It's virtually undebatable that the Hornets are on the cusp of reaching the Finals. What can put us over the top? I like our starting 5 a lot. CP3 is God, DX is our guy for the next decade, The Repair Man has led the league in OREB'ing for 2 straight years now, Peja is the Shooter, and Mo-Pete is a great 5th starter. So whether we win it all or not depends on our bench.
1. Front Court Presence
I'm really sorry to say this, but I've officially given up on Hilton Armstrong. Maybe it was the game he dropped three catches that could have been layups. Maybe it was the game he got repeatedly burned by Brandon Bass. Maybe it was that time he refused to give me a high five as he came out of the tunnel. I don't know. I will say this: I don't give up on young players easily. Heck, I was high on Kirk Haston and Arvydas Macijauskas (just the fact I can still spell that should tell you something...) longer than anyone. But Hilton showed zero signs of improvement this year. He faded from an already bad 12.1 PER to an atrocious 7.7. His rebounding rate dropped slightly even though he got more minutes. His turnover rate went from bad, but acceptable (18.4) to awful (25). He hasn't improved his post game, his jump shot, his defense, and he travels a lot.
I still like Ely, but we have to get another big man, preferably one that can score. This is easily priority number one.
2. Able to Create His Own Shot SG/SF
This one is a little more difficult. We have Julian Wright, who I think is going to be a stud among studs (I've gone as far as to compare him to a young Kobe...). The problem is we need another play-making guard, but we can't have a play-making guard whose style of play is very similar to JuJu's. In other words, we need a big, powerful SG/SF (re-sign Bonzi?) or a smooth moving, satin shooting SG/SF (I like Billy Walker out of K-State). These guys will be the future after Mo-Pete, and it would be great to get a SG/SF who could challenge JuJu and make him better.
3. CP3's Backup?
General Pargo is free to walk away this summer. My gut feeling is that he won't, but there is a chance he will. He's instant offense, plays terrific on the ball defense, can run a second unit very easily, and controls the tempo of the game. Other teams are sure to want him. There are arguments to be made for letting him go- he'll be 29 in September, so his quickness will be on the decline in upcoming years. Though a good long range shooter, he's still a highly inefficient scorer in general (39% from the floor). And perhaps the biggest argument is that CP's back-up of the future may be available in this year's draft- Ty Lawson of NC. He's become almost legendary for his transition ability and up-tempo style.
Mike James will surely be gone when his contract expires. So Pargo's decision to stay or leave could have a huge impact on our draft strategy. Personally, I want the General to finish up his contract in '08-'09 and the Hornets to pick a SG/SF or a PF/C in the draft, not Lawson. We can worry about the backup PG situation next summer. Pargo has a great relationship with Paul and Chandler, and he could help transition a rookie SG/SF in the second unit. No reason to mess any of that up.
4. Project Big Man?
Could the Hornets follow the Spurs' blueprint by drafting a foreign player, stashing him overseas for a few years and then bringing him over? They did it successfully with Parker, Ginobili, Oberto, and now Tiago Splitter. Some overseas candidates this year include Serge Ibaka (Congo) and Nathan Jawai (Australia). Honestly, I'm against it. This bench needs help now. This Hornets team is literally a couple bench pieces away from title contention. Stashing foreign players is best for teams that have already reached maximum output from their current rosters... unless they're the Magic. What the hell were they thinking with Fran Vazquez?