver's rotation.  Top to bottom, this is a tough looking roster that really could not score (84.2 PPG).  Carmelo Anthony would follow, however, and the Nuggets luck would change just one season later.

3. 2004/2005 New Orleans Hornets (18-64)
Head Coach - Byron Scott
Leading Scorer - Lee Nailon
Year in Review - Going into the 2004 season, the Hornets had been a regular in the NBA postseason.  Although they were entering the Western Conference, they had been to the finals 7 of their previous 8 years.  However, it was becoming increasingly evident that the team as constructed was not going to win a championship.  For Hornets fans, the incredibly bad 2004/2005 season began.  With new head coach Byron Scott and general manager Jeff Bower leading the way, the Hornets underwent an incredibly swift rebuilding process and shed contracts of Baron Davis , David Wesley, Darrell Armstrong and Jamal Mashburn along the season.  The Hornets other all star player, Jamaal Magloire , was only available for 26 games.  As a result of all the trades, the team was regularly led by Lee Nailon, Bostjan Nachbar, Dan Dickau, Casey Jacobsen, Chris Andersen , Jackson Vroman, Maciej Lampe and a rookie J.R. Smith .  Not surprisingly, wins weren't regular in the Crescent City.  P.J. Brown was the only Hornet to play in all 82 games and the Hornets consistently played in front of some of the smallest crowds in recent memory.  In the offseason, Hurricane Katrina would hit New Orleans and things could have gotten much worse for the franchise.  But they drafted Chris Paul , got David West healthy and made a quick turnaround to respectability. 

2. 2004/2005 Atlanta Hawks (13-69)
Head Coach - Mike Woodson
Leading Scorer - Al Harrington
Year in Review - The Hawks were regulars at the bottom of the league every year at the beginning of the decade.  It was a slow, painful process and things looked bleak for many years in Atlanta.  After hiring new coach Mike Woodson, drafting Josh Childress and Josh Smith , and trading for Al Harrington, the Hawks were now looking for plan A, B, C, D or E at the time to try and turn things around.  It didn't work.  Harrington responded with career highs in scoring and rebounding, but the team was completely bad, losing games by an average of 10 PPG.  The Hawks would acquire Tyronn Lue during the season and subtract Jon Barry, Kevin Willis and Kenny Anderson during the year but the defeats remained.  In the offseason, the Hawks would acquire Joe Johnson for Boris Diaw and would start the process to becoming the much better team that they are now.  But for those few years, and especially this season, the Hawks were regulars among the worst teams in the NBA.

1. 2002/2003 Cleveland Cavaliers (17-65)
Head Coach - John Lucas (8-34), Keith Smart (9-31)
Leading Scorer - Ricky Davis
Year in Review - As is regular in this countdown, Cleveland was a consistently bad franchise for a number of years entering the 2002/2003 NBA season.  Things weren't promising at all entering the 2002 season for the Cavs, but they did get worse really fast in Cleveland.  With Davis and Zydrunas Ilgauskas leading the way, the Cavaliers consistently turned the ball over, got blown out, played horrid defense and played in front of some horribly empty crowds at the Gund Arena.  No transactions were really made throughout the season, no real rebuilding moves were made, a coaching change happened but the same team produced the same bad results all season long.  Rookie Dajuan Wagner showed some promise but only played in 47 games.  Meanwhile, rookie Carlos Boozer , Jumaine Jones, Darius Miles, Smush Parker, Chris Mihm and Milt Polacio got heavy minutes in Cleveland and none of them were capable of changing pace.  The season was awfully bad but was quickly forgotten when Cleveland landed the number one pick and drafted LeBron James in the offseason.  But that season was a horrible one to watch for Cleveland fans and one that's only forgotten because of the talent of James. 


Posted on: November 19, 2009 12:28 pm
 

The 2010 Sweepstakes: High Reward of High Risk?

We all know the big phrase for every team that has a losing record ten games into the season.  "Let's trade this bad contract for this guy with an expiring contract."  These kind of moves have been made for the past two seasons all with anticipation of this upcoming offseason: the big 2010 free agent class.  Teams are shedding payroll like Rex Ryan sheds tears in hopes of being able to afford the plethora of superstars available this upcoming July.  Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Amar'e Stoudemire, Dirk Nowitzki and, of course, LeBron James headline the class this summer and have every team in the league hoping to changes its fortunes in quick fashion.  Out of the mentioned prospects, Nowitzki is the only player almost guaranteed to stay with his current team.  The rest are all targeted players for that team looking to return to glory, for that team trying to establish a glorious rotation or just for a team looking to make a little bit of a profit with some ticket sales.  But I'm here to tell you that shedding all that salary cap is probably more of a risk than some are mentioning.

The New York Knicks have been bad for awhile.  They were the league's most consistent and glorious franchise in the 1970s and in the 90s into the early part of this new millenium, they were able to remain competitive and even had two Eastern Conference Championships to show for it.  But ever since 2002 the Knicks have fallen on very hard times.  They've had one playoff appearance since then, a crazy amount of bad contracts, displeased fans and one of the worst win-loss records in the league during that span.  But the Knicks, even at 2-9 today, will sell to you that they're a team on the rise.  Why?  Not because of any young talent on the team (although Danilo Gallinari and David Lee are nice, young players) but because they're going to land one of the big free agents in 2010.  Playing in the most famous arena in the world, Madison Square Garden, in the biggest market in the league, the Knicks are always formidable players in the free agent spending department (look at the contracts they were able to give to Allan Houston, Jared Jeffries, Jerome James and Eddy Curry).  They've just never spent the time to focus on spending on talented players. 

