Monday, June 30, 2008

Gimme Some Agents... for Free

With the free agency period officially starting in a matter of moments (at midnight), I figured it was just about time to post an offseason outlook. You could also argue that it was time to do that about a month ago. But -- since I waited so long -- we now know that the Hornets will not be adding a new draft pick to the roster, so this will be a bit more accurate (you see what I did there... positive spin). But it will still be a complete guess. The good news is that the future is brighter than it has ever been for the Hornets. Unlike in years past, the focus can now be on the immediate future, since we've got a solid core (Chef Paul, D-West, Tyson, and Peja) and a decent supporting cast (Mo-Pete, JuJu, Pargo, ...) that will only require a handful of tweaks in order to turn this team into a perennial championship contender.

The main issues the Hornets need to address are a backup point guard, the 2-guard spot, and front court depth. So, summing up... the bench. Some things could work themselves out if players currently on the roster improve. Namely, if we see Julian Wright continue to get better and if Hilton Armstrong can match what he showed in last year's summer league, the team would have addressed two weak spots. I think we can count on JuJu improving. With Hilton, I'm not so sure. For the purpose of this blog, let's just assume the Hornets look to free agency for all roster improvements. Here are their best options in my opinion.

Chris Duhon - would give the team a true point guard off the bench; he wouldn't offer the same scoring ability as Pargo, but he would be there to run the offense when Chris Paul needed a rest.

Ramon Sessions - really came on at the end of the season with the Bucks (when he actually got up from the bench). Although it's an extremely small sample size, his numbers in 17 games were incredibly impressive (8.1 ppg, 7.5 apg). Would be a dream come true if he could come to New Orleans and keep up that production.

Jason Williams - could be a good option to run the second-unit offense, and he would come to the team with valuable veteran experience (not to mention a championship ring).

Ben Gordon - although he's restricted, Chicago might have more important signings to make before they think about matching any offer that the Hornets or other suitors could tender. I see him fitting in pretty perfectly with the team: he would definitely bring a much-needed scoring punch to the bench. And there's no question about whether he'd start or play from the bench, since he has some strange allergic reaction to starting. He's a bit undersized for the 2 guard, so I'd like to see the team bring back Bonzi Wells if they go after Gordon.

Corey Maggette - Are you ready for Maggette? I sure as hell am. The Hornets could play him as the sixth man (Ginobili style) or insert him into the starting lineup in place of Mo Pete. He shoots a decent clip from behind the arc (33% over his career) and slashes often -- and well -- enough to get to the line at a good rate. Last season, he averaged almost 10 free throws per game. And, when he got there, he didn't miss much (81% FT).

Mickael Pietrus - had an underwhelming year in 07-08 after putting up career-high averages in points, rebounds, steals, and blocks one season earlier. More of a perimeter specialist than a slasher, he would really need to improve his percentage from the free throw line. But -- for the time being -- he makes up for it with his defense. Pairing him with JuJu would prevent every opponent's second string swingmen from scoring a single point against the Bees.

Bonzi Wells - I'm probably in the minority, but I'm able to look past his no-show in the Spurs series. I can remember a handful of games during the second half of the season where Bonzi's contributions on offense (25 pts vs HOU) and defense (8 stls vs BOS) were incomparable. I really do want to see him return to the team. I think we can get him for a reasonable price, I have no memory of him being more well behaved on any other team, and I was amazed to see him become a fan favorite at the Arena.

Big Men
Kwame Brown - if he'd be willing to agree to a significant pay cut, Brown would be worth picking up. He averaged just under 5 pts and 5 rebs this season, and that's probably worth a cool million or two. Certainly not the $9 million he earned this year. But he's got good size and decent enough stats to earn him some attention before he's cast off into early retirement.

DeSagana Diop - Sure, I'll throw his name out there. But there's no doubt in my mind that some desperate team will eventually drive up his price and make it completely impossible to hope the Hornets would be pick him up for a deal.

Carl Landry - If the Rockets decide, for some strange reason, to let him take another team's offer unmatched, the Hornets need to be that team. He's undersized, but Landry stands his ground in the post. Not exactly a rebounding machine... I'd hope that Hilton proves he deserves to stay in the league, because -- honestly -- if he doesn't improve upon his numbers from last year, I don't see any future for him in the NBA. However, if Hilt does show some promise, he and Landry could be a potent duo coming off the bench.

We'll see if the Hornets are thinking any of the same things that I've written. Maybe even as soon as tomorrow. Of course, just because they're eying any of the guys on my list doesn't mean it's a done deal. Here's hoping we know something sooner than later. Otherwise, it'll be a long summer.

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