Contenders or Pretenders?

What do you get when you cross the league’s best point guard with an All-Star power forward and a top-ten center?

It’s hard to say. After 25 games the Hornets are as much of a mystery as they were entering the season. Picked to finish anywhere from third to tenth in the west by experts, The team has lived up to nearly every expectation.

After starting the season by losing eight of their first 11 games, the Bees have rebounded rather well, winning nine of 14 despite missing Paul for a stretch of games.

It’s reasonable to throw the first 18 games or so out the window for a number of reasons:

  • Byron Scott coached the first nine games.
  • Chris Paul was hurt for the initial stretch under Jeff Bower. He came back for game 19
  • Emeka Okafor missed the entire preseason and was notably out of rhythm with the team early on.

Game 19 was the first time all season that the Hornets had their coach, center, and best player, all together on the court and familiar with each other.

Since then, the Hornets are 5-2. Their notable home wins came against the Pistons and Nuggets with losses to the Knicks at home and Mavs on the road. Seven games against mostly weak opponents really doesn’t say a ton.

If recent results are any indication it seems like the Hornets will be in the playoffs come years end. Their seed is anyones guess, but one thing is for sure; a healthy Chris Paul won’t let them miss the postseason.

Other then that, fans know almost nothing new about the Bees and are left to rethink who and what they actually are.

Three reasons they are contenders:

  1. Chris Paul has shown he can utterly dominate a game and carry a team by himself. When healthy, he’s a playoff monster.
  2. David West and Emeka Okafor make up one of the best frontcourts in the NBA. There aren’t many teams that can boast two players of such high quality. As they continue to get used to eachother, their play will improve.
  3. Their biggest weakness, depth, is almost entirely negated by the playoffs. They have seven guys capable of playing great ball and that’s all a team needs in the playoffs.

Three reasons they are pretenders:

  1. With absolutely no depth in the front court, they are one injury away from missing the playoffs entirely. An extended injury to West, Okafor, or Songaila would leave them with Hilton Armstrong and James Posey as the backup center and power forward. There isn’t another healthy big on the roster.
  2. Against current playoff teams in the Western Conference they have a record of three wins and six losses. Against teams with a winning record the Hornets have only four wins and nine losses. The playoffs are full of good teams and the Hornets haven’t proven they can beat them with any consistency yet.
  3. They are above the cap and looking to shed another contract making it pretty unlikely that they will be able to add anyone of relevance via free agency or trade.

What do you expect from the Hornets now? Who are they?

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