Apr 14, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Hornets mascot Hugo watches the video board displaying highlights of the Hornets history support following a loss to the Dallas Mavericks at the New Orleans Arena. The Mavericks defeated the Hornets 107-89. The game was the final home game for the Hornets franchise as they will be rebranded as the New Orleans Pelicans starting next season. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Examining Jeff Bower as the new Pistons GM

He might not have been the favorite to be selected at the start of Stan Van Gundy’s search, but Jeff Bower is a good fit to take over as General Manager of the Pistons franchise. The 30 year veteran of the league has an array of experience in the NBA, including his time in one of the smallest front offices in New Orleans as the general manager of the Hornets from 2005-2010.

Bower is respected greatly across the league, and it’s based off a decent body of work.

As an architect with an out of date blue print, Bower got his team to the playoffs in three of his six seasons as General manager. He did it by building his own infrastructure in a very uncomfortable setting. Put aside the fact that he had to deal with the rigors of his team playing in Oklahoma City while Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on New Orleans.

Bower had to deal with former New Orleans owner George Shinn — a job in itself.

As an architect with an out of date blue print, Bower got his team to the playoffs in three of his six seasons as General manager. He did it by building his own infrastructure in a very uncomfortable setting.  

From the constant lies of wanting to stay in New Orleans, to the constant financial pressure, to wanting have the ultimate say in every decision. Everything was an uphill battle.

Months after Jeff Bower threw in the towel, the lies and bills caught up with Shinn as he was forced to sell the franchise back to the NBA.  In 2010, Adrian Wojnarowski wrote a message of good riddance for the former owner on Yahoo! Sports.

To Shinn, the Hornets were little more than a prop to celebrate him as an upstanding pillar of the community. Now Shinn sells the Hornets to the NBA and gets to make believe he did it because he cares about the franchise staying in New Orleans. Another load of garbage out of him, another con on another city. Stern made this easy for Shinn, who does a public service and cashes out of the NBA.

It was that moment that sadly erased anything that Bower had accomplished.

Here’s a closer look at the new Pistons General Manager through his body of work with the New Orleans Hornets.

Draft History

Year
Player/Position
Round
College/Country
Overall
2005Chris Paul1stWake Forest4th
2005Brandon Bass, PF2ndLSU33rd
2006Hilton Armstrong, C 1stConnecticut 12th
2006Cedric Simmons, F1stNorth Carolina State15th
2006Marcus Vinicius de Souza, F2ndBrazil43rd
2007Julian Wright, SF 1stKansas13th
2007Adam Haluska, SG2ndIowa43rd
2008Darrell Arthur1stKansas27th (acquired by Memphis via Portland)
2009Darren Collison, PG1stUCLA21st
2009Marcus Thornton, SG2ndLSU43rd (acquired draftee from Miami)
2010Cole Aldrich, C1stKansas11th (traded to Oklahoma City)
2010Craig Brackins, PF1stIowa State21st (acquired from OKC)
2010Quincy Pondexter SF1stWashington26th (acquired from OKC)

The Hits

In his first year as General Manager, Jeff Bower was able to not only identify the best player available with the 4th overall pick, he was able to secure the best player in the draft and a franchise cornerstone in Chris Paul.

Marcus Thornton was one of Jeff Bower’s best selections in the draft. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Paul would become a major part of Bower’s success in the upcoming years, as the only true Bower draftee to have major success in New Orleans. Fellow 2005 draftee Brandon Bass never caught on in New Orleans, but has since turned in a solid career — averaging 14 points or more per game all but one season since leaving New Orleans after the 2006-07 season.

Bass was a second round steal, but not at the same level as Marcus Thornton, who Bower acquired from Miami after they selected him 43rd overall in the 2009 draft.

The Baton Rouge native was a hit off the bench his rookie season, before being dealt to the Kings. He shot nearly 50% from three point range and 65% from two point range his rookie year. he averaged nearly 15 points per game.

In the same draft, Bower brought in point guard Darren Collison with their first round selection. Collison would be dealt after a solid 14 points and 6 assist per game campaign his rookie year.

The Misses

If there is anything that haunts Jeff Bower, it has to be the 2006 draft. It’s not his fault that The Hornets had three picks in one of the weakest drafts of all-time. Bower ended up with three dud players that never really contributed to any success.

With their first pick of the draft, the Hornets selected center Hilton Armstrong out of Connecticut. In his four seasons in New Orleans, he averaged 4 points and 3 rebounds per game.

With the 15th pick, the Hornets selected North Carolina State forward Cedric Simmons, who was traded the next season after it proved he wasn’t of value to the franchise.

Both times, the Hornets passed on Rajon Rondo and Kyle Lowry. With Chris Paul as the point of the future, it made total sense to pass on a point guard. It’s not like the draft was stacked at any other position.

Bower did miss out in the 2nd round though when he selected Marcus Vinicius De Souza with the 43rd overall selection. Four picks later, the Jazz selected Paul Millsap, who is now one of the better big men in the league.

