What Do You Mean We Couldn't Get Elton Brand??

With most of the big FA's on the verge of deals, the spotlight is now on teams like the Hornets and lesser free agents. The salary cap, announced yesterday, has been set at $58.68 million, the luxury threshold at $71.15 million, and the midlevel exception at $5.585 million.

Pradamaster did a great breakdown of the Wizards' cap situation over at Bullets Forever today, and I thought I'd emulate it for the Hornets. So here goes nothing:

2008_salaries_medium

Clearly, we have a ways to go before hitting the luxury tax level. That's misleading though. Since we're right at the salary cap, we can only use the full midlevel exception on free agents and nothing more.

Who can we get?

Jannero Pargo (last year: $1,183,000): The General qualifies for the "Early Bird" exception. This means that since he's played with us for 2 straight years, we can sign him even if it takes us over the salary cap (which it will). I wrote yesterday that the Hornets shouldn't bring him back. Current reports have him asking for a 3 year deal, and reported suitors include the Nets and Jazz. Bottom line: he'll be back if we want him.

Josh Childress (Restricted, last year: $3,600,000): The whole Elton Brand mess means the ATL might not match a midlevel offer to Childress (since the Clips could toss around 15 mil. at J-Smoove). Bottom line: we could get Childress with the full mid-level.

Mickael Pietrus (Signed Orlando, MLE: $5,585,000): I put this here because the Pietrus deal is interesting. I'm convinced Orlando overpaid. More importantly, the Pietrus deal virtually guarantees that Childress will command more than the mid-level. So maybe Childress is out of our reach after all.

Shaun Livingston (last year: $4,404,629): Oft-injured, the 21 year old Livingston could come dirt cheap. If the Hornets decide to chase a free agent with only part of the MLE, they could acquire Livingston with the remainder. Bottom line: No, thank you. I'd rather go all out for a Posey or a Childress.

Juan Dixon (last year: $2,550,000): Would be a cheap 3rd PG if Pargo or James were to leave. Bottom line: Same deal as Livingston- breaking up the MLE isn't a good idea.

We interrupt this telecast to present you with the following message: I'm gonna stop listing players like Dixon and Livingston because thinking up different ways to say "don't break up the MLE" is going to get taxing.

Now back to the scheduled program.

James Posey (last year: $3,206,000): Whoever gets Posey will end up over-paying. Posey certainly isn't worth the full mid-level. That said, he is worth it to a team he would put over the top. Which, arguably, is us. Bottom line: Offer him the full mid-level. His offense is overrated with all those dagger threes fresh in people's minds. But his defense is for real.

JamesOn Curry (last year: N/A D-League): Just kidding. I just love writing his name. JamesOn. JamesOn. JamesOn.

Ricky Davis (last year: $6,810,000): Wait a few seconds before you laugh me off the stage. He's not as bad as you think. Bottom line: He'd be a very nice consolation prize if we lose out in the Posey race. I seriously doubt any team offers him more than the mid-level.

Kelenna Azubuike (Restricted, last year: $687,000): Hustles, great energy, solid defender, killer name, good shooter, 24 years old... it's interesting that his upper level is considered the mid-level. The Spurs were thought to be his biggest suitors, but the Roger Mason Jr. signing ends that. Bottom line: You know what? I'd be just as happy to get Azubuike as to get Posey.

Bonzi Wells (last year: $2,284,000): I made the case for Wells a couple of weeks back. I still stand by it. There's a way we could get Wells without touching the mid-level exception or hindering any other free agent signings- the Million Dollar exception. It's a 1.91 million dollar exception designed for NBA veterans. If Wells is willing to take a slight pay cut (300 grand), he can potentially be back, next to Julian Wright and one of Posey/Davis/Azubuike. Bottom Line: Ryan Bowen's departure opens up a roster spot. At the very least, I would extend the 1.91 mil. exception to Wells. Plus, re-signing Wells makes another back-up big unnecessary (since Bonzi can man the 4).

So there you have it. My best guess: we re-sign Pargo (early Bird exception) and acquire Posey/Azubuike (full MLE).

Had we not sold our 27th pick, you know what we could've done? Re-sign Pargo, draft CDR, and acquire Turiaf (most of our MLE, and easily outclass GSW's offer of 4 years, 17 mil).

Pargo/CDR/Turiaf sure beats Pargo/Posey...

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