The 2011-12 season was filled with turmoil for the New Orleans Hornets, going into last year they didn’t even have an owner, which means they were owned by the NBA. To add insult to injury, All-Star point guard Chris Paul no longer wanted to play for them, meaning either they had to deal him or watch him walk in free agency and get nothing in return ala the Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James. Dealing Paul turned out to be a giant headache, they first had an agreement to send him to the L.A Lakers, but that trade was nixed by the NBA for god knows what reason. Ultimately he ended up being dealt to that other team in Los Angeles, the Clippers. In return New Orleans received sharp shooter Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman, forward Al-Farouq-Aminu , and the Minnesota Timberwolve’s unprotected 1st round pick. Shortly after starting the season Eric Gordon was having issues with his troublesome knees, he would end up playing in only nine games, clearly the Hornets were doomed from the beginning. Ultimately New Orleans finished the season at 21-45 giving them the worst record in the Western Conference. Nonetheless the lockout shortened season is over and a full 82 game schedule is on the way this year, which of course gives Hornet’s fans some glimmer of hope. So enough about last years debacle, let’s move on and examine this year’s squad!
Season Outlook: This upcoming season is already looking more promising than last year, in mid April the Hornets were bought by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson for 338 million dollars, finally giving the team some much-needed stability. Next came the NBA Draft Lottery, where the Hornets received the number 1 overall pick as well as the 10th overall pick in June’s draft. They would use their lottery picks wisely, selecting 6-10 center Anthony Davis from the University of Kentucky, as well as taking 6-5 combo guard Austin Rivers (son of Celtic’s coach Doc Rivers) from Duke University.
Anthony Davis might have been the most revered NBA prospect to enter the league since LeBron James in 2003. Standing at 6-10 with a wingspan of 7-6 Davis is a shot blocking machine. He has the ability to change a game without even scoring, as shown in the National Title game this past April. His defensive presence is one that has not been seen by an NBA rookie in quite some time, averaging 4.8 blocks per game in college, his motor is unlike any other in this years draft and it’s just simply not possible to drive to the hoop on this guy, unless you want your shot flying into the 5th row. Although he is on the frail side AD is not afraid to attack the glass, averaging over 10 rebounds per game last year at Kentucky. His offensive game is not one to be desired at this point and time, but he is only 18 years young and has plenty of time to figure it out. He gets his points on put backs and alley-oops, it’s his leaping ability that will allow him to go up and get any ball thrown in his general direction. This upcoming season and for many seasons to come he will make a huge difference for a team that finished 26th in the NBA in defensive efficiency one year ago. Currently scouts are comparing him to the great Tim Duncan which for those of you who don’t know happens to be the greatest Power Forward in NBA history.
Now, moving on to the Hornets other draftee Austin Rivers, for a guard he has nice size at 6-5 and creates instant offense. He has a great first step to go along with good ball-handling abilities. He can create a shot for himself anywhere on the court and requires very little space to do so. He is also very good off the dribble and knows how to break down a defense as well as create shots for his teammates. To go along with all these skills Rivers is also an extremely confident player who wants the ball in his hands at crunch time. Last Season he hit a game winning three-pointer with no time left at Chapel Hill to burn Duke’s arch rival North Carolina Tar Heels. He definitely has a “clutch gene” to quote the one and only Skip Bayless.
The Hornets have revamped their whole roster going into this season, getting rid of the majority of the team from last year. They acquired sharpshooter Ryan Anderson from the Magic, along with center Robin Lopez from the Suns, as well as locked up Eric Gordon for the next 4 years. Combine those three with the two rookies they drafted and you may be talking about a potential playoff team.
Prediction: I have the hornets going 38-44 and finishing just a game or 2 behind the 8th seed in the Western Conference. The talent will be there for years to come, and once they figure it out it will be scary, just this year I don’t think they’re quite ready yet.
If Eric Gordon stays healthy, which is always the big question with him, than he could average close to 25 points per game, Ryan Anderson will have a nice year and hit a ton of 3′s, and finally, Anthony Davis could be the most appealing fantasy option on this team, he is going to block close to 2 shots per game if not more and I believe he will pull down about 8-9 rebounds per game, making him a solid fantasy option
Strong Buys: Anthony Davis
Solid Buys: Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson
Fliers: Greivis Vasquez, Robin Lopez
Cat Stuffers: Ryan Anderson (3pointers)