Hornets Power Rankings- Week Two

Published: November 7, 2010

He has Risen.

After being cast aside by this writer (some say unjustly), Jason Smith had perhaps the two best games of his young career to make all of us Believers. He answered our prayers with 18-foot jumpers that barely even touched the net. He miraculously snatched down rebounds and parted the Miami Heat defense for a thunderous dunk. The Hornets have searched for a quality backup big man since the days of Matt Geiger, and the mighty Dell Demps has provided us with one in the form of the immortal Jason Smith.

Perhaps I am overacting this week because I might have overreacted last week when I placed Jason Smith 12th on the power rankings list after the first three games. I am big enough to admit my errors, although I want to make it clear that this list is not a reflection of whom the best player is or who would do the best if they were given a role different than the one they have, etc. It is an objective power ranking of the value each player has had on this year’s team, with no factoring in of past years, or future projections.

Personally I believe that by the end of the year guys like Jerryd Bayless and Quincy Pondexter will have a bigger impact than DJ Mbenga- but have they had that impact yet? No, and that is why they rank lower in the week two power poll. Two great games and an above average game this week has redeemed Jason Smith for what I think was an atrocious week one, but another bad week and he can be buried at the bottom of the list again.  This list is sacred, and I will be quick to point out any and all false prophets. With that, your week two power rankings:

1. Chris Paul 18.7 PPG, 10.2 APG, 6 RPG, 2.3 SPG, 51% FG, 5:1 AST/TO ratio, leads team in +/-, top 3 in NBA in PER and Win Share

We don’t even have to have the “Who is the top point guard in the NBA?” argument anymore. At this point it is just silly, almost equivalent to having a debate about which Saints team is the best in team history. As was the case in 07-08, the conversation regarding CP3 will begin to center around “Is he the MVP of the league this year?” His numbers won’t be as remarkable as they were in 07-08, or 08-09 for that matter, but his impact on this team might be even greater. He simply will not let this team lose and his communication on defense gives the Hornets the coach on the floor that they need with a new system.

2. David West 18.3 PPG, 55% FG,  6.5 RPG, 80% FT, Leads team in Points and FGM per 40 minutes

Two weeks ago, my fiancée and I entertained guests at the house. She spent all day making a four-course meal, with little to no help from me. When the guests arrived, she was engaging and thoroughly entertaining as she told fabulous stories, while simultaneously getting people drinks and keeping an eye on our two dogs. In a word, she was incredible. Six months before that, a friend and I had spent the entire day building a patio deck in one hundred degree heat while she stayed inside watching Lifetime. After four hours, my friend poked his head inside and asked for a glass of water. Her reply? “Get it your damn self!”  Ladies and Gentlemen- my fiancée as David West.

I love how he is playing right now, just as I loved how my fiancée handled the party we threw, but part of me despises the fact that now I know what West is capable of and I wonder how he could sandbag it for nearly two years on the defensive end. When the old lady was a rude host all those months back, I just wrote her off as somebody who was incapable of doing that sort of thing, but now I see her true potential. Being a fan of David West is bittersweet in this way as well, because now I see that he could have been doing this all along as well, but he just didn’t want to get off the couch to get my friend that glass of water.

3. Emeka Okafor 22.9 PER (5th among centers), 12.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 72% FG, 2.2 BPG

C’mon, you have to admit that as a Hornet fan you felt a little guilty on Friday night as Emeka Okafor had the game of his life against the Miami Heat. Imagine the roles were reversed and New Orleans got beat due to Carlos Arroyo having the game of his life. That would have hurt. Anybody remember Deshawn Stevenson beating us as a Wizard? Those losses are tough when you are on the other side.

Okafor has come a long way since opening night against Milwaukee and it looks like he is starting to fit in on this team. He still doesn’t warrant his salary, and with it increasing every year, he probably never will, but knowing that you will have a steady force in the middle every night is valuable and nights like the one he had on Friday is just icing on a very expensive cake.

4. Trevor Ariza 10 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2 SPG, 1 Huge Game Clinching 3 pointer

At the end of the year some people will be tempted to compare Ariza’s stats to those of Darren Collison’s for whatever reason. Practically, however, that will not be an effective way of proving whether the trade the Hornets made was a good one or not. Was Ariza’s shot against the Heat just worth three points in the same way that any other shot from deep counts as three in the NBA? How do you truly measure the value he has on the defensive end or his versatility on the offensive side of the ball?

