After Chris Paul's trade demands last month, every NBA fan is wondering where he will end up. While New York has been rumored and could be the best option if they can team up Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire wth him, the Hornets still have all the leverage right now, but they need to improve before Paul is a free agent. If the Hornets get back to contender status, then Paul would probably want to stay with the team that drafted him and stay in the city that he loves. But in order for the Hornets to keep Chris Paul, they will need to make some major moves in the next couple of seasons.
This is arguably the most important thing, because if they aren't willing to spend money, then there is absolutely no way they could get good players and win a chamionship over the uxury tax payers like the Lakers and Mavericks. If the Hornets actually get sold to billionaire businessman Gary Chouest, then the Hornets will have a chance to compete. Any billionaire who owns an NBA should be willing to spend to win. If Chris Paul is to stay, he will want to know that the ownership is willing to spend to put good players around him in an attempt to win a championship. If the Hornets were willing to pay the luxury tax, then they could use the Mid-Level Exception in the offseason to get players like Ron Artest, Jermaine O'Neal, and Al Harrington, wo are all better than anyone on the Hornets other than Chris Paul, David West, and maybe Emeka Okafor for O'Neal and Harrington.
The Hornets have arguably the worst bench in the entire league with Marco Bellinelli and Peja Stojakovic being the only players on the bench that non-Hornets fans could name (and even that is only known by the biggest NBA fans). And Stojakovic is a very below average NBA player in every category other than shooting 3-pointers now. After trading Darren Collison, they don't have single point guard on the roster other than Chris Paul, and no NBA player can play 48 minutes a game for 82 games. David West and Emeka Okafor are their only solid big men. The Hornets are greatly lacking in size with a 6'10" center and a 6'9" power forward with no backup big men other than Aaron Gray.
Although all the good free agents are already signed to other teams, there are still some good players that they could get with the veteran minimum, since the Hornets owner is cheap and doesn't want to pay anything more than that. For the veterans minimum the Hornets could sign point guards Jamaal Tinsley and Marcus Williams. Tinsley is looking for another chance in the NBA and would gladly take the minimum, while Williams hasn't been able to get many NBA jobs so he would be forced to take the minimum. Tinsley could come in and be the backup while Williams could be groomed to be the backup for Paul in a couple years.
With Marcus Thornton, Quinxy Pondexter, and Marco Bellinelli at shooting guard, the Hornets don't need to sign anyone. But Stojakovic is a guarantee to miss at least 30 games next season, so the Hornets will need another small forward to back up Trevor Ariza, and Jarvis Hayes or Jawad Williams would be good options. Hayes is more likely to go to a better team for more money, but if he came to NOLA he would be a good backup since he is a good scorer and decent defender. Jawad Williams is a player just trying to get some jobs in the NBA, so he could be had for the minimum. He is tall at 6'9", so he could be a good defender, and he is a decent scorer.
Other than a backup point guard, the Hornets need big men more than anything else. The good thing is that there are still some good big men free agents out there. The top choice for this young, rebuilding Hornets team would be former Suns energy guy Louis Amundson. He's a hustle player who could develop into a good role player and rebounder. Since injuries are a part of the game, the Hornets would need another power forward behind West and 1st round pick Craig Brackins.
Every team needs rebounds and solid defense inside, so the Hornets should sign DJ Mbenga and Kwame Brown to be their backup centers. Since Mbenga, Okafor, and Brown are prone to get a lot of fouls, their would plenty of minutes for a 3-man center rotation. All three are decent rebounds and shot blockers, who would benefit from getting open shots from Chris Paul's passes.
Since no good free agents will want to come to New Orleans unless they are grossly overpaid, the Hornets will need to build through the draft and through trades and there is no point in opening up a lot of cap room. Peja Stojakovic has been known to be one of the worst contracts in the past couple of seasons, but now that it is finally expiring, the Hornets could get some good players from a team looking to cut salary.
The Detroit Pistons have been looking to get rid of Richard Hamilton for a long time, and I think he just might be a perfect fit with Chris Paul. Hamilton is known as one of the best catch-and-shoot players in the game, and Paul is known as one of the best passers in the game. With Rip's ability to ru around and get open, and CP3's ability to find openings in the defense, Hamilton could have the best scoring year of his career along side him. Another advantage of Hamilton is that he is a clutch scorer who could be a go-to guy for them and he is a good defender, which is something every team needs on the perimeter.
