With free agency set to begin next week, the New Orleans Hornets’ ownership transfer delay could hamper the team’s ability to improve its roster, even though George Shinn has continued to reassure fans of his commitment toward winning.
What else is he going to say? The cash strapped owner needs to sell season tickets.
But the situation in the Big Easy has led to widespread speculation that more than half of the league’s general managers have taken great interest in. The Hornets remain a league-wide curiosity because, even after last season’s virtual giveaways of Rasual Butler and Devin Brown to avoid paying luxury tax, New Orleans is back in tax territory with a projected payroll of more than $73 million in 2010/11.
What do you do when your loss-making team’s two best players play the same position?
One answer, and the easiest, is to trade one of them this summer. There are only 48 minutes available to a point guard, and the Hornets have more pressing needs at hand. Both Chris Paul and Darren Collison would demand a major return on the trade market. The Hornets could move Paul in return for a bevy of solid, young talent and draft picks that could shore up several positions of need. They could also move Collison with a bigger contract to pad his outgoing salary. The Hornets unfortunately have multiple overpaid declining parts still locked up for at least another season.
Rival executives continue to try to convince the Hornets to make Paul available in trades, pointing to the fact that new head coach Monty Williams can simply slide the promising Collison and his modest $1.4 million salary into that spot. When those teams get shot down, they come right back and suggest the Hornets’ make Collison available, conditioned upon a willingness to take back the cap-clogging contracts of Emeka Okafor, James Posey or Peja Stojakovic.
It has always been assumed that the Hornets will trade away one of their two star point guards to get under the tax threshold. Recent history suggests that smaller market teams will do just about anything – even the decidedly stupid – to drop below that magic line. Last season, the salary-dumping Utah Jazz jettisoned the promising rookie point guard Eric Maynor to Sam Presti, perhaps the best young general manager in the league today, and his Oklahoma City Thunder, in a package deal that included the retiring Matt Harpring. Read more…