With their playoff chances dwindling, the New Orleans Hornets face the decision of whether to shake up the roster at the deadline or continue developing a young and promising core. New Orleans has a few nice pieces that would be enticing to other teams, but breaking up the team may send the Hornets back to the drawing board.
The Hornets are currently nine games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference, as of Feb. 18. They have a solid core of shooting guard Eric Gordon as well as forwards Ryan Anderson and rookie Anthony Davis. Point guard Greivis Vasquez and center Robin Lopez are bolstering the starting rotation with breakout years.
While the odds of making the postseason are long for Monty Williams' bunch, it's not impossible to think a big second half can sneak New Orleans into the playoffs. To help with that unlikely scenario, the Hornets are would have use the upcoming deadline to fill needs and bring in seasoned veterans who can contribute immediately.
The Hornets have a huge need at small forward, where current starter Al-Farouq Aminu is starting to come along after a dismal first two months. The bench needs some work as well. Only guard Roger Mason and center Jason Smith offer any kind of reliability for the team's second unit.
As we draw closer to the Feb. 21 deadline, names are going to be rumored around non-stop for the next few days. If the Hornets are going to make a move, there are a couple people out there that New Orleans should consider looking into.
Phoenix Suns small forward Jared Dudley has been the talk of trade rumors for quite some time. He was mentioned in a potential trade for Rudy Gay (via SI.com) before the former Grizzlies forward ended up in Toronto. His name was also brought up when reports surfaced of Phoenix's interest in Atlanta's Josh Smith from HOOPSWORLD.
The Hornets haven't publicly expressed interest in the Suns' forward, but that's not to say they shouldn't. Dudley is an excellent shooter from behind the arc and, while the Hornets have no shortage of three-point marksmen, he would represent an offensive upgrade at small forward.
In this video from Dudley's 36-point explosion against the Knicks on Nov. 17, you'll see what he would bring to the table for the Hornets. Dudley is a spot shooter who is a weapon from mid or long range. He has some athleticism, although it is clear he prefers to get his points on the outside.
A trade for Dudley would almost certainly have to include Aminu. If you're New Orleans, you deal Aminu now for a couple reasons. First, as a free agent this summer, there's no guarantee Aminu is in a Hornets uniform next season. Aminu has also been wildly inconsistent this season and, if he does re-sign with New Orleans, there's concern of how reliable an option he can be going forward.
Dudley's signed for the next three seasons at a reasonable $4.25 million per year, with a player option for a fourth year at the same price. There's a good chance that will be cheaper than Aminu's potential price tag this summer, especially if Aminu keeps playing like he has the last two months.
Dudley isn't the athlete or defender that Aminu is. He doesn't attack the basket like Aminu or is as strong a rebounder. Dudley is, however, a more consistent scoring option and can be someone the Hornets can use to solidify the small forward position and take some offensive pressure off guys like Gordon and Davis.
If the Hornets can manage to acquire backup point guard Sebastian Telfair as well in a Dudley trade, that would pay huge dividends for their second unit. The team has been using rookies Brian Roberts and Austin Rivers as backup point guards this season. Telfair would be a more reliable option and a significant upgrade over the two.
With young big men Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors waiting in the wings, the Utah Jazz have the luxury of shopping veterans Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Both Jefferson and Millsap are free agents this summer and there isn't much of a need for the duo to return to Salt Lake City with their replacements already on the roster.
Millsap has been the name that has been mentioned most recently. There are reports that the Clippers and Jazz have discussed a swap of Millsap for backup point guard Eric Bledsoe according to ProBasketballTalk.com. Whether that deal occurs remains to be seen. Still, a potential Millsap trade doesn't exactly rule out Jefferson changing addresses soon as well.
The Hornets have benefited from a career year by Robin Lopez. The former Suns big man has made the most of his second chance at being an NBA starter, averaging 11.7 points and 5.5 rebounds (both career highs) per game. He's also done his part on the defensive end, blocking 1.8 shots per game.
Lopez has his limitations though. He's still coming along offensively and he doesn't really dominate the glass for a big man getting a steady amount of minutes. Jefferson doesn't have either of those shortcomings. He leads the Jazz in scoring (17.5 points per game) and rebounding (9.5 boards a night).