But at least they can sell you that they're New York and that's why you should play there.  The other team that's been building for 2010 for a few seasons now is the New Jersey Nets.  The Nets have had more success than the Knicks in recent history and made the NBA Finals two seasons in a row back in 2002 and then in 2003.  But after this season, they will have missed the postseason for three consecutive seasons.  They do have Devin Harris, Brook Lopez and Courtney Lee, but even with all that young talent on board, they play in an immensely small market, in an old stadium and in front of some of the most lackluster crowds east of the Clippers.  Even with young talent in place, it's hard to sell to a potential star how important it is to sign with New Jersey.  Until they get their ownership and the impending relocation to Brooklyn in order, the Nets will struggle to build as a franchise.  And that includes playing any role in this offseason.

But those teams assume the risks of this offseason and do so with high hopes.  They've put all of their eggs in the 2010 basket, but how reliable is that really?  The Knicks have a city desperate for success and that's used to being at least remotely competitive.  Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni were to turn things around but decided bringing in established superstars was the route to go.  Fans have been patient for two seasons and even though the Knicks have fielded fun teams, they have not fielded successful teams nor do they bear any resemblance of a team on the rise.  Unless they get that big piece.  But what happens if you don't?  That could be killer for this New York franchise.  When you're a team like the Knicks and the Nets, if you swing and miss this offseason it's fatal for your franchise.  The Nets are trying hard to sell a relocation and trying to bring on board an owner who's committed to winning, those will be even harder sells if the team that is currently 0-12 boasts no superstar power after this offseason.  They all want LeBron James and LeBron has teased everyone involved, but let's not forget that Cleveland will still be able to give him the most money.  When you resign your own players, it does not matter how big the contract is.  Sure it goes against your payroll, but the NBA does not charge cap penalties when you improve within the organization.  That's why Cleveland, even while spending 50 million dollars on Anderon Vareajo back in the summer, can offer LeBron the most money to get him to stay.  It's his hometown, they've been a consistently good team for the past five seasons.  They're on the verge of becoming a championship team.  His best chance to win is in Cleveland.  Sure LeBron has done nothing to disassociate himself from the notion that he's all about the money, but at the end of the day if you have a franchise that can give you the Benjamins and Franklins and still guarantee you an opportunity at the Larry O'Brien Trophy, you think he'll easily turn his nose up at that as opposed to a team that may become a formidable player with him on the roster?  Look at how long it took the Cavaliers to build around LeBron.  A player of his skill set is easy to surround with players, but to find a formidable roster that can win with one person controlling the ball a majority of the time is very difficult.  Look at the problems the Heat are having now with Dwyane Wade.  Look at the problems the Hornets are having with Chris Paul.  Look at the Cavaliers during LeBron's first years in the league.  It's hard to run a one dimensional offense, and if you spend all of your money on LeBron James that's what you'll have. 

Fans have been patient in New York because they feel as if it's their God given right to have a superstar sign in 2010.  Amar'e Stoudemire and Chris Bosh are likely candidates to switch jerseys this offseason because neither of their teams have been successful as of late and neither seems very commited to their organization.  But are either of those guys going to be centerpieces for a championship?  Don't you think that if they were, their teams would be better than they are now?  Some team will overspend on Bosh or Stoudemire this offseason because the market will be so high on them.  But that team better hope that those players mature and develop into something that they're currently not, or else they're looking at limited cap space and medicore results (see the Washington Wizards). 

It's always attractive to look at good players and wonder what they'll do if they get to your team.  But look at how the Hawks built around Joe Johnson.  They have Josh Smith, Mike Bibby, Al Horford and a franchise on the rise.  Look at Dwyane Wade.  He's won a championship, has a lot of young, growing pieces in Miami and a franchise and city that adores him.  Same goes for Dirk Nowitzki (minus the championship part).  It's a hard sell to look a player in the eye and say "trust me" than it is to say "look what we've done for you."  When you cut this much space, you're basically putting all your cards and chips on the table.  In the New York Metropolitan area, you better hope that river card turns up a LeBron or a Wade.  Because if it doesn't, years of futility will follow and the backlash will be catastrophic for the franchise.
Posted on: November 13, 2009 2:27 pm
 

