The New Orleans Hornets have been the surprise of the NBA thus far, but they are not fooled by their 7-0 start. Though they've beaten "contenders'' Miami, San Antonio and Denver (until Melo leaves), the Hornets' front office knows it hasn't yet joined the elite.
The club's plan to get to that level involves Peja Stojakovic, whose value is now in his contract rather than his shot.
The Hornets are on the lookout for clubs that fall far short of expectations before the February trade deadline. The logic is that some of those bad or mediocre teams will be looking to dump good players with big contracts for expiring deals.
When that occurs, the Hornets hope Stojakovic's contract can help them make a splash. New Orleans is looking to trade his deal, which pays him $15.3 million this year, for a borderline All-Star type who complements Chris Paul.
The Hornets have already contacted Philadelphia about Andre Iguodala. But the Sixers, who aren't yet sure they're willing to move Iguodala, rebuffed them fairly quickly. Philadelphia's getting lots of calls about Iguodala and will have plenty of options if it decides to trade him.
New Orleans might be a viable one, with the Hornets capable of throwing in a young talent like Marcus Thornton or Marco Belinelli alongside Stojakovic.
Iguodala would seem to be a great fit alongside Paul, as long as the Hornets were able to keep some outside shooters (i.e. Belinelli).
Other possible trading partners for the Hornets include:
Charlotte: If the Bobcats continue going south, would they be willing to move the long-term deals of either Stephen Jackson or Gerald Wallace for the payroll relief Stojakovic's deal would bring?
Houston: Would the Rockets consider moving Kevin Martin for an expiring deal and a young talent if they continue losing?
Detroit: Would the Hornets be interested in putting Richard Hamilton next to Paul?
New Orleans knows it needs to continue strengthening its roster to become a contender and also to keep Paul excited about being a Hornet long-term.