ESPN’s Experts See Playoffs as Unlikely

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Published: October 23, 2010

ESPN.com gathered up a group of NBA experts (with TrueHoop’s Brian Widhorst and Michael Wallace now on the list, as well as Zach Harper from the Daily Dime) in order to predict the finishes of all the NBA teams. The Hornets didn’t fare as well as their fans would like, but from what the predictions say the team could be battling for a playoff spot all year long.

Considering the Hornets, as built, aren’t really a team that is capable of winning it all, it’s possible the most exciting thing to happen would be a long battle for the last playoff spot out West. It’s hard to see things going too much better than that since the entire conference is so stupidly deep. Only the Lakers, Mavs and Thunder are complete locks to make the postseason. Then you have the next tier of teams-

The Spurs, Rockets, Trailblazers, Jazz, Hornets, Suns, Nuggets, Clippers and Grizzlies all have a legitimate shot of grabbing the final 5 postseason spots out West, and even the Kings could sneak in if Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins play to their potential.

Overall the 10 experts predicted that the Hornets would average a 4.1-th place finish in the Southwest, and a 9.9-th finish in the West overall.

A few choice opinions from the article:

John Hollinger, ESPN.com | Hollinger’s picks

Since he was rarely healthy last season, it’s easy to forget how dominant Chris Paul can be at full strength. His star-studded play should keep the Hornets above .500 and in the playoff chase despite a paper-thin frontcourt and the usual miserable cap management.

Southwest: 4
West: 9

J.A. Adande, ESPN.com | Adande’s picks

As long as the payroll costs take priority, Chris Paul will be in purgatory. But at least he’ll be in New Orleans for a full season. Doubt we’ll be able to say that next season.

Southwest: 4
West:11

Chris Broussard, ESPN The Mag | Broussard’s picks

Obviously, I’m not putting much stock in the preseason. I am a believer in Chris Paul, though, and even though he doesn’t want to be with the mediocre Hornets, his talent can lift them to playoff berth. Monty Williams is a good young coach and Trevor Ariza should thrive next to Paul.

Southwest: 3
West: 8

17 comments
hewhorocks
hewhorocks

Hornets have a back up pg? well well well.......Game ON!

berlin-hornets
berlin-hornets

I dont buy these predictions. Nobody knows what this team can do, but they are capable of good stuff. As far as these "experts" and how knowledgeable they are, just look at Sheridan, who bases his opinion mostly on the "failed" ownership transfer, without knowing or just checking whether this is really true. Just shows me how well thought through these predictions were.

jtshoopsblog
jtshoopsblog

I agree. The Hornet ain't goin to the playoffs. I'll be surprised if they reah .500

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

I know most wont agree, but playoffs don't matter much to me this year. My goal for the team would be for them to have forged an identity by the end of the year that will stick moving forward. They don't have one yet and the beginning of the schedule is brutal, so I think it will be an uphill battle all year trying to get to .500 and above. However, let's say that by February we see the guys starting to jell and understand the system. They go on a nice run to end the season and going into the offseason this team sees what is possible with this unit plus a few more pieces. To me, that is a success and if they win 45 and miss the playoffs I would be fine with that. Worst case scenario is an up and down year that is full of roster adjustments, starting lineup adjustments, and no identity formed- then we go into next season with as many question marks as last offseason. This team could win 48 and still not make the playoffs- in that way it is out of their control. What they can control is whether or not they improve every game and build a foundation moving forward. That is my only goal for this team and that could mean 40 wins, 44, or 50. Whether those numbers qualify for the playoffs are out of our control and don't really matter to me- this team isn't winning a title this season anyway. I am more concerned about building the team for the future when contention is a possibility.

Mikey
Mikey

Amen, Mike. I'm right there with ya. When you turn over 53% of your roster, you're rebuilding. That doesn't mean this team still can't be top 8 in the West, but its more about chemistry than actual Ws and Ls this year.

ScottLV
ScottLV

You talk about next year, but what does New Orleans have that will keep Chris Paul there when the season runs out? What do they do when Carmelo Anthony and/or Andre Stoudamire call? They certainly can't say we have Okafor, Ariza and the Mardi Gras. That won't do it. This man wants to win.

42
42

They have a signed contract.

usufruct
usufruct

No playoffs = No Chris Paul. To have any chance of him sticking around, we're going to have to greatly exceed expectations.

usufruct
usufruct

Yeah, I'm definitely working on my assumptions here, one of which is that Chris really wants to leave and is simply biding his time because he has to. Although I also believe he could be convinced to stay if we have a promising season. But if Chris starts making noise, do you really want him on the team? I don't. I felt that way this summer. All I'm saying is that it was a huge roll of the dice to try to keep paul and make him happy. I just don't think it can be done on his time limitations, i.e., one season. In his words, the guy wants to win now. Hell, only one of our very own 247 contributors even thinks we'll make the playoffs this season. If that's the case, I'll bet Chris is going to want to go. Finally, I think Chris holds most of the cards even if he has one year left on his contract (after this season). All he has to do is say, "I'm leaving when my contract is up, so you better trade me now" and the front office should make that happen while they still have a shred of bargaining power. He's got the upper-hand, but I'll take a shred of bargaining power over no bargaining power any day. As for a trade due to grumpiness, I guess we'll have to watch the Carmelo situation closely. We'll find out if it's better to let em walk or trade em for as much as you can. Could I be wrong about any and/or all of this? Certainly. And I certainly hope so. We'll just have to see.