Making The Argument For Jeff Bower

Right now, it's pretty tumultous to be a fan of the New Orleans Hornets.  As I stated in yesterday's little post, things around the franchise are hectic in all areas.  From management to players to ownership, the Hornets are in a critical point in the franchise's history.  So with that being said, you have to be confident that you have someone who can turn the ship around.  Now I know a lot of people are blaming the current state of the Horents on Jeff Bower and you very well can, but let's evaluate his moves as a general manager from a whole.  He's not looking too well now, but we all know that basketball is circumstantial.  The Hornets have the 12th highest payroll in the league, but they don't have money like the Lakers and Knicks to throw around at players (and I know throwing money did not work for the Knicks so I'm not saying it's always an advantage), but when you want to commit to winning a championship it's difficult to do so as a small market team.  Teams like the Spurs are the exception to the rule.  They routinely have terrific drafts regardless of where they're drafting and find cheap, yet productive, free agents who really can impact a team (Roger Mason Jr., Matt Bonner, etc.).  But this is why the NBA has such a small fan base compared to baseball and football, because there is no parody in the league.  Actually, that's why football is the biggest sport in the nation.  Because every year, going into the season, you can have hope for your team in football.  Teams routinely make 5th and 6th round draft choices that produce right away.  A great head coach can be hired and turn things around in only one season.  You've had the Panthers go from nowhere to a Super Bowl and never be the same again.  Some would look at that as a bad thing, I think it keeps fans of all teams interested.  Here, even teams like the 76ers who have been above average the past few seasons won't get anyone to show up for their games, because even though the team will win 41 games and make the postseason, they'll do nothing when they get there.  So what do you do in the case of the Hornets, who have always been around average or above average but have never broke the barrier as a small market team?  They came close in 2008 and took big chances to build upon that and win immediately.  That chance backfired in a really bad way and now the team is paying the consequences.  But had they stood pat that offseason and not gone after anyone, people would have criticized management for not taking chances when they were so close.  So overall, fans are fickle and management is in a no lose situation.  But I'm here to tell you that Jeff Bower has done a good job as the general manager of the Hornets and I'm going to argue for him to stay on board in New Orleans.

The most often criticized move of the Jeff Bower regime, currently, is the contract given to Peja Stojakovic.  At the time of the signing, in the 2006 offseason, Peja Stojakovic was a consistent 20 point threat and was one of the deadliest shooters in the league.  When you're a team that's playing out of town in Oklahoma City and as a team that's never been an attractive destination for players, you're kind of forced to overpay to get above average talent to your team.  Peja Stojakovic probably was a smarter investment at near the 9-11 million dollar a year range at that time, but the Hornets gave him 65 million and 5 years to convince any kind of big name to come and play for them.  Again, that's management attempting to build a winner regardless of the restrictions.  It didn't pay off immediately as he missed 69 games in his first year of the deal (and if that injury had happened prior to him becoming a free agent it's safe to say the Hornets would not have made that kind of investment to Peja).  However, the next year paid off really well for the Hornets and Peja.  He wasn't scoring at the rate he used to, but he shot over 40 percent from three point range and made countless clutch shots for the Hornets and became one of the most popular players amongst fans.  As a three point catalyst, he was crucial to the Hornets winning the Southwest Division and making it to game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals in 2008.  The very next year his back injuries reemerged and he hasn't been the same player since, so in only that sense is it a bad contract.  Had Bower had a miraculous crystal ball and could have predicted the injuries that would emerge with Peja, I seriously doubt the team would have made that kind of investment with Peja.  However, with the contract in place, the Hornets can't do anything to distance themselves from Peja.  I'm sure they tried to move him in the offseason, but with that price tag, the only way they could have moved would have been to add the relatively cheap David West to the package and if they had done that, fans and players would have accused the franchise of cost cutting and would have bashed Bower.  So again, in a no win situation, Bower is forced to put Peja out on the floor.

The signings of Morris Peterson and James Posey go hand in hand.  Neither are as expensive as Peja's, but both were brought in as complimentary swingmen who could really add unspoken intangibles to a team on the rise.  The signings were a year apart, so I'll argue Peterson's first.  When Peterson was brought in, he and Rasual Butler were supposed to provide a formidable pair at the two guard position.  Peterson never has emerged as the player the Hornets thought he would be when they first brought him in.  They gave him a 4 year, 28 million dollar deal (again overpaying) to get him to start at shooting guard.  For years, Peterson had been regarded as a fan favorite who hustled, played defense and knocked down shots.  He was viewed by many as one of the more unheralded players in the NBA and the Hornets really took a chance on him and gave him the starting shooting guard position.  He's never materialized and I'll never know why.  However, 9 out of 10 general managers would have done the same thing that Bower did.  Again, maybe not at that price tag, but in order to convince players to come over you have to give them the best deal.  Which brings me to James Posey.  Is Posey a 4 year, 24 million dollar player?  Not at all.  He wasn't even when he was in Boston, playing on a one year contract with the Celtics and proving invaluable during the Celtics 2008 championship run.  As one of those clutch, defensive role players that every championship team needs, the Hornets felt he was just the man to help get this team over the top.  The Hornets had Julian Wright emerging as a backup small forward and he was entering his second year, so Posey was not a necessary signing, but it was an aggressive move to show that the team was still committed to brining a title to New Orleans.  The Hornets were already spending a lot of money at that point, and with the contract extension given to Chris Paul ready to kick in in the 2009 offseason, they made a huge risk by bringing in Posey.  A lot of teams were interested in Posey, but nobody wanted to offer 4 years.  So the Hornets decided to do so to ensure that he would sign, and he did.  James Posey is the same player he was when the Hornets brought him in.  He'll give you around 9 points a game and play hard defense, bring the intangibles; the whole nine yards.  But his efforts go unnoticed because the Hornets are struggling.  He's not a saviour to a team.  He's more of a complimentary player whose efforts would be better appreciated on a championship team (as they were in Boston).  His contract is no different to the one the Spurs gave Malik Rose.  Malik Rose was a huge crowd favorite in San Antonio and was a hustle guy/role player.  The Spurs gave him a 7 year, 42 million dollar deal at his peak and he didn't change his style of play.  The Pistons just did this with Jason Maxiell.  These players aren't anything more than what they are on the court.  But you make an investment in a player because you want them to stay.  When they first pop on the scene, the market for them is huge and you want to do anything to keep the player on your squad.  This may happen with the Jazz and Paul Millsap as well, but that's the risk you take when you invest your money into role players.  Teams like the Lakers can get away with contracts like Luke Walton sitting on the bench.  The Hornets really can't afford to do so and that's why the Posey deal is killing them right now.

