Saturday November 20th, 2010

The surprising New Orleans Hornets made yet another move to deepen their bench by packaging Peja Stojakovic to the Raptors in exchange for Jarrett Jack and David Andersen on Saturday, according to NBA sources.

After being sidelined for 115 games over the last four years, Stojakovic believed he was in good health coming into this season. But he felt marginalized in New Orleans by the decision of new coach Monty Williams to essentially replace him in the starting lineup with 24-year-old shooting guard Marco Bellinelli, who has emerged as the No. 3 scorer for the Southwest-leading Hornets with 12.7 ppg this season. Last week Stojakovic returned to the rotation and in two games scored 28 points in 36 minutes to showcase his return to health.

In exchange the Hornets receive Jarrett Jack, who will be a solid backup to star point guard Chris Paul as New Orleans has succeeded in keeping Paul's minutes to a career-low 34.0 this season. Jack will play both guard spots off the bench.

The Hornets also receive versatile 6-11 center David Andersen, a former European star who can score inside or face up to make jumpers. Marcus Banks' expiring $4.8 million salary was also sent to New Orleans in order to make the trade work.

The 10-1 Hornets have been the league's most surprising team this season, thanks to a flurry of roster moves by new GM Dell Demps. This trade raises their total of new players to 10 as Williams has developed a deeper, more defensive-oriented team around the surviving core of Paul, power forward David West and center Emeka Okafor. This deal gives them a solid four-man rotation up front with Andersen and Jason Smith coming off the bench.

The Raptors will receive 6-3 combo guard Jerryd Bayless, who was acquired by New Orleans last month from Portland in exchange for a protected first-round pick. He and Stojakovic will provide scoring for the 4-9 Raptors.

The big concern about the Hornets -- suggested by Paul last summer -- was that New Orleans may not be able to compete financially. These moves are promising on that front as well: While they've remained under the luxury tax, the Hornets have now taken on close to $15 million in additional salary commitments since last season.

Stojakovic, 33, is a three-time All-Star and lauded as one of the best shooters of modern times. He is in the final year of his contract at $14.9 million, and he agreed to a reduction in his 10 percent trade kicker in order to facilitate the trade. As much as he'll hope the Raptors will help demonstrate he can extend his career as a free agent next summer, he has to know that his expiring contract could yet be dangled with Toronto's existing $14.5 million trade exception (from the departure of Chris Bosh to Miami) in order to trade for a big-money star at the February deadline.

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