TrueHoop Network 2009-10 Season Preview: New Orleans Hornets

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Published: October 26, 2009

The TrueHoop Network previews every team in the NBA. We’ve got the Hornets covered right here. Check below for links to other team previews.

Last Year’s Record

49-33

Crystal Ball

The consensus prediction of the TrueHoop Network bloggers … and the best hopes of Hornets247.

Crowd Says: 47-25
Hornets247 Says: 52-30

Yes We Can!

The sun is out. The seas have parted. The basketball gods are shining upon us!

Last season the Hornets had a myriad of woes: Tyson Chandler was only 75 percent of himself when he managed to play, and his primary backups would struggle in the D-League. Other than James Posey, the wing was an open sore with Peja Stojakovic’s back failing in late February and Rasual Butler struggling to reach average production. The bench never felt comfortable until it had given up at least one 8-0 run.

With all that against them, the Hornets still won 49 games behind the magic of Chris Paul and the mulish David West. Those two continue to form a solid core, providing a foundation that needs only the support of a couple above average performers for the Hornets to become more than first-round playoff fodder.

Enter Emeka Okafor. He’s a near match to a healthy Chandler, is more durable, and doesn’t look like he’s having muscle spasms when making a post move. If he can increase his scoring to 15-16 points a game the team will have the third offensive option it desperately needs. Such an increase isn’t out of reach, considering the CP3 bump Okafor is in for.  Okafor is a mobile big, not a guy limping around on a pegleg.  He’s going to look goooood running the pick and roll, just like Tyson.

At the wing, Posey and Peja can still combine to be an effective pair, and the third part of the rotation will be filled by 21-year-old Julian “Giraffe Calf” Wright. The long-limbed forward has already proven to be a disruptive defender, skilled finisher at the rim, and a willing passer.  If Wright can minimize his limitations as a shooter, he should blossom into an effective player while giving Paul a much-needed transition running mate. Note that it’s Julian’s third season in the NBA, the year most players make their leap.

As for the bench, there’s nowhere to go but up. The Hornets are hoping new addition Ike Diogu or rookies Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton will be able to provide some production off the bench. That’s tough for three unproven guys, but it won’t take much to improve on what the Hornets had last year; Melvin Ely and Hilton Armstrong were each less productive than that guy at the Y who swears he almost made his college team as a walk-on, and Devin Brown would actually make that guy look like he’s telling the truth.

No You Can’t!

A rousing dissent from a rival blogger.

Remind me again: What did they do to address their wafer-thin bench? Oh, right. The same “nothing” they did last season. (Matt McHale – By The Horns)

All-a-Twitter

A 140-character insight into the soul of the team.

oneandonlycp3: Wowww jus finished another workout wit @waterstreetgym!!! CAN’T WAIT 4 the season, I mean CAN’T WAIT!!! Now its time for kids camp…

– Chris Paul, August 11, 2009.

CP3 demonstrates his work ethic, community spirit and love for the game in 140 characters or less.

On the Record

Single best quote concerning the team during the last 12 months.

We feel like a lot of our young people have not been developed properly. We feel there are other mistakes that have been made from the basketball end. We’ve totally changed, and we’ll hold people accountable. We’re holding coaches, and not just Byron Scott, but our assistants accountable. We’re holding (General Manager) Jeff Bower accountable. We expect to get better and develop our young people.

That was Hornets owner George Shinn in August, laying down the gauntlet for his coaches and GM.

The 2008-09 Almanac

Some key stats from last season.

Offense: 12th
Defense: 9th
Pace: 28th

Team Factor Strength(s): Turnovers (6th tied), Defensive Rebounding (7th)
Team Factor Weakness(es): Offensive Rebounding (25th)

Advanced Rasual Butler Stat Pack

Why Butler’s departure is anything but catastrophic:

Roland Rating PER WP48 Adjusted +/-
-4.4 11.82 .033 -5.74

The Play

Down a single point with 9.2 seconds to play in a must-win game. What’s the play?

West inbounds to Paul and then steps in to set a high screen for Paul while the rest of the team clears out to the other side of the floor. Paul blitzes off West’s screen, driving directly at the big man defending West. The big man retreats into the paint, trying to keep Paul from the rim, while the guard chasing Paul follows, trying to get back into the play. Paul spins and dishes to West, who had remained at 20 feet.  The big man can’t get past Paul to get to West, leaving a short guard to run out and contest West’s nearly unblockable jumper.

Ball rips cord. Game over.

The People’s Choice

The fan favorite the crowd will be chanting for to see some action.

This will be Julian Wright’s third season, and we’re still waiting for him to make the leap. He has All-Star potential, but Byron Scott’s impatience and Wright’s own analysis paralysis keeps holding him back. If JuJu figures it all out, he’ll give the Hornets a lot of what they’ve been missing.