Even though David West is an All-Star, he isn't a good enough defender or low-post scorer for the Hornets to win in the playoffs. Emeka Okafor is a good rebounder and shot blocker, but has no offensive game and is undersized for his position. Without any good low-post options, the Hornets would be a great disadvantage against the Mavericks, Lakers, Blazers, Nuggets, and Jazz.
The best option for the Hornets would be Andrew Bynum of the Lakers, but that is impossible since the Lakers wouldn't trade him, even for Chris Paul. Some of the other best options are Tyson Chandler, Al Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Greg Oden, Paul Millsap, Marcus Camby, Nene, and Marcin Gortat. Al Jefferson is no longer available since he was traded to the Utah Jazz, the Blazers are still hoping Greg Oden can be a star, the Jazz are really high on Millsap. That leaves Marcin Gortat, Andris Biedrins, Nene, Camby, and Chandler.
The easiest player to get would be Gortat, but that would only be if they were willing to trade David West for him and Mickael Pietrus, which is very unlikely and a stupid move for the Hornets. The Hornets could attempt to trade Aaron Gray, Darius Songaila's expiring contract, a 1st round pick, and a 2nd round pick for him, but who knows if the Magic would be willing to do that. The only chance of that happening would be if the Magic wanted to cut some of their salary.
Andris Biedrins would be a good fit since he is a strong rebounder and would be able to score with Chris Paul's passes and he ability to get put backs. But, the Warriors have said that they want to keep him and it is doubtful that they would trade their only good defender for a 1-year rental of David West. Emeka Okafor also wouldn't be a good enough player to get him in a straight up trade, so Biedrins is not an option.
Nene is the best player in the this group, and is by far the best offensive player. The Nuggets seem to like him though, and they need a center because they are lacking in size. Also, Nene is a better player than Okafor and is cheaper, so that doesn't seem like an option. Even though the Nuggets would probably be interested in David West, it would require a 3 or 4-team trade to make that work because the Nuggets would need a center.
And finally there is Marcus Camby, who is the best rebounder and shot blocker of the group, but doesn't have an inside offensive game. He can hit the occasional jumpshot and has the ability to make wide-open dunks and layups most of the time. With Paul, though, Camby would look a lot better. Since he will be a backup for Portland this year there is a possiblity of getting him, but knowing Oden's injury history, the Blazers might want to keep him. If they were to get Camby though, they would have to trade Okafor for Camby, which isn't a very good trade for New Orleans at all.
Tyson Chandler is a proven good teammate for Chris Paul, so a trade wouldn't have a lot of risk with it. But, the only way to get him would be a 3-team trade. I think the best way to do that would be with the Raptors. The Raptors are looking for a good rebounder and center to play with Bargnani after Bosh left, so Okafor could be a good option. The Raptors also have Bosh's trade exception which they could use to get Okafor.
The Hornets would receive Tyson Chandler, the Raptors would receive Emeka Okafor, and the Mavericks would receive David Anderson and Reggie Evans. This trade would benefit the Mavericks because they would get a C and PF to fill in some of the minutes Chandler would've played, while also allowing Brendan Haywood, who they are paying $11 million a year, to play more minutes. They would also save $10.2 million this year in salary and luxury tax with this trade. The Raptors would get a strong rebounder and shot blocker to play center, which would greatly help cover up Bargnani's weaknesses. The Hornets would receive a tall player to get rebounders, block shots, receive alley oops, and guard the Andrew Bynum's and Tim Duncan's of the West.
So, if the Hornets do make some of the moves I mentioned, then their roster could be good enough for the 7th or 8th seed in the West this season, with a chance to be higher in the future with the use of the Mid Level Exception, Draft, and Bi-Annual Exception.
PG- Chris Paul
SG- Richard Hamilton
SF- Trevor Ariza
PF- David West
C- Tyson Chandler
PG- Jamaal Tinsley
SG- Marcus Thornton, Marco Bellinelli
SF- Peja Stojakovic
PF- Louis Amundson, Craig Brackins
C- Kwame Brown
Reserves: PG Marcus Williams, G/F Quincy Pondexter, C DJ Mbenga