2011-12 Hornets Season Preview

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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.

44 comments
David
David

Minnesota has no one that plays defense on the floor, and all of their best players play the same position. They will not be as good as some people are saying. They are talented, but lack of prep time and in-season practice time, coupled with the log-jam of players at the PF position and lack of defense from Love, Beasley, Darko, and Rubio being on the floor at the same time will keep them from reaching their potential. I'm sorry, but the Hornets will struggle early because of the tough schedule and limited practice time as a team, and at the deadline you have to decide whether you want to try to climb into the playoff race as a low seed or trade expiring assets like kaman and Landry for ASSETS, such as 1st round picks and young pieces. If not, at the end of the season they will both walk for nothing. Think about it, would you rather have a lottery pick, an extra #1, and a young piece at the end of the season or get swept in the 1st round by OKC and watch Kaman and Landry walk at the end of the season for squadoosh. If the hornets are in 4th or 5th place at the deadline then go for it, but honestly because of the two reasons I stated above I just don't think the season will play out that way. As for Ariza, he is not in this teams plans long term, and his contract is too high for a small market team to justify. The Lakers can pay their 5th best player 8 million a year, the Hornets can't do that. As for the guy who said something about not having 3 rookies on the team, why the hell not? I'm all for talent, and this draft has it. If we get two lottery picks in this year's draft, I'm EXPECTING two starters. If a third pick can fit in the rotation at all, or perhaps be traded in order to move up in the 1st round or moved for future assets, I'm all for that.

Jason
Jason

There is no way Denver is a top 4 seed. I'm all for Hornets Optimism, but the best teams in the West are Dallas, OKC, Clippers, Lakers, San Antonio. I don't know why everyone is ignoring how good Dallas still is, or thinks the Lakers are just falling apart despite having two of the best ten players in the NBA. Teams that I expect to look a lot better this year: Phoenix, Utah, Golden State, Denver. I think we are in the Minnesota category. A team with the talent to be in the playoffs if we mesh quickly and compete every day.

David
David

Neither Kobe, Gasol, or bynum is a top 10 player in the NBA. In fact, they may not be in the top 20 - especially after Kobe's injury issues. LeBron-Wade-Dwight-Durant-Dirk-Paul-Williams-Rose-Griffin-Melo are all better players at this stage of their careers than a 36 year old banged up Kobe. Gasol isn't even in that group's zip code (Kevin Love, Aldrige, Stoudamire, Bosh, Zach Randolf are all better PF's than Gasol at this stage, IMO.) As for Bynum, if healthy he's in the top 30, and we all know the tin man will get hurt at some point this year. Lakers are in serious trouble. They need to either give up both Bynum/Gasol for Howard, or try to move Gasol for 3 or 4 more parts in order to re-build around Kobe and Bynum for another run or two. As currently constructed, the Lakers are not even a threat out west.

David
David

Denver will be a contender, just watch. Young legs. They go 12 deep. They play at home in that thin air, and will continue to just throw more and more guys at you. Ty Lawson, Andre Miller, Rudy Fernandez, Corey Brewer, Aaron Afflalo, Kenneth Faried (1st round pick), Al Harrington, Nene, Danilo Gallinari, Birdman, Mozgof - That is a serious mix of youth, experience, scoring ability, and athleticism - Not to mention they will get Wilson Chandler and JR Smith back when they are done in China. I think they will be a top 3 seed this year. This is a lockout shortened season. Clippers go 6 deep. Lakers go 2 1/2 deep. Mavs lost their defensive lynchpin and are a year older playing back to backs every other day. San Antonio is old and goes 6 deep. Denver is the darkhorse in the West. You heard it here first.

dalshearer
dalshearer

I'm also a BEEliever! The Hornets are better than they were last year, by getting much stronger at the shooting guard and center positions. Jack can play well enough at the point to minimize the loss of CP3. And if squeaky can't cut it as the backup I have no doubt that GM Demps will find one. David West will be missed but the offense will be more explosive without him. And Q-Pon looks poised to become a major contributor. 38- 43 wins and will finish as # 5 seed. Behind OKC, Lob Angelos, Denver, and the Spurs.

