NBA Draft 2012: 5 Bold First-Round Strategies for New Orleans Hornets
With two selections in the top 10 of the 2012 NBA Draft, the New Orleans Hornets need to take bold action in order to get maximum value out of both picks.
After trading valuable pieces Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza–presumably for cap reasons–the Hornets are in rebuilding mode. It seems the front office didn't feel the current projected starters would be competitive in the Western Conference.
Here are five bold strategies for the Hornets to gain as many assets as possible through this draft.
Trade the No. 1 Pick to the Sacramento Kings
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This could be a win-win for both teams.
The Hornets aren't quite as desperate of a franchise as the Kings, and could improve the value of their pick if they don't have to spend on the No. 1 overall pick.
Considering the Kings would be getting Davis, too, it could part ways with one of its guards in its crowded combo guard roster.
Tyreke Evans would be an interesting option, and would also be a slight upgrade over Jarrett Jack. This would form a dynamic duo alongside Eric Gordon in the backcourt.
Although DeMarcus Cousins might not be discussed, he did demand a trade last season.
If Cousins was given a fresh start in the stellar defensive system of Hornets head coach Monty Williams, he could make a huge leap toward realizing his full potential.
With the No. 5 pick, the Hornets could select either Andre Drummond or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, depending on which direction they want to go.
Drummond might have more upside than Davis, is similarly athletic and versatile, but already possesses a gigantic 280-pound frame. He would form quite an explosive and talented frontcourt with Cousins.
Kidd-Gilchrist could slide into the starting lineup to replace Ariza and provide a strong presence on both ends of the floor, along with strong leadership ability.
Acquire Rajon Rondo and Rely on Free Agency
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This scenario would hinge on holding onto Eric Gordon.
With Gordon in the fold, the following trade would be feasible:
New Orleans trades the No. 10 and No. 46 picks along with Gordon and Jarrett Jack to Boston for Rondo and the No. 51 pick.
According to NBAdraft.net's latest mock, the Hornets will draft point guard Damian Lillard from Weber State.
Rondo will ultimately have a better career than Lillard, and is arguably the best point guard in the NBA. For whatever reason, Rondo has been put on the block a lot by Celtics GM Danny Ainge.
The Celtics are undertaking a massive rebuilding project that could see the entire Big Three leave, with Paul Pierce being a possible exception.
It's difficult to part ways with Gordon, but the addition of Davis and another pick in the second round still makes for a darn good draft for New Orleans.
With so much cap flexibility, the Hornets could absorb Rondo's contract, which isn't even a max deal.
Assuming Chris Kaman can be signed to a reduced contract or is allowed to walk, it would give the Hornets leverage to be aggressive for young free agents.
An attractive option would be Nicolas Batum to start in place of Trevor Ariza at the 3.
A high-value shooting guard would be Danny Green, who started for the San Antonio Spurs this past season. He is a lethal three-point shooter, and would also fit in nicely to Monty Williams's defensive-oriented philosophy.
Batum is just 23 years old, and Green is 24. Good value could be had with both of these players, and it might even be possible to use the mid-level exception on Batum.
The new lineup would look something like this:
C- Kaman/Carl Landry, PF - Anthony Davis, SF- Batum, SG- Green, PG- Rondo.
With whoever is drafted at No. 51, Jarrett Jack, Marco Belinelli, and Grievis Vasquez off the bench, it would give the Hornets lots of athleticism on the perimeter.
There would also be enough depth up front, with Landry and third-year player Jason Smith, a seven-footer who still has room to improve.
Trade Eric Gordon to Golden State or Houston for an Additional First-Round Pick
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While Chris Kaman is a potential value play, Gordon could be a huge chip no matter what his contract is.
I made the case recently that building around Gordon would be a logical move with the roster and draft picks on tap.
In light of the recent trade of Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor, it seems that is not the direction the team will be going.
With that in mind, if the Hornets really want to blow it up and start over, the franchise could package Gordon and the No. 10 pick and move into the top five pretty easily.
Another possibility is just trading Gordon and the recently-acquired No. 46 pick get a third first-round draft pick.
The Houston Rockets (No. 14 and 16) and Golden State Warriors (No. 7 and 30) would be ideal trading partners for acquiring a total of three first-round selections
This would give the Hornets an incredible amount of cap space to play with, assuming it uses the amnesty clause on Rashard Lewis's horrific contract.
Sign-and-Trade Chris Kaman and Move Down to No. 11
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Kaman is a pending free agent, and made $14 million last season. At age 30, he's going to have to take a less lucrative deal, especially after having a down 2011-12 campaign.
At the same time, Kaman is a legitimate seven-footer who has flashed potential to be great throughout his career. He hasn't reached his potential, and it might be largely due to being on mostly dreadful teams.
If Kaman can be re-signed to a reasonable deal, he could be a valuable trade chip, since the only elite center prospect in the draft is Andre Drummond.
The Blazers could be enticed by Kaman to pair with LaMarcus Aldridge, and perhaps an additional second-round pick or player to trade up one spot.
With this selection, the Hornets will save a little bit of cap space and still likely be able to select dynamic Weber State point guard Damian Lillard, UNC's Tyler Zeller, or even Illinois center Meyers Leonard.
Draft Damian Lillard at No. 10 and Trade
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Lillard, a point guard from Weber State of all places, is a phenomenal talent who can shoot the heck out of the ball.
He shot 43 percent from beyond the arc this past year and took over seven threes per game. He also shot 88 percent from the free throw line.
That type of scoring ability and versatility would be attractive for the Hornets, who are desperately in need of offense.
However, the big red flag is that he didn't face elite competition in the Big Sky conference. There's probably something to that, especially if he's supposed to come in and contribute a huge scoring spark right away to an offensively-challenged team.
The Hornets would be best served to trade Lillard to the Dallas Mavericks and get a surer, purer point guard at No. 17 in UNC's Kendall Marshall.
Although there are concerns that Marshall isn't quick enough or athletic enough to be effective in the NBA, he is a fantastic leader, and can make everyone around him better.
This will be significant for a team that will likely weather some growing pains, and Marshall's infectious basketball savvy should help the Hornets grow up together and accelerate their development.