42
42

Does anyone know the last time such a trade was orchestrated due to grumpiness? Gasol's was a salary dump, not a pennies-on-the-dollar-beats-nothing-on-the-dollar trade. How about for a player in the ballpark of Chris? How about when a CBA was going to be agreed up before the contract expires? I just don't see the basis for claims such as this. I would love to be educated about this so I can sort the facts out from the fears. By the way, an NFL-style franchise tag is in the CBA discussions. It may not happen, but if it does, that also changes the game.

usufruct
usufruct

No, unfortunately I have no special insight into the situation, and I don't know how the labor dispute will affect things. But I watched Lebron stiff the Cavs and leave them with nothing, so I doubt (and hope) the Hornets won't allow that to happen when Chris's little henchmen go to work behind the scenes. FWIW, I agree with most of the ESPN folks that Chris doesn't want to be here. Sure, he's hamstrung this year, and I suppose he wants to see how it will go with all the new changes. But I believe if this experiment doesn't go well, he (or his people) will gripe until they trade him. And since it's better to get something for him than nothing, I think he'll be traded. That's why I think Chris's future in New Orleans hinges on this season. Unless things turn around, I think he'll be looking for the easiest way out. Maybe I'm reading Chris wrong, which is definitely possible, but I wholeheartedly believe he wanted out earlier this year, and I think nothing will change his attitude but winning...championship-contender-level winning. This is commentcava, btw. I decided to change names when the site was updated.

42
42

He has a 2 years left of his deal, with a player option he can execute. So if there is basketball next season, he'll be here unless the Hornets decide otherwise. I'm not sure how the contracts work when there is a labor dispute, so he may be here longer depending on how that shakes out. So the chances of him staying around for next year, if there is basketball, is completely up to the Hornets. See the Carmelo Anthony situation, for a reference. Also, Wade, Bosh, James, all playing out their contracts. Maybe you know something about contracts, usufruct, that I do not? You have special expertise as your name belies?

42
42

Right on. Eye on the prize.

Hornet
Hornet

I agree with you that playoffs isn't the biggest thing right now and chemistry is, but I think we really need to make the playoffs to make Chris happy. No playoffs = a sad Chris Paul.

42
42

Last year the Thunder started out like an average team, then had a great February and March, returned to Earth, then took the Lakers to 6. The aren a team that has gone through change while picking up pieces to put around a legit force on the court. This is exactly what we did in 2008, except our good streak we squarely before the All-Star break, though we had some statement wins following (Celtics). As far a I can tell, we just might in the same position here again. We may not enter the playoffs with a top record, but we could end up PLAYING like a top 4 teams when we get there. The beauty of the playoff systems is that once you are in, you start over, and it's how you play `now' that matters most. 0.500 ball, a winning streak, end at about 0.600 ball with a nice playoff match up . . . sounds good. Marked and measurable improvement. Oh, and we need an identity. Even our 2008 team didn't really have a `personality'. We weren't a physical team, we weren't bad boys, we weren't run and gun. We need an identity. We need something to cling to as a team. When the going gets tough, you need that thing you can hold on to as true, cling to it, and let it carry you. We are New Orleans. We . . . play defense? I'm assuming that's where Monty's going. However, it's not your identity just because you say it or because you do it. It's your identity because someone else says it. I can't just run around fighting crime in a Batman outfit and a rocket strapped to the Accord. Commissioner Gorden has to have a frickin' signal, right? Criminals have to fear Batman. If we can lay the defensive hurt on a Kobe of the league, and have them say it on camera, it'll be worth more than the win if we get it.

L_Reazy
L_Reazy

A lot of these so-called experts base their predictions on 'well-known talent'. I know Hollinger hasn't watched how well Marco Belinelli and Jason Smith have looked in the preseason. They haven't seen our starting five, because we haven't seen them really. So, it's safe to say that these predictions are based on last season's performance, and even the year before. If they want to make -somewhat- accurate statements then they'd have to analyze our 'comings-and-goings'. The Hornets have to be better when considering 'Belinelli for Wright' was a steal. At first glance I'd say 'Ariza for Collison / Posey' was a wash until further notice. 'Jason Smith / Willie Green for Darius Songalia / Craig Brackins -who looked soft in summer league- has to be another steal. In addition to that Belinelli is a better shooter than Peja is now, and Ariza is the best athletic wing player we've had since Desmond Mason and JR Smith, and I can't recall when the Hornets had a defender like him since the late Bobby Phills. Ariza allows the Hornets to bring Thornton's scoring off the bench. If I had to compare this team to the 56-win team I'd say this team is better in every area except the athleticism that Tyson Chandler brought to the Center position. Okafor just isn't that type of player, but he does other things better than Chandler. Nevertheless, the overall starting five is better, the bench is better, the coaching might be better, and the future is definitely brighter with Demps instead of Bower. These 'experts' make snap judgments. They quickly come to a conclusion on the 'less attractive' teams, and spend more time on Celtics, Heat, Lakers, Magic, etc...., and rightfully so. However, true Hornets fans like us know how good this team really is and can be. The 2010-2011 Hornets are atleast a 7th-8th seed, and maybe better when considering that their isn't a clear-cut #2 in the West. Question: What starting five / bench is tremendously better than ours is? Denver, Portland, Utah, Phoenix, Houston, Oklahoma, Dallas, San Antonio? None of these teams are better than us in terms of talent. Every one of these teams have Superstars, Stars, Studs, Role Players, and complete Duds like we do! Seeds #2-#8 will be earned by the team that plays the toughest defense, not offense. Even the Minnesota Timberwolves have a lot of talent, but everything out West will be about Defense. I believe in the Hornets yawl! L_Reazy