Collison’s numbers will likely outshine Ariza’s in every category, with the exception of rebounds and perhaps steals, but there is no question that the Hornets have fewer W’s if this trade was not made.

5. Willie Green 2nd on team in +/-, 6.2 PPG, 2 RPG

Green is to the Hornets as Darren Sharper was to the 2009 Saints. Neither guy has outstanding raw attributes, nor are they valued greatly by league personnel, but both found a perfect landing spot for their specific set of skills. Green has been trusted enough by Monty to finish off several games already this season, and has been inserted during parts of the game when Monty senses an opposing wing is starting to get hot. Because of that, I am going to start calling Willie Green “Fire Extinguisher” because he cools players down when they start to catch on fire.

6. Marco Belinelli 11 PPG, 42% 3pt, 2.5 RPG, 1.7 APG

The most surprising subplot of the week was that Belinelli stepped up on the defensive end against some high scoring two guards. Kevin Martin had his way at times, but Dwayne Wade, John Salmons, and even Corey Maggette on a few occasions had problems getting around Belinelli. He was light on his feet and forced the guy he was guarding to areas on the court where he had help. If Belinelli can start to hit his outside shots with regularity, the Hornets starting unit will be one of the top units in the league.

7. Jason Smith 8.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 48%FG, 92% FT, highest scoring bench player on team

(In Casey Kasem’s voice): “I have a letter here from Michael McNamara who writes,

Dear Casey,

Last week I said some horrible things about a man named Jason Smith. He angered me with his horrible defensive rotations and poor shot selection, but this week I have seen a different side of him and I want to apologize. Can you please play something that will tell him how I feel?

I sure can Michael. To celebrate Jason Smith moving all the way up to Number 7 this week, here’s Evanescence with their song “Forgive Me”.

8. Marcus Thornton 7.3 PPG, 50% 3 pt, 3rd on team points per 40 minutes

To make room at the top, invariably something must fall towards the bottom. Thornton’s play wasn’t particularly bad this past week; he just simply did not get the minutes or opportunities that he was given during the first week of the season. In the three wins this week, Thornton only played 29 minutes, and only scored 9 points. His best game was against Miami, where he gave the Hornets a spark in the second quarter while the starters were out, but because of Marco and W. Green, he didn’t get back onto the floor for long because the Hornets needed defense on the court to combat the Heat’s 4th quarter run. Will Thornton’s 2010-11 season look more like week one or week two? I don’t think even Monty knows the answer to that question.

9. Dj Mbenga 1.2 BPG, 9 MPG

Has anybody seen an uglier shot than the one Mbenga hoisted at the end of the third quarter in the Heat game? Not just in the NBA, but ever- in any league? I can’t say I have, and I am hoping I do not see him take another shot outside of 2 feet all season. He has six fouls to give, a big body, some shot blocking skills, and unique ears. That’s it and that’s all.

10. (tie) Pops, Bayless, Peja, and Q-Pon

Has anybody from this group distinguished themselves over another- enough to be ranked higher? If I took anybody out of this group and just replaced them with a random player at their same position, would the Hornets record be any different? Again, I have high hopes for Q-Pon and Bayless this year and I pray that Peja can bring us another piece or two at some point this year, but as of today none of these players have been responsible in any way for the 6-0 start.

LEAST VALUABLE: Joe Crawford, Tony Brown, Olandis Poole

I knew that when Miami came up to New Orleans that the Hornets would have to watch out for the Big Three. It wasn’t Bosh, Wade, and LeBron that had me worried in the 4th quarter, however; it was these three that were most responsible for the Hornets almost losing the first game of the season. The horrible charge call on CP3, the ridiculous blocking fouls anytime Wade even moved toward the hoop, and the most ridiculous call of the night- the technical on CP3 when he shouted one word after the previously mentioned charge. Watch that game again and focus on Wade’s reaction after every call. The camera catches him jawing at the officials after every call.

Just a couple examples of how CP3 doesn’t get the star treatment others do. I mean, if that is Wade or James driving to the hoop and Jason Smith steps in, is there ANY chance the refs call that a charge- AT HOME NO LESS!!!! I just don’t get it and I am so happy for the guys that these three jokers didn’t cost them a franchise record 5-0 start Friday night.


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