But Bower has made countless great moves to bring the Hornets back to the forefront.  As an assistant coach to both Paul Silas and Tim Floyd, Bower's been with the Hornets organization in various roles since 1996.  After being given the general managers position in 2005, he oversaw a complete turnaround of the Hornets franchise.  He was given a team that was starting the season with four starters (Baron Davis, Jamal Mashburn, Jamaal Magloire and David Wesley) on the injured list.  The team had a lot of money invested in those players and a few others on the bench.  That wasn't going to work.  The team won 17 games his first season as general manager, but he oversaw the dismantling of that underachieving, often injured bunch (sound familiar to this year's squad?) and made key moves in putting the Hornets future together.  As the team's primary talent scout, he played a huge role in drafting David West in 2003 at the 18th pick and drafting J.R. Smith the very next season at the same spot.  Also, in the 2004 offseason, the Hornets moved from the Eastern Conference to the deadly Western Conference.  Knowing that you couldn't win with the roster he had, he got rid of everybody.  Darrell Armstrong and his salary were sent to Dallas for Dan Dickau: an expiring contract.  David Wesley was sent to Houston for Jim Jackson and Bostjan Nachbar, Nachbar being a promising young player and Jackson being an expiring contract.  Baron Davis was sent to Golden State for Speedy Claxton and an expiring contract in Dale Davis in a move that looked horrible at first, but freed up the space to eventually sign Peja and lock up David West longterm.  He brought in Bryon Scott to lead the bunch and endured a very tough 17 win season.  In the offseason, just by being apart of the deal that brought Antoine Walker, James Posey and Jason Williams to the Heat for the 2005-2006 season, the Hornets were given Rasual Butler and Kirk Snyder.  Those two players played hard for the Hornets in the first season in Oklahoma City and they were huge steals for Bower.

One thing that cannot be underappreciated by Bower was his ability to keep the team together and afloat when they had to relocate to Oklahoma City because of Hurricane Katrina.  With the help of Byron Scott, the Hornets kept a solid, promising team together and always put a competitive team on the court when it could have been very easy to look at the situation as a loss cause and completely collapse (see how the Saints handled being away from New Orleans after Katrina).  In that same offseason that the Hornets had to go to OKC, they drafted Chris Paul.  He and J.R. Smitih were supposed to be the tandem of the future for New Orleans, but once Smith started to undermine Byron Scott and regressed his second season, the Hornets turned a negative into a positive and moved him to Chicago for Tyson Chandler.  Tyson Chandler would develop immediate chemistry with Chris Paul and would start for three seasons witih the Hornets.  The next two drafts brought Hilton Armstrong and Julian Wright to New Orleans and both players have showed promise sparingly.  They've never capitalized and it's safe to say Hilton never will, but one bad draft pick in five or six years isn't a reason to fire the general manager.  Especially when you picked both of them around the 13-15 range. 

So let's look back at it all, he was able to trade J.R. Smith for Tyson Chandler, was able to trade Chandler for Emeka Okafor which allowed the team to still be able to compete this year while giving them minor salary cap relief (a move most general managers would not have been able to pull off, in fact he almost didn't pull it off when he sent Chandler to Oklahoma City for Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox).  He worked with his limitations and brought in Darius Songaila and Ike Diogu to try and shore up a thin frontcourt, things just haven't materialized.  But they haven't been bad moves.  Had George Shinn not wanted to pony up 2 million dollars to the salary cap to keep Rasual Butler, the lack of a true shooting guard would not be a problem right now for the Hornets.  Bower has someone to answer to and he has a limit to what he can spend, and he's still put out a team that most people are upset hasn't won a championship yet.  He's still put out a team that expects to win.  That's big for a small market general manager.  He continued to build the franchise even when they were in Oklahoma City and throught drafts, trades and signings put together a great team for the 2008 season.  Did the spending go a little overboard with the James Posey acquisition?  Sure it did.  But the fact that the franchise attempted to go for it all when they were close to a championship shows that it's a team trying to win.  At the same time, there's a reason the same teams were able to go after big name players this offseason and the same teams had to cut costs and try and be competitive.  Because the NBA salary cap sucks.  It puts a lot of small market teams at a disadvantage.  Teams like the Lakers can get away with having huge contracts on their team because they'll make it all back with TV deals, ticket sales and overall revenue based off of Kobe Bryant's jersey sales alone.  So it's easy to say, as IP did, that "Kobe's not bigger than the Lakers."  The Lakers have always been good.  That's why Kobe's not bigger than the Lakers.  The Lakers are a gifted franchise who should always be competitive with any kind of competent management. 

