This was another piece written by a guest blogger, someone who knows his team much better than I do – Ryan Schwan of Hornets 247. I asked Ryan to just answer the following question…
What do the Hornets need to do to improve on last season?
The first thing the Hornets need to do is not be satisfied.
The Hornets can’t be the newest version of the Phoenix Suns, who even when they reached the Conference Finals were a clearly flawed team with no bench to speak of. The Hornets didn’t exactly get their off-season going with a bang, either, selling their draft pick to the Portland Trailblazers for cash – and raising another unfortunate comparison to the Phoenix Suns.
The good news is the Hornets don’t need to do much to improve from a very good team to a legitimate contender.
Their starting five is one of the best in the league, and assuming Chris Paul accepts the max extension he’ll be offered, is under contract for the next three years at fairly reasonable prices.
All that’s required is to fill in around that starting five with a trio of capable players: One ball-handler combo guard, one wing, and one big man. The Hornets organization has been willing to spend up to the Luxury Tax line, which means they will have about $9 million to spend this off-season on their own players and through the Mid-Level Exception.
One of the first items they need to get done is to re-sign Jannero Pargo, their serviceable, if streaky, combo-guard sixth man. Because he’s just as capable of having horrible games as excellent ones, his contract will probably be kept to a reasonable amount. Both sides have expressed that they want to get it done and Pargo seems to just want a longer-term contract. That should feed into what the Hornets are trying to build.
Once Pargo is re-signed, the Hornets really need to focus on getting a big man.
Hilton Armstrong was simply terrible last season, and Melvin Ely can’t claim any better. Relying on Hilton to suddenly figure it out in his third year seems to be a fool’s proposition.
The Hornets need an energy player who can come in and cover for Tyson Chandler and West for twenty minutes a game.
Personally, I’d love to see a trade for someone like Nick Collison, Drew Gooden or Udonis Haslem occur, but the Hornets just don’t have the trade chips to make something like that happen without giving away part of their starting five.
That probably limits the Hornets to someone like Ronny Turiaf of the Lakers.
The wing position for the Hornets may already be solidified. Last year’s rookie Julian Wright showed all the tools last year of a good wingman combination of Gerald Wallace and Tayshaun Prince. He’s probably the most exciting Hornets rookie I’ve watched outside of Chris Paul, and I’m looking forward to see what he can do in his second year.
All that said, he is still a very young player.
If the Hornets can provide him some support/competition at the wing by signing Bonzi Wells or someone similar to a two year deal, it would provide the Hornets with good insurance.
Outside of that, I’d like the Hornets to come back almost intact.
Sure, the contracts of Mike James and Rasual Butler are essentially dead weight, but next year they become expiring contracts, and will probably bring more value in a trade then.
Could the Hornets find a better starting shooting guard?
Probably, but Morris Peterson does fill a lot of needs for the starting five. Unless it was a clear upgrade that doesn’t involve trading Julian Wright, I would prefer we stand pat and see how this team performs next year with an upgraded bench.