In this highlight reel of Jefferson's 27-point/14-rebound performance against Phoenix on Nov. 10, you'll see why Big Al should be in New Orleans' sights. Immediately, you see Jefferson's excellent post game. He's backing down a solid defender in Marcin Gortat and using his impressive strength to bully his way into the paint for the basket.
The Hornets don't have that kind of interior presence on the roster. Anthony Davis will be a solid big man for years to come, but he still needs to add bulk to his slim frame. By making a move for Jefferson, the team gets an upgrade at center as well as an option down low on offense. Jefferson would also improve the team's rebounding dramatically.
A player of Jefferson's magnitude will require the Hornets to give up a significant package. Also, with Jefferson's pending free agency this summer, there's an added risk of renting an All-Star-caliber big man for an unlikely playoff run.
The Hornets could offer up guard Eric Gordon (whom the Hornets have been surprisingly shopping around) in exchange for Jefferson. The deal would rid New Orleans of Gordon's risky contract and gives the Hornets a couple months to convince Jefferson to stick around "The Big Easy" long term.
New Orleans could also offer their 2013 first-round pick, which has a good chance to be high at this point. By dealing the pick, the Hornets would be eliminating the possibility of filling their hole at small forward in this June's draft with someone like UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad or Georgetown's Otto Porter. They would also be gambling on Jefferson staying past this season.
It's a risky move but, if they can get Jefferson to stay, the tandem of the 28-year-old Jefferson and the 19-year-old Davis would give the Hornets a formidable frontcourt duo for years to come. As for Lopez, the team could still parlay his breakout season into a deal that would help fill their need at small forward or shooting guard (if Gordon is dealt).
With injuries piling up for the Boston Celtics, the team might be wise to sell off its older, more established parts in exchange for pieces that would help them in the future. All-Star Weekend was littered with talk about a potential trade that would send forward Kevin Garnett to the Clippers for guard Eric Bledsoe and center DeAndre Jordan.
Garnett quickly threw cold water on the deal by refusing to waive his no-trade clause. With K.G. likely staying put, the talk shifted to small forward Paul Pierce being moved in a deal for Hawks' forward Josh Smith (via CBSSports.com).
ESPN's Marc Stein tweeted that any deal that would bring Smith to Boston would probably require Pierce coming to Atlanta in return. Stein also expressed skepticism that such a deal can be made, especially considering what "The Truth" means to the people of Boston.
However, what about swingman Jason Terry? Despite the rise in minutes after season-ending injuries to guards Rajon Rondo and Leandro Barbosa, "The Jet" is still down in scoring by comparison to his career average. Terry is averaging a little over 10 points per game, a significant drop from his career average of 15.9.
For the Hornets, the obvious deal here would be sending rookie guard (and son of Celtics head coach Doc Rivers) Austin Rivers to Boston in exchange for Terry. The No. 10 overall pick has been disappointing midway into his debut season, averaging six points per game.
By acquiring Terry, the Hornets would be strengthening their second unit. Terry could be the spark off the bench that Rivers was supposed to be. While it may be early to give up on the rookie out of Duke, the Hornets run the risk of Rivers' value continuing to decrease if his play doesn't drastically improve.
If Boston has any interest of reuniting Austin with his father, the Hornets would be wise to make a deal while the Celtics are in the position to have a fire sale.
In this video from his 26-point night against Denver on Feb.10, Terry's talents are on full display. Throughout the clip, you'll see that Terry is an excellent shooter. However, around the :31-second mark is what should make Terry so appealing to the Hornets.
Terry has excellent quickness and ball-handling skills. Those talents allow him to consistently get to the basket, as seen by the move he makes at the :34 second mark. The Hornets' guards are mainly shooters. Other than Eric Gordon, there aren't many guys on the roster that attack the basket. Terry could help out in that area.
Terry is also a proven winner and a seasoned veteran who could be a voice of wisdom in a young locker room. With Roger Mason the only Hornet on the roster over 27 years old, New Orleans could use another older guy to mentor the kids.
In the end, the Hornets' desire to make a move will depend on how realistic they think their playoff chances are this season. If they don't believe the odds are worth risking another roster overhaul, they'll likely stay put and work towards next season.
With another lottery pick and money to spend this summer, the Hornets could be a factor next year. However, if the Hornets think they can make a run, acquiring any of these three gentlemen will greatly improve their playoff chances.