Do I want to accept losing and do I want to make excuses for Jeff Bower?  No.  But I understand the situation and I know why the team made the moves they did.  So I can't, in the same breath, sit and blame Bower for the same team that he was praised for a few years ago.  He tried to shake things up and keep the team competitive even though the franchise was over the luxury tax this offseason.  He still may; you never know.  As the interim coach now, it's basically his chance to win with the players he put together or bring in a big time coach who can win (Tim Floyd is not the answer and if he hires him as Head Coach I demad that this post be stricken from the records and I will personally call for Bower's termintation).  I still have hope in the Hornets and if the franchise decides to strip it bare and build it back up again, I would like Bower to still be the general manager of the team.  Why?  Because he's oversaw a rebuilding process that resulted in a big turnaround before.  There's reason for me to believe he could do it again.
Posted on: November 12, 2009 3:43 pm
Edited on: November 12, 2009 3:51 pm
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Posted on: September 24, 2009 2:19 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2009 2:20 pm
 

Outlook For The 2009-2010 New Orleans Hornets

When I did this preview last season, I mentioned that the Hornets entered the season with serious championship aspirations.  Never before had I been so excited for a season to come as I was for last year's Hornets squad.  In the first game of the season, Peja Stojakovic injured his back and a trend was started.  Tyson Chandler, Chris Paul, David West, Morris Peterson and Peja Stojakovic missed a combined 22 games when the Hornets shocked the league by winning the Southwest Division and making it to the Conference Semifinals.  Last year, those five starters missed a combined 107 games.  The Hornets lost Jannero Pargo from that 2008 season but added James Posey.  The loss of Pargo proved to be substantial as the Hornets simply had no backcourt depth at all.  Posey also struggled with injuries last season and suffered an unfortunate elbow injury late in the season.  Quite frankly, injuries ruined any chances the Hornets had of improving on 2008's success.  The Hornets also lost a ton of money last season and their financial woes became a story in the league.  Reports about the Hornets being too expensive for the city of New Orleans were released.  At the deadline, the Hornets traded Chandler to the Oklahoma City Thunder for perennial bench players Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox.  The trade was rescinded due to Chandler's toe injury, and the Hornets responded with a nice stretch of success when Chandler was moved back to the team.  But Chandler's injuries resurfaced and the rescinded trade only brought to light how bad the Hornets were in terms of financial standing. 

In 2008, George Shinn invested a lot into that squad.  He got an emberassing return as the Hornets were humiliated in the first round by the Denver Nuggets and entered an offseason of uncertainty.  But then one of the most unheralded general managers in the game, Jeff Bower, put the wheels into motion and eventually turned out a solid offseason.  Gone from last season are key contributors Tyson Chandler, Rasual Butler and Antonio Daniels.  Arriving are Emeka Okafor, Darius Songaila, Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton.  Given his strict limitations, Bower made talent upgrades and cost effective decisions at the same time and was able to field a competitive team for this season without killing Shinn's checkbook.  He and Byron Scott still don't have the most talented team in the league, but they're solid at every position and have a nice mix of young, core players and contributing veterans on the squad.

 PG: #3 Chris Paul (78 Games, 22.8 PPG, 11.0 APG, 5.5 RPG, 2.8 SPG, 86.8 FT Pctg., 36.4 3PT FG Pctg., 50.3 FG Pctg.) - Returning this season, hopefully fully healthy, is the unquestioned leader of this squad in point guard Chris Paul.  Paul's 2009 season was quietly one of the best in the league.  He again led the league in assists and also led the league in steals and triple doubles.  Paul, however, simply became a victim of having to do everything for this squad all of last season.  By the end of the season, he was ailed by knee and groin injuries and his performance in the postseason against Chauncey Billups really had him looking inferior.  But Paul is still the best point guard in this league and is still the guy who the Hornets have attached the hitch to.  He enters this season with a rapidly improving jump shot and three point shot and is almost unguardable when on his game.  Paul still may become a victim of having to do too much this season as well, but he shouldn't be called on to do everything for the squad. 

#2 Darren Collison (35 Games, 14.4 PPG, 4.7 APG, 2.4 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 89.7 FT Pctg., 39.4 3PT FG Pctg., 50.9 FG Pctg.)* - Collison enters this season as the Hornets first draft pick in two years.  Collison manned down the point guard position for the UCLA Bruins for four seasons and went to three Final Fours with the Bruins.  Collison is an ideal fit to backup Chris Paul and may become the Jannero Pargo hybrid guard that was missed last season.  Collison is tenacious on defense, can hit the three point shot and is incredibly fast.  His lack of size may have been a factor in why he dropped as late as he did in the draft, but Collison was a great find for the Hornets at 21.  At the time, the pick was criticized because of the team's lack of frontcourt depth.  But it has since grown on Hornets fans and Collison is a big reason for optimism around the fanbase and organization.  He may be bullied a bit because of his size and also will have the mandatory rookie learning curve, but he's learning from one of the best in the league and should fit in nicely backing up CP3.