MaskedTalent
MaskedTalent

WoW..... a little MORE confidence in our team...PLEASE? My OWN Bold Predictions:(I'll be as honest as possible) 1. Under Monty Williams's direction, we will never be a team of caliber to be a LOTTERY team. 2. We'll be in the playoffs...we won't go that far depending on who we play. If we play the Clips,OKC, or Mem we won't go that far. Dallas took a step back by losing Tyson Chandler. Lakers look like they are in trouble even before the season starts. Spurs old. Who else is there really? 3. Minnesota won't be a lottery team....I'll rephrase that... They won't be as bad as everyone thinks they will be. so we won't be getting that GREAT PICK WE WANTED. I don't even understand why we didn't just get Bledsoe instead of the pick...(but I'm a little ignorant to everything regarding that whole trade stuff) 4. I say out of these 66 games....we will win 35-42 games. So Do I Think THE PAUL-LESS HORNETS WILL BE COMPETITIVE and possibly a sixth seed? Yes. Yep. Yup. Yeah. Si. YESSIR. And form of yes you could think of. 5. Will I put a foot in my mouth if we do terrible? nope because I believe in OUR HORNETS! call me crazy but I believe

Bee dat
Bee dat

i can not see this team play less than 100% under monty. i'm shocked the hornets experts don't recognize that defense wins more games than offense. i see us winning plenty of 82-78 games on the way to winning at least 30 games and competing for the playoffs. glaring hole at one needs to be solved. ps bring in bolester

Tyler
Tyler

Brian Butch has been cut from the roster. I hope he has a quick recovery. Now, the roster stands at 16. How will the roster look on opening night?

Jake
Jake

Yeah Finally some good news about the hornets, but I was hoping u would say we will make the playoffs

ImSorryMonty
ImSorryMonty

I disagree about Gordon not being a cornerstone to build around. With Kobe on the decline, he will be the 2nd best shooting guard in the NBA this year, just watch. The guy is instinctive and can create for himself and others while playing the other end of the floor. Just watch. We move the ball around way better than before without CP3 dominating the ball. PREDICTIONS - I could go on but my bold prediction will be 32-34. - Monty will fight for a COTY bid but fall short because we don't make the playoffs. - There will be at least 1 4-game winning streak, 2 of which come against good teams, that make the national media go WTF for an hour or 2. - We will be a top 5 defensive unit. - Eric Gordon will average 24+ pts and 5+ assts a game. - We will see the first New Orleans Hornets team EVER that competes every single night on both ends of the floor. - The shortened season will play into the youthful Hornets favor.

Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith

I love Eric Gordon but I think 2nd best is a little high dont forget about Dwayne Wade (I assume he is number 1 on the list)-Monta Ellis-Andre Iguodala-Stephen Jackson, I agree with Michael that he will make the All-Star team, I dont know if we can say that we move the ball around better without Cp3 yet because we only played 1 game with Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman & Aminu in with the rest of the team (I dont even think you can get better at moving the ball by NOT having the best passer in Cp3 in the game on your side)

Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith

I forgot about Kobe on this list also (I think Gordon will be top 5 but not 2nd)

David
David

Eric Gordon is better than Ellis (undersized, can't play D, phenomenal scorer, selfish), Iguadala (stud on D, not efficient at all offensively, probably is more of a "3"), or S. Jackson (Old, hasn't been on EG's level for a few seasons now)

