The NBA has certainly done its part to help the New Orleans Hornets become relevant and not always on purpose.
First, the league relinquished control of the franchise by selling it to Louisiana businessman Tom Benson, who also owns the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.
Then, via dumb luck, the Hornets won the draft lottery and the rights to No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis, a forward out of Kentucky. They also selected Duke guard Austin Rivers with the 10th pick, a move that would be real news in most other seasons.
In this one, however, the Hornets had so much go their way that anything less than an absolute bang is likely viewed as hollow.
Will it translate to immediate success? It depends, actually. If success is measured in wins and losses, this may be something less than a banner year for the Hornets. If it’s measured in positive steps, well, they’re already halfway home.
Last season: 21-45, did not make playoffs.
Coach: Monty Williams (67-81, third year).
Top returnees: SG Eric Gordon, PG Greivis Vasquez, PF Jason Smith. Key additions: PF/C Anthony Davis-r, PF Ryan Anderson, PG Austin Rivers-r, C Robin Lopez.
X-Factor: Al-Farouq Aminu. It’s time for the third-year small forward to play like he’s a legitimate starter – and not just for personal reasons. The only other players at his position on the roster are Hakim Warrick, who’s more of a power forward, and Darius Miles, who’s a second-round pick. Aminu needn’t average 20 points and 10 rebounds, but he at least must become somewhat of a threat on a regular basis. In his first two seasons, that description has eluded him.
Strengths: Gordon can power his way to the basket or nail shots from the perimeter, and even with Davis, this is still viewed as Gordon’s team. Not bad for a guy who played all of nine games last season. But Gordon is just that good. Anderson should also open up the lane with his ability to get open and stroke it. Mostly, the players really seem to like Williams, and seem to really try to respond to his coaching.
Weaknesses: There’s no telling how the starting lineup shakes out, as overall, the Hornets have a somewhat unbalanced roster. For instance, Davis and Anderson form a potentially lethal one-two punch at power forward, but the center, small forward and point guard spots are unproven. And when it comes to depth, you can pretty much forget about it — unless Xavier Henry, Lance Thomas and Roger Mason are your idea of dependability.
Outlook: All we really can say with any degree of certainty is the Hornets won’t make the playoffs. How they go about not getting there largely depends on if Davis is as good as advertised, and if Gordon can finally stay healthy for the better part of a season. If one thing goes wrong, this team is pretty much toast. It just doesn’t have enough parts. That said, Davis and Gordon (and even Anderson) offer reason for hope. But hey, another year in the lottery isn’t such a bad thing. Just look what it did for the Hornets last time.