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No Reason to be Surprised by New Orleans

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Published: July 16, 2010

Two months into the season the media and basketball junkies worldwide are going to be talking about the New Orleans Hornets and Chris Paul as if they just crawled out of the swamp to become one of the better teams in the Western Conference. When that happens remember this post.

You see, the memory of NBA fans can be compared to a stoned elephant, or perhaps a goldfish swimming in Everclear. As soon as something new and flashy comes along or an completely fluke injury occurs to a star player they do a 180 on their stance, sometimes completely contradicting their previous sentiment.

Think about it for a second- Two years ago the Hornets were considered dark horse title contenders. ESPN experts had them as the second most likely team to win the NBA title. They weren’t unrealistic though, and had the foresight to essentially predict what would wind up happening.

The Hornets might not win the 2008-09 NBA title if …

• They don’t find someone to fill the void at 2-guard.

• Chris Paul, David West and/or Tyson Chandler has one of those seasons in which he misses a big chunk of time due to injury.

Guess what happened that season? Tyson Chandler missed a bunch of time with injuries, and when he did see the floor at the end of the season it was obvious that he wasn’t the same defensive and rebound force that Hornets fans had come to expect the previous year. Not only that, but the team as a whole hobbled into the playoffs and were physically a wreck before the series with the team which must not be named even started.

That series wound up embarrassing the Hornets and because of the magnitude of the loss that didn’t happen, the team found itself in a tough situation. They lacked the depth to withstand injuries and it was simply too risky to continue holding out that Tyson Chandler’s fragile toe could hold up for another year.

Okafor for Chandler was a steal. I said it before and I’ll say it again. He’s going to be a lot better this year. To quote myself:

Emeka Okafor missed training camp and the entire preseason with an injury, and was obviously not in sync with the rest of the team on both ends of the floor for much of the year. He wound up having the worst season of his career in terms of production and was limited by Bower to under 29 minutes a game despite the clear lack of a capable backup center for most of the year. This year he’s healthy and will participate fully in both training camp and the preseason. Undeniably he will be more prepared and consequently his production will increase.

Oh, and they never found someone to play shooting guard. That problem is now solved as well.

There is no reason, and I can’t stress this enough with only a single alteration of the text so here we go again, NO REASON that the Hornets can’t be just as good as they were in 2007-2008. This years squad is simply put, a better team in a superior situation.

It’s not like there was anything that special about that year aside from it being the first time the team had ever flirted with success in New Orleans. It wasn’t a fluke that Chris Paul and David West played well, or that Peja knocked down wide open threes.

Even the crowds were sparse early on. So much so that the team was actually better on the road than at home for a considerable portion of the season. Assuming people show up this year (BUY TICKETS!), the team has a leg up on that squad since home court advantage is obviously influenced largely by fan participation.

Let’s compare the two rosters-

Starting point guard: 2011 CP3> 2008 CP3.

The whole idea that the Hornets are going to be better this year than in 2007-2008 is based around players not getting hurt and even though Paul was amazing that year, he’s a much better defender now than he was then. His three point shot looked better last year too which makes him even more deadly.

Backup point guard: Darren Collison> Mike James/Bobby Jackson

Not much more I can say about that.

Starting shooting guard: Thornton>Mo-P

Nobody will debate this.

Backup shooting guard: TBD>Pargo/Rasual

Pargo is one of those guys whose value increases when he’s playing with awful players. He looked pretty good on that second unit because he was allowed to just jack up shots. Let’s face it- a bad Pargo shot is still better than a turnover, which were the staple of the second unit that year. Put PArgo on a good team though and he’s below replacement value, meaning you can grab a random guy out of the D-League and expect better production. Pargo averages more shots than points per game and he’s a scorer first and foremost. Wrap your head around that for a while and try to argue that the team won’t have a better player on the roster by the time the season starts.

Rasual Butler had a horrible year which eventually led to his nickname, “The Phoenix”.

The team traded for Bonzi later in the year, but he wasn’t a part of the team’s early success.

Starting small forward: 2008 Peja>2011 Peja

But don’t forget that Peja can still ball. He’s lost a step, but he’s adequate and will continue to be a three point threat as long as his back permits it.

Backup small forwards: 2008 Julian Wright=2011 Julian Wright/Pondexter

With Monty Williams on board the wing players should benefit a bunch. 2008 Julian was pretty damn good for a rookie, but expect these this years duo to match his production

Starting power forward: 2008 David West=2011 David West

If you think that David West is any different than the 2008 version of himself, you haven’t been paying attention.

Backup power forward: Posey/Brackins/Songaila> Ryan Bowen

Oh, you didn’t remember that Ryan Bowen averaged 13 minutes a game and played in 52 games that year? Yeah, he was the backup power forward.

Starting center: 2008 Tyson>2011 Okafor

Okafor is going to improve this year, but Tyson was a monster on defense. How close Okafor can get to matching Chandlers production should will likley determine just how high this team can fly.

Backup center: 2011 Aaron Gray> 2008 Melvin Ely/Hilton Armstrong

Yes, Aaron Gray is a slight improvement. Not a big one, but Ely and Armstrong were painful to watch. Aaron is infinitely more palatable.


So the situation is better since there will be more fans, the team is pretty clearly improved, and there are millions worth of expiring contracts that will enable them to make huge improvements once the season is under way.

Why everyone is so down on the Hornets is beyond me. The team is better than when they were predicted by experts to win the title. (Devils advocate- everyone is better)

There might be some front office problems right now, but there’s a good coach on board and good players on the floor. That’s where the game is played.

You heard it here first- The Hornets are going to be a very good team this year and anyone who is surprised by it just isn’t paying attention.

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