Hornets Beat: Rookies, Tom Benson, and the Future

Published: March 4, 2013

This week on Hornets Beat our writers take on Austin Rivers, Darius Miller, the future, and the first season of Tom Benson’s ownership.


1. What will the Hornets record be the rest of the season?

James Grayson: 10-12. (edit–portion removed) Portland, Golden State, Los Angeles and Utah are all fighting for playoff positions and New Orleans plays them all, in some cases twice. As well they still have Miami, Denver, LAC and Memphis still on the schedule.

Jason Calmes: 7-15. (edit–portion removed) The lack of Smith will tax the frontcourt which is already seemingly hobbled with minutes-limitations on Davis. The Hornets could rely on the frontcourt, and that is no longer the case. I think it shows in the record.

Michael McNamara: 5-17. They have already sat Jason Smith down for the rest of the season, so don’t be surprised if they are extremely cautious with other guys moving forward. I also expect Davis and Rivers to get more minutes, which should help contribute to some losses and after tonight’s game against Orlando, the schedule gets pretty brutal. Other than the March 31st game against Cleveland, I expect the Hornets to be underdogs in every other game after tonight.

Mason Ginsberg: 6-16. Wins vs. Orlando, @ Washington, vs. Cleveland, @ Sacramento, and then two more wins out of some of the other coin flip games (vs. Portland, @ Minnesota, @ Phoenix, vs. Dallas). They’ll be favored tonight, vs. Cleveland, and they should be favored @ Sacramento given their dominance over them this season. Can’t see them as the favorite in any other game.

Joe: 6-16. Michael is dead on about being the underdogs in nearly every game the rest of the way. I feel like I’m optimistic predicting even 6 wins on the way to the finish line, but Monty does have knack for getting a lot out of a little, and that’s exactly how much talent he’s able to put on the floor currently.


2.  Fact or Fiction: Austin Rivers will one day be a starting caliber NBA player

JG: Fiction. I find myself rooting for the guy, I really want him to succeed. I just don’t see it. One of the reasons for that is his inability to run a pick and roll. Consistently gets stuck behind the hedge, he is never able to utilize like other guards. Rarely decides to go left, even if his defender gives him the option. Has no midrange game and his jumper is a mess. He does have some good qualities like his improving defense and improved play around the basket. Is a better passer too.

JC: Fact. He’s already shown improvement, and it’s not like a starting point guard has to be some super star. With his work ethic, willingness to adjust, and increasing defensive skills, he’ll be able to command a starting job in a few years.

MM: Fact. He is already starter caliber on the defensive end, having grown leaps and bounds since the preseason and he can get into the paint with ease on the offensive end. He was horrible finishing at the rim when he started at Duke, but increased his percentage over 200% in the second half of his freshman year. The NBA game will take a little longer to figure out, but Rivers will do just that and will be a starter in this league someday.

MG: Fiction. It is far too early to make a call one way or another on this, but based on the data we have at our disposal so far, I have to say no. February has been the most efficient month of his season by far (with his lowest usage rate as well), but January was also his worst month, so he’ll need to show sustained improvement before I buy into it. His on-ball defense does look much better, but the rest of the Hornets’ back court (besides Gordon) is horrendous defensively, so the standard there isn’t very high. Ask me again at the end of the season (though I doubt my answer will change).

Joe: Fact. I was as down on Rivers as anyone after half the season, but he really has turned it around on both ends. I don’t think he’ll ever be the passer that Dell and Monty envisioned when they drafted him, but he’ll earn a starting spot a few years down the line as the inferior of the two starting guards.


3. Fact or Fiction: Darius Miller will be under a full season contract in the NBA in 4 years.

JG: Fiction. Miller has a decent jump shot which may improve over time. What I don’t see is this defensive expertise everyone professes to. He consistently fouls his opponent and gets beaten by any explosive wings with relative ease. He might be on a partially guaranteed contract in 4 years time.