 SG: #9 Morris Peterson (43 Games, 4.4 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 63.2 FT Pctg., 38.8 3PT FG Pctg., 39.9 FG Pctg.) - With the departure of Rasual Butler, it looks as if Byron Scott will have no other option than to turn to Peterson to start once again this season.  That's not really a bad thing; Peterson did start on the Southwest Division Champion team in 2008.  But Peterson, even that season, hasn't truly delivered on that four year contract that the Hornets gave him to come and start at the shooting guard position.  Injuries and inconsistency forced Scott to push Peterson down to the end of the bench and he hardly played any factor in the stretch run for New Orleans.  Given his contract and his previous production as a starter, it looks as if Peterson will regain the job he lost last year.  But with rookie Marcus Thornton breathing down his neck, there won't be that much room for error for Peterson. 

#23 Devin Brown (63 Games, 5.2 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 78.0 FT Pctg., 28.9 3PT FG Pctg., 35.5 FG Pctg.) - Brown exercised his player option and is now set to return for  his third year in the last four with the Hornets.  Brown never really got into a rhythym last year and Byron Scott never seemed to trust him as he did during the Hornets last season in Oklahoma City.  Brown is versatile and can really play either the 1, 2 or 3 spot on the floor for the Hornets.  He improved his three point shot last season but seemed to shoot it too much.  But with the thin frontcourt depth for the Hornets, Brown will really be looked upon to contribute at both the point guard and shooting guard positions.  Given that it's a contract year as well, Brown will really have to impress to guarantee a job for the following season.

#5 Marcus Thornton (35 Games, 21.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, 74.5 FT Pctg., 38.8 3PT FG Pctg., 47.2 FG Pctg.) - Thornton is the Hornets second round draft pick and is a local product coming out of LSU.  The Hornets spent a 2nd round pick on another LSU product a few years back, Brandon Bass, and simply let him go to become a more productive player for a rival squad.  The Hornets seem to really love Thornton's ability and he's an extremely talented player.  He can score from all areas of the floor and is adept at attacking the basket.  However, there's not much to his game that separates him from your typical shooting guard and that's why he fell as late as he did in the draft.  With the short depth at the shooting guard position, Thornton will see minutes that Byron Scott normally wouldn't give to such a raw rookie.  That can either make or break him and it's crucial that he stay dedicated to his trade.  Thornton can be a really good player for the Hornets or just another forgotten player in a couple of seasons.

# Bobby Brown (68 Games, 5.3 PPG, 79.1 FT Pctg., 34.6 3PT FG Pctg., 39.2 FG Pctg.) - Brown was acquired in the Darius Songaila trade and also spent some time with the Hornets summer camp team back in 2008.  Brown had an OK season last year splitting time with Sacramento and Memphis.  He can score the basketball but may not be able to do much else for the Hornets.  Even though frontcourt depth is thin, it doesn't make much sense to carry four shooting guards and therefore I'm uncertain whether or not Brown will make the final squad.

 SF: #16 Peja Stojakovic (61 Games, 13.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.2 APG, 89.4 FT Pctg., 37.8 3PT FG Pctg., 39.9 FG Pctg.) - Coming off an impressive 2008 season, Stojakovic came into the season last year with more than a few expectations.  He bombed miserably last year with injuries and an inconsistent shot really hurting the team.  Also, given the fact that Scott is insistent on man to man defense, Stojakovic routinely got pushed around by the bigger, better wing men of the league.  As a result, a lot of people jumped to bash the same guy they cheered for a year earlier, but that's sports for you.  Stojakovic had an offseason to rest following his back injury last season, but this is a repeated problem for Stojakovic.  You start to wonder at his age and height, whether or not a back injury will ever fully heal.  He'll be the starter by default again, but I'm not certain he can regain his 2008 form and whether or not he can stay healthy again this season.

#41 James Posey (75 Games, 8.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.1 APG, 82.2 FT Pctg., 36.9 3PT FG Pctg., 41.2 FG Pctg.) - Posey's acquisition last season was met with much fanfare.  Given that he was a player with championship pedigree, a tough, clutch and gritty player of his caliber was supposed to help turn the inexperienced Hornets into a team with a swagger.  That never did happen last season and it really wasn't because of any kind of complacency from Posey.  He really tried last year but I think too much was expected from a player of his caliber because of the 24 million dollar pricetag that he came in with.  Posey will again be the primary backup this season off of the bench for the Hornets and should come in motivated to silence critics of his performance last season.

#32 Julian Wright (54 Games, 4.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 56.7 FT Pctg., 46.6 FG Pctg.) - Julian Wright had an extremely promising 2008 season and a lot was expected of last season.  But with the acquisition of Posey, Wright seemed to be the odd man out at the small forward position and, as a result, really dissapointed last season (which seems to be a recurring theme for the team and its players).  Wright showed some promise late in the season when Stojakovic got hurt and he started at the small forward position.  But his jump shot faltered last season and he found himself in and out of the rotation.  Unless Stojakovic gets hurt, Wright may have trouble cracking the lineup again but he has to show more when given game time anyways.  If his jumpshot improves enough, there's a possibility he could play at shooting guard given the lack of depth.  But Wright's increased minutes will have to come with dedication and improvement.  No matter what Hornets fans say, Byron Scott should not give this guy anything.  Wright should earn all of his time.

