Greetings Hornets fans!
With December 15th approaching as quickly as a runaway freight train, which is to say, as quickly as a Lance Stephenson breakaway, JZ is in the house to help answer a few questions about the roster decisions that are facing the Hornets.
1) Should the Hornets trade Lance Stephenson?
JZ: The Hornets should not trade Lance Stephenson. His stock is at an all-time low. I can't imagine anyone giving up a starter for Lance right now. It's no coincidence that the Hornets got him at--what seemed to me at the time--a bargain. The people that get paid to see this coming saw this coming. If any other team thought that Lance was the missing piece, they would have signed him in the offseason.
JJ: I have mixed feelings about this question. As a fan, I love Lance, and as a fan, I also hate Lance. I feel like he has a master-level game happening in his mind's eye; it's just not happening in anyone else's. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I do feel like Lance and Cody's games fit together, and after last night's game against the Celtics, I also feel like Lance's game fits with MKG's. The biggest problem is how it fits with Big Al's. He is siphoning rebounds away from Big Al, and if Big Al isn't getting 20/10, he isn't happy.
I disagree that Lance's stock is at an all-time low. Lance has become a first-name only star, much like Madonna or Prince. You say Lance to any basketball fan in the world, and they know exactly who you are talking about. And regardless of how he is struggling to fit into the Hornet's system, much of the hesitation from owner's to make Lance an offer went hand-in-hand with the offer he turned down from Indy: a much larger offer than what he eventually took from Charlotte. Why would an owner assume that they wouldn't need to offer more than Indy offered to sign him? Only Cho knows that what you need to do to sign Lance is offer less than Indy. Such is the way of the Jedi.
So should they trade him? I'm torn. I think he has huge potential. He just needs to learn his role first, and then go about expanding it. I would keep him in the teal and purple. He is young and he's got mad game. That being said, if Big Al says "Trade Lance and I will re-up my contract", then you've got to trade Lance immediately.
2) If the Hornets do trade Lance, to who, and what do they get in return?
JZ: Lance isn't the only problem. He's just the newest addition.
Kemba Walker should not get a pass. He is a below-average shooter and passer, and while I love his energy and his late-game heroics, is he really the guy this franchise is going to build around? I'd be more inclined to field offers for Kemba if I were going to blow this thing up. At least I might get something in return.
JJ: I hear ya', though I think that is the fantasy league manager inside you speaking. Big Al isn't a Hornet without Kemba (and neither is Lance, for that matter), and Big Al is who Cho wants to build around. Lest we forget, Al was an All-NBA center last year, and All-NBA centers don't grow on trees. Point guards do (for now). What I'm saying is, I think Lance has greater trade value than Kemba, and Kemba has more value to the Hornets franchise.
So if the Hornets trade Lance, the focus needs to be on obtaining a guard who can shoot quickly from the perimeter. The most obvious candidates are Jeff Green from Boston, Aaron Afflalo from Denver, Reggie Jackson from OKC (though he is still on a rookie deal), Josh McRoberts from Miami (with Mario Chalmers thrown in the deal--this would move Neal into the starting lineup at SG with McBob at PF and Cody coming off the bench again), and Joe Johnson from Brooklyn.
3) Will anyone bite on Gerald Henderson?
JZ: Henderson is the obvious piece to try to unload. Gary Neal and P.J. Hairston are superior options, and with MKG back in the lineup, Henderson is an unnecessary member of the team. But who will trade for him? He is making a decent piece of change, and while he does have the honor of being a lottery pick and a starter, anyone who has watched him play knows he cannot be a meaningful piece to anyone's championship puzzle. If the entire league redrafted, I'm not saying Gerald Henderson would be picked last, but I'm not saying he wouldn't be either.
JJ: I would be surprised if anyone bit on Gerald, but that is assuming most NBA GMs know better, an assumption history has proven wrong over and over again. I think someone may be fooled by his recent stint as a starter and think they are getting a quality backup. I could see him going to the Bucks, Sacramento, Philly, or even Boston. I would love a Hendo swap that nets the Hornets the elder Zeller.
4) Do you trade Zeller or Vonleh for a player who can help immediately?
JZ: I really like what I've seen from Zeller this season. I was not a fan of the pick when it was made, but now I can envision him as a solid pro, maybe not an All-Star, but a guy that could start for a real contender. Vonleh hasn't had a chance to prove himself yet, but in the little time I've seen him he seems like he has the raw talent to mature into a star... or never pan out. Too early to tell.
Having Vonleh and Zeller makes one of these guys expendable, but only for the right price. If the Hornets can trade one of these guys for a starter who will be around for at least a year past this one, they should do it. To clarify, Paul Milsap yes, Mo Williams no. If a guy isn't going to give you a real shot against Chicago, Cleveland, Toronto or Washington, then what the hell is the point? Sit on your assets and start watching Kentucky games in preparation for a lottery pick.
JJ: I'm all in on Zeller. You don't trade Zeller. I don't even think that you should trade for another power forward that would demote Zeller to the bench. I do think it is telling that there are no Zeller jersey shirts on sale in the Team Store...
Conversely, I've already stated that I think Zeller's true destiny is to be a San Antonio Spur, so maybe you cut your losses now, work out a trade with Team Pop, and move on with the grooming of Vonleh.
What am I saying? Keep Zeller, trade Vonleh. Adam from Baseline Buzz proposed Vonleh and Lance for Afflalo and Faried. Yes. That.
5) Was Josh McRoberts really the Basketball Jesus?
JZ: The Hornets biggest offseason mistake was failing to retain McBob and then turning around and trying to replace him with Starvin' Marvin Williams. As a UNC fan, I must admit I was happy to see a Tarheel replace a Blue Devil on the roster, but clearly this was a disastrous decision. Marvin should have spent a little less time in the classroom and a little more time learning how to knock down a wide open three. It's a shame for McRoberts too, he isn't nearly the same player in Miami that he was in Charlotte.
JJ: I believe in the Basketball Jesus. I believe he was scorned and shamed out of his role with the Bobcats franchise, but that he will rise again, this time in teal and purple.