If You’re Watching the Bottom Line, You’re Watching This

The single biggest spreadsheet issue hanging over the team.

When the offseason started, most pundits assumed the Hornets would be forced to shed talent in order to cut payroll. Instead, GM Jeff Bower cleverly managed to improve the talent pool while cutting salary at the same time. Despite his maneuvers, however, the Hornets remain more than $4 million over the luxury tax line, and it’s likely that they will attempt to get the rest of the way under the line by midseason.  To do that, the Hornets best options are to move Morris Peterson ($6 million) or Hilton Armstrong ($3.8 million) and a minimum contract ($1 million, Devin Brown?). As a result, both those somewhat limited players will most likely be showcased by the team early in the season. It’ll be interesting to see how long those showcases can continue, and if Bower will once again be able to shed undesirable contracts without paying an exorbitant ransom.


Other team previews from the TrueHoop Network

Team Bloggers say… Wins*

Bret Lagree | Hoopinion

“The Hawks have not built, nor do they appear to be building, a championship contender. … Joe Johnson is poised to be a free agent in the summer of 2010. Johnson is not a franchise player, yet he’s the Hawks’ best player.”

45

Zach Lowe | CelticsHub

“It seems reasonable to say anything short of an 18th championship would be a disappointment.”

58

Brett Hainline | Queen City Hoops

“Great defense + equally bad offense = average. With an improving division around them, that equation does not get them their first playoff berth. But at least they won’t suck.”

36

Matt McHale | By the Horns

“During the offseason, the Bulls lost free agent Ben Gordon, whom many people considered the team’s best or second-best player (after Derrick Rose). Memo to Chicago fans: Don’t sweat it. Seriously. Gordon will be replaced by John Salmons, who not only gave the Bulls almost as many points per game (18.3 versus 20.7) but was slightly more efficient in how he scored them.”

43

John Krolik | Cavs the Blog

“After last season’s playoff heartbreak, Danny Ferry has changed up the equation … However, Shaq could disrupt the delicate offensive and defensive chemistry the Cavaliers rode to 66 wins and the conference finals, despite the fact he will be the best player LeBron has ever played with if he continues to play like he did last season. The big question for the Cavs this seasons whether they overreacted to two clutch 3s by Rashard Lewis, or made the risk they needed to take to finally get LeBron a ring.”

61

Rob Mahoney | The Two Man Game

“’Rebuilding’ teams seek financial flexibility and the acquisition of young, productive assets. Quality squads amass veteran talent, no matter the cost, in pursuit of a title. Defying all logic, the Mavs have simultaneously moved in both directions.”

50

Jeremy Wagner | Roundball Mining Company

“The only players still on the roster who exceeded expectations in 2008-09 were Nene and Birdman. It is reasonable to expect every member of the Nuggets, other than thirty-something Chauncey Billups, to improve.”

53

Dan Feldman | PistonPowered

“However the minutes shake out between Chris Wilcox, Kwame Brown and Ben Wallace, they won’t be as good as Rasheed Wallace. But Sheed wasn’t that great last year. He looked old and disinterested, so the drop here won’t be too steep.”

36

Rasheed Malek |Warriors World

“Under the ownership of Chris Cohan, the Warriors have made the playoffs exactly one time and have gone through numerous coaches, players and executives. Going into this season, Larry Riley is the man in charge taking over for Chris Mullin.”

28

Anup Shah and Brody Rollins | Rockets Buzz

“The speed revolution has overtaken some of basketball’s peers, most notably football … Is basketball headed in the same direction? [Aaron] Brooks provides an excellent case study. Beginning the year as the Rockets number one threat on offense with Ron Artest’s departure and injuries to Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, Brooks will have every opportunity to prove that size really doesn’t matter.”

39

Jared Wade | Eight Points, Nine Seconds

“It’s hard to believe that anything short of the postseason will remove the dark cloud over Conseco. … Ultimately, it will come down to one thing: [Mike Jr.] Dunleavy’s knee.”

32

Kevin Arnovitz | ClipperBlog

“[Blake] Griffin and [Eric] Gordon may not be saviors, but they’re something. Griffin’s skills and his tenacious work ethic (the guy runs up sand dunes in his free time) will be a boon to a team desperate for cultural overhaul. Gordon offers an enticing combination of spot-up shooting and forays into the paint. He finished third in true shooting percentage among starting off guards in his rookie campaign, something that can only help a team that ranked dead last in offensive efficiency last season.”

32

Kurt Helin | Forum Blue and Gold

“God, is it good to be hated again.”

64

Chip Crain | 3 Shades of Blue

“The 2009-10 version of the Grizzlies have put together a starting five where every player scored 30 points or more in a game last year. The oldest starter is only 28 years old (Zach Randolph) and the youngest won’t turn 22 until after the start of the season (O.J. Mayo). They are young, talented and hungry for success. So why do most people focus on the two players not on a rookie contract this season?”