 PF: #30 David West (76 Games, 21.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.3 APG, 88.4 FT Pctg., 47.2 FG Pctg.) - David West showed that his 2008 season was not a fluke last year, as he and Chris Paul really made the Hornets a two man squad late last season.  He again wore down at the end of the year and really dissapointed against Kenyon Martin in the postseason.  But West is still the second option here in New Orleans and is a welcome face for fans.  In the offseason, some people felt that the only way the Hornets could get rid of either Peja or Tyson Chandler's contract would be if they packaged the relatively cheap West with them.  But Bower found a way to move Chandler without moving West and West remains the power forward for the Hornets.  West's jump shot went from being an asset to a crutch last season and his FG Pctg. suffered as a result.  However, it was revealed that West never fully recovered from the back injury that hindered him in 2008.  So that will obviously deter you from mixing it up down in the paint.  With the acquisition of Okafor, West may be not be asked to go down to the paint so much, but his game could become too soft if he does nothing but shoot jumpers.  So the Hornets need more muscle and grit from West this year.

# Darius Songaila (77 Games, 7.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, 88.9 FT Pctg., 53.2 FG Pctg.) - Picked up in a trade with the Timberwolves for Antonio Daniels, Songaila is kind of expensive for a player of his talents but is still a solid bench player for the Hornets.  His size, grit, and effort has made him a fan favorite everywhere he's been and I expect much of the same here in New Orleans.  He immediately becomes the team's primary backup in the frontcourt and can really help speed the game up when he's on the floor.  Songaila isn't going to blow you away much on a game to game basis, but he rarely dissapoints either.  You know what you're going to get from him, and consistency is something that would be valued coming off the bench in New Orleans.

#1 Ike Diogu (29 Games, 4.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 80.4 FT Pctg., 50.1 FG Pctg.) - Coming on the heels of the Okafor trade, Diogu was quietly signed to shore up the frontcourt by New Orleans.  Diogu has always been an interesting prospect.  He can really score the basketball and showed that in college.  As a lottery pick by the Warriors, Diogu was considered a good acquisition by the Pacers but dissapointed in Indiana.  He sat on the bench last year for the Trail Blazers and Kings last year, but right at the end of the year finished with back to back games scoring 32 and 28 points respectively.  The Hornets picked him up and this is another chance to prove himself for Diogu.  If he can score, he'll see a huge increase in minutes because nobody on the Hornets bench can really light up the scoreboard.  So if Diogu shows that kind of capability, we'll see what happens.  If not, we'll hardly see him at all.

 C: #50 Emeka Okafor (82 Games, 13.2 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 59.3 FT Pctg., 56.1 FG Pctg.) - Here is the Hornets biggest acquisition this offseason.  Okafor steps in immediately and starts for the departed Tyson Chandler.  Given that he started in all 82 games last season and is every bit of, if not better, the defender that Tyson Chandler is, this is a great move for the Hornets.  A healthy player at the center position will be a welcome change of pace for New Orleans.  Okafor is a good athlete for his position but his love for the game was questioned in Charlotte.  Player with Chris Paul should help all of that for Okafor and should also do wonders for his points production.  The defense, blocked shots and rebounding will be welcomed in New Orleans.  He still may be undersized at the center position, but he's penciled in there for New Orleans for this year most definitely.

# 12 Hilton Armstrong (70 Games, 4.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 63.3 FT Pctg., 56.1 FG Pctg.) - Armstrong, a former lottery pick for the Hornets, has largely dissapointed in his three seasons with the organization.  But now is the time for Armstrong to step up and prove that he's a capable center for the Hornets.  He's shown flashes of brilliance and flashes of stupidity and last season was the biggest mixed bag of all.  As a result of his mediocritiy, Armstrong routinely lost minutes and his spot in the rotation.  But he's the more talented of the two backups at center and will be given another chance to prove his worth.  Armstrong can be one of the best backup big men in this league if he showed any kind of effort or dedication but too often dissapears on the court.  An aggressive side and dedication can be taught, but there's no guarantee it will stick with Armstrong.

#4 Sean Marks (60 Games, 3.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 68.2 FT Pctg., 48.5 FG Pctg.) - The polar opposite of Armstrong, Marks was brought onto the squad last season as a good locker room guy to shore up the roster and show off his championship ring.  But with injuries and Scott's reluctance to play Arstrong and Melvin Ely, Marks found himself as a regular in Scott's rotation.  His hustle, effort and hard nosed play were welcome on the court but Marks simply isn't talented enough to be taken seriously as a backup big man in this league.  But, because of his cheap price tag and because of the good impression he made with the team last year, he finds himself back in the locker room this season.  Hopefully, we don't see too much of Marks, because that will mean that Armstrong has finally lived up to his potential. 

