To preview the Mavericks game tonight, we've brought in Rohan Cruyff who writes SB Nation's NBA rookie power rankings and doubles as a Hornets blogger over at At The Hive.
1) Three months after David Stern's veto or whatever it is that actually happened, how do you feel about the Clippers trade? Would you rather have had the Rockets/Lakers package for CP3?
I still feel the same way I did when it happened - ethicality aside, I much preferred the Clippers deal. It afforded the team a chance to start a completely fresh rebuild process, and for a small market team, that's absolutely essential. The Lakers deal would have given the Hornets a playoff team (I believe), but one with almost zero potential for growth. It's unfortunate the Eric Gordon injury situation has developed as it has, but the reality is that small market title contention really only happens through the draft. Of course, the lottery and draft themselves are hardly guaranteed, but the Hornets appreciably improved own pick was a critical, critical component of my preference for the Clippers' deal.
2) What's the latest on Eric Gordon's injury situation and how is that going to affect his impending free agency?
It's very, very uncertain at this point. Based on the Hornets' last announcement, it's not clear whether Gordon has been given permission to resume even basic training at this point, and an April return (as the team seems to be hoping for) would really be a best case scenario here. The injury situation didn't seem to diminish the contract requests of Gordon and his agent (they asked for 4 years/$58 million, the maximum another team can offer Gordon this summer). And the injury situation notwithstanding, I wouldn't be surprised if they still expect a similar offer in the summer. Restricted free agency complicates things of course, and I can't say with confidence whether an Indiana (or whoever else) will actually offer the $58M max.
3) Excluding Gordon, what players on the Hornets do you think have a future in New Orleans? Who do you want to still be on the team in three years?
This is a great question, and one I've been constantly re-evaluating throughout the season. On opening day? My answer was nobody. At the time, I'd have characterized Emeka Okafor as the team's second best player (considering all facets of the game), but obviously, his is a contract the team might very easily move if presented the opportunity. As the season has progressed, though, a few guys have really stepped up.
In ascending order from least to most important - Greivis Vasquez, Trevor Ariza, and Gustavo Ayon. I could see Vasquez as a long term backup point guard option (that's my personal assessment of his ceiling); his distribution has been more than decent on the year. Ariza's fascinating in that he's gone back to, in many ways, the "old" Trevor Ariza as opposed to the Houston and New Orleans jump-shooting incarnation we've gotten the past few years. His value is significant defensively, and now that he's coupling it with passable to even positive offense, I could see him sticking around. (Two months ago, I'd have laughed in your face if you suggested such a thing). As far as Ayon - he's been a revelation. Rebounds, fights defensively, high offensive IQ ... I'll be legitimately mad if the team can't hold onto him in the long term. I think he's very close to his ceiling as a player, but he's already such a top-notch role player that that hardly matters.
4) There are two schools of thought when it comes to rebuilding: tank as much as humanly possible or play veterans that will keep you competitive on a nightly basis. What do you think is the better plan for the Hornets going forward?
I hate that second school of thought. Staying afloat for no reason and no long term goal is something I simply can't get behind, and it really appears the Hornets feel the same way. I don't want to levy any accusations here, but let's just say that New Orleans has allowed its players to rest assorted injuries for surprisingly long periods of time. Emeka Okafor, one of the league's true ironmen for many years now, hasn't played in nearly a month with a "sore knee." Jason Smith, who had an impactful but not devastating collision with a Piston a month ago, hasn't played since February 4th. Again, I can't speak authoritatively on the nature of many of these injuries, but I do get the feeling that things would be tighter on a playoff contending team.
5) Let's pretend the lottery gods, a.k.a. David Stern, smile upon New Orleans and the Hornets have picks #1 and #2 in the 2012 Draft? Who would you take?
Without blinking, Anthony Davis at #1. At that point, I'd just pass out in joy and not really worry about #2, though I'd lean MKG over a Robinson or Sullinger ... I think.