In 2007, the Hornets selected Julian Wright with their first round pick. They didn’t much out on much when it comes to major impact, but could of selected Nick Young, Rodney Stuckey, Rudy Fernandez, Carl Landry (who they acquired later) Marco Belinelli, Jared Dudley, Wilson Chandler, Aaron Brooks, Arron Afflalo, or Tiago Splitter.

Assembling a Winner

When you work for a mediocre owner who doesn’t provide you very many resources to manage your franchise, you have to get creative.

You also need to sprinkle in a little luck.

When the 2008 squad that went 56-26 took the court for the first time that season, the outdated blueprint became the luminary vision that Jeff Bower had laid out when he took over as general manager of the franchise. Though the plan was simple, it was brilliant.

First and foremost was building around young stars David West and Chris Paul. Secondly was taking advantage of the fact that his two best players were making less than 14.5 million dollars combined. He turned what was nearly 30 million dollars a year into cap space into a division winner by pouncing on larger contracts other teams didn’t want.

It all started in July of 2006.

In a sign and trade deal, the Pacers sent three point shooting wizard Peja Stojakovic to New Orleans for the rights to Andrew Betts — a 1998 draft pick that never played in the NBA. Peja would sign a five year deal with the Hornets.

Two days later, New Orleans got their rim protector –Chicago’s Tyson Chandler. The Bulls felt like their best move was to offer a massive contract to Ben Wallace after Chandler failed to meet expectations. Chandler had just signed a 50 million dollar extension before the Bulls brought in their new center and ushered out Eddy Curry. All the trade cost the Hornets was the expiring contract of veteran P.J. Brown and a disgruntled shooting guard named J.R. Smith, who didn’t get along with New Orleans’ coaching staff.

Bower added the final piece in July of 2007, when he signed former Michigan State small forward Morris Peterson to complete the puzzle.

The next season, things started to click for the Hornets. Chris Paul and David West dominated the league offensively, while Tyson Chandler had a hold on it defensively. CP3 and West both averaged 21 points per game while shooting 48% from the floor. Chandler averaged a double double of 12 points and 12 boards.

From the middle of December through the end of January, the Hornets won 17 of 19. They were one of the top five teams in the league in 2008, yet only pulled the 26th best attendance.

Peja Stojakovic averaged 16 points per game while shooting 44% from downtown.

The Hornets had success through efficiency.

On the offensive end, they ran one of the slowest paces in the league, yet they were the 5th highest scoring offense despite the lack of possessions. Defensively, they didn’t allow their opponents to get to the line. Surprisingly, they finished with the 7th best defensive rating in the league that season.

New Orleans would eventually lose to division  for San Antonio in the playoffs, after easily handling the Dallas Mavericks in the opening round.

The team would make the playoffs the next season as well, but struggled without the presence of Chandler, who missed a good chunk of the season.

Transactions

The Good:

— Trading a contentious J.R. Smith as well as forward P.J. Brown to Chicago for center Tyson Chandler. The three way deal also saw the Hornets sending Kirk Snyder to Houston for cash and a conditional 2nd round pick

— Acquiring Peja Stojakovic in a sign and trade with Indiana that cost him the rights Andrew Betts, a 1998 pick that had not seen time in the NBA.

— Sending Jamaal Magloire, who didn’t fit Byron Scott‘s offense,  to the Milwaukee Bucks for guard Desmond Mason, a 2006 first-round pick and cash. Mason would be a starter for the Hornets and you can never fault getting a first round pick. The pick didn’t pan out but the principle of the trade was good for the franchise.

— Though it didn’t work out in the long haul, trading to future 2nd round picks to the Miami Heat for the rights to Marcus Thornton turned out to be a great deal.

The Bad:

— Shipping Baron Davis to the Warriors for Speedy Claxton and Dale Davis. Trading Davis to let Chris Paul flourish makes sense, but getting absolutely nothing in return doesn’t.

— Trading Tyson Chandler to the Bobcats for Emeka Okafor. The deal made sense at the time. It’s hard to have one of your top players injured all the time and not producing. After a nixed trade with the Thunder, Bower got the best he could for damaged goods. Problem was that Okafor was just a downgrade of the services Chandler offered.

Filling a New Role

Bower will be asked to do a completely different job in Detroit. Unlike other candidates though, Bower will have a voice when it comes to free agent acquisitions and especially when it comes to the NBA Draft. If Stan Van Gundy is in a crunch when it comes to two different players, and which one to select — he will most likely defer to Bower.

Van Gundy though is the ultimate decision maker.

I don’t think it will take long for Bower to understand that part of the role. Yet it will be interesting to see how he adjusts from being an independent decision maker to the Pistons lead diplomat.

He’s now the man that can help get what his boss needs to win games. His contacts across the league and experience with delving contracts will be vital to the success of Detroit.

Van Gundy was looking for good people to fill their needs across the organization.

He might just of found the perfect teammate to get this Pistons team over the hump.

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