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Do The Hornets Bring Back Aaron Gray?

When GM Dell Demps retooled the Hornets roster this past offseason one of the few players he kept was Aaron Gray. Size is a commodity in the NBA, and Gray, standing 7 feet tall, with a 1 million dollar contract made sense. But that was about it. Sure, he had a great game against Dwight Howard the prior season, but the Hornets were predicted to have one of the worst benches in the league prior to the season and Gray was one of the reasons. Gray’s contract has a player option for next season and it is highly likely that he will opt-out. Now after a semi-breakout second half of the 2010-2011 season and a solid playoff series against the Lakers, the Hornets must make a decision on Gray’s future. Let’s do this…

To start the season it seemed Gray was not in head coach Monty Williams’  plans as he played in only 10 of the team’s first 49 games. However he did play in 30 of the finals 33 games of the year. When Emeka Okafor went down with a hip injury he did fill in admirably during six starts.

Gray’s per game numbers don’t exactly look very good at 3.1 points and 4.2 rebounds. But do his numbers need to be stellar? Gray’s main role on the second unit is to clog the lane and rebound. With the second unit he is at best a third offensive option behind Jarret Jack and Marco Belinelli or Willie Green (depending on who is starting) or even a fourth option behind Carl Landry when David West is healthy. His rebounds per game seem weak but Gray grabs 20.2% of rebounds available–including an eye popping 25.8% of defensive rebounds. And don’t forget that the Hornets are a great defensive rebounding team. Often times Gray is boxing out the opposition’s best rebounder to allow a teammate to get the board instead.

Chances of Resigning

Very high. While the center position has a premium on it, team’s are not going to be knocking down doors to sign Gray. He is far down the list on available centers. While the big names are obviously Marc Gasol and Tyson Chandler, Gray is behind Nenad Krstic and Nazr Mohammad.

The real question is how much his contract will be worth. After Gray’s performance in the playoffs he will be looking for a raise. But with the owners hoping to scale back player salaries with the new CBA, Gray may not be able to get as much as he would hope. On the high end he is looking at a little less than $2 million.

Should the Hornets do it?

Last offseason, Gray worked a lot on his conditioning and you could see it in how he played. Hopefully this offseason he tries to improve his offense. Like I said before, his per game numbers are nothing special but Gray understands his role with the second unit and plays well within Monty’s system.

His per 36 minutes stats look great to for a backup center and show potential. Per 36 minutes he puts up 8.7 points and 11.6 rebounds. Unfortunately those stats are misleading since he would also pick up 6.5 fouls. Per game Gray averages 2.3 fouls in 13 minutes a game. If Gray can cut down on his (entirely unnecessary) fouling then he would be able to have a bigger impact on the game.

The bottom line is, assuming Gray doesn’t have an outlandish contract demand, the Hornets should and will try and resign him. Something around $1.5 million would be a fair contract for both the team and player, but I wouldn’t be upset if it was as high as $2 million. $2 million may be slightly too high but I’d much rather have Gray than Kyrylo Fesenko or Jeff Foster.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below or on twitter @nolajake.

Tonight, I’ll leave you with this…

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Tags: Aaron Gray Carl Landry David West Dwight Howard Emeka Okafor Jarrett Jack Jeff Foster Kyrylo Fesenko Marc Gasol Marco Belinelli Nazr Mohammad Nenad Krstic New Orleans Hornets Tyson Chandler Willie Green

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