I hope I get to hear Michael McNamara say Anthony Davis will be a top 5 player when all is said and done. It will be an early Christmas. Bow to the Brow!
Hornets Beat: Rookies and Stuff
Our writers tackle questions about all four New Orleans Hornets rookies, as well as Eric Gordon.
1. Aside from the concussion, how has the beginning of Anthony Davis’s career compared to your expectations?
James Grayson: He’s far exceeded my expectations. Most experts said he’d only have an impact on the defensive side of the ball. I would argue that he’s been more impactful on the offensive side of the ball. His coordination, decision making and finishing ability makes him one of the most versatile big men in the game, right now at the age of 19.
Jason Calmes: Davis has exceeded my expectations. His numbers show him to be the best player on the team. This is not surprising. I wrote a piece looking at him comparing him to a young Tim Duncan, and to me this apt. This further increases the expectations, making them harder to exceed. Two things are pushing him beyond what I considered to on Reasonable Island. One is his low error rate. The dude is both smart and capable of executing what his brains are telling him is the good idea. The second is his sense of belonging. Not only does he fit, but he proved that he believes it with the altercation in the recent Bobcats game. He did not back down, and I did not expect this from his first real dust up. For a man who was missed the ice and fire of West and Chandler, this has me giddy. Giddy.
Michael McNamara: Offensively he has exceeded even my wildest expectations. Remember, I am the lunatic who exclaimed in December of 2011 that this guy would be a top 10 All-Time NBA player, and even I didn’t expect him to be this good offensively. The defense is everything we expected. 3.6 blocks, 1.8 steals, and less than 1 foul committed per 36 minutes is beyond elite. I said top 10- I am two weeks away from saying top 5.
Mason Ginsberg: Absolutely exceeded. I don’t think any of us expected Davis to make this kind of offensive impact this quickly. I knew the potential was there for him to be great on offense, but to be contributing on such a high level so soon is incredibly impressive. Among qualifying Hornets players, he leads the team in total rebound rate (16.8%) and turnover rate (4.4%) while trailing only Jason Smith in true shooting percentage (59.2%) and usage rate (27.1%) That’s not just rookie of the year worthy, that may be all-star caliber.
Joe Gerrity: I must agree with my esteemed colleagues. His touch around the basket is rare for a man of his size and age. Pair that with the immediate success he’s had defending against NBA-level players, despite being physically smaller and less experienced, and you have a truly special beginning to a career. As for why he’s exceeded expectations, I largely credit his time with Team USA.
2. How has the beginning of Austin Rivers’ career compared to your expectations?
JG: Pretty much fall in line with them. The guy is working hard, he just hasn’t found his niche in the league. I actually am very surprised with his passing ability. For a guy who is a score first guy it actually looks like Rivers wants to pass first, something he’s been working on. There have been times when I think he should look to score, but he passes. Still has a long way to go though.
JC: Frankly, he’s doing better than I expected . . . in the areas I care about. He’s being groomed to play point guard. His scoring is off. Fine. The worry with him coming in was that he’d be a ball hog, which isn’t happening. He is assisting and defending better than I expected this early on. He is producing assists at a lower rate than Vasquez and Roberts, but his production is fine given his tenure at point guard and the amount of time playing shooting guard. Also, his defense (DRtg) is better than that of both Roberts and Vasquez.
MM: My expectations were 2007-08 Jannero Pargo and overall I think he is about that good. He is better at making high impact defensive plays than I expected, but I thought he would be a streaky shooter- so far he has just been a bad shooter. So, better defensively, worse offensively than expected.
MG: Pretty much what I expected. Defensively, I thought he would come into the league as a sub-par defender but make up for some of that with his motor and hustle. This has appeared to be the case, leading Rivers to a below average but not terrible defensive rating of 102. Offensively, I thought he’d have to make teams respect his jumper in order to have any type of success, and since he hasn’t been able to do that, he has been predictably awful. That being said, the brutal 76ers loss taught us that, given the lack of ball-handling on this current Hornets roster, his ball skills are clearly missed when he is unable to play.
Joe: He’s exceeded them just by a bit. I didn’t think he’d be at all ready to see any meaningful playing time this season. Even though he’s not making his shots, he’s a serviceable player already.
3. How has the beginning of Darius Miller’s career compared to your expectations?
JG: Exceeded. His shooting stroke is impeccable and he’s just the consummate professional going about his business and knowing his role. He has a role in the NBA, not something you can say for most second-round NBA players.