Coach: Byron Scott - Scott's job came into question last year after the 58 point home loss in game four of the first round against the Nuggets.  But Scott, the 2008 NBA Coach of the Year, returns to New Orleans and I'm happy about that.  He's been to two NBA Finals and lead a really impressive turnaround in New Orleans in his first four seasons, but really made questionable moves last year.  Hornets fans were impatient with his reluctance to give minutes to Julian Wright and his insistence of putting Sean Marks on the floor for substantial minutes.  But people need to understand that Scott played with the hand he was dealt last year.  If you look at last year's squad, production, and the amount of injuries that the Hornets suffered, a 47 win season and a postseason apperance were not dissapointments in New Orleans.  A lot was expected, but you can hardly blame Scott for last season's dissapointment.  But he's on shaky ground now so if the Hornets struggle again, critics may start chirping again.  Scott's confidence can come across as being stubborn and arrogant, but he's a proven player and coach and shouldn't be blamed for last season's dissapointment.  But we all know this is a business and that coaches get fired all the time.  I just hope it doesn't happen here in New Orleans.

All things considered, the Hornets have a solid bunch heading into this season.  With one of the best players in the league in Chris Paul leading the way, the Hornets are almost guaranteed to make the postseason.  A southwest division championship wouldn't be farfetched, but the Larry O'Brien Trophy may be.  The Hornets have a talented squad but really don't have the depth to make a true run at a title.  Too many people will be looked at to "step it up" and not enough will be asked to "keep it up".  There's a lot of unproven talent on the bench and the Hornets need to find a way to make those guys into stars if they want to win a championship.  But this team will not fall victim to the mediocre and complacent ways of last season.  This is a bunch designed to play hard and dedicate themselves to victory every game.  That's a great attitude to have going forward, but they still need more talent.

Prediction: 49-33

* Denotes college statistics
Posted on: July 8, 2009 1:02 am
 

Hard Times For The Hornets

Life as a Hornets fan is very cyclical.  Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues gave everyone hope before contract disputs between Johnson and Mourning forced the two to refuse to co exist and lead to both of them being shipped off to the Heat and Knicks, respectively.  Baron Davis, Jamal Mashburn, David Wesley and company came within a game of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001 before losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in game seven of that series.  They proceeded to slowly let injuries cripple the team before they were destined for medicority until the God awful 2004-2005 rebuilding season.

Last year's Hornets were supposed to give us fans new hope once again.  At this time last season, the acquisition of James Posey looked exactly like what the Hornets needed to push them over the top.  After all, they had one of the best players in the league in Chris Paul, one of the most underrated players in the league in David West and they now had a player that brought defense and championship intangibles to help this young squad learn how to win.  But then the circle completed this season and dark days look to be ahead for the Hornets once again.

Contracts ruined the promising 1993 team and injuries to Davis and Mashburn slowly crippled, no pun intended, that promising 2001 team.  However, both of those cost the Hornets this season and look as if they will curse the team for the next few seasons.  Chris Paul is still one of the best players in the league.  David West, although no longer underrated, is still as viable a second option as you will find in this league.  But the Hornets spent big time to land Posey.  At the time, there's nothing wrong with that.  After all, crunching numbers in regards to salary isn't becoming of a possible championship team.  As much fault as George Shinn receives, he paid to make this team win this season.  However, things quickly fell apart once again for the Hornets.

At this time, most of us Hornets fans were given hope that we'd be celebrating a possible first championship in franchise history.  At worst, another postseason run looked to be in the cards.  However, things didn't go that way at all.  Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic and Morris Peterson, three of the five starters that pushed the Spurs to a 7th game in the 2008 Western Conference Semifinals, all missed substantial time and Paul and West were therefore forced to play heavy minutes while nursing elbow, knee, back and groin injuries.  The end result was a dissapointing 49-33 season.  The end result was an embarassing performance in the 2009 postseason against the Denver Nuggets.  The end result was what looks to be one of the most dissapointing offseasons in Hornets history.

David West may have to be traded so that the team can unload either Chandler or Stojakovic's ridiculous salaries.  When you're a small market team, you usually tend to have to overspend on above average players so that they can come to your franchise.  It's payed off for the Magic with Rashard Lewis, for now, but it hasn't worked out that well for the Hornets with Stojakovic.  Two of his three seasons have been littered with back injuries and, although he had a really good 2008 season, he's nothing more than a spot shooter; an expensive and inconsistent spot shooter at that.  How they can convince anybody to take him off their hands I won't know.  Chandler is a player who has spent eight seasons in the league and has shown a knack for injuries in all of those seasons.  It's well publicized that the team wanted to trade him to the Oklahoma City Thunder only for the Thunder to rescind the trade due to Chandler's big toe problems.  However, it was his ankle that forced him to be a sad figure at the end of the season and in the playoffs.

Times are especially hard for the Hornets because the team is flat broke.  Although attendance this season was at an all time high since the team's relocation to New Orleans, ticket prices were among the lowest in the league and have to remain at that level in order for fans to show up.  Last season's attendance numbers were attrocious until the team caught fire around February.  Due to the inability to make any money off of the fans because of the city that they reside in, the Hornets are forced to make up for their payroll with victories and extended apperances in the postseason.  Needless to say, giving consistently big minutes to Sean Marks at the center position isn't going to set you up for success in the playoffs.

The Hornets have Chris Paul to build around, so this rebuilding process won't be as bad.  And they can still attract a Brandon Bass or a Joe Smith to come on board and may add Jannero Pargo back to the team (although I don't see why they need to do that since they drafted Collison).  But make no mistake about it, this is an uncertain time for Hornets fans.  One year ago, all the reason in the world for optimism.  Currently, nothing to get excited about.  It's funny how sports works.

 
 
 
 
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