Marco Belinelli Returns to the Hornets for 2011-2012

You'll recall that way back in June, before the lockout had even started and before Chris Paul realized that he wanted to be in New York, or Los Angeles, or the other Los Angeles, or basically anywhere that wasn't the debacle that is the New Orleans Hornets, Marco Belinelli received a qualifying offer from the team.

By offering Belinelli the QO, the Hornets retained his restricted free agent rights; that is, if any other team put in a bid for his services, the Hornets earned themselves the ability to match. Now that one of the wildest free agency seasons of modern times is in full effect, Belinelli has found himself totally devoid of external offers and has opted to take the Hornets' qualifying offer. This means he'll be under contract for just one season (at $3.377 million) and will become an unrestricted free agent in summer of 2012.

Once upon a time, I argued that $3.4M for a shooting guard with Marco Belinelli's three point percentages is fair value. Some of that original post:

There is a video on Youtube that depicts a 22 year old Marco Belinelli performing an under the legs to behind the back crossover into a left handed no look pass to a teammate for an open three. He's seen again in the same video, three minutes later, hitting a fadeaway jumper on the baseline from behind the backboard and falling out of bounds. Youtube goes on to suggest that those intrigued by this particular exhibition of athletic excellence might find their senses similarly galvanized by another video entitled "Belinelli 360° dunk," which, surprisingly if we're being honest, does not disappoint.

Unfortunately for the player and his fans, the content of these two videos hasn't exactly defined his four year career. Three comments posted under that second video do a much better job of that - "Welcome to New Orleans!!", "WELCOME TO THE RAPTORS MARCO!", and "Sani Booy! Sani Booooy!." The first and second capture the overarching theme of his career thus far - anticipation preceding disappointment, rinse, repeat - while the third confuses me almost as much as his game. Why does he handle like Steve Nash one moment and impetuously leave his feet to chuck the ball at Emeka Okafor's toes the next? Nobody knows, outside of possibly Sani Booy and his omnifariously voweled friends.

All that said? The shot is still world class. The range on the shot is immense. For a team like New Orleans and for a player like Chris Paul, it's an imperative component of the roster. I'll put up with one hundred more blown assignments if it means I get to watch Trevor Ariza and Willie Green shoot one hundred less threes. The majority of Belinelli's game - the passing, the "defense," the rebounding, the help - were all sadly exposed. Nobody will be clamoring for him to start next year, and they shouldn't be. But his outside shot is an elite one, and the compensation his qualifying offer assures isn't far out of line with the average price the market dictates for shooters.

All of that still rings true, except the most important line - "for a player like Chris Paul, [shooting is] an imperative component of the roster." Chris Paul is, effectively, no longer a Hornet, and so even if Belinelli's qualifying offer is market value for three point shooters, it makes a little less sense contextually.

And yet, even the loss of Chris Paul doesn't make this an awful deal. As it stands now, the Hornets have 6 players under contract, and Belinelli's better than most D-League talent. At most, we're overpaying Belinelli by maybe $1M over a one year period. Regardless of how you feel about Belinelli, there's no point getting too worked up about this move.

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