An an interesting exercise as a fan is to think about your time from a perspective other than your own.
Most fans of most teams have a pretty good idea most of the time of the value of players that are on different teams, yet seem to have an inflated sense of the players they cheer for.
Take fantasy sports for example. How many times can you recall someone proposing a trade that vastly overstates that value of the player that individual is giving up? Are people just bad at playing fantasy football and potentially not keen on the finer points of fake-trade negotiations? Yes of course — but it’s never not important to try and arrive at the truest value of the team you pull for.
So let’s get started.
We begin by dismissing essentially all players that don’t play. The only value that could be found here is if a player is in there rookie season and is just too raw a prospect to see time on the court, or they’re injured but plan to come back the following season. Neither of these scenarios apply to the Hornets.
Of the players that do play, ability, youth, and price are the driving factors in determining whether or not a particular player would be deemed “attractive.”
Charlotte’s veterans would include Marco Belinelli, Ramon Sessions, and Marvin Williams — all relatively average players on fine contracts. Sure, the Hornets traded a first round pick for Belinelli, but would be unlikely at the best for them to get a similar value for him now. Similarly, while Marvin had a great year last year, you’d be hard-pressed to find a team that would give up much of anything for stretch-4 nearing the end of his career and looking worse in the season directly after a contract year. None of these individuals have value beyond teams on the lookout for veteran, skill-specific players on the cheap.
As far as the young players are concerned, Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Mile Plumlee, and Cody Zeller make up this group. While showing flashes with the Hornets, Lamb’s value is fairly low, as is Plumlee’s, especially given his contract. MKG, Kaminsky, and Zeller all show promise, with this season’s performance solidifying Zeller as the most attractive option. The contracts are long but fair, so really it’s a matter of MKG and Frank both having significant holes in their respective games, and there being no clear plan as to how they overcome their equal yet opposite issues. Zeller on the other hand has shown offensive efficiency, defensive awareness, and an ability to work hard that makes Zeller’s lack of an outside jumper and shortcomings as a shot blocker fairly manageable at his price. At this point, Zeller’s strongest point of pride next to Mike and Frank, is that his weaknesses don’t define his game. While not garnering a first round pick, Zeller would presumably be at least on the radar of most NBA franchises as a solid role player coming off the bench.
And finally, the good players. Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum. To get it out of the way, Batum is simply too expensive. Perhaps with the cap jumping again in coming seasons, that would ease of the financial burden, but Batum is being paid over $20 million to play a part he is miscast for — second option. Batum looks to be a third option at best, and for this reason, while most if not all NBA franchises appreciate his skill set, his Marvin Williams-esque lack of a stellar year has arguably seen his value drop from where it was this summer when teams were showing interest.
And while Kemba Walker is probably the most valuable asset the Hornets have (outside of a first round pick) it’s not a sure thing. Zeller has size, youth, and potentially some untapped potential, while Kemba is an in-prime, seemingly maxed-out point guard — of which there appear to be dozens. Kemba does not occupy a “need” position, nor does he show much room for improvement. However, that’s not the worst thing in the world, given that Kemba Walker is really good. His ability to defend pick and roll, knock down the outside shot, and get to the rim whenever he wants, are prime skills in 2017 NBA — as is his contract where he makes a staggering $12 million a year — fifth most on the team. Will his value drop when the next contract comes around? Most certainly — but for the time being, most any team would be happy to have Walker as a starter or perhaps high-level six man.
It may seem pessimistic to suggest that Kemba and Cody are the only Hornets providing true value right now. Perhaps Frank and MKG deserve credit as well, as they are still so young and do have interesting tools going forward. However, the fact remains that the Hornets appear to be lacking things other teams want. Which would be fine if they were a team of aging, expensive vets on the brink of a championship. Notttt exactly the case here. In the coming months, the front office will need to do it’s best — not to find the missing piece for an average team — but to find the BEST piece for a team they can’t yet envision.
So as always, if you have a burning question you need answered, a keen comment that needs discussing, or just generally think all of us here are clueless and in desperate need of your Hornets and/or basketball expertise...
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