Offseason In Review: New Orleans Hornets

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team's offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.


Trades and Claims

Draft Picks

  • Anthony Davis (Round 1, 1st overall). Signed via rookie exception.
  • Austin Rivers (Round 1, 10th overall). Signed via rookie exception.
  • Darius Miller (Round 2, 46th overall). Signed via minimum salary exception.

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

Before the 2012 offseason was even officially underway, it looked as if it would be a successful summer for the Hornets. Having lucked into the No. 1 overall pick through the draft lottery, New Orleans was positioned to land Kentucky's Anthony Davis, a prospect considered by scouts to be even more intriguing than 2009 first overall pick Blake Griffin, who has already started an All-Star Game. Even Deron Williams, the top free agent on the market wasn't viewed by executives and scouts to be the kind of franchise cornerstone that Davis could be.

With success virtually assured before the team even made a move, the Hornets were free to get creative over the course of the summer. While many teams often have a singular focus in the offseason, whether that means adding veterans through free agency, cutting costs to create cap flexibility, or stocking up on draft picks, the Hornets were willing to explore a plethora of options if it meant improving the team's long-term outlook.

In dealing Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza to Washington for Rashard Lewis' monstrosity of a contract and a draft pick, the Hornets cleared some cap room for next summer. In acquiring Brad Miller from the Timberwolves, New Orleans added a couple draft picks in exchange for taking on an unwanted contract. In shipping out Jarrett Jack and Darryl Watkins, the Hornets moved out a couple unwanted salaries of their own.

Amidst all of this maneuvering, the Hornets made a few big splashes. Eric Gordon's offer sheet with the Suns was matched by New Orleans, which was always a certainty, in spite of Gordon's health woes. Gordon had been the centerpiece of last year's controversial Chris Paul trade, so to let him walk after one season wasn't a real option unless they were fairly compensated, and Phoenix really didn't have the necessary pieces for a sign-and-trade. Gordon's long-term injury risk and his desire to be in New Orleans may still be issues the Hornets need to address, but the team did well to lock up a player with his talent, even if the price tag was a little high.

While the Hornets decided not to sign-and-trade Gordon to Phoenix, New Orleans did take advantage of the sign-and-trade to acquire a couple players of their own. Ryan Anderson was the big name coming to town, traded for Gustavo Ayon and locked up to a four-year, $34MM deal. I wasn't in love with the move at the time, concerned that Anderson's 2011/12 success may have been a product of playing with Dwight Howard in Orlando. But based on his performance so far in 2012/13, it looks like Anderson is the real deal, and having a player of his caliber on the books for $8.5MM annually for his age 24-27 seasons could be a coup for New Orleans.

The Hornets also added Robin Lopez from the Suns via sign-and-trade, at a lesser cost in both trade chips and salary. Lopez isn't in the same class as his brother Brook, but he had recorded a 14.9 career PER for the Suns, and like Anderson, was just 24 years old, presumably with his best seasons ahead of him. With the second and third years of Lopez's deal not fully guaranteed, the Hornets were able to avoid overpaying to take a chance on the big man taking a step forward — and so far he's done just that, posting career-highs in a number of categories, including PER (19.7), early on in 2012/13.

In Davis, Anderson, Gordon, Lopez, and Austin Rivers, the Hornets have loaded up on young talent in the last 12 months, and figure to have found at least three or four long-term core players within that group. Interestingly enough, it was last year's Paul trade that created the domino effect allowing the Hornets to land most of those players. Gordon and Rivers were obviously acquired directly in the trade (Rivers was selected with the Timberwolves' draft pick sent by the Clippers). Additionally, the decision to load up on young players and picks in the Clippers' package rather than the veteran players the club would have landed from the Lakers and Rockets resulted in a less effective team on the court, putting the Hornets in position to win that draft lottery.

The Hornets caught a break when they landed the first overall pick in last June's draft, but that was only one piece of the puzzle (albeit a corner piece). Besides making the no-brainer call to draft Davis, the Hornets have made a few decisions that were significantly more challenging, rolling the dice on young talent. So far, the early returns have been great in some cases (Anderson, Lopez) and less inspiring in others (Gordon). But given where the franchise was just a year ago, shopping its superstar and searching for a buyer, the future certainly looks brighter for the Hornets – or rather, the Pelicans – going forward.

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