And just like that, Hilton Armstrong's disappointing career with the Hornets is over. New Orleans gets virtually nothing in return, when one considers the diminishing future value of a draft pick and the conditional nature of the pick Sacramento sends our way. The Hornets lose one half of Helvin Brownarms, but this was clearly a move that had to be made.
What are the ramifications?
Hilton, the Ball Player
In a basketball sense, none whatsoever. While Hilton has been an average rebounder this season, that comes with two caveats: (a) he rarely cracks the rotation, and (b) his career averages indicate this year is an anomaly. Some said he could develop into a defensive force coming out of UConn. A complete inability to stay in front of big men, though, has led to his averaging 5.8 fouls/36 minutes, including 6.4, 6.0, and 6.6 the last three years. It's highly doubtful that Hilton will develop into a capable defender or rebounder at age 25.
The Hornets have been burned in the past by letting Brandon Bass walk, so perhaps that factored into the trade calculus. But in the case of Bass, there were clear indicators that he could excel, given minutes. With Hilton? Not so much. I asked Dr. David Berri (Wages of Wins) about Hilton's potential last year, and whether it'd be too early to give up on him. His answer:
I am not sure about big men, but players in general do get better in their third season. When we look at Armstrong, we see that he posted a 0.050 WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] his rookie season. Average WP48 is 0.100 for an NBA player in general, although what Armstrong did is close to average for a rookie.
In his second season, though, Armstrong’s WP48 fell to -0.094 (yes that is a negative sign). So Armstrong was way below average. Going back to your question, I think it is incorrect to say Armstrong "has not shown much improvement". What the numbers show is that Armstrong got much worse.
So should the Hornets give up on Armstrong? I am not sure, but it is important for the coaches to figure out why he played so badly in 2007-08. If those things can be fixed, then the team should keep him. If not, it is time to look elsewhere.
The third year of Hilton's career played out uneventfully, and that was that.
Hilton, the Ticket to Financial Freedom
With this move, the Hornets almost drop below the luxury tax (this plus the proposed Devin Brown deal would have sealed it). They currently sit at $572,851 above. Between the Tyson Chandler trade, Rasual Butler "trade," and Antonio Daniels trade, this Hilton deal could be the final move of a solid six month period of wheeling and dealing.
Condemn them if you must for the Posey/Peja/Peterson deals, but I will say this is rather impressive. The FO has retained a very solid core that can still make the playoffs, while smartly shedding salaries all around. Some media may report this as more desperate salary dumping on the part of New Orleans, but the overall result is nothing to sneeze at.
Most of my questions deal with Sacramento's side of the trade. As Sactown Royalty speculated early in the week, the Kings may have looked to move their pick for Armstrong and a New Orleans pick. Instead, they opted to simply pick up Armstrong and New Orleans' reimbursement for his contract. A little strange? Maybe. Perhaps Sacramento wants to flip Hilton again before the trade deadline (possible, because the mandatory 30-day waiting period expires before the deadline). But again, I don't see why Hilton would be an essential piece to such a move.
And of course, one must still ask: is this our last move? Will Shinn be satisfied to dole out the ~600,000 dollar-for-dollar tax? And if not, who else could move? Hilton was not a part of the rotation, so his departure won't affect much. But if a second player is moved, things may change.
Perhaps the one thing this move assures is that David West and/or Emeka Okafor will not be moved before the deadline. With the Hornets mere dollars above the tax (uh, relatively speaking), trading West or Okafor to fall below the threshold would be analogous to using a guillotine to behead an amoeba.