What the Hornets were able to do this off-season is nothing short of amazing. They traded Washington the bad, long-term contracts of Emeka Okafur and Trevor Ariza in exchange for Rashard Lewis (who they bought out for $13.7 million). They also managed to re-up their best player Eric Gordon long term. They somehow managed to trade nothing in exchange for the Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick. They brought in Ryan Anderson who was spectacular in Orlando last year. They grabbed the #1 and 2 high school players of the class of 2011 in Austin Rivers and Anthony Davis. There remain a lot of questions on this team, though.
First of all, how healthy is Eric Gordon? He’s shown a ton of promise in his first four seasons, but how excited are you about a 24-year old player who’s only managed to play 60 games once in the past three years who has back problems?
Next, how good can Anthony Davis be? I don’t think there is any question what kind of defensive impact he can make. But will he be Tyson Chandler (all defense and dunks – which, by the way, isn’t a bad floor comparison) or can he develop into a Kevin Garnett-type (great defender, but very nice offensive game, as well…) The other question is how he’ll handle the bigger, bulkier NBA guys.
What will we get from Austin Rivers? He’s certainly talented, but will his uber-confidence be a detriment to his long term development? Confidence is a strange thing. If a player doesn’t have enough, you see tentative play (see: Johnson, Wesley). At the same time, having too much confidence without having that Kobe or LeBron level ability leads you a Stephon Marbury situation. Having a coach as a dad certainly will help his development, but it will be interesting to watch he can do when he’s consistently guarded by guys who are bigger, stronger, and faster than he’s ever seen.
What will Ryan Anderson be without Dwight Howard in the middle? His defenders certainly won’t have to shade to the help side this year in fear Anthony Davis or Robin Lopez like they were with Dwight.
Can a team with an average PG (Greivis Vasquez) and a rookie (Austin Rivers) compete in the West. When you look at the West, you are looking at going up against a good to great PG night in and night out.
The core of Gordon-Davis-Anderson-Rivers is a nice start. They seem like a team that could really benefit from a veteran PG. I don’t like to speculate about off-season moves (that’s a complete lie), but the Lewis-for-Okafur/Ariza trade left them with a lot of salary cap for the upcoming off-season. Could you imagine a situation where Chris Paul leaves LA and comes back to New Orleans?
Biggest question mark
Of all of the questions, I think the biggest question surrounds the health and happiness of their best player – Eric Gordon.
Predicted season scenario
Barring some unforeseen (or foreseen) health problems with Gordon, I see no reason why this young team can’t be more competitive than it has in years past.
Predicted Record: 32-50
#22 – Cleveland Cavaliers
#23 – Washington Wizards
#24 – Phoenix Suns
#25 – Toronto Raptors
#26 – Houston Rockets
#27 – Sacramento Kings
#28 – Orlando Magic
#29 – Detroit Pistons
#30 – Charlotte Bobcats