鈥?The value Saints coach Sean Payton sees in Benjamin Watson has little to do with the career-best receiving numbers the veteran tight end put up the last time he played for New Orleans in 2015.Watson wasn’t a featured receiver then Youth Da'Shawn Hand Jersey , and won’t likely be this season, either.Payton figures he can count on Watson being an exemplary leader in the locker room, a willing role player who’ll rarely blow an assignment 鈥?and someone who remains skilled enough at age 37 to help Drew Brees punish defenses that pay too much attention to star play-makers such as receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara.Recalling a 2015 game in which Watson caught 10 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown against Atlanta, Payton said, “I don’t know that the game plan called for that. It’s kind of just how it unfolded.”“With Ben, you know he’s someone that has versatility and he’s a super teammate,” Payton said. “He’s been a real dependable player. … You know exactly what you’re getting and there’s a value in that.”Similarly, Watson said it would be too simplistic to view his 2015 receiving numbers 鈥?74 catches for 825 yards and six touchdowns 鈥?as a main reason for his return to New Orleans after two years with Baltimore.“I don’t know what to expect. Every year is different,” Watson said after a voluntary offseason practice on Thursday. “Even when I was here the last time … I was here three years and my role was different every single year.“You contribute in different ways. You’re healthy or not healthy. Another guy’s healthy or not healthy. You may be strong in one position and weaker in other positions,” Watson said. “There’s just this mix that happens every single year and you really don’t know what it is, really Derwin James Jersey Chargers , until the end of the year.”While Watson joined the Ravens in 2016, he missed that season because of a right Achilles tear. He came back last season, playing in all 16 games and catching 61 passes for 522 yards and four TDs.“I proved last year that I can be dependable, that I can play the game and that I can contribute in a number of different ways,” said Watson, who signed a one-year, $2 million free agent contract with the Saints in late March. “That’s why you sign guys to your team.”Watson has attended two of three voluntary practices open to media so far this offseason and doesn’t seem to have lost the chemistry he’d developed with quarterback Drew Brees, whom Watson calls “No. 9.”Watson does not describe himself as the type of dynamic play-maker who’ll be Brees’ No. 1 option on a lot of plays called, but added, “When you got a guy like No. 9 who can identify mismatches and knows what the coverage is going to do before it does it, then you get the ball.”Watson began his career with New England Logan Morrison Minnesota Twins Jersey , which made him a late-first-round draft choice out of Georgia in 2004. He was a Super Bowl champion as a seldom-used rookie, but hasn’t won a ring since establishing himself as an NFL regular.Watson views his return to New Orleans as a chance to join a contender, something the Saints weren’t when he last played for them in 2015.Last season, boosted by a core of rookies and second-year players in prominent roles, the Saints came one play away from advancing to the NFC championship game.“It’s about going places where not only do you have some familiarity 鈥?you enjoyed being there 鈥?but also giving yourself an opportunity to win,” Watson said. “Winning is a big deal. It doesn’t happen for a lot of players over the course of their career.”With the Saints, Watson said, “You have the coaching staff, you have the front office, you have the fan base, you have the quarterback. … That’s definitely made coming to New Orleans very attractive.” Miles Bridges‘ versatility convinced Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak to take a chance on him in the first round.
Bridges is thrilled he did.
The Hornets wound up with the Michigan State wingman in the first round of the NBA draft after trading down one spot with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Charlotte initially selected point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander from Kentucky with the 11th overall pick Authentic Markus Wheaton Jersey , but traded him to the Clippers for the 12th overall pick and second-round picks in 2020 and 2021. The Clippers then selected Bridges for the Hornets.
”He’s one of the highest character players in the draft, very athletic, plays hard and he’s very versatile,” Kupchak said. ”… There is not much to not like about Miles Bridges.”
Charlotte later traded up to No. 34 overall with Atlanta to draft Kansas point guard Devonte Graham, a consensus All-American who averaged 17.3 points and 7.2 assists per game last season. Graham, who is from Raleigh, North Carolina, is expected to backup two-time All-Star Kemba Walker, providing the team doesn’t trade him. The Hornets surrendered second round picks in 2019 and 2023 to get him.
Charlotte initially took shooting guard Hamiduo Diallo from Kentucky at No. 45 as part of the impending trade that will send Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets, but then sent his rights to Oklahoma City.
The Hornets drafted Arnoldas Kulboka from Lithunia at No. 55.
Kupchak said Bridges can play both the three and four position on offense at the NBA level just as he did at Michigan State, and also has the size and athleticism to guard four positions on defense.
The 6-foot-7 John Ross Youth Jersey , 225-pound Bridges was a unanimous All Big 10 first team choice after averaging 17 points and seven rebounds last season for the Spartans. He ranked sixth in the Big Ten in scoring last season, 11th in rebounding and fourth in free throw percentage (85.3 percent).
Bridges is expected to be a better offensive option at small forward than starter Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who is considered a strong defender but not a great scorer. Bridges has an NBA ready body and is one of the most explosive leapers in the draft. He scored frequently on perimeter spot ups and off screens while with the Spartans as well as on pick and roll opportunities.
”I want to get better at ball handling so I can create my own shot and just be a threat everywhere on the floor from the 3 to mid-range to getting to the basket,” Bridges said. ”I definitely want to be more aggressive. I felt like in my college career I could have been more aggressive.”
Bridges did not work out for the Hornets despite the team’s repeated attempts to bring him in. Bridges said he had planned to visit after working out in Los Angeles, but ”something popped up.”
Some Hornets fans on social media were upset over the team’s decision to pass on Michael Porter Jr., who went two picks later to the Denver Nuggets.
Kupchak said the team had talked extensively about Porter in the weeks leading up the draft but decided to ”move in a different direction” after he cancelled the playing portion of his scheduled workout in Chicago.
Kupchak is off to a busy start as Hornets general manager.
His decision to trade down comes one day after agreeing to trade Howard, an eight-time All-Star center, to the Brooklyn for center Timofey Mozgov and two second-round draft picks, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke to the AP on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the league cannot approve the deal until the trade moratorium ends on July 6.
The 32-year-old Howard was due to make $23.8 million in the final year of his contract next season.
The Hornets failed to make the playoffs last season for the third time in four seasons, prompting owner Michael Jordan to part ways with general manager Rich Cho and coach Steve Clifford.
Kupchak hired James Borrego as the team’s new head coach in May.
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.