2011-12 Hornets Season Preview

Published: December 23, 2011

Time will tell, but it is easy to make the argument that this will be viewed as the most important off-season in the history of the franchise. Chris Paul is gone, a new CBA is signed, the NBA has done everything possible to make this franchise attractive for a new owner, and the building blocks are in place for a team that could be a force in the years to come. One day we will look back at just how impactful this off-season was, but first, let’s look forward.

1. Best off-season move?

Ryan Schwan: Recognizing it was time to blow it up. Don’t get me wrong – I hate trading CP3. I hate David West walking. It was time, though. There was no chance the Hornets were landing a premier All-Star to play with Paul, so it was time to cut bait.

Michael McNamara:  Getting out of David Stern’s way. Look, this organization was a mess a little over a year ago. Everything was on the table (including contraction), but since the NBA took over, season tickets and sponsorships have gone way up, a new arena lease and TV deals are being finalized, and the Hornets were able to get maximum value for their disgruntled superstar. Th future is bright in New Orleans, and David Stern is the person most responsible for the turnaround.

Joe Gerrity: The decision to deal Chris Paul before the season started was a great move both on and off the court. Nothing else really compares

2. Worst off-season move?

MM: Not including Trevor Ariza in the Clippers trade. The Clips would have been receptive to adding Mo Williams and Trevor Ariza to the deal, but the Hornets said no. Mo’s salary comes off the books one year sooner and Ariza leaving would have let Aminuand Pondexter get the minutes they need to develop. Not to mention, some guy named Squeaky is our backup point guard.

JG: It wasn’t the Hornets that did it directly, but missing a big chunk of the season and still only agreeing to a CBA guaranteed to last six years is pretty sad for fans.

RS: Letting David West walk for 2-years, $20 million. The Hornets signed Landry for 1 year, 9 Million. Their rebuilding plan is going to take 3 years before they can hope to make a move. Couldn’t they have grabbed him for 3-years $36 million and kept him in the fold as a Hornet? Jersey into the rafters? Sigh.

3. Hornets biggest strength?

MM: Monty Williams and Dell Demps. They are the foundation of this team and will be largely responsible for making sure this rebuilding process goes smoothly. They overachieved last year by preaching hard work and commitment, and now they will be able to get their hands on young guys who haven’t already developed bad habits so they can build this thing the right way.

RS: Their frontline. Kaman, Okafor, Landry and Smith have a nice mix of scoring, defense, rebounding and energy.

JG: The ability to get better. That might sound weird, but with a new owner the team will likely have cap space, young talent, and the possibility of drafting multiple stars next year. Not every team can say that they could actually compete for a title in four years.

4. Biggest weakness?

JG: Size in the backcourt. Jarrett Jack isn’t effective while defending point guards, and Eric Gordon isn’t big enough to guard larger shooting guards. There are a number of team who will present match-up problems for the Hornets starting duo defensively.

RS: Outside of Eric Gordon, the Hornets are fielding back-ups at the Small-Forward and Point guard – an backing them up with third and fourth-stringers. That’s ugly.

MM: Chemistry. For the second straight year the Hornets have had half of their roster turnover, meaning that Emeka Okafor is the only current player who was actually on the roster when Monty Williams arrived less than 19 months ago. It is going to take a while for these guys to figure each other out, and that might lead to some lopsided scores in the shortened season.

5. This season’s biggest X-Factor?

JG: Dell Demps. If the Hornets are hanging around 6-10th out West place as the trade deadline approaches, Demps will have a tough decision to make in regard to going for a playoff spot versus dealing his expiring veteran assets for picks and young guys. The latter would seal the team’s fate as postseason wannabe’s and lottery participants, whereas the former would potentially hurt their likelihood of landing a stud next year in the draft with their pick.

RS: Chris Kaman. He’s in a contract year, and he’s proven he can be a monster in a contract year. I’m desperately hoping the Hornets don’t extend him after he suddenly shows up this year and instead move him for something, anything at the trade deadline.

MM: Assistant coaches ability to develop young talent. Last year Randy Ayers and crew were working with a veteran team that had a coach of sorts on the court in Chris Paul. Over the next two years, however, the focus has to be on developing the young guys even if that means losing some winnable games in the process.

6. Most intriguing storyline of the season?

MM: Following the Minnesota Timberwolves. The future of this team and its championship aspirations could hinge on how Minnesota does this season. It sounds overly dramatic, but the difference between a top five pick and a pick anywhere else in the lottery is historically pretty big. Break out the Kevin Love voodoo dolls if you must!

RS: Whether the Hornets go all in on their tank job. Will they try to stay respectable and hold on to Jack, Ariza and Okafor? Or will they move them out as quickly as possible?

JG: Can Monty get this young, hastily put together team on the same page fast enough to get off to the hot start they will need to really compete for a playoff spot?

7. One Bold Prediction

JG: Chris Paul will win the MVP award despite having a season that is statistically inferior both individually and in terms of team winning percentage than what he and the Hornets achieved in 07-08. It will mark the end of when well-read Hornets fans took MVP voting even the slightest bit seriously.

RS: Eric Gordon will not be in a Hornets uniform in two years.

MM: I say Ryan is just being bitter after seeing how the Chris Paul situation played out. Oh, and the Baron Davis one. Oh, and Alonzo. Okay, well forget about those guys- Eric Gordon is staying!! And not only that but his injury issues will be a thing of the past as he will play in 60+ games this season and make his first NBA All-Star team!

8. Final Predictions for 2011-12 season?

MM: 24-42, 12th place in the West. They will have solid stretches, but will become sellers at the trade deadline as they focus more on youth and financial flexibility.

RS: 18-48, 13th in the Western conference

JG: The Hornets will win more than 25 games, but less than 30. They will announce a new ownership group which will include at least one minority local owner. They will average over 16,000 fans for the first time since 08-09.