2009 NBA Summer League round-up: New Orleans Hornets
July 15th, 2009

Earl Barron: Barron had played three straight seasons with the Miami Heat from 2005-2008, but his luck with that ran out last offseason. He next signed with Upim Bologna in Italu, but got injured before the season started and never played for the team. Barron didn’t reappear until March, when he was acquired by the L.A. D-Fenders of the D-League. He averaged 28 minutes, 9.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.7 blocks and 3.5 fouls per game, shooting 41% from the field and scoring 128 points on 131 shots. For a seven-footer in the D-League, that’s pretty inefficient, and Barron is a finesse long-twos merchant. Still, if the Hornets decide not to re-sign Sean Marks, then Barron has a chance.


Earl Calloway: Calloway went undrafted in 2007, but instantly put up a blistering season in the D-League, averaging 19/5/6 on 49% shooting (40% 3pt, 88% FT). He still didn’t make the big league, and signed in Croatia with Cibona Zagreb, for whom he averaged 12.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Counting against Calloway’s NBA prospects is the fact that he’ll be 26 by the time next season starts, and that he has only a couple of good seasons under his belt. The numbers are good, though, and he keeps landing these gigs. Why he’s chosen the Hornets is a valid question; as thin and skint as the team is, small guards are the last thing they need. Then again, it shouldn’t really matter to Calloway, who has already signed for Khimki next season as the replacement for Milt Palacio.


Jaycee Carroll: Carroll was a spectacularly efficient scorer for Utah State, leading the WAC in his senior season with a 22.4 points per game scoring average on percentages of 53%/50%/92%. His NBA prospects suffer from the fact that he’s 26, and that he’s also a 6’2 shooting guard that’s not particularly quick, who is an out-and-out scorer and not a point guard. But this doesn’t stop him in Europe, and last year Carroll scored 15.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, shooting 51% overall, 47% from three and 83% from the line for Banca Teramo in Italy.

Same problem as Calloway, though; why here?


Darren Collison: Big fan of Collison. He’s like Chris Duhon except with a mid-range game and the ability to recognise when to shoot. And Chris Duhon with those things added to his game would be a fine player. The Hornets now need only three backups before they’re ready. Oh, and one more starter.


Brian Cusworth: Cusworth is an occasionally-bearded 7’0 centre, Harvard graduate, all-Ivy League second team member in 2005, former winner of the Estonian National Championships and former Estonian league MVP. He won those awards in 2007/08 and was able to turn it into a prolific gig in the Spanish second division, with a team called Leche Rio Breogan Lugo. Cusworth averaged 27 minutes per game, totalling averages of 15.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.4 steals per game. He’s succeeded everywhere that he’s played. But that’s partly because he’s never played at a standard this good before.


Terry Martin: Martin averaged 4.6 points and 3.2 rebounds for LSU in his senior season, shooting 36% from the floor. I don’t know how he got here.


Luke Nevill: Luke Nevill continues a fine pedigree of Australian centres that we’ve seen in recent years, from Andrew Bogut to Chris Anstey to Luke Schenscher to A.J. Ogilvy. For some reason they seem to be better at producing centres than guards, Patty Mills excepted. Nevill just played five years at the University of Utah, averaging 16.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game on 61% FG and 79% FT. However, in the weak draft for centres that we just witnessed – so weak that Goran Suton, Chinemelu Elonu and Robert Dozier managed to get picked – Nevill still didn’t get taken. Nevertheless, as with Barron earlier, no team needs big man help more than the Hornets. And if that help comes at the rookie minimum salary, they’d be quite content with that.


Larry Owens: Larry Owens has just played two consecutive seasons in Belgium. Last year, for Belgacom Liege, Owens averaged 12.8 points and 4.2 rebounds. One in every three of his field goal attempts was a three-pointer. But he shot only 16% from three-point range. The Hornets aren’t THAT desperate for a small forward.


Marc Salyers: Salyers is an odd choice to get a summer league invite. Summer league is usually for team’s recent draftees, undrafted seniors and one- or two-year pros. But Salyers is a 30-year-old Samford graduate who has been a professional since 2001. He was a Hornets summer league participant four years ago, too, so clearly they’re checking back in. In his career, Salyers has played in Poland, Italy, France and Germany, before spending last year in the Ukraine. He averaged 11.8 points and 4.5 in the Ukrainian league as the starting small forward for Azovmash, the team that won the Superleague title. His chances of making the team in Ryan Bowen’s place have got to be higher than those of Larry Owens.


Courtney Sims: Sims was a training camp signee of the Hornets last year, but didn’t make the team. He then spent some time with the Suns and Knicks, while averaging MVP-calibre numbers in the D-League (22.8 points, 11.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 61% shooting). Of all the unsigned players in all the summer leagues who are looking to make an NBA roster, the hooking up of Courtney Sims and the New Orleans Hornets looks to be a match made in heaven. But then again, the same was true of last year.


Marcus Thornton: Thornton has already signed, thereby closing the door on Calloway and Carroll’s chances. He also presumably is at least partly the reason that his former teammate, Terry Martin, is on this team. The Hornets correctly seem to have realised how staggeringly bad their depth was last year, and obtaining Collison and Thornton in the draft is a good start to correcting that. But Christ do they need some big man depth. Speaking of…..


Anthony Tolliver: Tolliver played with the Hornets last year on a ten-day contract. Well, I say that; he didn’t actually play in any of their games. He just hung around for a bit. Tolliver also guest-starred (if that’s the term) with the Spurs, who gave him plenty of air time. In that time, all Tolliver really demonstrated was an increased love for his recently discovered jump shot. He shot 22% from three-point range. Maybe put it to bed for a bit, Anthony.

Tolliver also played in the D-League, splitting his time between the Iowa Energy and the Austin Toros (while on assignment from the Spurs) and averaging roughly 14/8 between them. He left the D-League to sign with Galatasaray for the end of the Turkish season, and averaged 12.9 points and 6.5 rebounds in the final 15 games of their season. He, like Sims, has to have a chance of a moving reconciliation with the Hornets, considering how thin they are up front.


Quinton Watkins: Watkins shouldn’t be here. He should be in college. But it went wrong, quickly, and twice. Watkins was recruited by Illinois and supposed to play there, but he didn’t make it due to academic ineligibility. He later moved to San Diego State, practiced with the team for a few months and expected to play there….but again, he didn’t, leaving in April 2008 due to “personal reasons”. He hasn’t been heard from since, until now. Watkins was once a highly sought-after shooting guard prospect out of high school, but you don’t go from that to an NBA roster without something in between. And Watkins has nothing in between.


Julian Wright: Julian Wright has had ample opportunity to prove that he can play in an NBA rotation, and has failed at every one of them. I expect him to do it again. What exactly is his role?

Posted by at 4:51 PM