David
David

I like this deal: Trade Ariza to LA for Mo Williams 4 team trade: Lakers get: Mo Williams (NO), Luis Scola (HOU), Andre Iguadala (PHI) Sixers get: Chris Kaman (exp. contract), Chase Buddinger (HOU), 1st round pick (NYK through HOU), 1st round pick (LAL) Hornets get: Kyle Lowry (HOU), Patrick Patterson (HOU), 1st round pick (HOU) Rockets get: Pau Gasol (LAL) Lakers get younger, more athletic, and deeper to make another run with Kobe. A starting 5 of Mo Williams, Kobe, Iggy, Scola, and Bynum is a championship caliber starting 5, plus you move 2 current starters to the bench. It also allows them to make a sweeter deal to Orlando for Howard, as I think they would be more inclined to take a package built around Iggy/Bynum than Gasol/Bynum. If Iggy/Bynum wouldn't get Orlando to bite, would Scola/Iggy/Bynum get Orlando to bite? Not exactly what they were looking for, but they seem desperate to shake it up and this looks like their best bet. Rockets give up a lot of assets (Lowry, Budinger, Scola, Patterson, 2 1st round picks), but the bottom line is they get Gasol AND get to keep Martin. They are in win-now mode, and will still be able to make a big offer to a free agent in the offseason to add to that mix. Basically the same trade as before except they sub budinger, Patterson, and Lowry for Martin and Dragic. Sixers have a log jam at the wing, and they unload their big long term contract in return for Kaman's expiring, plus a cheap young scorer in budinger and two first round picks. Not a bad haul for a salary dump. Hornets get Kyle Lowry (one of my favorite players, a tough defensive minded point who is an absolute bulldog on a friendly contract (3 years @ 16 million) to be our PG for the foreseeable future, unload Ariza in the LAC deal, pick up another 1st round pick and a young, athletic big in Patterson. Now you are talking this team: Okafor, gustavo, Landry, Smith, Aminu, QPon, Gordon, Bellenelli, Lowry, Jack and about 13-16 million in cap space (that's figuring in a Gordon Extension), and 3 first round picks in the deepest draft in years. With that mix you can compete right away all the while growing as a young team. I think Houston would be game, I think Philly would (two first round picks, clearing that contract, and a young guy like Buddinger would be a good haul for a salary dump), but I think the key would be convincing the Lakers that this deal would be the best they are going to get right now.

Jo D
Jo D

No way houston gives up that much without getting more than gasol

David
David

two career starters? Genius, Kaman is expiring and at the end of the season he will walk for NOTHING. Ariza is the 5th best player on our starting 5 and is clogging up our salary cap by making 6-8 mill a year for the next 3. We can get a young prospect liek Patterson, a #1 pick, and a starting PG in Lowry for a guy who won't be here anyway (Kaman) and a borderline starter who is chewing up all our cap (who happens to have a top 10 pick waiting in the wings to replace him).

David
David

The first trade they gave up Scola, Dragic, a 1st round pick and KEVIN MARTIN, their best player. In this trade they give up Scola, Lowry, Buddinger, Patterson and two #1s and get to keep Kevin Martin. Is Kevin Martin worth Buddinger, Patterson, and two #1s? I know I'd give it up to have Kevin Martin.

504ever
504ever

No way we give up two career starters (Ariza and Kaman) for a career back-up at a position of strength for the Hornets (PF), a starter only on a weak team player, and a not early enough draft pick. Maybe I would take all of that if I only have to give up Kaman. Also, why trade a PG once we finally use some of our SG depth to obtain a PG? And how can you develop three 1st Round rookies at the same time? You need quality and experienced pieces around them to help them grow.

ImSorryMonty
ImSorryMonty

That is a steeper price for Gasol though than the previous trade. Just worth mentioning.

David
David

Not really. Houston is keeping their best player, Kevin Martin, in the above deal. It's basically the same deal except Patterson/Buddinger/Lowry subbed for Kevin Martin (their best player)/Dragic

ImSorryMonty
ImSorryMonty

BRAVO! A trade that makes sense for everybody involved. WTF is going on around here!?

Songy
Songy

Why all y'all keep hatin, y can't we have some optimism on this page man

Jason
Jason

Im going to ignore injuries in this discussion. They willl probably happen, but its too hard to predict. Kaman is a huge upgrade on David West. I love David West. He's my favorite Hornet of all time but his defense has never been great, his rebounding has become worse, and he's undersized. Landry will be a decent replacement for him. I really believe our best lineup is Jack, Gordon, Ariza, Okafor, Kaman. Thats an athletic, defensive team, that has sufficient scoring. QPon, Landry, Aminu, and Smith add energy off the bench. I actually want our team to tank, but I actually think we are better this year than last year right now. More well balanced, more height, more scoring, and more athletic.

Ryan Schwan
Ryan Schwan

I'm afraid you're going to be sorely disappointed in Kaman.

sundance
sundance

Aside from Gordon and maybe Pondexter I don't see any other current player in the Hornets' long term plans. As far as this season is concerned, I look forward to seeing how Monty adjusts without having Chris around. If Eric can set the offensive and defensive tone for the rest of the team, just like Chris did, I could see this team doing surprisingly better than expected. Ultimately, I don't think Eric is the guy to build a team around, but is definitely a great complementary player to have. Mos def the lottery will be the second-most interesting to watch this season.

