Monday, December 19, 2011

(Lockout) Season Preview: New Orleans Hornets

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the Hornets have been in NBA news this entire offseason, and not for the best of reasons.  Franchise player (and jerk) Chris Paul had the Hornets trading him everywhere this offseason, before landing a slew of players from the L.A. Clippers in exchange for his services.  While Paul is irreplaceable, he would have been a disaster in the Big Easy this season, sulking through games due to his unhappiness.  

Perhaps a clean slate is just what the Hornets need. Now that the Paul drama has been resolved, the Hornets can concentrate on basketball.  While they have holes to fill, they did not come out of the CP3 deal empty-handed.  Eric Gordon is in position to become a superstar, and they have several key guys from last year’s Playoff team returning.  They also have Minnesota’s first-round pick in 2012, which should surely be a top 5 selection.  Coach Monty Williams will tell his players that one man (CP3) doesn’t make a team, and they should go out there and prove the doubters wrong.  It’s a good speech, but probably won’t pay dividends this upcoming season.

PG – Jarret Jack, Marcus Banks (free agent), Justin Dentmon
SG – Eric Gordon, Marco Belinelli, Willie Green, Quincy Pondexter
SF – Trevor Ariza, Al-Farouq Aminu, Lance Thomas
PF – Carl Landry (free agent), DaJuan Summers
C – Emeka Okafor, Chris Kaman, Brian Butch, Didier Ilunga-Mbenga (free agent)

Eric Gordon

Gordon got a raw deal in leaving a Clippers team that suddenly is looking like a contender out West.  But that move allows Gordon to become the best player on a team in need of scoring, which he can bring in bunches.  Gordon has one of the sweetest jumpers in the League, and is underestimated in how strong he is, and how he attacks the basket.  He is also very solid on defense.  Entering his 4th year in the League, expect Gordon to become a household name, albeit, a guy putting up huge stats on a bad team.

Al-Farouq Aminu

Another piece in the Paul-to-Clippers deal, Aminu is coming off a solid Rookie campaign.  He will benefit from learning from Trevor Ariza, who is a player who possesses more refined skills that Aminu has – shooting, defense, toughness.  But Aminu wants to prove that the Clips were wrong in giving up on him so quickly, so look for him to be playing with a large chip on his shoulder this season.

Emeka Okafor

Okafor takes Paul’s spot as the most seasoned veteran on the Hornets roster.  He can still affect games with his defense and rebounding, but he needs to stay healthy in order to be effective.  Look for New Orleans to play him along with Kaman, forming a formidable frontcourt (alliteration alert!).  Or watch for him to be the rumors of trade talk.

Marco Belinelli

It will be interesting to see if Marco passes the ball once this season.  A notorious gunner, Belinelli wants to shoot, and keep shooting.  James Bucklin and I can’t get enough of this guy.  I’ll be honest, I thought there was more to write about the Hornets, but there really isn’t.

What will keep the Hornets in the headlines will be boiled down to three dates and three dates only:  Thursday March 22, Monday March 26, and Sunday April 22.  Those are the dates when they play the Los Angeles Clippers and former teammate Chris Paul (note:  The only time Paul travels to New Orleans is the 3/22 game).  They did make the Playoffs last season, but that was mostly due to Paul’s inspired play.  Eric Gordon is entering the discussion of “stud shooting guards out West in All-Star consideration”, but that is a log jammed position, especially for a guy on a non-winning team.  Free agent Carl Landry could flee town, which would be a big blow to a depleted front court.  The Hornets must start the Post-Paul era, which will have a lot of roadblocks along the way.  But with the pieces they accumulated in the “Trade of All Trades”, and that Minnesota #1 looming, they are on the upswing.  Expect them to drop out of the Playoffs this season.


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