JC: Miller is also exceeding expectations. He’s far from mistake-free, but he’s a cool customer. He’s got the fundamentals, does not try to be the star, but is not afraid. In terms of WS/48 among the players who are certain to contribute this season . . . so ignoring Warrick, Thomas, and Henry . . . he’s better than Vasquez and Rivers, good for eighth on the team.
MM: I thought he would be more like Quincy Pondexter in his rookie year- fundamentally sound defensively, but would not really contribute anything to the box score. He has exceeded my expectations offensively and I now think he could be similar to what Danny Green was for the Spurs last year if Monty gives him consistent playing time.
MG: Given the preseason of data we had, he’s met my expectations on offense and exceeded them on defense. I expected Miller to be a guy that could handle the ball a bit in a pinch and knock down jumpers, with anything else being being icing on the cake. He came into the league with athleticism as a question mark, making his ability to defend NBA wings a concern, but so far he has performed much better than I expected thanks to strong court awareness.
Joe: He’s playing right in line with what I expected. I was of the opinion that he would be a decent NBA-ready bench guy right off the bat, and that’s exactly what he’s been.
4. Fact or Fiction: Brian Roberts can adequately handle backup point guard duties throughout the year.
JG: No, not if teams look to stop his scoring. Sure, against the Bobcats he played well, but that’s because: One, he had his shot going, and two, the Bobcats took away the pass from him every single time. If you take away the shot from him on the pick and roll he’s virtually ineffective.
JC: Fiction. He was the worst DRtg on the team (108). You stay on the court with good defense in Montyville. Roberts has averaged just under 12m per game. Sure, that’s all you need in a backup when all is well, but what happens when Vasquez stubs his toe? Can he perform adequately then? I say no; ergo, fiction.
MM: Fact, only because this team is not trying to win a bunch of games/make the playoffs. If they were, this would be Dan Brown level fiction because Roberts is just not a guy you want in your rotation if you are trying to win big in this league. He is a streaky shooter who is turnover prone and gets trapped far too easily. For this building year, however, Roberts will do just fine.
MG: Fact if you think the Hornets are lottery-bound, fiction if you think they can make a playoff push. In the early going, he has reminded me of (how is this guy getting mentioned twice in the same Hornets Beat in 2012?) Jannero Pargo, which, if you have to ask, is not a good thing. Pargo is one of my least favorite Hornets out of the team’s decade here in New Orleans. He dominated the ball whenever he checked into the game, something a point guard should only do if he can score efficiently, which Pargo did not. Roberts is starting to give off the same sort of mentality, and he probably isn’t even as good on offense as Pargo was, which is definitely saying something.
Joe: Fact. If he were trying to fill this role on the Thunder, Lakers, Spurs, etc, it would be fiction. He’s not.
5. Fill in the blank: It is _________ that Eric Gordon will be doing his rehab in LA and won’t be travelling with the team.
JG: Meaningless. I mean, who really cares to be honest? Too many people are reading into the situation just because Gordon is one of the worst players when dealing with the media. If he goes there, clears his head and the pain and comes back and plays then all will be okay. The medical services in Louisiana may not be up to the standards needed for rehabilitation and we shouldn’t take it personally as most folks in New Orleans do.
JC: Fortunate. This team has enough to deal with without dealing with further distraction. Eric can focus and get right. If he comes back right, then people will appreciate his dedication and sacrifice. If he can’t get right, then it’s been out-of-sight, out-of-mind, and the team will not feel like there’s a void that should have been filled, calvary that never game, or that they have just been written off by one of the top paid players in the NBA.
MM: Predictable. If I were Dell and Monty, I wouldn’t want to see this guy’s face at practice or during games, and if I were Gordon, I wouldn’t want to hear boos every time the team showed my face on the JumboTron. See you in 4-6 weeks, Eric. Hopefully.
MG: For now? Disappointing. If Gordon comes back in the previously expressed 4-6 week timetable, then I will happily change my answer, but at the moment, it’s tough to see the Hornets’ highest paid player all the way across the country instead of rehabbing locally. If this was an isolated scenario, it could largely be ignored, but given everything else that has transpired between Gordon and the Hornets over the past ten months, it’s tough to simply write it off. Again, if he’s back on the court by mid-December, though, then everyone will quickly forget about it.
Joe: Disappointing works for me also. If I were Gordon I would be doing everything possible to prove that I want to be on this team and that I’m there for my teammates, even if I couldn’t be on the court. I imagine that if and when he does come back, he’ll feel a bit isolated from the team and on thin ice with the fans. It didn’t have to be this way.