Days before the draft, the Hornets opened up about $7 million of additional cap space when they sent Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza to Washington for Rashard Lewis' partially guaranteed expiring contract (since bought out). And though the trade didn't quite open up enough room for a max-level free agent offer, it did loosen up things enough for New Orleans to pursue a solid veteran. And so on Sunday, the Hornets found their man: Ryan Anderson, acquired in a sign-and-trade for Gustavo Ayon on a contract that will pay him $34 million over four years — or $8.5 million per season, per's Sam Amick.

The deal still leaves New Orleans with about $4 million in cap room they could use during the three days they have to match Phoenix's offer sheet for Eric Gordon, provided New Orleans renounces the rights to all its other free agents — Carl Landry, Chris Kaman and Marco Belinelli. In a much trickier alternative, the Hornets could also keep those free agents on the books for a few days, create a $6.5 million trade exception in the Anderson deal ($6.5 million being the difference between the salaries of Anderson and Ayon), stay over the cap and have the full mid-level exception at their disposal.

Regardless, the Hornets have inked Anderson to the precise sort of contract a growing number of NBA geeks would recommend avoiding — a deal in the $6 million to $10 million range for a non-star. The Spurs, for instance, have by my count signed one such contract — the Richard Jefferson deal, later dumped on the Warriors — since the institution of an annual luxury tax in 2005. They traded George Hill for Kawhi Leonard precisely because they did not want to sign Hill, now 26, to the five-year, $40 million contract the Pacers and Hill agreed upon last week. The Rockets, the NBA's leading geeks, are certainly operating like a team that would prefer a combination of stars, expiring contracts and guys on rookie deals or minimum-level contracts. The Thunder have one player in this salary range right now (Kendrick Perkins), and he is already talked about around the league as a potential amnesty candidate. The Heat have two players nearly in this range — Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem — but they signed Miller via cap space, and they remain a close approximation of a team built on the stars-or-cheapies-only model.