20

Matthew Bunch | Hot Hot Hoops

“38.6 minutes. 30.2 points. 49.1 percent shooting. Five rebounds. 7.5 assists. 2.2 steals. 1.3 blocks. That’s what [Dwyane] Wade averaged last season. You’re going to keep that guy out of the playoffs? Good luck.”

44

Jeremy Schmidt | Bucksketball

“If the Bucks get anything out of their three small forwards, if they can keep [Andrew] Bogut and [Michael] Redd healthy and if they get a season worthy of the number ten selection out of Brandon Jennings at the point, the playoffs will be within reach. But that’s a lot of ifs.”

29

Patrick Hodgdon | Howlin’ T-Wolf

“”Ever since his arrival, David Kahn has had seemingly one mission, other than to look like the smartest guy in the room at every turn, and that is to get as much cap space for next summer as he possibly can. … The obvious question lies in whether or not the Wolves will actually be able to lure one of the better free agent players to come to Minnesota.”

23

Mark Ginocchio and Sebastian Priuti | Nets are Scorching

“Lingering doubts about Brooklyn could spoil any change the Nets have of landing a top free agent next summer.”

29

Mike Kurylo | Knickerblogger

“2010 could be New York’s return to winning.”

31

Royce Young | Daily Thunder

“The Thunder may not win more than half their games, but with over half the roster unable to get an alcoholic beverage still, steady improvement and progression is the name of the game.”

34

Zach McCann | Orlando Magic Daily

“Take away either Hedo Turkoglu or Courtney Lee and the Magic aren’t getting to face the Lakers in the Finals. No way. But does that mean the Magic were wrong to let them go? Were the Magic foolish to allow a borderline All-Star and a possible future All-Star leave the team when both clearly wanted to stay in Orlando? Absolutely not. I believe the Magic are an entirely better team than they were four months ago.”

59

Carey R. Smith | Philadunkia

“The travesty of a deal that Billy King gave to Samuel Dalembert remains easily one of the worst contracts in NBA history. Hopefully this season Dalembert, his inflated self-worth and his contract will be dealt for a couple of expiring contracts and some much-needed cap space.”

39

Michael Schwartz | Valley of the Suns

“Two years ago the Suns were chic championship picks. Last year, the Suns were (accurately) thought to be a fringe playoff team. This year there are almost no expectations outside of their locker room. … There will be no mistaking what the Suns are this season: a lightning-speed team that will score points in bunches and likely give them up almost as quickly while struggling badly on the boards. But they will once again be the most exciting team in basketball.”

46

Max Handelman | Beyond Bowie

“The Blazers effectively bumbled their way to a 54-win season despite a mediocre performance from Greg Oden, the loss of Martell Webster for the season, and at times starting three rookies. This team is only getting better, kids.”

53

Zach Harper | Cowbell Kingdom

“Enter Tyreke Evans — a bulldozer-sized menace who will test the strength of every team’s defense at its entry point. He immediately creates matchup problems against teams with traditional point guards and will look to have a similar impact as fellow Memphis alum, Derrick Rose.”

22

Timothy Varner | 48 Minutes of Hell

During the Celtics heyday, Red Auerbach boasted a winning percentage of .719. In the modern era, Pat Riley’s Showtime Lakers played to the tune of .733. Phil Jackson’s Jordan Bulls dominated the 90s with an otherworldly percentage of .771. Jackson’s three-peat Lakers? .735. In his 12 seasons with San Antonio, Gregg Popovich, whose cynical disdain for the regular season runs more than skin deep, has, nevertheless, posted a winning percentage of .707. That’s the company the Spurs keep. What should we expect this season? 58 wins and a run at the title. Same as every other year.”

55

RaptorsRepublic

“How is a rookie(ish) head coach going to integrate nine new players into a new system with two new assistant coaches?”

41

Spencer Ryan Hall | Salt City Hoops

“With young Wesley Matthews providing the good luck charm, Boozer in a contract year, Deron Williams with a chip on his shoulder, and a new longer-haired version of Andrei Kirilenko the Jazz have no reason to be anything other than beastly this season. And I mean that in a good way. Every prediction from the Jazz camp, however, comes with the ominous caveat ‘If we can stay healthy.’”

46

Kyle Weidie | Truth About It

“Flip Saunders has never gotten a team ‘there.’ That worn out cliché always runs rampant, plaguing almost every coach who hasn’t won … until they win. Red Auerbach (647), Larry Brown (1,900), and Dick Motta (738) all took their lumps before winning a championship (games coached before title season). Don’t be surprised when what you think is impossible becomes a reality. … 2010 is the Chinese Year of the Tiger. Factor in Gilbert Arenas’ stomach tattoo and the fact that the Wizards play their home games in D.C.’s Chinatown, and all the cards are in place.”

42

* As predicted by a consensus of all TrueHoop Network bloggers.

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