There are a few reasons why these two Frameworks are together. First of all, they are teams that have a good mix of young talent and more experienced players that are on the precipice of success in the future within the brutal Western Conference, and each needs a few pieces to put them over the top long-term. Another key reason why this is a dual dynasty will come up later in the course of the piece.
Where they are now: The Jazz are a team with a compelling combination of talent, experience, and skills. They have two bona-fide All-Stars in Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams (even if Deron hasn’t made it yet- he’s playing at that level). That nasty pick-and-roll core is surrounded with very good complimentary starters in Memo Okur, Ronnie Brewer, and Andrei Kirilenko who all have immense gifts and can make a significant difference in each and every game and have the capability of taking games over and making life difficult for opponents who play a variety of styles, as shown by their success in the Western Conference playoffs last season. Additionally, they have a bench with some key contributors in Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, and Matt Harpring along with developmental talent in Kyrylo Fesenko and Morris Almond.
The Hornets have the man having the greatest Point Guard season in the history of the NBA. Oh, and he’s 22 years old and still on his rookie deal. That said, the other players that New Orleans has aren’t just his backup- they are legitimate players in their own right. Tyson Chandler is finally growing into the player that many saw when he came into the league straight out of high school, while David West is finally starting to get the respect he deserves as a phenomenal player in this league. However, the biggest difference between the two teams in question is the depth and role of the bench. I love Bonzi Wells, but the Hornets simply do not have adequate big man depth to run a more physically demanding (i.e. faster). Here’s hoping that players like Julian Wright and Nikki Hilton Armstrong come around to become reliable pieces of the Hornets’ puzzle.
The Timetable of Contention: Both teams are ready to compete for a championship right now. The Jazz’ window is a little bit smaller because Boozer (26) and Okur (28) are slightly older than Chandler (25) and West (27). I’ll put it at four to five years for the Jazz and five to seven years from now for the Hornets. Each is substantially longer than most of the timetables I’ve compiled before, but this makes sense considering both squads have much better cores and have young PG’s.
How to Utilize the Timetable: Neither team has any meaningful salary cap flexibility for the next few years, so the only rational way to go is incremental improvements. Judiciously using the Mid-Level exception to get players who can contribute in some capacity while drafting players who have the right attitude to come in to a contender can help shore up the depth and strengthen the core for both teams. Furthermore, there’s always the possibility of getting a diamond in the rough late, with each team knowing this by virtue of having a Power Forward who fell further in the draft than they should have (West, Boozer/Millsap).
Implementation: Here’s where things get fun. While it is true that the Hornets do run a slower pace than many people would expect considering Chris(t) Paul, it appears that a portion of this can be attributed to their glaring lack of depth, especially at the PF/C slots. Furthermore, there is no requirement that “fast” teams play uptempo all of the time. In fact, what is probably the best course of attack long-term for the Hornets is to have the capability of playing the fast break while also being a consistent half-court team on both sides of the ball. This philosophy permits them to exploit match-ups against even more squads. The lynchpin for their team could be forcing the other team to shoot a low percentage from the field, and scoring easy points on the break makes having a staunch half-court D even more potent when done properly.
Interestingly enough, there is a player who fits this philosophy well: Andrei Kirilenko. I cannot think of an NBA starter who could benefit more from a change in system than AK47- watching him in international play and remembering the bits and pieces I’ve seen of him playing on faster squads when he was younger reveals the different game that he can have at a faster pace. Kirilenko is a surprisingly good passer, and his adept defensive skills make him a compelling 3/4 hybrid, especially in a potential Hornets system. Furthermore, Kirilenko could become a jack-of-all-trades in a sense, starting or coming off the bench depending on the match-up. Also, the trade is Kirilenko for Peja (and another small piece or two), so the Hornets would have substantially more flexibility at the SG/SF slots which helps the amount of possible players they could bring into the fold and potentially the interest for a young guy to join the team and getting minutes. Adding depth to this squad through the draft and free agency (exact moves in the next section) would be necessary too.
A potential AK47 for Peja trade would add another dimension to the Jazz as well. While I love Kirilenko as a player, he is a poor fit for the long-term Jazz plans. As Ronnie Brewer blossoms into an even more dynamic player, he is also becoming a stronger defender. While the difference between Andrei and Peja on D is substantial, Ronnie will cut that margin in the future. Peja also spreads the floor and puts a more complete scorer on the floor, which becomes a bigger deal when Boozer and/or Okur is not on the floor. The other player I feel is pivotal for the Jazz to add for long-term success is DeSagana Diop. His defensive skills and rebounding prowess makes him a natural compliment to both Boozer and Okur in a way that Paul Millsap is not. What’s more, it gives the Jazz more flexibility and leeway in case one of their primary three big men gets in foul trouble. It seems more than reasonable for Diop to go to Utah, as they are a contender and he has spent his fair share of time in cities like Cleveland and New Jersey, so it’s not like the dynamic social scene of SLC will be that big of a drag on a potential signing. Furthermore, this would give Fesenko (who I really like) time to develop to eventually take one of these slots in the rotation.
1. Trade Andrei Kirilenko for Peja Stojakovic, and the right to swap own 1st round picks in two of the next three drafts
2. Sign DeSagana Diop for the Mid-Level Exception (3 or 4 years)
3. Draft Kyle Weaver (1st round- possible trade down to early 2nd round), Anton Ponkrashov (76ers 2nd round pick), and Sean Singletary (own 2nd round pick) in the 2008 NBA Draft
1. Trade Peja Stojakovic and the right to swap own 1st round picks in two of the next three drafts for Andrei Kirilenko
2. Draft Courtney Lee (1st Round) in the 2008 Draft
3. Trade Rasual Butler to the [TEAM] for [PLAYER]
4. Sign Kurt Thomas for the MLE as well as Ryan Hollins and James White for their minimums
Your 2008-2009 Utah Jazz
PG: Deron Williams / Jason Hart or Ronnie Price (whoever they prefer)
SG: Ronnie Brewer / Morris Almond
SF: Peja Stojakovic / Kyle Korver / Matt Harpring (eventually moved when Sloan retires)
PF: Carlos Boozer / Paul Millsap
C: Mehmet Okur / DeSagana Diop / Kyrylo Fesenko
IR/Inactive: Kyle Weaver, Jarron Collins, Sean Singletary
Your 2008-2009 New Orleans Hornets (with minutes estimates):
PG: Chris Paul (37) / Mike James (6) / Jannero Pargo (5)
SG: Courtney Lee (25) / Morris Peterson (7) / Bonzi Wells (13) / Jannero Pargo (3)
SF: Andrei Kirilenko (20) / Julian Wright (15) / Morris Peterson (13)
PF: David West (35) / Andrei Kirilenko (9) / Kurt Thomas (4) / Julian Wright
C: Tyson Chandler (34) / Kurt Thomas (12) / Hilton Armstrong (2)
IR/Inactive: Ryan Hollins, James White