Season Preview: New Orleans Hornets

Team History:

The New Orleans Hornets were once upon a time the Charlotte Hornets before the Bobcats were even a figment of Bob Johnson’s imagination. They weren’t a great franchise, but they were certainly not bad for long stretches of time. In fact, they were often victims of playing in the Michael Jordan era, often losing out to the Bulls or their chief competitors, the New York Knicks.

Still, their lineups featured some tremendously prominent players in their heyday.  Men like Muggsy Bogues, Dell Curry, Baron Davis, Ricky Davis, Vlade Divac, Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson (not that Larry Johnson), JR Reid, and Glen Rice. They even famously drafted a little known high school kid named Kobe Bryant, and then shipped him away to Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac.

Then they moved to New Orleans in 2002 and switched to the Western Conference a few seasons after that. Through the struggles of the city with natural disasters and financial downturns, the Hornets have managed to be above average, mainly through the prowess of the unmatchable Chris Paul. Recently, their struggles have been ranted about, questions being asked how a team that could make it to the Western Conference Semi-Finals struggled to make it into the playoffs shortly afterwards.

2008-09 Record: 49-33 ( 1-4 in playoffs ), 4th place in the Southwest Division, 7th place in the Western Conference.

Coach: Byron Scott

Projected Lineup:

  • PG: Chris Paul – Simply incredible. That is all that I can really say about Chris Paul and the way he plays basketball. He is the best point guard in the league, edging Deron Williams and Steve Nash for the honor. He carries the Hornets the same way LeBron or Wade carry their respective teams. He is a triple-double machine despite the fact that he is one of the smallest players on the court.
  • SG: James Posey – Posey was meant to be the guy who completed the championship puzzle for New Orleans, as he had just been on the championship winning Boston Celtics. Unfortunately for New Orleans, Posey never really lived up to that hype, which seems kind of unfair at this point. He never was a great player, just a very nice role player.
  • SF: Julian Wright/ Peja Stojakovic – Julian Wright is not a great player, but he is athletic and young. These are things Peja Stojakovic is not. Peja, however, is still one of the best shooters around the league who can stretch the defense for Paul to drive into the lane.
  • PF: David West – He had a good year last year, despite rumors to the contrary. At least statistically speaking, it was his best year offensively, averaging 21 PPG. However, it didn’t look the same, which is not entirely his fault, it was just a microcosm of the entire problem.
  • C: Emeka Okafor – I have always liked Emeka Okafor, but never viewed him as the one. What I’m saying is that sure he has his positive attributes, but I don’t feel comfortable hitching my wagon to him. However, his steady presence on offense and defense will probably make up for the loss of Tyson Chandler, who he was traded for.

Key Gains:

  • Emeka Okafor – see above. He will bring his solid if unspectacular numbers to New Orleans, hopefully providing some support where Tyson Chandler tended to crumble. He can’t finish the alley-oop like Tyson, but he has a better all around offensive game than Tyson.
  • Ike Diogu – He is alright. Nothing special to speak of at this point in his career, a career average of just above 6 PPG. Maybe this will be a breakout year for Ike, but he will be a backup at best at this point.
  • Darren Collison – The PG from UCLA will hopefully provide New Orleans with the steady backup point guard that they have desperately needed for a couple of seasons now. His steady defense should pay dividends for New Orleans as they go deep into the season.

Key Losses:

  • Rasual Butler – Why the Hornets traded a solid starter to the Clippers is beyond me. I felt that he might not be a franchise shooting guard, but he is certainly good enough to play off of Chris Paul.
  • Antonio Daniels – The Hornets traded for Daniels last year, and have turned around and traded him yet again to the Timberwolves. Shortly there after, the Wolves and Daniels agreed to a buyout and he is currently in free agent purgatory.

Season Preview:

I hope that the Hornets can turn this thing around, which seems like a bit of an overreaction since they nearly won 50 games last year. However, in the hotly contested Western Conference, the Hornets need to be a lot better if they want to compete for anything close to a championship.

I don’t think that the addition of Okafor and the subtraction of Chandler will have a tremendous impact on their record. With Okafor, the Hornets will not have the potential to dominate on any given night like they had with Chandler. However, there will be less likely of a chance of the Hornets falling flat like they did in the playoffs.

I would guess that they would again make the playoffs, perhaps notching a top 5 seed in the West, which is quite a feat in today’s NBA. After that, I am not sure. They would be lucky to make it beyond the first round, but I don’t put anything beyond the power of Chris Paul.

Quote this:

“As a rookie, it was to be Rookie of the Year, make the rookie All-Star game … Then be an All Star, be first-team NBA, be All-Defense. I’ve done all that stuff. Going into this season none of that is my goal. My only goal is to win a championship.”

– Chris Paul


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