Team Name: New Orleans Hornets
Last Year’s Record: 49-33, 7 seed West, first round playoff exit
Key Losses: Tyson Chandler, Rasual Butler, Antonio Daniels, Ryan Bowen, Melvin Ely
Key Additions: Emeka Okafor, Darius Songaila, Ike Diogu, Bobby Brown, Marcus Thornton, Darren Collison
What Significant Moves were made during the off-season?
C Tyson Chandler was traded to the Charlotte Bobcats for C Emeka Okafor. Rasual Butler, who took over Mo Peterson’s spot as the starting 2 guard last year when Mo was hurt and ended up keeping it, was traded to the Clippers. Aging backup PG Antonio Daniels went to the T-Wolves for PF Darius Songaila and not-so-aging PG Bobby Brown. The Hornets drafted PG Collison and SG Thornton. Intrigueingly potential-ful (*not a real word) PF Ike Diogu was signed in free agency. As you can see, every move was specifically made with 2 objectives in mind: 1) Get David West better backups so he isn’t playing 38 MPG and 2) Get Chris Paul better backups so he isn’t playing 38 MPG.
What are the team’s biggest strengths?
1) Chris Paul. There is a shortlist of teams in the league that you can never count out, because they have a player who can put everyone else on their back and drag them where he wants them to go through sheer talent. Those teams are Miami, Cleveland, and New Orleans (I don’t include LA because of their depth). Chris Paul is just that good, and I don’t think I need to elaborate.
2) David West. Just a matchup problem for other teams because he’s big and yet he’s a killer with the long two. The combination of him and Okafor on the frontline could be more potent than the West/Chandler combo.
3) Potential! Talent! Rookies! Fun! The Hornets actually did what I’d been begging for last year and got younger. With two rookies on the roster and guys like Bobby Brown and Ike Diogu who haven’t had a chance to show what they can do yet, this could be exciting. (Or a disaster. But I put it in strengths, so we’ll focus on exciting.) Last year’s team just looked old and dragging, especially toward the end of the year, and especially the bench. Even Emeka Okafor is an unknown quantity when paired with Chris Paul.
What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
1) Too many new faces in the starting lineup.
2) Lots of swingmen who are either going to have solid seasons or lose a step due to being 32ish.
3) That quick athletic pure scorer-type SG or SF who we don’t actually have, who combined with Okafor+West+Paul would take this team to the elite level. This guy is a weakness because, as aforementioned, we don’t have him.
4) See Strength #3 and Weakness #1. The Hornets upgraded the talent level of the bench. They might suck anyway. That’s the problem with unknown quantities.
What are the goals for this team?
From what we hear coming out of training camp, they’re aiming high. However, some bad contracts and the salary cap hampered their moves in the offseason– the fact that they were able to get better in spite of this is actually rather remarkable– and I think we all know they’re missing one or two pieces for the future championship run they want to make. I think these Hornets can be second in the Southwest Division, and I think we’d be satisfied with a second round appearance.
What does Hornets Hype mean when you keep referring to The First Rule?
It’s like Fight Club. The First Rule of the Denver 58 point playoff beatdown is: we don’t talk about the Denver 58 point playoff beatdown. The Second Rule of the Denver 58 point playoff beatdown? You guessed it: we don’t talk about the Denver 58 point playoff beatdown. Seriously, though, this is something that’s crucial to the team as well as the fans. If you have never seen the team you follow look as utterly bone-deep tired and hopeless as I saw the Hornets look that night against Denver, I hope you never have to. But the point is the team needs to find a way to move on.
I believe the Hornets believed they were destined to be “The Next Big Thing” after their run in 2007-08. Now, of course no one will admit this. But you could see that the underdog fire they rode to the top of the West in 2008 just wasn’t there at times last season. Great teams find a way to maintain that fire, and to know that things are not going to be handed to you. So, I say the Hornets need to remember the First Rule. 2007-08 is gone. Last year’s playoffs are gone. The old faces who used to be on the team are gone. The Tyson Chandler trade saga? Done. Over. This year let’s only look forward.
You know what? I’ve broken the rule 4 times just by explaining this to you, and I am really not comfortable with that. So if you don’t mind, we’re going to move on before I ruin the whole season.
Projected Finish: 53-29
You know, I really no idea. I just rolled the dice, stabbed some numbers on a piece of paper with my finger with my eyes closed, and picked 53-29. Unless everyone gets hurt again, the team should be better because 4 out of the 5 offseason replacements represent a talent upgrade. The numbers just don’t support the team being worse than last year.