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NBA Free Agency And Charlotte

July 4, 2013

In case you missed it, the NBA Free Agency season began Monday. Most of the free-agent talk this summer is centering around Dwight Howard.

Will he stay with the Los Angeles Lakers or will be move on to another setting? Charlotte is not in the running for Howard though it should be noted that the franchise had a shot at him years ago in the draft.

But that is another story. In the past, free agency season in Charlotte has led to mistakes in evaluating personnel. Players have come and gone. They are overpaid and are normally on the downside of their career. Hardly a way to rebuild a franchise. Charlotte again has some salary cap room which means it has money to spend. This can often be a danger. General managers, in a rush to improve their rosters, often offer over-inflated contracts. Charlotte could fall into this category again as it needs help everywhere.

Here are some guys I hope they stay away from. I will close with some players I would not mind seeing in a Hornet uniform.

Al Jefferson quickly comes to mind as a player who may end up with a big contract. Productive, big men tend to make big money and Jefferson can throw some stats at you. He averaged nearly 18 points a game last year while grabbing nine rebounds a game. But it is widely known that Jefferson does not play defense. Sounds like the kind of player Charlotte has gone to in the past, someone in the latter stages of career who does not play much defense.

I can see Charlotte making a run at Jarrett Jack. The former ACC standout averaged 16 points and seven assists off the bench last year for Golden State. He has never produced well as a starting guard and the Hornets need to spend their money on guys who can start.

Andrew Bynum is available after not playing at all last season for Philadelphia. Though he is only 25, Bynum will come with a huge injury risk. There are not many big men with his talent but Charlotte does not have the luxury to take chances.

Tiago Splitter of San Antonio is available. He got some attention during the Spurs playoff run but why would anyone spend millions on a player who have never averaged 25 minutes of playing time per game. He is more known for his defense and that may intrigue Charlotte some. I hope not.

Monta Ellis may be the best scorer available. However, the 27-year old always seems to have the ball and this diminishes his teammates skills. Besides, Ellis’ presence on an NBA roster has never led to winning seasons. Charlotte needs a scorer who makes everyone around him better. Ellis does not do this.

Mike Dunleavy is one free agent who I feel would help Charlotte. The former Duke standout is a shooter who can also put the ball on the floor. It is hard to believe Dunleavy is already 32 years old but he still has an all-around game and would not cost much at this point in his career. As he was at Duke, he would be a calming influence on any roster.

I like Toney Douglas as a back-up point guard. The 26-year old can shoot the three and has always been a defensive presence. Douglas made just over $2 million last year and could be bargain this summer.

If Douglas is not signed, my second choice as a backup point guard would be Pablo Prigioni. Though he is 36 years old now, Prigioni served as a backup point guard last season for the New York Knicks. I read some numbers that point out that the Knicks’ offense was more productive with Prigioni on the floor then it was with Jason Kidd running the point. Prigioni clearly thinks ‘pass’ first and that would likely help Charlotte. And the good news is that he made less then a $1 million last year.

Another role player that could be had at a bargain rate is Dorell Wright. He is now 27 years old but he is getting more and more productive as the years progress. Wright’s averages when he plays 36 or more minutes a game are at 15 points, six rebounds, and three assists.

I realize that none of these players are going to turn Charlotte into playoff contenders any time soon. But the franchise has to find players who are winners. Winning more games can change the losing culture and possibly lure more talented free agents to the roster soon.

What Happens To Undrafted College Basketball Players?

I got to thinking about the before-mentioned question after I saw that Seth Curry of Duke was not drafted last week in the NBA draft.

Some quick research told me that this question is asked all around the country as there are over 17,000 NCAA college basketball players. Around 50 college players end up getting drafted annually. What happens to the undrafted?

Some bounce around the international leagues for a few years, and a few even make it to the NBA. Many more go on to office jobs. But far too many college basketball players leave college without an NBA contract and without another ingredient for success, a college degree.

Not getting a degree is a shame. There has to be a way that the student part of student-athlete can come first. Perhaps colleges need to start rewarding coaches for encouraging their players’ growth in the classroom as much as their success on the field.

The NCAA is getting involved. It recently voted to raise the minimum four-year Academic Progress Rate, effectively setting a minimum graduation rate for teams involved in the men’s March Madness tournament. According to the new rules, any team that fails to graduates half their players for three years in a row is banned from post-season play. They also lose access to scholarship money.

This higher standard has helped bring the student-athlete relationship back into balance a little bit. This year, ten schools were banned from the March Madness tournament for poor grades, including perennial power The University of Connecticut. The overall graduation rate inched up to 70 percent.

Colleges and universities clearly benefit from their students’ athletic performance. They should also push their student-athletes to perform at peak academic capacity. That is the only way to  ensure that college athletes are prepared for victory in life as well as on the playing field.

What About Curry?

Seth Curry was one of the most interesting stories heading into last week’s NBA draft. The Duke standout and brother of Golden State Warriors’ guard Stephen Curry wasn’t highly touted heading into college and he didn’t receive much hype ahead of the draft. Unfortunately for him, that resulted in him going undrafted. Despite a productive 2012-13 season that saw him average 17.5 points per game and shooting a nice 44 percent from beyond the three-point line, Curry wasn’t drafted. He is considered small for a guy who plays a shooting guard game, as he is just 6’2” and 185 lbs.

Still, several players have proved that size isn’t everything. His older brother, for instance.

Stephen Curry

Curry will almost certainly get a chance by being placed on some team’s Summer League roster, so his NBA journey is far from over. I could see him ending up with Golden State or Miami. I think Golden State will take a close look. The Warriors took a chance on his brother and it worked out. While Curry would obviously play behind his brother, Golden State would be a great situation for him.  Stephen is a rising star in the league and he is Golden State’s face of the franchise, so the Warriors will sign Seth if Stephen pushes for it.

Seth would not be a charity case, though, as he would be a good fit and could develop into an important player. Klay Thompson and Stephen have the starting guard positions, but there is a need for depth behind them. Point guard Jarrett Jack is an unrestricted free agent and he could very easily sign elsewhere. Seth isn’t a point guard by trade, as he averaged just 1.5 assists last season, but neither was Stephen when he came into the league.

The Warriors are a team that likes to get up and down the floor and Seth is a guy who can hit open jumpers and transition, which is something that could be quite valuable to Golden State.

I feel Miami might make a run at Seth is that it always on the lookout for bargains. With LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh taking up a huge majority of the Heat’s cap room, the franchise has to get creative when looking for role players. A guy like Curry makes sense.

Seth Curry, brother of Stephen

Miami has won back-to-back titles and they look for players with a winning attitude, which is precisely what Curry possesses.

It’s no secret that playing time would be hard to come by for Curry as a rookie. With guards like Wade, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Ray Allen on the roster, Curry would have to wait his turn. The Heat like to bring three-point shooters off the bench though, and Curry was one of the most proficient players in the nation in that regard last season. Even if he doesn’t contribute right away, he would be a solid long-term investment.

Miami would be a solid landing spot for Curry because there would be no pressure to perform right away. He can practice with some of the best players in basketball while learning the NBA game.


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