Jason
Jason

Barring an Eric Gordon injury, I see no way that we end up as a bottom two team. Im not actually sure that we end up in the lottery. We have one of the best front courts in the NBA if they stay healthy. Ariza/Okafor/Gordon/Kaman/Landry are also strong on defense. The only spot Id say we are clearly below average is PG, and I think Jack is serviceable. Qpon/Aminu off the bench is good depth. Not saying we are a top ten team...just not as bad as people seem to think. Whats ironic is if we had this team and CP3 id think we are title contenders. Better quuestion. Are we better than Minnesota?

Jo D
Jo D

I wouldn't exact call our frontcourt one of the best. I believe it is an illusion. We have been subjected to poor depth in our backcourt for years. In perspective, you could say we merely swapped DWest for Caveman Kaman. Thats the only difference. Hopefully landry can improve and be consistent. Hopefully Jason Smith continues to put on a show like he did in the second preseason game. And hopefully Mek becomes consistent this year being relied on more. Before seeing more, I would say we are solid. I would like to see Q-Pon starting with Ariza either as the 6th man or traded. The thing about Minny is that they will be an exciting team with a ton of potential. They are what happens if the OKC model fails and you load up with a bunch of talent that doesn't mesh. However, this could be the year they get it. They are the ultimate wild card. But you can count on every Hornets fan rooting against them every game.

BRballboy
BRballboy

The only way to cinch a top 5 pick is to have one of the two worst records, so I hope we do, and I think our GM has to make sure we do. There is some monster talent in this draft, and we would all love to see a Griffin or Durant caliber guy (or two) land in NO. I don't want a bad team, just a young team on the verge of becoming a big winner, with two high picks and plenty of cap space. How often do you get a chance to be in this position? My mouth waters to see what Dell does with all this!

thechosenuno
thechosenuno

I think this team we have now will pleasantly surprise. Dell knows we need a backup PG. I mean, did anyone see how Squeaky could only really dribble/drive to the right? Dell's not done; he can't be. Monty is an amazing coach. We've got some raw talent. While we're clearly not going to be the top seed in the West, I think we surprise some folks and win 30.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

Last year's win percentage was would translate into 37 wins this season. Barring major moves, I say this team brings in 25 wins. Joe technically didn't grab 25, so I'm planting my flag. Fellas, hope you enjoy being the bread in a 42-sandwich.

Tomcat
Tomcat

Damn! Meant to grab 25 and 30. Oh well when I'm dead on it will be even sweeter now.

504ever
504ever

I'll take 27 wins and bottom 1/3 of the lottery. It's a crap shoot to guess at this point. There are too many variables, ignoring injuries league wide. There are variables related to the strike: short season, super short preseason, long time off before season, and averaging around a game every two days. Then there are all of the Hornets variables. It would be fun to allow a revision to predictions sometime between now and the all-star break.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

Tell you what, I owe you a drink. Good times, my friend.

Mikey
Mikey

Make no mistake about it, this Hornets team will compete hard for 48 minutes on a nightly basis, and ultimately will fall somewhere around 22-44, and be 11th or 12th in the West this year. The record doesn't matter though. These guys are going to play their asses off for coach Williams, and that will be fun AND painful to watch at the same time. The only thing that matters this season is for the ownership situation to be resolved. Until that happens, this organization has no discernable direction.

crowmania18
crowmania18

You guys have no faith in the Hornets. What is this prediction 18 wins 20 wins. OMG. We have a great team!!! This is not some scrappy team like the bobcats. We have about the same amount of talent as last year. Great coach, good players. Just because we dont have CP3 doesn't mean we are down the tubes. A team should win as a team not based on just one player. Thats how the Mavs won the championship and the Lakers and the Celtics they played as a team. This is not a 18 win hornet team like what we say some years ago. We have a strong coach and pretty good players. Do we need improvement? Of course we are weak in some areas but dont you think you are underestimating this team a bit? Thats the problem everyone things we lose Chris Paul we are done. Yes he is the greatest point guard in the league but we are still a good TEAM.

Jo D
Jo D

Before making bold predictions: keep in mind, our starting lineup hasn't been on the floor together for a single second yet. We don't know what our final roster will look like. The roster may in fact be in flux much of the season.

Songy
Songy

That's exactly wat I'm sayin man

MichaelCRL
MichaelCRL

Great preview...Basketball has always been a bit frustrating to follow. It seems no other sport requires that you go back so far in order to be better in the future. It is tough to get excited about a season when everyone says the "best" thing to do is be awful.