Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Season Preview: New Orleans Hornets

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
2011-2012 season: Hornets lose a top 10 player and leader of the team, in Chris Paul. They struggle to find a owner for the franchise. They place 15th in the Western Conference. No idea what direction they are headed as they had no owner to make decisions. Only won 21 games and according to the percentages that still wouldnt be enough to land the best - or second best - player. A tough year for the Hornets and a tough road ahead, if you asked me.

May 30, 2012, The NBA Draft Lottery. The New Orleans Hornets, with a 13.7 percent chance at first pick, jumped from the fourth pick to the first pick. Overtaking the Bobcats (7 games won, 25% chance to win first pick) and basically tearing up the gameplan, as the first pick was a shoe-in. Chance, you call it?.. Magic?.. Conspiracy?.. Whatever term you decided to use when it happened, it happened. The Hornets now had the #1 pick and the team that was 'left for dead', now had a bit of life..

Photo By: Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America

Anthony Davis: Consensus All American. Easily the best player in the college game. The city of New Orleans not only got a face for the franchise but they got a darn good player whose abilities should transfer to the NBA level rather quick. Anthony Davis got the best summer workout of any rookie and that was in practice with the 2012 Olympic Team. He was surrounded by professionals, surrounded by those who can balance both the game and life and more than anything.. surrounded by players better than him. In a sense, he is not only a step ahead of his draftmates physically but mentally also. Anthony will not come in this year and average 22 points a game but you can rest assure that double digit rebounds and a game changing interior presence will be the norm in the Bayou.

Austin Rivers: Along with the 1st overall pick, via the trade with Los Angeles, the Hornets also had the 10th pick in their back pocket. They spent it on the wildcard of the draft, Austin Rivers. If you know me or follow me, you know I love this kid and what he can possibly bring to the table. He has exciting perimeter handling ability, an underrated first step and is already in possession of the self-confidence needed to play at this level. I don't expect Austin to average 20 points a contest but it also wouldn't shock me.

Photo By: Bill Haber / Associated Press
Eric Gordon: After making out of the draft successfully, the Hornets had to focus their attention to the star of the team, Eric Gordon. Gordon, who watched the draft like everyone else, seen that the Hornets drafted Austin Rivers (a combo guard) and sensed they had no room for him. Eric Gordon couldn't leave because he was a restricted free agent, so he went public with his feelings. He made it clear that he wanted to be in Pheonix and even signed their offer sheet - 4 years, 58 million.

Hornets matched the offer and Gordon will be a Hornet for a while. If he buys in, him and Rivers can become something special in the near future. Eric will still be focus of the team, still will get his high volume touches and totally expect him to average in the 21-24 point range. What they are building in N.O. is promising but only as promising as Gordon allows it to be. He must be all in.

Photo by NBA Photos/NBAE via Getty Images

Frontcourt Depth: New Orleans made a few moves in free agency that added to their list of things done right. They acquired Orlando forward Ryan Anderson and Phoenix's Center Robin Lopez. Those two upgrade the frontcourt and open up alot for the rookie. Ryan Anderson, who can flat out stroke, will pull his defender away from the rim. The more one on one opportunities Davis' and others gets, the more quicker their confidence builds. Things like that wont show up in the stat sheet for Ryan but us basketball minds know that any spacing on floor will be do to his shooting ability.

Robin Lopez brings presence. He gives New Orleans a defensive minded presence when Davis is out and allows New Orleans coaches to run similar offensive sets without drastically adjusting playcalls.

All in all, Hornets will be alot more competitive this season. They will obviously be better on the defensive end but it will be imperative that they maximize their possessions to keep up with the top tiers in the west. I am excited for Monty Williams and to see his approach - from an X's and O's standpoint - to attacking teams on both ends. I won't try to guess the amount of wins they'll have but I do say the worse case scenario for the Hornets should be 9th or 10th in west. Which would be a huge improvement.


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