After executing a trade to send Chris Paul to the L.A. Clippers, the New Orleans Hornets will continue to have some cap space for the waning 2011 free agent session in addition to a boatload of room scheduled for 2012.
The Hornets took Chris Kaman, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu and a 2012 draft pick back in exchange for Paul in a trade made official on Wednesday. That gives New Orleans a 2011-12 salary cap figure of $48 million, which is $10 million below the cap. The Hornets are above the league's $46 million payroll floor, so there is no compulsory reason to send any more, though few would argue that the team could use some more help at point guard and power forward.
The outlook for 2012 is pretty similar. The Hornets have five players slated to remain under contract in 2012-13: Al-Farouq Aminu (acquired in the CP3 trade), Emeka Okafor, Jarrett Jack, Trevor Ariza and Quincy Pondexter. (Aminu and Pondexter are under team options, but they are cheap enough to consider guaranteed.) Those players -- plus two project top-seven draft picks -- are slated to earn $37 million between them, leaving a projected $21 million in cap space. But this doesn't account for Eric Gordon, who will be coming off of his rookie deal. The Hornets are expected to make a move to extend Gordon's contract long-term before the January 25, 2012, deadline to do so; one imagines that Gordon's 2012-13 salary, assuming that he's retained, will be $10-12 million. That significantly decreases the team's cap space outlook for 2012.
But Okafor, Ariza and Jack can be expected to be the subjects of trade rumors; Jack might end up a late amnesty candidate in 2012 if there's a free agent that New Orleans likes. While the Hornets may want to hold off on exploring the pricey free agent market, they should have options in 2012.
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