During his All-Star Game press conference, David Stern made an informal introduction between a reporter from Italy inquiring about the Hornets’ ownership situation and how it relates to the Sonics, and Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee. The Kings have an uncertain future in Sacramento due to their arena need, and have been rumored to be on the brink of a move to Anaheim.
Ironically, the front offices of the Kings and Hornets got together a few days later to execute a subtle but potentially impactful trade where Carl Landry was sent to New Orleans in exchange for Marcus Thornton and cash.
The Hornets are over the cap, but were able to acquire Landry due to a traded player exception. Somewhat predictably, one NBA owner has already criticized the cash impact of the deal since New Orleans is technically owned by the 29 other teams.
Leaving the politics of that complicated issue aside, the Hornets and Kings had excess depth at the positions Landry and Thornton play and it clearly benefits both teams.
Thornton is called Buckets for a reason and scoring is why he’s in the NBA, but he wasn’t receiving minutes from Monty Williams due to his defensive deficiencies. New Orleans also had enough depth at shooting guard in the short-term in Willie Green and Marco Belinelli to go forward without Thornton, while it is largely a blank canvas behind David West.
The Hornets have been very strong defensively this season, but have struggled with their offensive efficiency. The Hornets score just 105.7 points per 100 possessions, which ranks them 21st and that is simply an unacceptable output for any team that has Chris Paul. New Orleans had a weakness offensively in the post and this is Landry’s specialty. He always works hard and was an excellent scorer off the bench in his time with Houston, scoring efficiently from the floor and also getting to the line at an excellent rate.
Landry never really wanted to be with the Kings and playing with Tyreke Evans isn’t a formula for a player like him to succeed. One aspect of Landry’s offense that gets overlooked his ability as a slasher and now he has the best passer in the game to get him some easily convertible looks.
The Hornets have to hope his play while with the Kings is a situational aberration and he can return to his role as the deluxe bench scorer they saw during his Rockets’ days.
Landry’s rebounding rate also dipped dramatically following his deal to Sacramento. He attacks the offensive glass better than he does on the defensive end. Without question, he is an undersized power forward and that is exposed more on the defensive end. If Emeka Okafor gets healthy, Landry will be less of a liability defensively beside him.
Whether or not Landry re-signs with the Hornets will likely be impacted by what happens with West's contract situation. This deal is more about this postseason than pure insurance, but the insurance aspect is an ancillary benefit for the Hornets.
Landry is one of the better guys in the entire NBA to begin with, plus he's now playing for a winning team while also playing for a contract, so the Hornets can expect him to overachieve again.
Grade for Hornets: B+
Landry was going to be on the first plane out of Sacramento this offseason, so the front office was able to turn him into an asset in Thornton.
The last thing the Kings need is another ball-dominant scoring guard who struggles defensively and the thought of Thornton sharing the same backcourt with Evans is a scary one for the other three teammates on the floor. We may as well play basquette with those two sticking on the offensive end.
But Thornton at least has the physical tools necessary to develop into a solid defensive player if he settles down a little bit and chooses to learn the intricacies of what it takes to succeed against NBA guards.
We see some glimpses of that defensive potential simply in the way he rebounds on the defensive end, with his rate nearly matching that of David West.
Thornton is a pure scorer and we first saw that potential when Chris Paul went down last season and he scored an efficient 20.3 points per 36 minutes. His TS% dropped from 55.0% to 49.4% this season, as defenses have been able to adjust to his playmaking off the dribble. His perimeter shooting has remained constant in terms of efficiency, but he clearly isn’t getting to the rim as often or as successfully.
Thornton will be a restricted free agent this summer and re-signing him is almost a given for the Kings. They will absolutely extend the qualifying offer to Thornton, which is only $1 million and change and if another team desperately wants him, a sign-and-trade is a likely outcome. Ironically, Thornton will probably receive a contract very similar to the one Landry signed since he was also a second round pick case.
While he should remain with the Kings through the offseason, I see him having more value to another team eventually and that he becomes an asset used in a future trade for a piece that complements Sacramento’s core in a more logical way.
Grade for Kings: A-