The Failed Devin Brown Trade: Rearranging The Deck Chairs On The Titanic

Paul AugustinCorrespondent IDecember 30, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 01:  Devin Brown #23 of the New Orleans Hornets dribble in front of Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Staples Center on December 1, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
Harry How/Getty Images

Because of the wildly popular movie by the same, most readers know that the Titanic was a supposedly unsinkable ship that sank suddenly in 1912 with most of its passengers.

If an activity is compared to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, it means that it will have no effect on the problem and is generally a waste of time.

Beginning early yesterday, Minnesota newspapers and various NBA blogs reported an impending Devin Brown for Jason Hart trade. This trade was supposed to benefit both teams.

The T-Wolves would receive some outside shooting and backcourt help, and the Hornets would receive some salary cap relief. Reportedly, the Hornets would immediately waive Hart and his non-guaranteed contract.

By early afternoon yesterday, the same sources that reported the impending trade were claiming that the deal was in trouble. By nightfall, Phoenix newspapers were reporting a confirmed Jason Hart for Alando Tucker deal.

According to the Arizona Republic, the  Suns sent Tucker, $100,000 cash and a conditional second-round pick to the T-Wolves for Hart. The Suns will also pay the remainder of Tucker's $1.07 million salary for this season.

From a strict player-for-player perspective, the Hornets deal would have been better for the T-Wolves.  However, when considering the entire package, the Suns deal made much more sense for Minnesota.

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So what is going on with the New Orleans Hornets?

The Hornets team payroll is approximately $5.4 million over the luxury tax threshold. Shedding Brown's $1.1 million guaranteed contract would have saved Hornets owner George Shinn $2.2 million out of pocket when considering the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax.

This deal would be akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  The Hornets are a franchise that has struck an iceberg and is sinking.

The Hornets most certainly have salary problems. The problem is not Brown's paltry $1.1 million contract.

The Hornets have talent problems. Brown, while not a star, is a decent minimum salary backup player. He is not the problem.

The Hornets problems are, in order, Peja Stojakovic, Morris Peterson, James Posey and Hilton Armstrong.  The foursome has a total salary for this year of over $29 million and $32 million for next.

What are the Hornets receiving for this hefty sum?

In total, these players are averaging 25.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and .72 blocked shots per games. These would be really good numbers for one player.

For a quartet, these are really sad numbers.

Peja Stojakovic has a contract that pays him $14.2 million this season and $15.3 million next season. He is averaging 11.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, and and 1.2 assists per game.

Peja is a defensive liability and has no ball handling skills. He was the most heralded off-season acquisition in Hornets history as shown in this clipping from the Hornets website archives:

“Peja coming to the Hornets is perhaps the biggest off-season acquisition in the history of the franchise,” said Hornets Owner George Shinn. “Our fans deserve the best team possible on the floor when we start the 2006-07 season, and we’re off to a great start this summer in making that happen.”

Since joining the Hornets, Peja's stats have steadily declined. 

Morris Peterson was signed as a free agent from Toronto for the 2007-08 season.  Like Stojakovic, the left-handed Peterson was signed to be an long-range threat who could stretch the defense.

Peterson rarely appears on the court for the Hornets.

James Posey was signed as the missing piece for the Hornets championship quest. Posey, who was once a strong contender for the Sixth-Man of the Year Honors, had been a contributor on two NBA championship teams.

Posey has been known as a very good athlete with good size and a lot of versatility. He is a good defender and a decent outside shooter with ability to perform in the clutch.

A solid contribution to the 2007-08 Celtics championship drove up Posey's value on the free agent market.  The Hornets paid top dollar for Posey.

Posey has not played up to expectations.

With the twelfth overall pick of the 2006 draft, the Hornets selected UConn center Hilton Armstrong.

2006 was not a particular strong draft. The Hornets did, however, pass on some much better players including Ronnie Brewer, Rajon Rondo and Jordan Farmar.

Armstrong has been mostly a non-contributor for the Hornets and has not displayed much potential on the court.

Like the RMS Titanic on its maiden voyage, the Hornets' situation is serious.  Unlike the Titanic, however, the Hornets are not doomed.

In my next article, I will provide some immediate and long-term ideas on how to right the ship.


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