Training camp opens this morning. The roster has ballooned to 18 in the past few weeks, and it’s tough to keep up with the changes. Here are the 12 players with guaranteed contracts going into training camp:
- Chris Paul
- Peja Stojakovic
- Emeka Okafor
- David West
- Trevor Ariza
- Marco Belinelli
- Quincy Pondexter
- Aaron Gray
- Marcus Thornton
- Willie Green
- Jason Smith
- Jannero Pargo
Six more have non-guaranteed or partially-guaranteed deals. There are still three spots on the roster, which could be filled either by training camp invites or by signing free agents. It certainly seems likely that the Hornets will be signing at least one of these players at the end of training camp. Let’s take a look at the contenders:
Joe Alexander – The Hornets signed Alexander to a partially-guaranteed deal. He was drafted eighth overall in 2008 by the Bucks, but he has yet to live up to his enormous athletic potential. In his second season, Alexander was traded to the Bulls in exchange for John Salmons, where he saw minimal playing time. He then bounced to the D-League, where he was a mediocre performer, at best. He has great athleticism, but can he finally get his stuff together?
Further reading: Sam Amick
D.J. Strawberry – Best known as the son of perpetually high baseball talent Darryl Strawberry, D.J. Strawberry bounced around between the D-League and Italy for a few years, never performing impressively. In July, he played for the Lakers’ summer league team, where he averaged 13ppg while getting an average of 26 minutes. Not too shabby for a guy who is mostly known as a defensive player, though his field goal percentage wasn’t very good.
Further reading: Ridiculous Upside
Darryl Watkins – The only thing Darryl Watkins has going for him is size - he’s a 6’11" center. However, he spends most of his time sitting on the bench. As a rookie for the Kings, he got nothing more than garbage minutes. He was then sent to the D-League, where he wasn’t impressive. He played some in China, where he dominated, netting him a training camp invite from the Cavaliers. He was cut, however, which sent him back to the D-League. Apparently he got a staph infection, though, which forced him to miss the rest of the season. He played in the Summer League, where he was thoroughly unimpressive. But hey – he’s 6’11"!!!
Further reading: Ridiculous Upside
Mustafa Shakur – Mustafalypse Now was a highly heralded recruit coming out of high school, but had serious flaws in his game when he left Arizona for the NBA (high turnover rate in particular). Better Dayz lay ahead for him in the D-League, where he has improved his turnover rate and polished his game. He has an uphill climb to make the roster - it’s him against the world. Rohan wrote a brilliant post about Mustafa when he was signed, replete with one of the top three greatest At the Hive photoshops of all time. When training camp opens today, all eyez will certainly be on Mustafa.
Further reading: Matt Moore
Pops Mensah-Bonsu – Dell Demps is showing a few trends in his training camp invites. First, he’s tending to invite guys that once played for the Austin Toros, the D-League affiliate of the Spurs that he Managed Generally. He was cut by Toronto last year and found his way to CSKA Moscow. He was released by the Spanish club Caja Laboral because of a lingering knee injury, which was apparently well-known. Even with the knee problems, he was a force for Great Britain during their qualifying run for Eurobasket this summer. Considering the Hornets’ weakness in the post, I would consider Pops to be the most likely player to make the team out of this bunch.
Michael Washington A 6’10" forward out of Arkansas whose name sounds like it came from the Witness Protection Program, Washington had a dominant junior campaign, followed by a mediocre senior season that saw his draft stock fall from first-round to undrafted status. He claims to have been hampered by a turf toe injury throughout the past year, causing the decline in performance. He was slated to play for the Knicks Summer League team, but his turf toe kept him out of competition. Though his health and talent are both up for debate, but if he could flash the skills that made him a dominant post presence just two years ago, he might earn himself a contract.
Further Reading: Draft Express