The most important aspect of a franchise in today’s NBA is an organizational commitment that is understood from the top the way to the bottom. Whether the goal is to win now or to build for the future, all members of the organization must be on the same page with this philosophy and do what is necessary to work towards that common goal.
The New Orleans Hornets made a trade Wednesday that showed the team has made an organizational decision to build towards the future and not allow themselves to be stuck in the middle.
The trade sent veterans Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor to the Washington Wizards in exchange for forward Rashard Lewis and the no. 46 pick in this year’s draft.
While Ariza and Okafor were brought to New Orleans over the past few years in an effort to show that the organization had a “win-now” attitude, the Hornets have also made moves in the past that made fans believe the team was more interested in saving money rather than winning.
Trades involving young, up-and-coming players such as Tyson Chandler, Marcus Thornton and Darren Collison, along with the moves to acquire Ariza and Okafor, suggested the Hornets were an organization playing both sides of the fence. Win now, but not necessarily pay now. This indecision within the organization, some have argued, is the main reasoning behind All-Star point guard Chris Paul’s ultimate departure from New Orleans last season.
But now, the Hornets are a new franchise with new ownership and it appears that they are making the commitment to young players that they were reluctant to make in years past.
Moving Ariza and Okafor, in the short term, helps free up minutes for young players such as swingman Al-Farouq Aminu, acquired in the Paul trade to the Los Angeles Clippers, and the player everyone assumes the Hornets will take with the no. 1 pick in this year’s draft, Kentucky star Anthony Davis.
But the most important aspect of this trade, most likely, is the acquisition of Lewis—an aging swingman that is due to make $24 million in 2012-13.
Many believe the Hornets plan on waiving Lewis before July 1, which would allow them to shed nearly $10 million off of the $24 million owed Lewis and essentially give the Hornets quite a bit of salary cap room entering next season. This is where the commitment truly comes into play, because committing to young players by giving them minutes is one thing, but committing to them by giving them long-term contracts is a completely different story.
Guard Eric Gordon — who was the biggest piece acquired in the Paul trade — is a restricted free agent and he has the ability to sign an offer sheet with anyone in the league during this offseason, but the Hornets can match any offer given to Gordon and bring him back under a long term deal.
Though Gordon only played in nine games in his first season with the Hornets, averaging 20.6 points per game, he is perceived as one of the best young shooting guards in the NBA and expected to garnish a heavy amount of interest from teams during this offseason.
Many believe the Hornets brought in Lewis so they can waive him and free up the necessary cap room to match any offer given to Gordon. If the Hornets do re-sign Gordon to a long-term deal it may end up being one of the most lucrative deals given out in franchise history.
This will not only show that the Hornets are willing to build for the future, but that they are willing to do whatever it takes to win with these players in their future. Once an organization shows that type of commitment to their players, usually the players are willing to return that commitment by doing the necessary things on the court to build a winning team.
Now all Hornets fans can do is sit back and hope the Hornets do show the type of commitment to their young stars that is necessary to build championship-contending teams. And if they don’t, the organization may be headed towards another ugly divorce with a superstar a lot sooner than they hoped.