June 1, 2012; Westwego, LA, USA; A detailed view of the winning lottery ball combination (6-4-9-7) and the winning envelope from the NBA draft lottery for the New Orleans Hornets at a press conference at the Alario Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Hornets May Shop 10th Pick For Cap Space

That’s not my idea folks, but John Reid at the Times Pic says the Hornets aren’t ruling it out. The reasoning is simple enough…New Orleans needs to really blow up the team in order to climb back into relevance, and the onerous contracts of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza make that a little difficult. Okafor is owed a whopping 28 million over the next two seasons, and Ariza is owed close to 15 (7.2 for next season, and then a 7.7 million player option he’s almost certain to pick up because c’mon…nobody is paying Ariza nearly 8 million bucks a season). Since the squad lacks much in the way of talent that could be used to entice eating a bad contract, the NoLa braintrust may look at using that 10th pick as bait.

While we don’t know exactly what the cap is going to look like next year, I think I have a pretty good idea of what teams could possibly be interested in dealing with the Hornets. I imagine an interested team is not going to be a real contender (Okafor and Ariza are not terrible players, but they’re expensive and not likely to really put anybody over the proverbial ‘top’). An interested team would obviously have some cap space, and also an actual need at either center, or the wing. The best I can figure, there are only 3 teams that might fit…Charlotte, Cleveland and Sacramento.

The Bobcats are a hot mess. For a team that regularly plays games in the NBA, they are curiously without anybody who is capable of regularly playing NBA-caliber basketball, except for maybe Gerald Henderson. Grabbing another lottery pick in a deep draft would certainly be of interest to them. However, they may not actually have that much cap room this season, and I can’t imagine they’re in a huge hurry to reacquire Okafor. If the Bobcats draft Kidd-Gilrest at the #2 pick (which I think they should), then tying up cap space with Ariza doesn’t seem as attractive either. I imagine Charlotte will kick the tires on the 10th pick, but would be an unlikely candidate to make a deal.

Sacramento could be interesting. They could have gobs of cap space, and if they let Jason Thompson walk, they could be in the market for another big man. Cousins and Okafor could be a pretty imposing frontcourt, and Okafor’s professionalism and experience could be exactly what a young (and possibly crazy) team needs. Sacramento could make a trade work by sending Hasaan Whiteside and other filler, but they have some other young talent with longer contracts should NoLa be interested (Jimmer?). Sacramento may not want to tie up all of it’s cap space with Okafor though. Two lotto picks would allow Sactown to grab either Harrison Barnes or Andre Drummond at 5, and then perhaps another PG at 10 (Marshall or Lillard)

The team that makes the most sense to me would be Cleveland though. The Cavaliers badly needs help at center, and at the wings, should have significant cap space, and would love to have another early pick in the draft. Cleveland has the 24th, 33rd and 34th picks, which they could use to help sweeten the deal for New Orleans, along with Boobie Gibson. Cleveland is likely to use their 4th pick on the best wing player left on the board (Cavs fans pine for Bradley Beal, but Cavs brass appears to be higher on Barnes), and they could use the 10 pick on a reliable guard behind Irving. Okafor and/or Ariza, plus the draft talent infusion, could push Cleveland into that 8th seed, and would help New Orleans clear their books.

Toronto, Minnesota and Indiana may also have the cap space to get the deal done, but are far less likely to be interested. Toronto is actually looking to trade their own 8th pick, and isn’t interested in adding two new rookies. Indiana already has Granger and Hibbert, and Minnesota’s offseason priority appears to be upgrading their 2 guard, rather than another wing.

If I’m New Orleans though, I wouldn’t do this deal, unless I could clear both contracts and add a rotation player (which I think would be unlikely). A glance at the Hornets roster also reveals a paucity of strong NBA level talent, and most of their young prospects appear unlikely to blossom in strong rotation players (feel free to buy up Al-Farouq Aminu jerseys and prove me wrong though). While adding Anthony Davis will be wonderful to this team, a chance to partner him with another prospect who can actually shoot the basketball is one that should not be passed up, unless somebody gives them a Godfather deal, especially since the 2013 draft appears to be exceptionally weak.

But hey, if New Orleans (or any of these teams) were famous for making wise personnel decisions, we wouldn’t be discussing them in this article.


Follow Matt Brown on Twitter at @windycitymatt

Tags: Cleveland Cavaliers Indiana Pacers NBA Draft 2012 New Orleans Hornets Toronto Raptors

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