Fill a need...with the best player available.
That is always the best path to take when it comes to professional sports drafts.
On occasion, when a team may be one piece away from competing for a championship, franchises can take liberties and perhaps go for a "need" player who may be ranked a spot or two below another player who remains the "best available" on your board.
The New Orleans Hornets are starting over. They are nowhere near being a championship caliber team. That is no revelation.
The franchise has taken positive steps, not the least of which getting a solid owner with deep pockets and deep ties to the community, ensuring the long-term stability of the franchise. In turn, that should translate to warmer responses from prospective free agents on the Hornets' squad and prospective free agents from other locales.
Cleansing the organization of the salaries and mediocrity of Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor were very positive moves as well. Okafor will never have the impact that Tyson Chandler had, when he was healthy. Of course, Chandler could not remain on the floor enough to merit a long-term investment by the Hornets. He ended up helping Dallas win an NBA title. Okafor for Chandler did not work out.
Darren Collison for Ariza was a bit of a wash, not really working out for either side. Collison has not progressed at Indiana. He is still very fast and capable and would be a nice piece to have in New Orleans but he will never be an elite point guard. That said, he was cheaper than Ariza and younger.
Carl Landry's future in New Orleans is murky. Though he is a solid contributor, he is best suited as a reserve. Whether he remains or not, Marcus Thornton is a more productive player, younger and with ties to the market. Thornton can score.
Fortunately, Eric Gordon can score and is a better overall player than Thornton, if, of course, he is on the floor. That is a big if.
Will he choose to remain in New Orleans? Will he remain healthy enough to play 70 or more games in a season?
Jarrett Jack, Jason Smith, Greivis Vasquez, Gustavo Ayon and Al-Farouq Aminu appear to be certainties to return. Unless the Hornets pick a shooting guard in the first round, Marco Belinelli stands a good chance to return. Other than that, all bets are off for the Hornets' roster for the 2012-2013 season.
Anthony Davis should be a godsend.
He is personable, polite and polished, at least with his defensive skills and passing ability. He has nice touch. I believe his offense will come. He is easily the best player in the draft. He will gain weight, get stronger and will be coachable. He will immediately become the face of the franchise, the new Chris Paul. By all accounts, he will handle it well.
With the 10th overall pick, the candidates are plentiful. You've heard the names.
If Gordon stays, New Orleans is in dire need of a big man. Chris Kaman does not figure to return and Okafor is gone. Could Andre Drummond slip to No. 10? Is Tyler Zeller athletic enough? Will mammoth Meyers Leonard fill the bill?
If Gordon is a question mark, the Hornets, offensively challenged under Williams, need scoring. Is there any chance Jeremy Lamb could fall to New Orleans? Will the ties that bind between Williams and Austin Rivers bring the Duke star here? Is Dion Waiters good enough to pick 10th? Do you want length in Terrence Ross?
The Hornets need a young, dynamic point guard. Vasquez has a chance but he will never be a quick penetrating, dynamic point. Would New Orleans go for a scoring point guard in Damian Lillard if he were available? Do you like shoot first guys here? Do you like Russell Westbrook? If not, do you feel a traditional point guard like Kendall Marshall is worth the investment this high?
New Orleans could use a scorer on the wing which Ariza never was. Could Harrison Barnes fill that bill?
If the guy you want is not there, would you consider trading the 10th pick?
With the 46th pick, roll the dice. Take a chance on a guy. Is there a foreign player with upside to invest in down the road such as Tomas Satoransky, Kostas Papanikol or Tornike Shengelia? If you do not go for Zeller in the first round, is LSU's Justin Hamilton, Duke's Miles Plumlee or Gonzaga's Robert Sacre worth a flyer here?
The Hornets have many holes to fill. They are a new creation. In that position, make solid choices, good decisions based on quality. Resist the 'need' temptation. Take the best players available. Get younger, get better, get more exciting and get more fans. That's the winning equation.
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