How the New Orleans Hornets Win the Title

Published: March 29, 2011

It’s possible the New Orleans Hornets could win a championship this year, even without David West. It is likely? Of course not. It’s downright near impossible, but there is a series of events that might occur which could lead to the David Stern hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy up in both arms at years end. That’s what this is- the way it could happen.

Oh, and don’t expect some secret plan to win to be at the end. That never comes.

The Odds of this Happening

Emeka Okafor’s buzzer beater off Chris Paul’s tip after a nearly full court court pass with less than 2 seconds let on the clock was unlikely, but the odds of the Hornets winning the championship are probably worse. The sixth seeded Houston Rockets are the highest seed to ever win a title, in 1995, but as everyone knows that doesn’t count because Jordan had only been back for a handful of games before the postseason. The Rockets also didn’t lose their second best player to a torn ACL for the season, and actually gained Clyde Drexler midway through the season.

Realistically, the Hornets will enter the postseason as the fifth seed at best. Vegas has them listed at 200-1 odds after the injury to West, but even that might not be good enough to bet a few bucks.

In a seven game series, more often than not, the best team wins. It’s why the Lakers have been able to win so many times this decade, and the Bulls the decade before. With so many games to play, it is very difficult to overcome a disadvantage in talent. For the most part the games slow down and take place in the half-court, and with an entire season of film to watch, teams essentially know what their opposition is going to do.

For example, A guy like Jason Smith isn’t going to hit six jumpers on the Lakers, because the they know that it’s the only way that Smith could potentially beat them. Teams are prepared even for specific plays, since everyone uses the same plays throughout year. In the podcast Ryan talked about the necessity of having a go-to play, which for the Hornets used to be the high screen and roll, but with West out, Okafor instead of Chandler, and Chris Paul at less than 100%, that play isn’t anything like it used to be. What exactly do they run now when they need a bucket late?

Chris Paul

CP3 doesn’t have to do anything special, just this kind of playoff line-

Carl Landry

Landry needs to be the steady scorer that the West was, creating for himself when the team is struggling to get a bucket, and providing Chris Paul with a legitimate first option for the offense. The Bees will struggle to create with West out, and the offense will be stagnant at times. It’s then that they need Landry to bang out points by himself.

Really though, the team needs Landry to remember one thing, and one thing only- Fortunes have been made in a single postseason. The difference in pay between him having a good postseason and a bad one will either cost or reward him millions upon millions of more cold hard cash, depending on how you look at it.

But that’s something Landry’s agent has probably told him already…

Marco Belinelli and Trevor Ariza

If the Hornets are going to win games against more talented opponents, they need their gunners (can Ariza be called a gunner?) to knock down the long ball at an absurd rate. I’m taking 45% for the entire postseason, and 60% in crunch-time. It’s a lot to ask, but that’s what it will take.

Also they need to shut down their mark by playing tough-nosed, take no-#%@$ defense. They have to hammer home the point to their mark time and time again that they will not be scoring, and they have to back it up. The Hornets are a damn good defensive team with or without David West, and Trevor and Marco are a huge part of the reason why. When they play well, the defense can shut down even the best offensive teams in the league.

The Seeding + How It All Goes Down

The Hornets can’t beat the Lakers. I said 3% the other day, but realistically I don’t see a scenario, barring multiple LA injuries, that the Hornets could win a 7 game series against them. Since LA has been healthy most of the year, and is fairly deep at the forward and center positions, that’s not going to happen either.

So the Lakers need to be avoided in order to actually have a chance. They are going to be the two or the three seed out West, so the Hornets would really need to finish as number five or eight in order to avoid seeing them. Five is slipping away, but if they close strong, it’s still a possibility. It’s also pretty likely that they will end in eighth considering the reality of how much David West meant to the team.

So let’s say the standings wind up like this, a very real possibility-

  1. Spurs
  2. Lakers
  3. Mavs
  4. Thunder
  5. Nuggets
  6. Portland
  7. Memphis
  8. New Orleans

The Spurs are a team that New Orleans can beat, with or without David West. Will they? Probably not, but there is a reasonable chance it could happen. If you gave me 9-1 on that theoretical series, I would take it right now.

One reason why, is that the Spurs have dealt with recent injuries to their big three, and although they will all get lots of rest with the Spurs having essentially locked up the number one seed, it’s possible they could miss some time in the playoffs, or at the very least be slowed. Obviously this isn’t something that can be counted on, but again, there is a chance of it. With a healthy big three in SA, it’s very unlikely the Hornets sans West can win.

So let’s say the Hornets advance in what would just have to be a long, tough series. Memphis can’t beat LA, so the next round would almost probably look like this, if everything else goes according to seeding-

Hornets vs OKC, and LA vs Dallas

I think the Hornets could still beat Oklahoma City, even without West. Again, the odds are low, but they are probably better than 10-1. The details would involve Paul getting inside Westbrook’s heard and exploding it, and Durant just being off. If those two things happen and the Hornets get good showings from it’s bench, it’s a matchup that again, they could realistically win.

In the other matchup, New Orleans would desperately need Dallas to knock off LA, and it’s quite possible that could happen. I haven’t watched Dallas or LA enough to give odds with any confidence, so I will leave it that it is possible, but not likely. Dallas is big up top, so LA won’t have any real advantage there, they play nice defense, and they can score in bunches. Dirk is a guy who can will his team to victory in the closing minutes, and would desperately want to beat LA. He could do it. Dallas could take LA down.

In the Western Conference Finals, the Hornets would find themselves against their old friends, the Mavs. Dallas hasn’t won a game in New Orleans since 2007, but without West to fend off Nowitzki, they can’t possibly be considered anything but big underdogs. Still though, if Paul is back, he could change this series on his own.

Aaron Gray would likely see a lot of time against the Dallas bigs. If he can’t provide the Hornets with the defense and rebounding above and beyond anyone’s expectations, the Hornets probably won’t have enough to squeak out a win. Unlikely, but possible.

Did my theoretical postseason just come down to Aaron Gray’s performance? Yes, yes it did.

The Finals

In all likelihood it’s going to be Chicago, Miami, Boston or Orlando in the finals. Boston probably presents the toughest matchup of the bunch, but all of them would be winnable. for one reason- If the Hornets somehow were to make it to the finals, it would be because Chris Paul is playing like his old self, and that would be enough to give them a chance in any series.

Give me your odds for this happening/the Hornets winning the finals. What do you really think? 75-1? 500-1? 20,000-1?


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