The NBA off-season has been flying by so far. We are done with the NBA Draft, and have now entered the free-agency period.
Swarm and Sting is starting to do “round-tables” in which there is a question asked, and some of our staff writers answer the question. Our latest round-table was about the NBA Draft (before the draft) and you can check out that article by clicking on this link
In this round-table, we will be discussing the NBA off-season, free agency period, and Charlotte Hornets draft picks Noah Vonleh and P.J. Hairston.
1. Ten years from now, who will be remembered as the best player in the 2014 NBA Draft class?
Reece Helms - 10 years from now, Jabari Parker will be the best player from the draft class, better than Andrew Wiggins. I’m just not buying the Andrew Wiggins hype. Parker has a better post game, and I think Parker will improve on his defense, which is his weakness right now. Dante Exum will be remembered as the other great player from this draft. I think if he played in college he could have been the 2nd pick in the draft. I also am not a fan of Joel Embiid, who I afraid might be the next Greg Oden. But 10 years from now, we’ll be talking about Jabari Parker.
Brandon Bevil - Wiggins. Even if Embiid stays healthy, who’s to say he still becomes the next Hakeem? I think Embiid will be one of the top centers in the league in 10 years, but not an all-time great. I see Wiggins becoming someone’s Pippin because he needs an alpha-dog beside him, and don’t forget Pippin was put on the list of 50 greatest players ever.
Will Young - I feel like Joel Embiid is that player. Embiid’s size, skill, and age are all in his favor. He has time to heal from his injuries by sitting out this year. His defense and his motor should make him a contributor as soon as he steps on the court. He came so far in just one season at Kansas, it’s hard to say where his ceiling is. Embiid’s offense still can improve but the comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon are not that insane. A year off where he can watch and learn more about the NBA will only help that.
Brett Thompson - Andrew Wiggins will be remembered as the best player in the 2014 NBA Draft Class. Rarely are there “can’t miss” guys that go #1 (see: Anthony Bennett), but Wiggins’s supporting cast will help him thrive and grow on a young, highly talented Cleveland team. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Wiggins and/or Irving lead the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in the next ten years.
2. Where will LeBron James be next season? Carmelo Anthony?
Reece Helms - After all the hype that has been placed around LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony being free agents, it seems both of them will be staying put. It is almost certain that LeBron will be in Miami next year, as he hasn’t even scheduled a meeting with another team. Carmelo Anthony on the other hand as a lot of potential suitors outside of the Knicks. I don’t see him leaving New York, but if he does, the Houston Rockets are the favorite to land Carmelo. Houston can offer a lot of money, plus the opportunity to play alongside Dwight Howard and James Harden.
Brandon Bevil - This off-season just got a lot more boring. LeBron is keeping his talents where they are. Wade and Bosh don’t opt out just to see LeBron leave, so I think they all stay in Miami, and all three are signed as early as possible so they can start recruiting some help. Carmelo will be back in NY, and Phil Jackson has played this well. Twice saying he wants Anthony to take less money is going to make it hard for Carmelo to leave and sign a max deal because Phil will say “I guess he only cared about money.” In the end Carmelo wants to be in NY AND win, and Phil will convince him he can. I also say he signs for less than the max, but not much less.
Will Young - LeBron James will be back in Miami. As much as I would love to see him back in Cleveland or in Phoenix with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, I don’t see him jumping ship. He is determined to get his max deal and make everyone work around him. I’m surprised Wade was so willing to give up his money. Carmelo ends up in Chicago. Houston is a weird fit for him. Over the years, Melo has gravitated more to the post. If he does that in Houston, where does Dwight Howard go? I don’t know if there is enough shots for Carmelo Anthony and James Harden. Chicago has always had problems scoring. Melo will solve that problem but coach Tom Thibodeau will have his hands full on defense. Chicago is the right fit, but you have to wonder how healthy Derrick Rose will be over the next 4-5 years of Melo’s deal.
Brett Thompson - LeBron James will stay in Miami with Wade and Bosh. It’s the least enticing option for fans who want more LeBron drama, but Wade and Bosh restructuring their contracts, and Miami catering to LeBron’s whim in the draft, show that Pat Riley won’t let James take his talents anywhere but South Beach. As for Carmelo, I firmly believe he will land in Chicago with Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose. If Rose can fully recover from his knee surgeries, Chicago can come out as a strong favorite to win the East with their offensive troubles solved.
3. Who should the Charlotte Hornets pursue in free agency the hardest?
Reece Helms - The Charlotte Hornets need to send out the full-court press on Lane Stephenson. A lot of people disagree with me on this, but I disagree with them disagreeing, if that makes any sense. Lance Stephenson is a good basketball player, but many are concerned with Lance’s behavior issues, but I am not one of those people. You know who Lance reminds me of? Steve Smith when he played for the Carolina Panthers. He’s that guy you love if he’s on your team, but if he’s not, you hate him. Smith was always getting in fights with the other team, but he also brought a lot of energy to the team. That describes Lance. Most Pacer fans love Lance, but everyone else dislikes him for the most part. Lance Stephenson will help the Hornets, not only when it comes to basketball, but he will give them an identity and some “swagger.”