MM: Fiction. He doesn’t have the “upside” to warrant long looks from NBA teams, so he won’t get the chance to develop the way that some guys who are given chance after chance finally do. A guy like Gerald Green will always be on the NBA radar because of his athleticism, but guys like Miller often become forgotten too soon.

JC: Fiction. At this point, I don’t see enough improvement to project such a contract for him. There’s just not enough offense to attract those who are dazzled by that, not enough defense to impress those who want grit.

MG: Fiction. Hopefully, the Hornets will give him ample playing time from here on out to make sure that my position on this issue is likely correct, but he doesn’t have enough NBA-caliber skills to stick in this league. He’s a decent spot-up shooter, but not good enough to overcome his other deficiencies such as a guy like Steve Novak. He is an above average passer for his position, but not a good enough ball-handler or off-the-dribble shooter to make himself a legitimate threat. Defensively, he just isn’t athletic enough for me to believe he’ll ever be anything more than average on that side of the ball.

Joe: Fiction. He’s just not as NBA-ready as I thought he would be right off the bat, and he’s never really had too much room for improvement to begin with. Unless he can find something to be really good at it’s hard to see him finding a permanent place in the league.


4. What are your thoughts on the first season of ownership for Tom Benson?

JG: Steadfast. It’s not been overzealous yet it hasn’t been bleak. The rebrand was interesting and the renovations look promising. What I would like to see is more of a renewed committal to selling out New Orleans Arena.

MM: Hands off. He is a smart business man who knows that you have to step back and trust people to do their jobs and he has done just that. With Loomis somewhat involved and Dell and Monty signed to new extensions, he has a great foundation in place. So now, he can just sit back in those comfy floor seats and enjoy the view.

JC: Impressive. Team Benson has addressed every major issue facing this team, and has done so with an open wallet. The franchise is showing long-term thinking on and off of the court and a willingness to spend now, perhaps to the point of operating at a loss in the short-term. All the loose ends are being wrapped up in short order, and this team will be focused on improving on the court sooner than I thought possible. Naming rights would be nice, along with a D-League team within a 2 hour drive.

MG: Benson appears to be approaching his ownership of the Hornets in the same way as he does with the Saints, which is a good thing. He is not getting involved with the basketball operations of the team, leaving that part to the experts who he employs to do it. Not much else to evaluate at this point, but so far, so good.

Joe: I’ve been really impressed with the sheer number of games he’s attended. That alone makes me hopeful that this isn’t just some passing fad for him, and that he genuinely cares about not only improving the team, but truly being a part of the team.


5. It’s been a tough season. What keeps you tuned in for late-season games?

JG: Player development. There’s nothing really much else to it. I don’t really care if they win and when they lose it’s kind of a win too. Watching Austin Rivers make some baby-steps is encouraging and Anthony Davis just makes things more pleasant to watch. Grading who will be on the team next season is also fun because outside of Davis, Rivers, Anderson and Smith I don’t see a player who will definitely be on the roster next season.

MM: All the little things. People think that improvement comes over night, that it is easily recognized and that some magic lightbulb turns on for some players, but that is simply not the case. Even in these “lost seasons”, there are plenty of lessons being learned and skills being developed. Ryan Anderson is getting to the basket more and using a pump fake to get him easy reverse layups. Robin Lopez has added a nice spin move. Austin Rivers is finding his way through picks on the defensive end, etc. etc. Down the line, when these players have more help, these little additions will mean the difference between winning and losing some nights, and we are getting to see the birth of these things this year.

JC: This is our season. That’s all. I don’t care that our team wins or loses for now. I just care that our team is playing. The rest will come in time, and we actually have time now.

MG: I simply enjoy knowing as much as possible about my team. The fact that I write about them makes this approach even more true, but regardless, it’s nice to be able to talk about the Hornets with anyone and have confidence in regards to your opinions and beliefs about them.

Joe: To appreciate the future more. Guys like Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers are going to be a lot better in a few years, as is the team as a whole. While it’s more fun to root for a  good team than a bad one, it’s even better if you fully appreciate the hard work and dedication that it took for that team reach a high level.

*This article was edited shortly after post

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