2012-2013 New Orleans Hornets Season Preview
It wasn’t an easy year for the New Orleans Hornets. After losing their franchise player, undergoing an ownership change and finishing with the worst record in the Western Conference, there wasn’t much to be excited about in New Orleans. However, that all changed this offseason when the basketball Gods rewarded the Hornets with a pair of top-ten picks, including the top overall selection in the 2012 NBA Draft. New Orleans added Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers to their young core, re-signed Eric Gordon to a long-term deal and acquired big men Ryan Anderson and Robin Lopez to further bolster their roster. Last year, the Hornets had a dismal 18-win season, but now they’re one of the most promising, up-and-coming teams in the league.
HOOPSWORLD takes a look at the 2012-13 New Orleans Hornets:
Five Guys Think…
While at the time of the Chris Paul trade it was hard to imagine the New Orleans Hornets being in a better position long-term just a year later, there’s a case to be made that they are. They were the big winners in the 2012 NBA Draft by landing Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers, and Darius Miller. Those were fairly clear-cut decisions, though, since they were the best talents available with those picks. Their bold move came shortly after when they went against shooting guard Eric Gordon’s wishes and matched the offer sheet he received from the Phoenix Suns. Gordon, along with Ryan Anderson and Robin Lopez, who they acquired in trades, serve as a nice mix of veteran leadership to go with the young core. They’ll take their lumps this year, but this team is built to seriously improve as they come together and gain experience.
4th Place – Southwest Division
The New Orleans Hornets are likely in for a tough season, but it won’t become a habit. Retaining Eric Gordon was huge, as was acquiring Ryan Anderson, who will help space the floor. Obviously, the sky is the limit for incoming rookie Anthony Davis, and for Austin Rivers, as well. The Hornets are going to be very competitive, especially as those guys gain the experience of the first half of the season. Given that the Houston Rockets seem to be playing for a lottery pick, the Hornets might not be the worst team in the division this year. They will certainly be one of the most interesting to watch.
4th Place – Southwest Division
– Bill Ingram
The New Orleans Hornets had an excellent offseason and the team has put themselves in position to make some noise in several years. Dell Demps has acquired young talent at every position and the future is very bright in New Orleans. However, the Hornets are relying on a lot of young players this season and it’ll likely take some time for the team to come together and compete in the Western Conference. Every member of their starting lineup is 24 years old or younger, which means the team will likely have some growing pains this season. Last year, the Hornets finished with the worst record in the West. While this roster features many new faces, the results may be the same. New Orleans is still in the midst of a rebuilding process that’ll take some time to come together. Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers, Ryan Anderson, Robin Lopez and company form one of the best young nucleuses in the entire league, but it’ll be a few years before they strike fear in anyone. They’ll compete with the Houston Rockets for the worst record in the Southwest Division.
4th Place – Southwest Division
– Alex Kennedy
While Anthony Davis is clearly the guy New Orleans expects to save the franchise in the post-Chris-Paul Era, Eric Gordon has some serious star potential, as well. Re-signing him was an extremely positive move for the organization’s future, and nabbing Ryan Anderson in one of the sneakiest moves of the summer should also really help get this team moving in a positive forward direction. The team still needs a starting point guard, and I’m not sold on Austin Rivers in that spot, as some have suggested as a solution to that problem. He will have a lot to prove as a pro, and I’m not sure he’s got it in him. Plus, there are still some depth issues on this team, especially now that Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza are gone, but they look better, and Monty Williams is a good enough coach to grind out a few more wins than some people may expect out of them.
4th Place – Southwest Division
– Joel Brigham
The Hornets are set to embark on life without All-Star guard Chris Paul year two, but the cupboard is definitely not bare thanks to the arrival of No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis. The former University of Kentucky standout played for Team USA in the Olympics this summer winning a gold medal in the process and spent plenty of time absorbing the game from the league’s elite players – which is never a bad thing. The foundation for growth is clearly set in New Orleans, but the losses will once again mount up in 2013.
5th Place – Southwest Division
– Lang Greene
Top Of The List
Top Offensive Player: When healthy, Eric Gordon is one of the best young shooting guards in the league and he has shown that he can score at will. However, staying healthy has been a challenge for the 23-year-old. He has missed a considerable amount of games in each of the last three seasons, and he played in just nine games last year. That didn’t stop the Phoenix Suns from signing Gordon to a four-year, $58 million offer sheet this summer, which the Hornets matched. If Gordon can stay on the court, he’ll be the focal point of the Hornets’ offense. Anthony Davis will get his touches down low, but Gordon should lead the team in scoring. He averaged over 20 points per game in each of the last two seasons and his best basketball is still ahead of him. Over the next few years, he has the potential to become one of the league’s best scorers.
