Hornets Potential Free Agent Targets
Hornets Potential Free Agent Targets
By Jeff Martin
This off-season was already one of the most important in the 24-year history of the Hornets franchise. From dealing with life after trading a superstar, to finding an owner willing to keep the team in New Orleans, the organization faced a myriad of questions that had every aspect of the teams future in the air. But after a string of good fortune, it could also prove to be the best off-season in franchise history, specifically after the team landed the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft and the rights to select super-prospect Anthony Davis. They also will be able to double-back in the drafts top-10 and select another potential impact player with tenth pick acquired from the Clippers in the Chris Paul deal.
Another major string of pivotal decisions that loom for Hornets general manager Dell Demps is what moves will be made this year in free agency. With 9 players under contract for next season, and 2 more probably coming in the draft, the Hornets could sign up to 7 free agents during the signing period. Some will invariably be minimum salary camp bodies, but a good number will be called upon to play an important role relative to the composition of this team. The Hornets currently only have $35.5 million tied up in salary, with the salary cap near $58 million. But after accounting for the likely resigning of Gordon and the imminent signing of Anthony Davis and his draft class mate, the Hornets will have significantly less than the $22 million in current cap space to target potential free agents, though enough room to make an impact.
Here are a few players I feel the Hornets could take a look at and some of the pros and cons of these players as it pertains to the Hornets:
Kevin Garnett- Age: 36, Power Forward/Center 6'11 253 lbs (Celtics) *unrestricted
WHY: Garnett brings instant toughness, championship mettle, and leadership to any team he signs with this summer. Monty mentioned how the likes of David West and Willie Green were sorely missed as leaders in that locker room and Garnett certainly would bring that. Aside from the wealth of intangibles, Garnett even at 36, can still be productive on the court, averaging 19.9 points and 10.8 rebounds throughout the Celtics' current playoff run. Where it makes most sense for the Hornets is how he potentially fits with the future face of the franchise, Anthony Davis. Garnett is someone the 19 year old Davis constantly mentions when asked who he aspires to be like (rightfully so), and what better example to learn to be like Garnett, then from the man himself.
Why Not: Garnett made 21.2 million dollars last season, which would have been 1/3 of the Hornets entire payroll. While he wont command that type of money this time around, he still wont be cheap and might be too big of a cap hit for a team to absorb, especially a young team looking to fill a number of holes on the roster. And although Monty's reputation as a head coach is growing and he and the Hornets have some momentum brewing, Garnett will likely want to play for a proven contender at this stage of his career.
Patrick Mills- Age:23 Point Guard 6'0 185 lbs (Spurs) *restricted
WHY: A personal favorite of mine as he was instrumental in winning my fantasy basketball league championship game with his 34 point, 12 assist, 5 rebound performance in the Spurs' regular season finale. Mind you, it was against an defensively inept Warriors squad, but he scored 61 points in his 2 starts, and it showed what he is capable of if given minutes. Mills is limited defensively but according to Spurs coach Greg Popovich, he is a very heady player, having played all over the world, including with the Australian national team. Although he's restricted, he'll never play much with Tony Parker in San Antonio for the foreseeable future, and after making just $300,000 last year, he conceivably could be signed away with a manageable contract. Mills could be a poor man's Steve Nash at his ceiling and at the very least could be a designated 3-point threat for the Hornets, as he shot 43% from downtown last season. That could be a welcomed skill set, especially if Marco Belinelli walks in free agency.
WHY NOT: The Hornets already have one prospect point guard in Greivis Vasquez and probably wouldn't be willing to take on two. Mills also is on the smaller side, listed generously at 6'0 185 lbs, and like noted above he is limited defensively, which could keep him from ever seeing the court on a Monty Williams coached team.
Ersan Ilysova- Age:25, Power Forward/Small Forward 6'10, 235 lbs (Bucks) *unrestricted
WHY: Ilyasova finished second to Ryan Anderson in the most improved player award this past season after averaging 13 points and 8.8 rebounds a game for the Bucks. One of the more efficient players in the league, Ilyasova shot close to 50% from the field while knocking down 45% of the 112 3-pointers he took. Expect his scoring numbers to be even better next season as he continues to refine his offensive game and will not be playing alongside the black hole that is Monta Ellis. It would take a good bit of the Hornets cap space to sign him, but at his age and skill set, that may be a gamble worth taking for Dell Demps and Co.
WHY NOT: Ilyasova may have played his way into a contract the Hornets might not want to take on and the Demps may be scared away by the numbers. Although Ersan can play some small forward, the Hornets also could potentially have a gluttony at the power forward position pending the selection in the draft at 10 and Carl Landry's free agent destination, and may want spend dollars elsewhere.
Anthony Randolph- Age:22 Power Forward, 6'11, 225 lbs. (T'Wolves) *restricted
WHY: He's restricted, but on a Tinberwolves team who has enough youth and will eventually have to pay Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic, and he may be able to be signed away with a decent offer sheet. Randolph has above average athleticism, runs the floor well, and has been productive when given time, averaging 17.4 ppg,10.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 2.2 blocks per 36 minutes last season. He's efficient, young, and could be a good front court option off the bench for Monty Williams.
WHY NOT: Randolph's playing time has been consistently inconsistent in his 5 years since entering the league out of LSU and it has to be a concern that no coach (he's played for 4 since he was drafted) trusted him enough to give him consistent minutes depite the fact his teams are usually non-contenders. And again, the number of power forwards that could potentially be on the Hornets roster could discourage the signing of Randolph, who doesn't play much center.
Nicolas Batum- Age:23, Small Forward/Power Forward, 6'8, 200 lbs, (Blazers) *restricted
WHY: Monty said he wanted length and scoring in his post lottery interview and Batum could provide both, along with play the type of defense Monty loves from his players. Batum, who is a 39% 3-point shooter, averaged 14 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2 assists last season and routinely covered the opposing teams best wing players. Batum would fit well with the Hornets, especially if Ariza is moved in the offseason and could slide into the starting small forward spot, giving the Hornets the longest 3-4 combination in the league.
WHY NOT: Not too much to say negatively about Batum fitting in with the Hornets basketball wise other than the fact that he is a restricted free agent and the Trail Blazers would likely match any reasonable deal the Hornets would offer.
Willie Green- Age:31 Shooting Guard, 6'3 201 lbs (Hawks) *unrestricted
WHY: Have you ever had that high school coach who always brings up how some guy 10 years ago did everything right and was the epitome of what he wanted in a player? If you have ever heard Monty speak, you know Monty LOVES this guy and what would he would bring to the team on and off the court. Green shot 47% from the field and 44% from 3 in his reserve role for the Hawks last season.
WHY NOT: If the Hornets resign Marco Belinelli and Eric Gordon, there may not be many minutes for Green, who will be 32 when next season begins.
Spencer Hawes a versatile big man, Goran Dragic, the point guard the Hornets traded for in the original CP deal and Jordan Hill, who was a rumored trade target this season before the deadline, are also free agents whom the Hornets could target and would make some sense in New Orleans.