New Orleans Hornets Makeover: Keep Chris Paul, move David West
Step One: General Manager Fire Jeff Bower
His track record in drafting players has been pretty solid and about the best you could ask for from a GM.
While many now complain about the burden of the Peja Stojakovich deal, his original signing was lauded as a great deal at the time, knowing money would be the only thing to lure him to New Orleans.
However, the past two seasons Peja has been no where to be found.
This is the only deal that he has made during free agency that can be applauded without completely wanting to bite a hand off. Every other signing has been downright awful such as James Posey, Mo Peterson, etc.—cap eaters who provide no production.
While this is all bad in its own right, the fact that the franchise has allowed players to walk and refused to spend the money in some cases to bring in talent is a horrible spit in the eye of a fan base destined to watch the best player in franchise history walk as soon as he can opt out.
in what world can a GM trade away a multiple-time All-Star player like Baron Davis, get back Speedy Claxton, and think he or she did a good job?
Players who have left under Bowers' watch also include Jannero Pargo, Brandon Bass, J.R. Smith, Jamaal Magloire, and others, while in return the Hornets have only inherited a team that can not better itself.
The Hornets could not even be a player in this huge free agency, even though many players would jump at the opportunity to play with one of the ultimate selling points—Chris Paul.
Step Two: Promising Pieces
The Hornets team has some pieces that can help it make the playoffs this upcoming season, but nothing to make a serious run to the NBA Finals.
Based on the current roster, a mere appearance to the Finals would be an incredible run for this team.
Chris Paul is the franchise and can not be touched.
Marcus Thornton is about as safe as can be, based on his production and his current pay. Darren Collison is the exact player the Hornets have been looking for since the departure of Pargo, and they have little interest in moving him, unless a very nice opportunity comes along that can not be passed up.
David West is the second best player on the team and seems very unlikely to be moved for any reason, which brings me to the third step.
Step Three: Trade David West
The guy has incredible value, and most teams would jump at the chance to add a low post scorer to their team. In return, the Hornets can get a very good center of their choosing.
Move Emeka Okafor to power forward, his more natural position, and he will certainly improve.
He will never be as good as David was, but will be more than a solid player, and the Hornets aren't likely to move Okafor. Attach a draft choice to that trade and the likelihood of an All-Star for an All-Star trade seems even more likely.
Step Four: Moving the Remaining Bad Contracts
Okafor at power forward is a moderately high-priced player, but not nearly as much of an eye-sore as Peja and Posey.
With both players already in their 30s, it will be even harder to move them.
How about reasoning?
Simply confront both players in separate environments and propose the idea of a pay cut. Both players may not even be starting next season, and both are making money too much money to be bench players.
Peja has ridden the bench and been plagued by injury reports, yet he is signed to almost max contract money, the same deals that LeBron and Wade are signing.
If he is offended by the idea of a pay cut—so what?
He will ride the bench for a season and cost himself the chance he would need to demonstrate he can still play, before becoming a free agent and losing even more future money.
If Darius Songaila is traded with Peja, since both are expiring contracts, some teams may be willing to trade us players of much greater value to give them even more spending money in the upcoming offseason.
Step Five: Make the Long Term Effort to Better This Team
Lock up Marcus Thornton and do not let previous mistakes haunt the franchise again. The sooner he inks a new deal, the cheaper it will be for the Hornets.
Make long-term commitments to whomever the team brings in, so that the franchise shows the fan-base, NBA players, free agents, and, most importantly, CP3 that this team is about to go big or broke.
The new owner, whenever he takes over, will surely support the team's efforts and strides.
Step Six: Financial Responsibility
Hopefully this team has learned from its previous mistakes, but this outlined plan is painful for most fans to consider.
Losing the second best player just to solidify a position of need seems just as reckless as the original decisions that put the Hornets in this position to begin with.
Here's the thing though, David is in a contract year and would most certainly command a higher salary next year than his current deal.
David also wants to win.
He won't be willing to stay on board, as neither will Paul in two years, without some drastic changes made around him.
At this time, I just do not see New Orleans being able to convince him to stay, so this trade would be about getting the maximum value now.
Future financial responsibility in spending and getting the best players is a lesson that hopefully can be learned from this as opposed to repeated in the future.
Step Seven: What next?
With the bench, PF, and C positions solidified for the future, the star power can come from the guards and the small forward position.
Thornton and Collison are fantastic; however, if they were both second stringers, they could annually be Six Man of the Year candidates.
Quincy Pondexter and Craig Brackins will develop over time, and hopefully, if they pan out, they could play a huge role in all this too.
This leaves the most vacant holes at SG and SF, which could be addressed using the cap space after Peja's and Songaila's departue this year and Posey next year.
Step Eight: Finally, JuJu
Do not put stock in him nor condemn him yet.
This is a make or break year for him, according to Julian Wright himself, who I talked to this weekend, first hand, while getting my haircut—do not ask.
He said that the new coaches have spent more time coaching him than anytime Scott or any of his old coaches had over the past couple years. He also stated there have been several tweaks, even down to his shooting and his release points.
He has high hopes for this season.
Is this information enough to believe he will turn into the player everyone hoped? No.
Is it enough to hope for one more season? Yes.
Hornets fans have nothing else at the moment to hope for, and unlike these scenarios, this is actually going to happen one way or another.
One last tidbit: David West was just like JuJu before Byron Scott coached him.
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