Hornets Power Rankings Week Six

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Published: December 6, 2010

It feels as if there is nothing to celebrate this week as one could not draw up a worst case scenario for the last two weeks. Losers of 6 of their last 8 after an 11-1 start isn’t even the worst news that fans of this team have had to endure. Stories about attendance benchmarks, NBA takeovers, and possible relocation or contraction have Hornets fans ready to throw in the towel and concentrate on Saints football and Holiday plans.

The feeling is understandable as no fan base has had to endure what Hornets fans have had to endure these past four years. George Shinn has held the city hostage and the silence coming from management on any ownership issues have made most Hornets fans apathetic at best. Those who blasted outsiders on message boards for their ignorance regarding New Orleans and ownership issues, now feel like this woman.

But all of this will eventually play out and focusing on speculation and conjecture will not bring peace to the minds of Hornets fans. Nor will that put the butts in seats, and that more than anything else will ensure the Hornets remain a product of New Orleans for years to come. What we can discuss is the play of these guys on the court, and although that will not be terribly uplifting either, things are not as bad as they appear- just as things were not as good as they appeared during the 11-1 start.

This is an above average team with an above average roster that is closer to the top than it is to the bottom and it still has the pieces and flexibility to become a top four team in the West. All is not doom and gloom. And with that, let’s get to the rankings.

1. Chris Paul 16.2 PPG, 10.4 APG, 3 SPG, 4.7 RPG, 27.0 PER, 4.1:1 A/TO ratio

In all likelihood Chris Paul will finish the season averaging less points per game than any year he has been in the league, save for perhaps his rookie year. He is playing nearly three minutes per game less than his career average and over four minutes less than his career high 38.5 minutes per game back in 08-09, when he had to carry the team through the second half of the season.

Remarkably he is shooting a career high from both the three-point line and the free throw line, and is as efficient as he has ever been. His defense and his overall intensity is on par with any other season as well, and considering that he missed half of this past season, that is quite impressive.

What people want to see from CP3 is a return to his old form where he dominated the ball and was either the playmaker or the scorer on every single play. While that would likely lead to more wins in the short term, it would stunt the growth of each and every player on the Hornets roster and lead to a dependence that just can not be sustained. Ask LeBron.

Chris Paul and Monty Williams have chosen to give the other members of the Hornets rope that Byron Scott did not trust them with in years past. Right now, they are using it to hang themselves, but over the long haul the hope is that that will change and they will learn to pull themselves up with it.

2. David West 18.5 PPG, 52.7 FG%, 20.7 PER

We saw how much this team missed David West in their loss to the Knicks this week, and we also saw that David West is not the closer that this team needs in the Oklahoma City game. West is arguably having his best offensive season this year, all things considered, but he is not the type of player you isolate on one side of the court on six straight possessions when the game is on the line.

West is at his best when CP3 is creating for him and he has a clear advantage on the man standing in front of him. Such was the case when he had the undersized Jeff Green on him, but once the Thunder switched to Durant and his long frame, the Hornets needed to get more creative in their offense. That game was too reminiscent of the B Diddy/ Mashburn days, when it was clear that Davis should have been creating in the money moments, but iso post plays were called for Mash, regardless of the results.

3. Emeka Okafor 10.1 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.43 Points per shot, 2 BPG

Chris Bosh. Jameer Nelson. Paul Pierce. Lamar Odom. Tony Parker.

These are the third best players on teams that have a legit shot at winning the title this year. All of these players, with the exception of Odom, are former All- Stars (and Odom could be one this year). Most have played for Team USA (or France). Two are Finals MVP’s.

The point is that Emeka Okafor is a solid player, but if he is your #3 guy, you are not winning a title in this day and age. With a very deep and talented roster, Emeka can be a #4, but he is more likely a #5 or #6 on a true contender- and there is nothing wrong with that. It is not Emeka’s fault that he has never had enough talent surrounding him to be a #5 and make it to the playoffs, but it is what it is.

Emeka isn’t as good as people were saying he was in early November and he is not as bad as people are claiming he is now. He is miscast next to a perimeter oriented power forward, and simply put, too much is being put on his shoulders. He would benefit from playing with a long and/or athletic four who can take some of the defensive pressure off of him and help him control the glass.

For now, though, he has to make due and because of that his glaring weaknesses are becoming exposed. How many more weeks until we play Miami again?

