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3 on 3: Free Agency Rumors Gone Wild

3-on-3 TrueHoop NetworkWe’re not even past the finals and already we’re seeing free agency primers turn into reported rumors circling around the Charlotte Hornets. Here to separate fact from fiction are QCH contributors Spencer Percy, Michael Kaskey-Blomain and Doug Branson.

1. Last Saturday, Rick Bonnell and Ben Weinrib of the Charlotte Observer came out with 30 moves the Hornets could possibly make. Of course, several blogs hone in on Carmelo Anthony in Charlotte Hornets teal and purple?Carmelo Anthony and report speculation as rumor, but there is no way Melo finds his way to Charlotte, right? RIGHT?!

Spencer @QCHSpencer: Well, I guess you could hone in on just about any of them and find an end result, right? Throw a bunch a stuff at the wall and see what sticks effect.

Doug @QCHDoug: Don’t expect this twitter/blog rumor-mongering to slow up any time soon because you have all the makings for it:

A. Big name owner looking to win now and saying it publicly.

B. Money to spend.

C. Plenty of expendable assets.

We’re basically the opposite of the Knicks franchise right now, which, as of late, has been a good barometer of success. But we’re still a small market. We still can’t give him as much money as the Knicks.

Michael Jordan seems poised to make some kind of splash to bring the fans into Time Warner Arena in 2014-15. I doubt very seriously if that splash is the sound of an Anthony jumper in teal and purple.

Michael Kaskey-Blomain @therealmikekb: Unfortunately, I don’t see any situation in which Melo makes his way south to Charlotte. Although his scoring ability from the wing would be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Bobcats-turned-Hornets, it doesn’t seem like an ideal fit for either side.

Carmelo isn’t a spring chicken any longer, and whichever team he signs with this summer might represent his last real opportunity to contend for a title. Melo has had an extremely successful and productive individual career, but playoff success has alluded him, and you have to think he would like to address this issue before he hangs his Jordan’s up. While the Hornets are a team on the rise, they remain a couple pieces, and years away from true contention; a few years that a soon-to-be-30 Carmelo Anthony can’t afford to contribute to. Anthony will likely look for a team that can contend right away, and has a couple other all-star caliber players to ease the pressure; Charlotte just doesn’t seem to fit the bill.

And that’s okay. On the Hornets side, sure they would like to have the point-production-machine that is Anthony, but in the end, the team might be better off without his addition. The Hornets are a young, up-and-coming team that has done a good job of acquiring young talent over the past several seasons. With another lottery pick in the upcoming, and stacked, 2014 Draft, the future is bright in Charlotte, without ‘Melo’s contract eating up the cap. Rather than hinging it on a central superstar like Anthony, the continual development and addition of young talent may pay bigger dividends down the road.

Greg Pietras @Handles_Messiah: Nope. Charlotte started turning the franchise around last year, but market size, team history and the current roster still means attracting the top free agents will be a challenge. That goes double for Carmelo, where history has shown he only wants to play in a big city.

2. Yeah, but what if ‘Melo did decide to dance in the Queen City? That’d be pretty neat, huh?

Spencer: Anyways, right, there’s no way that ‘Melo will find his way to Charlotte. Say what you want about the kind of player that he is, and how he goes about the process, but I do believe that the guy wants to win. Carmelo turns 30 tomorrow, so wherever he lands next will very likely be his last opportunity to get a ring. Anybody believe that’s going to happen in Charlotte in the near future? Yeah, me neither. And I’m not trying to be a pessimist here, but sometimes there must be a line drawn between optimism and what’s real.

Doug: If I can be allowed to wonder for a moment about a starting lineup of Kemba, Hendo, MKG, Carmelo and Big Al Jefferson, yes I can see that being very successful. Does Carmelo eat possessions, sure. Does he lack effort and skill on the defensive end, sure. But these are only problems when you surround him with others who are inefficient scorers (looking at you J.R.) and don’t play defense (looking at you Bargnani). He doesn’t need to be the leader in the locker room, he would just need to come in and knock down big buckets and score in droves. Something, I’m told, he enjoys doing. History doesn’t favor these types of transactions but if it happened, all I’m trying to say is it wouldn’t be a pox on our house. P.S. if I read one more time that Melo has a shoe deal with Jordan and that makes two cents of difference, I might burn the whole internet down.