Top Defensive Player: It’s rare for a rookie to be a team’s best defender, but Anthony Davis isn’t your typical draft pick. He’s one of the best shot blockers to enter the league in quite some time and he’ll make an immediate impact in New Orleans. In his lone season at the University of Kentucky, Davis averaged 4.7 blocks per game and broke the NCAA’s single-season record for blocks. If Davis’ success as a freshman on the Wildcats is any indication, he shouldn’t have an issue adjusting to the NBA and making his presence felt right away. As if Davis wasn’t already a talented enough defender, he spent the summer receiving guidance from his Team USA teammate Tyson Chandler, who was last season’s Defensive Player of the Year. Davis has already said that he wants to take home DPOY honors in his rookie season, which may not be out of the question given his amazing length, athleticism and instincts.
Top Playmaker: The Hornets are hoping to play Austin Rivers alongside Eric Gordon at the one, but the 20-year-old will have to adjust to the point guard position. Rivers has always been a scorer rather than a distributor so the playmaker role will be new to him. During the Las Vegas Summer League, Rivers struggled with the adjustment and there will likely be some growing pains during his rookie season. However, Monty Williams has known Rivers since he was a child and the two men have built a strong relationship over the years. If anyone can get the most out of Rivers and help him through this transition period, it’s Williams. Greivis Vasquez may enter the season as the Hornets’ starting point guard, but Rivers is expected to assume that role at some point and eventually become the team’s top playmaker.
Top Clutch Player: Last season, Jarrett Jack was the Hornets’ best clutch player, finishing as the nineteenth-best clutch scorer in the league. However, Jack takes his 32.5 points per 48 minutes of clutch time to Golden State after being traded to the Warriors this offseason. That leaves Eric Gordon as the Hornets’ best clutch player. While injuries limited Gordon last season, he was one of the top clutch scorers in the league two years ago. He averaged 38.4 points per 48 minutes of clutch time during the 2010-11 season and that number will likely increase this year since he’ll be the Hornets’ top option on offense. Two seasons ago, Gordon was the NBA’s 13th-best scorer in clutch time, which is defined as less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter or overtime with neither team ahead by more than five points. Gordon has proven that he can hit big shots and take his game to the next level when his team needs him most.
The Unheralded Player: Throughout his career, Ryan Anderson has always flown under the radar. Last season, he had a career-year with the Orlando Magic, averaging 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds while leading the league in three-point shots made. While he received some recognition for his stellar play by winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, he was still one of the more underrated players in the league. Opposing players acknowledge his talent and year-to-year improvement, but he’s far from a household name. Now, he’ll take his sharpshooting abilities to New Orleans after the Hornets acquired him in a sign-and-trade with the Magic and inked him to a four-year, $36 million deal. Anderson will be able to spread the floor for New Orleans’ other offensive weapons such as Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers and, at 24 years old, he still has plenty of room to grow as a player. If Anderson can pick up where he left off last season, the Hornets landed a top-notch shooter and solid rebounder.
The Best New Addition: The Hornets have added a number of key pieces this offseason, but the team’s most important addition is Anthony Davis. New Orleans picked the right year to win the draft lottery because Davis has superstar potential. He has drawn comparisons to players such as Bill Russell and Kevin Garnett because of his ability to dominate games defensively. After watching him lead Kentucky to a national championship as a freshman, executives and coaches drooled over his potential. Additions such as Ryan Anderson, Robin Lopez and Austin Rivers will be contributors in New Orleans, but the acquisition of Davis gives the Hornets a franchise player to build around for years to come. If Davis pans out and realizes his full potential over the next several years, he’ll become a special player and make the Hornets a scary team.
– Alex Kennedy
Who We Like
1. Monty Williams: The Hornets have struggled in recent years, but Williams isn’t to blame. In his first year as head coach, Williams led the Hornets to a 46-36 record and gave the Los Angeles Lakers a difficult six-game series in the postseason. After the departure of Chris Paul, the Hornets underwent a youth movement so the 40-year-old had to shift his attention to developing the team’s young nucleus. Williams has built many strong relationships in New Orleans and he has the support of every player in the locker room. There’s no question that he’s a player’s coach and it’s clear that he has earned this group’s trust and respect. Since taking over as head coach in New Orleans, Williams has emphasized defense and helped the Hornets become one of the better defensive teams in the league despite their lack of talent, allowing just 93.39 points per game last season, the eighth-lowest average in the league. Williams just signed a four-year contract extension with the Hornets in August so he has some job security as he tries to make this promising team realize their full potential over the next several seasons.