4. Trevor Ariza 11.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 2nd on team in made 3 pointers

Ariza has picked up his scoring as of late and his defense on Kevin Durant was superb. The scary part is that as Marco continues to struggle and the Hornets are searching everywhere to find points, Trevor is starting to revert back to Houston Ariza, when this team needs LA Ariza. He is trying to create more for himself and taking some very ugly shots. Luckily a lot of them have been going in, but we can’t expect that to keep up. Three-point spot up shooter and slasher. No more, no less- but if the offense continues to struggle like this, then it will be hard to blame him for trying to do more.

5. Willie Green 8.8 PPG, 47.4 FG%, leader in MPG off bench

Lost in that horrible loss to San Antonio was Willie’s 5 for 5 performance from the field. Outside of CP3, nobody played with nearly as much passion and pride as Green did in that game and although it came in a bad loss, it is still worth applauding. He does not wow you on most night, but his consistency is fairly remarkable. On most nights you know exactly what you will get from Willie, and I don’t think the same can be said for any other wing player on the Hornets this season.

6. Marco Belinelli 11.5 PPG, 41% from three, first on team in three’s made

Two weeks ago, nobody wanted to trade Belinelli in a package to land an Iggy or some other comparable wing player. His outside shooting was too valuable most said, and without it the Hornets offense would be bogged down. Flash forward to today and fans are calling for Marcus Thornton or even Quincy Pondexter to replace Rocky Balboa in the starting lineup.

It is hard to blame them as Belinelli is 12-43 over his past five games and is shooting under 30% from three during that same stretch. All of that would be acceptable if his defense was on par with what we saw in the Heat game, for instance, but it simply is not. Another sobering fact to consider- in the Hornets only win in that stretch, Belinelli only played six minutes in the second half, and none in the 4th quarter.

7 (tie) Jarret Jack, Quincy Pondexter, and Jason Smith

All of these players have a legitimate stake at the #7 spot, and all of them have reasons that they are not the clear and decisive holder of that very spot. Quincy Pondexter has been playing the best ball as of late amongst the three, and quite frankly has been the most uplifting thing about this losing streak. His minutes have increased in each of the past 5 games and his scoring has as well. He doesn’t take bad shots and he gives it his all on the defensive end. No doubt this guy is a rotation player for the rest of the year moving forward.

Jack has been blamed for the recent losing streak, but anybody who truly believes that trade is the reason for the recent bad play is kidding themselves. This team was coming back to earth one way or another, and Jack does not deserve the blame. What people have a hard time understanding is that backup point guard is perhaps the most difficult position to play in the league. The game has a flow that has to be felt and it is hard to manage in short spurts with a hodgepodge of players. Darren Collison was horrible as a backup last year, Bayless suffered this year, Daniels before either of them, etc. It takes time, and time alone is the cure. Be patient.

Chris Paul told it to you 10 days ago, I said it three weeks ago- Teams will begin to scout Jason Smith, and when they do, his game will suffer. Good players score in spite of opposition’s knowledge of their game and they have counter moves for every go to move. Jason Smith is a stand still jump shooter and can clean up the garbage occasionally on the offensive glass. Good teams can stop that, bad teams won’t. Which do you think we will see if we get to the playoffs?

10. Marcus Thornton 5.4 PPG, Receives loudest ovation off the bench

It’s a shame that Thornton has yet to grab the opportunity that is right there in front of him. Marco is struggling and Monty obviously wants Willie Green to lead the 2nd unit. That means the starting two guard spot is there for the taking and Thornton has continued to lay eggs in his recent appearances. In the last three games, Monty has given him the chance to be the spark and he has responded with 9 points on 3 of 11 shooting in 33 minutes and four times as many turnovers as assists.

Others:

Sorry rm, but no Pops love in this week’s power rankings, although he is a locker room favorite from what I have seen. Marcus, especially, loves to tease him about a certain characteristic and Pops has a good time with it. That’s all I got for him. Aaron Gray had some decent minutes verse San Antonio and Mbenga is a defensive presence in certain match-ups.

Anybody still clamoring to see David Anderson after last night’s performance? Didn’t think so. As for Marcus Banks- well, let’s just hope he doesn’t start buying tickets to games and showing up a la Starbury.

Your thoughts and rankings? Looking forward to hearing them.