The On Deck Circle

The unofficial home of Real Talk

Hornets and Rockets Make a Deal

Posted by Blake Murphy on February 21, 2008

Bonzi Wells 4/8/07

The New Orleans Hornets have finally made a move to try and shore up their bench, sending Bobby Jackson, Adam Haluska, and a 2nd round pick to Houston in exchange for Mike James, Bonzi Wells and cash. In order to make the salaries work, Memphis picked up Marcus Vinicius from New Orleans and the rights to Malick Badiane and cash from Houston, while sending the rights to Sergei Lishouk to Houston.

When New Orleans is brought up as a championship contender, I always try and knock them down by pointing out that they have absolutely no depth. Their backup point man is the one dimensional Jannero Pargo and their first big off the bench is Hilton Armstrong. You also have the uninspiring duo of Mo-Pete and Rasual Butler providing the only options behind The Big Four. The Hornets have finally made a move to fix this, acquiring two legitimate rotation players for what amounts to nothing on their end.

Bonzi Wells is a proven post presence, especially in the playoffs. He is a proven rebounder that also adds decent defense, above-average rebounding, and 8 series of playoff experience. For a young and unproven team, the effect of adding a guy who averaged 20-10 in the playoffs just two years ago is big, as is adding a semi-effective three point threat to a poor long-range shooting team. While Wells has struggled to mesh with coaches over the past few years (he always seems to be a victim of circumstance), he has proven time and again he is a valuable and inexpensive asset (he is an expiring contract, too, at just $2.3M).

Mike James fails to give the Hornets some much needed assistance backing up Chris Paul. The fact that James can play both guard positions makes him more useful, because I don’t think he is an upgrade over Pargo as the #2 point guard. Pargo is a less selfish player and an equally effective long-range shooter, so James is only an upgrade in the experience department and, by a very small margin, on the defensive end. Including James was probably the cost of acquiring Wells as he has two years and nearly $13M left on his contract after this year. Sure, James put up 20 and 6 as a Raptor, but he has never sniffed even close to that level of success on another team. James is a back-up combo guard at best, so hopefully that’s all the Hornets are looking for from him.

For the Rockets, the biggest part of this deal is unloading James’ contract. For the fiftieth time in his career, James had fallen out of favour with a coach and out of the rotation on a team sorely lacking point guard skill. Bobby Jackson gives Houston a savvy and intelligent veteran presence at the point, and he is capable of being a 3rd or 4th option on offense while distributing to better players. His numbers have never been staggering but Jackson is a poised game manager with a low turnover rate, fixing Houston’s problem of having only mistake-prone guards. Jackson makes the same money as James but with one less year on his deal, so the move makes financial sense, too.

Moving Wells, however, is shaky from Houston’s perspective. While he didn’t get a lot of run, he is a proven playoff performer and really should have gotten more time for Houston, a team that is hard-up for post players. Haluska is a decent throw-in as a prospect to make salaries work, but he probably won’t crack the rotation, and the 2nd round pick they acquired will be very late in the draft.

Oh, and for Memphis? Well, they get a middle-tier prospect and some future options for absolutely nothing. If you consider getting a low rotation player for free a win, then it’s a win.

So, for New Orleans the deal is a winner, three stars out of five. James is too expensive and replicates what they have in Pargo but Wells is a huge bonus coming off the bench behind West and Chandler. Houston gets to dump a year off of James’ contract and gets a little more reliability at the point position, but they do so at the cost of one of their better post options in Wells. Overall, I don’t think this trade is pushing either team over the top in the West, but it’s nice to have something to talk about on what has so far been a boring deadline day.

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