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Should New Orleans Hornets Be Buyers in Free Agency or Stick with Young Core?

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COMMENTARY | The 2012-13 New Orleans Hornets have been maddeningly inconsistent. With multiple wins over teams such as the Boston Celtics and Memphis Grizzlies, the Hornets have shown the potential to be a quality NBA team. However, multiple losses to teams such as the Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards have also shown that the Hornets are still very young and need to mature to be consistent winners.

When a team plays like New Orleans has this season, it truly presents its front office with a dilemma. Should the general manager bring in veteran free agents who have already realized their potential and can help stabilize the team? Conversely, should the front office let the young players grow up together and hope the team someday figures it all out while experiencing multiple losing seasons?

One good thing about a youth movement is that it usually gives an NBA team like the Hornets future flexibility with salary cap space. Despite matching Eric Gordon's max contract, early projections estimate that the Hornets will have $15-$23 million in cap space when they become the Pelicans in the 2013-14 NBA season.

In all likelihood, New Orleans is not going to spend wildly on free agents over the summer. For the first time, the Hornets franchise is in a stable position in terms of a solid owner and a long-term lease. The ridiculous stipulation of the team needing to meet attendance benchmarks to stay in New Orleans is history. Owner Tom Benson extending the contracts of GM Dell Demps and coach Monty Williams is a clear sign that both are being given the opportunity to build a winning team the right way.

Unfortunately, New Orleans doesn't have the greatest reputation around the NBA with star players. It is doubtful that the Hornets could attract all-star free agents without grossly overpaying them. Lower priced free agents would not provide the instant gratification that winning-starved Hornets fans are looking for.

The type of free agent that New Orleans should consider signing is an older role player who has played on winning teams before. A 2013 free agent who fits this role perfectly is Stephen Jackson. The 34-year-old can help at small forward and with six trips to the playoffs and an NBA Championship with the San Antonio Spurs, Jackson can instill a winning attitude in his young teammates.

The wild card in this discussion is Eric Gordon. Nobody outside the organization knows what New Orleans has in mind for its controversial shooting guard. Some reports indicate that Monty Williams likes Gordon and wants to build the team around him. Other reports indicate that the Hornets will trade him in the off-season. If New Orleans does trade Gordon, will Demps draft or sign another guard or will Williams give Austin Rivers a chance to win the starting job at SG?

The 2013-14 NBA season will be a new beginning in New Orleans, as the Hornets become the Pelicans. But the players wearing those new jerseys will probably look very familiar.

Patrick Michael was born in New Orleans and currently resides in the Big Easy. Patrick has followed the Hornets since they moved to New Orleans and has covered the team since 2010. He was in attendance the night the Hornets were one win away from the Western Conference Finals. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.

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