Brandon Bevil - Lance is the best fit. Sounds like Utah wants to match any offers for Gordon Hayward and he’s not worth the cost of a sign and trade. Lance got a low ball offer from Indiana because he is a great talent with some possible character issues. But Lance is worth the gamble if we can get him for 11-13 million for 3 years or so. He likes going toe-to-toe with the best (LeBron) and doesn’t back down. If we can get Lance and still save room for McRoberts and a backup PG (Nelson?) then the Hornets should be set up well to win next year AND going forward.
Will Young - This summer is going to be quieter than most think for the Hornets. I don’t think they’ll be able to grab the big name the front office and fans want. But, Gordon Hayward makes a lot of sense. He can play SG or SF and looks like he fits what Charlotte wants to do on defense. He’s a willing defender. His three-point shooting percentage took a dip last year but that’s partly due to getting more shots and being the go-to-guy for Utah. Hopefully the Hornets would work out a sign and trade and send Gerald Henderson and either Gary Neal’s or Bismack Biyombo’s expiring deal to save a little money. This would allow them to add to their bench.
Brett Thompson - The Hornets need to look to sign Gordon Hayward in free agency this year. He isn’t the flashiest signing, but he has size and a three point shot, both of which Charlotte can benefit from. He can stretch the floor, drain a jumper, and beef up the Hornets’ defense at the 2, should Clifford choose to play him there.
4. What are your expectations for Noah Vonleh next season? Anything he needs to improve on?
Reece Helms - Noah Vonleh is already a great shot blocker and low-post defender. He has a pretty good jump hook that could still use some more work. If Vonleh wants to take his game to the next level, he needs to improve his shooting. If he can do that, watch out, Noah Vonleh could become the next Kevin Love or Chris Bosh. But for next season, the Hornets shouldn’t place too much pressure on him. He’ll only be 19 years old, and still has plenty of time to grow. Re-signing Josh McRoberts would help take some of the pressure off Noah Vonleh.
Brandon Bevil - Vonleh’s first season should mirror Zeller’s from last year. He will be a bench player that hopefully will have a confident shot and be asked to rebound. If he can also protect the rim he may start getting Biyombo’s minutes. As far as improving he just needs to play more basketball and work on decision making. A lot of his highlights have him scoring on 3 defenders while an open man is waiting for a pass. Noah has to be able to find that open man. Cody was hesitant at first last season but the game slowed down for him eventually. Vonleh should expect the same.
Will Young - I think Vonleh can be a strong contributor off the bench next year. If Josh McRoberts leaves, he might be thrown into a bigger role. His size and motor should make him a strong rebounder from the get-go. But, his offense still has a way to go. I like the Bosh comparisons, but Bosh was more polished on offense coming into the league. His post game needs to develop more because he will not be able to push PF’s around like he did last year in college. Al Jefferson being a mentor will be a great thing for him.
Brett Thompson - I expect Noah Vonleh to be a part of what I believe will be known as the The Best Second Unit in the NBA. Vonleh will learn from Big Al and come in to give either Jefferson or whoever ends up at the 4 relief. Vonleh isn’t necessarily going to be the sixth man, but he will be an impactful body off the Hornets’ increasingly deep bench. From what I’ve seen of Vonleh, he has a nice shooting touch, but might need to work on his ability to bang bodies in the paint.
5. What are your expectations for P.J. Hairston next season? Anything he needs to improve on?
Reece Helms - If you ranked the 10 most NBA-ready players in the 2014 NBA Draft class, I believe P.J. makes that Top 10. He’s a great shooter with a strong body. I expect him to play a pivotal role off the bench next year for Charlotte. He needs to work on his conditioning, as that might be his main weakness. If P.J. can get into shape and behave off the court, he will have a great rookie season with the Charlotte Hornets.
Brandon Bevil - Hairston has more experience than Vonleh and more will be expected of him. He should be the first player off the bench, but really if he can hit open 3s and run the floor then his rookie year will be a success. He needs to get into shape, 82 games is a long season for someone with questions about endurance. Best case is he wins the starting job by the end of the season, but more likely we sign a free agent as the starting 2 guard and we bring PJ along slowly like the rest of the rookies. Hairston is the long term plan now instead of Henderson.
Will Young - By the end of the year, Hairston should be getting some quality minutes. A lot of it depends on free agency. If they sign a starting two guard, that would really slow down Hairston’s development. But, if they don’t, I could see P.J.’s offense getting him on the court. His defense is going to be key. He will have to defend, something he probably hasn’t done a lot of since he was at UNC. He has the size to be a good defender, but he’ll have to show coach Clifford he has the effort.
Brett Thompson - I firmly believe PJ Hairston will either finish the year as the Hornets’ 6th man, or even starting shooting guard. I feel Gerald Henderson is definitely in jeopardy of losing his starting gig, and Hairston will provide a great challenge for it. His three point shot is there, his ability to slash into the lane is there, and he can more than hold his own defensively. If PJ wants to start, though, he has to work on his stamina. In his two seasons at UNC, Hairston played 13.0 and 23.6 minutes per game, respectively. He only started the second half of his sophomore season at UNC. If he can find a way to maximize his energy, PJ will be starting by April.