2. Dell Demps: When Demps took over as general manager of the Hornets, he was inheriting a disgruntled superstar and a messy ownership situation. Now, two years later, Demps has changed the culture in New Orleans and turned the Hornets into one of the best young teams in the NBA. While he had a little bit of lottery luck to speed up the rebuilding process, he has done an excellent job of acquiring talent and making cap-conscious moves. Demps has followed the San Antonio Spurs’ model in New Orleans and is the latest in a long line of executives who have experienced success with other teams after working in San Antonio’s front office, joining Sam Presti of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Danny Ferry of the Atlanta Hawks and Kevin Pritchard of the Indiana Pacers among others. Demps has assembled young talent at every position and, if all goes as planned, could have the Hornets in contention in several years.
3. Robin Lopez: After using the tenth overall pick on Austin Rivers rather than drafting a center, it became clear that the Hornets would have to sign or trade for a big man. After exploring their options, New Orleans found exactly what they were looking for in Lopez, acquiring him in a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns. The addition of Lopez was overshadowed by other acquisitions like Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson, but the 24-year-old has plenty of upside and will immediately help New Orleans’ frontcourt. It’s not often that teams are willing to part ways with a young seven-footer, but the Hornets are more than happy to take Lopez off of Phoenix’s hands, especially on a cap-friendly deal worth $15.3 million over three years.
4. Al-Farouq Aminu: While Aminu hasn’t been a huge contributor during his first two seasons in the NBA, the 21-year-old still has plenty of potential. He was the eighth overall pick just two years ago and he continues to develop. When given significant minutes, Aminu has shown that he can be a key contributor and he’ll only continue to improve as he works on his game. While Eric Gordon was the key piece acquired in the Chris Paul trade last offseason, Aminu was an important asset as well because of his upside. When Aminu was drafted, it was clear that his game was raw and needed work. Now, with two years of experience under his belt, this could be the year that Aminu starts to realize his potential and become a factor for the Hornets.
5. Roger Mason Jr.: Last season, Mason emerged as a veteran leader for the young Washington Wizards. The 31-year-old was an excellent presence in the locker room and helped Washington’s young core on a daily basis, offering advice and teaching professionalism. Mason was also effective on the court, averaging 5.5 points in 52 games as a reserve for the Wizards. Now, the veteran shooting guard joins New Orleans, where he’ll have a similar role in the locker room while contributing off of the Hornets’ bench. On a roster that features 10 players who are 25 years old or younger, Mason’s experience and leadership will be invaluable.
– Alex Kennedy
The Hornets have young talent at every position and one of their biggest strengths will be their depth. New Orleans is also one of the better defensive teams in the NBA, holding their opposition to just 93.39 points per game last season, the eighth-lowest average in the league. Offensively, the Hornets won’t rely too heavily on one player as they have a number of players who can carry the scoring load on any given night. After winning just 18 games last year and finishing with the worst record in the West, the Hornets will enter this season with low expectations, but they may emerge as a pleasant surprise if they’re able to get everyone on the same page and their young nucleus can make an immediate impact.
– Alex Kennedy
While the Hornets are a promising team, they’re also very inexperienced. They’ll enter this season with one of the youngest teams in the league, which could mean they’re a few years away from competing in the Western Conference. The Hornets’ youth was on display last season as they averaged the fourth-most turnovers per game (15.52) and committed the tenth-most fouls per game (20.06). The Hornets really struggled to put points on the board last season, averaging just 89.64 points per game, the second-lowest total in the league.
– Alex Kennedy
What Needs To Be Said On Opening Day….
There is a lot of excitement in this city because of the new faces that came into the organization this offseason. However, our young talent isn’t going to just win games on its own. We will have focus on playing the right way. That means having Robin and Anthony anchor us defensively in the paint. Austin and Greivis must set the tone with unselfish play in the backcourt. Most of the experts outside the team see us mired in a “rebuilding” situation. But if we can compete on the defensive end of the floor on a nightly basis, move the ball on offense and get focus on getting better each game, we will surprise more than a few folks with our play this season.
– Anthony Macri and Brett Koremenos
The Burning Question
Can the Hornets’ young core hit the ground running?
New Orleans enters this season as one of the youngest teams in the league. Every member of the Hornets’ starting lineup is 24 years old or younger, which bodes well for their future but could mean they’ll struggle in the near future. When this collection of lottery picks reaches their prime, the Hornets could be a very scary team. However, it’s hard to imagine them competing for a playoff spot in the Western Conference this season. Anthony Davis is still a teenager, Austin Rivers just celebrated his 20th birthday and the team has too many inexperienced rotation players. If the Hornets can hit the ground running and not let their inexperience hold them back, they may be able to surprise some people just like the Utah Jazz did last season with a relatively young roster. However, the odds are against them and it’s more likely that this season will yield another lottery pick and be the next step in the Hornets’ promising rebuilding effort.
– Alex Kennedy