MKB: Carmelo in Charlotte would be neat, but mainly for the fans. Despite Charlotte’s recent success, the team lacks the star-power to command some of the national attention that its development deserves, and Carmelo would command that. Plus, it is always nice for a fan base to have a superstar to rally around. Other than that though, it seems unlikely, and the Hornets can continue to develop into a contender without Carmelo.

Greg: Carmelo would be an interesting fit for Charlotte, but I’m not sure that team would be significantly better than this year’s New York Knicks. He’d have a very good second scorer in Al Jefferson, but the defense would probably lose a good bit of its edge. Mike Woodson wasn’t able to build a strong scheme even with Tyson Chandler wandering the paint, and the Hornets don’t really have a frontcourt player that can help cover for Carmelo on that end. They’d also be taking away minutes from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, their best overall defender.

I don’t want to downplay Anthony’s talent, since the offense would take a quantum leap if he signed. Still, he seems like a player that’s difficult to build around, and we saw this year that he isn’t enough on his own to drag a team to contention.

3. What are some of the more probable moves that the Hornets could/should make, instead? 

Spencer: I really like the idea of finding a way to acquire Jameer Nelson and Aaron Afflalo from Orlando. It would likely cost them a first round draft pick + Gerald Henderson. Nelson would have an expiring contract worth $8 million next season and Afflalo would be on the books for two seasons worth approximately $15 million. This is a deal that could realistically happen + it really moves the needle for Charlotte – brings in a wing scorer + a quality backup PG.

Doug: I said this on Hive Talk Live and I’ll double down on finding a way to get Paul Millsap to Charlotte. Now there is a name that wouldn’t mind playing in a small market. He’s accustomed to playing with Big Al. He had a career year last year (17.9 points per game, 8.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.7 steals) and he’ll be on a 9.5m expiring contract that is downright insane for his skill level. Low risk, high reward, would turn us into an immediate contender. It wouldn’t mean the end of Josh McRoberts in Charlotte, it would just mean even more lineup flexibility at the SF position if we were able to hold on to him.

MKB: The addition of Anthony is unlikely. but the issue that he would addresses still exists for Charlotte; they need some perimeter production. With Big Al Jefferson producing in the paint, and Walker playing the point, the Hornets need to add some perimeter players capable of putting the ball in the basket. A quick look down the list of potential free agents this summer offers several options for Charlotte.

I would like to see the addition of Luol Deng, who is an unrestricted free agent. Deng would provide an answer to Charlotte’s small forward spot, and would work well on both ends of the floor. Deng is a great perimeter defender , and could add to the defensive identity that Charlotte has begun to develop, while serving as a viable offensive option. Lance Stephenson, another unrestricted free agent,  is another name to look at as he can play on both sides of the ball also, but some of his antics may be cause for concern. Gordon Hayward and Trevor Ariza are a couple other perimeter players that may be worth a look for Charlotte, as they could potentially fit with the franchise.

Greg: Like Spencer, I really like the idea of adding Arron Afflalo. He can play next to either Gerald Henderson or MKG, brings more scoring punch than either, plays very solid defense, has a reasonable contract, and seems like a good locker-room presence. That move would be especially great if they could pull it off without trading Henderson — just slot Gerald as a bench spark, give him around 25 minutes a game and play the matchups. I feel like Hendo can get dumped on by fans for his flaws; he’s not a perfect player, especially next to Kidd-Gilchrist, but he’d be near perfect as a sixth man.

They have a handful of other options, including splashier targets like Gordon Hayward and Lance Stephenson. Players like Shaun Livingston, Trevor Ariza, and Thabo Sefolosha would also provide some interesting lineup possibilities.

Just staying put might not be a bad idea, though: The team really started to gel late last year, and they can easily afford to keep everyone around. Give mild raises to Josh McRoberts and Chris Douglas-Roberts, take the best players available in the draft (Dario Saric?), sign a quality point guard (Ramon Sessions redux?), and let things cook. They’d enter the season with a roster they already know works, and lots cap space and depth. At the trade deadline, if they need or want to make a deal, they’d have some attractive assets to work with. That kind of flexibility could be key in keeping this team competitive.