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Know thy enemy: New Orleans Hornets

Chris_paul_pass If you don't have a man crush on Hornets guard Chris Paul, the problem is you. Perhaps you're too partisan to recognize how good he is, or don't want to because his talent drives New Orleans and therefore threatens the Lakers. Or maybe you're a woman, making it by definition impossible to have a man crush. I can live with that.

The point? Paul is immensely talented, getting better, and is the reason the Hornets are a contender in the Western Conference this season, just as they were last.  The biggest reason for Paul's '07-'08 leap was juiced offensive and shooting numbers that made it even more difficult to defend his passing. Add to that a very solid supporting cast, all well-suited to take advantage of Paul's distribution, and you're left with a dandy formula for success. David West, who made his first All-Star Game last season, averaged 20.6 points a night and is an outstanding midrange shooter. If NASA got together to build a robot specifically designed to throw down endless Paul alley-oops, it would look like Tyson Chandler. Peja Stojakovic, who doesn't exactly need help to knock down threes, gets more free looks than a Peeping Tom because defenses can't help but collapse on Paul.   

Toss in Mo Peterson, a solid secondary scorer and outside shooter, and the addition of James Posey, who gives the Hornets not only another offensive producer but a noted defensive player and heaps of playoff experience, and things look even rosier in the Big Easy.

(Click below for more on NOH, with some insight from Hornets 24/7...)

With Paul running the show, the Hornets are an efficient offensive team that doesn't turn the ball over.  Minimizing mistakes, grabbing everything available off the glass and minimizing opponents free-throw attempts helped make them effective on the defensive side too. The problem with New Orleans is Posey depth. If you can get into their bench, they'll have some issues, particularly in the frontcourt, where Melvin Ely and Hilton Armstrong represent the length behind Tyson Chandler. That's quite a comedown.  Posey, right, is solid, and fellow import Devin Brown is a useful enough player, but it's hard to like the New Orleans bench as a whole. Unless forward Julian Wright, who showed flashes as a rookie last year, develops quickly, injuries and foul trouble could be especially burdensome for the Hornets. 

To get a little more depth on the Hornets, I kicked some Q's over the Ryan at Hornets24/7, a great (and newly redesigned!) Hornets blog, and a top spot for NOH related information. He has some great insight, and we appreciate the response:

CP3 was damn good last year, but I'm of the mind that he still has more upside.  Just how good do you think he can get, and how does each degree of improvement change the complexion of the team?
I think when all things are said and done, that Chris Paul will stand next to Magic Johnson as the two best point guards to play the game.  Last year, I wrote a pre-season bit on Paul where other than shooting, I had a hard time imagining how his game could improve.  I'm inclined to say the same thing -- keep improving that three-point shot -- but there are a couple things he could add to his game to make him even more deadly.

Last year he became much more willing to drive into the lane, and weave his way through the defenders there looking for his shot or a kick-out.  For all the claims that its reminiscent of Steve Nash -- and the ability to get under the hoop is -- it's not yet a complete imitation. Nash will still regularly dribble out from a probe under the basket and reset the offense.  Paul will still sometimes force a layup in traffic, hoping for the call -- if he can be just a touch more patient sometimes, he may find even more open shots.

He also needs to add a shot going left. He always goes right to shoot. He'll dribble either way, but always finishes right. Now, knowing that and stopping it is two different animals, but it would still be dangerous for him to have the option.

The Hornets added Posey and Devin Brown, and lost Pargo and Wells, and don't have much behind Chandler. Depth, especially in the frontcourt, could be a problem here.  How much of a worry is that for you?  What members of the second unit are most likely to step up? 
The Hornet's front office is showing a lot more trust than I have in Hilton Armstrong and Melvin Ely. Both of those guys were downright terrible last year, and they are still our back-up centers. Color me disappointed, I was hoping we'd make a run at Turiaf -- or maybe Collison or Haslem. Posey and Julian Wright can both play power forward and soak up minutes behind David West, but the 13 minutes of center play we need to cover is going to be ugly.  Devin Brown and James Posey are both upgrades over Wells and Pargo, Pargo being overrated due to some rare big scoring games, and Wells because ... wel l... he's Bonzi Wells.

My primary hope for internal improvement by the Hornets is still Julian Wright.  He showed serious potential on the offensive end and savvy defensive play even as a rookie.  It would not surprise me to see him turn into a Gerald Wallace/Kirilenko sort of disruptive force.

How are the Hornets equipped to respond to teams with serious bulk in the middle ... like, say, the Lakers?

It's not as bad as you think. The Hornets play a really disciplined game, and their help defense is typically very fast. They trust each other explicitly -- and West and Chandler give enough resistance down low that the Hornets won't get destroyed. AByron_scott_3lso -- if there is any part of the NBA game that Hilton Armstrong isn't hopeless at, it's defense. He's not the best rebounder, but he's solid at contesting shots and not giving up deep position down low.

Are you worried about any fallback from last season's big showing?  Why or why not?

I think everything will even out at close to the same results as last year. The Hornets did have an unusual run of good health last year, but at the same time, their bench is stronger this year than last. I expect a few more missed games from the starters, but unless Tyson or Paul are out for a significant stretch of time, this team has players that can step in and keep things from crashing.

Final prediction for record, playoff seeding, playoff results.

This is tough, since the Rockets are a crazy wild card with their injury history. Still, here goes: The Hornets win 59 games and take the third seed in the West behind the Rockets and Lakers. The Lakers take out the Jazz in the semis, while the Hornets take out the Rockets. The Hornets and Lakers meet in the conference finals, with the Hornets falling in seven games, preparing themselves for a title year next year.

PROJECTION: Those who follow the blog know I'm a fan of this team, the way they play and the PG who leads them. They have a great core of solid people (people, not simply players) on the floor, and a top shelf coach (Byron Scott) on the bench. The Hornets play an exciting-yet-controlled brand of basketball, with excellent fundamentals and a lot of tenacity. They're the type of team you'd want your proverbial daughter to marry, had you not already pawned her off in an arranged marriage to the Lakers. 

The Hornets are very good, a top three team in the W.C. with the Lakers and a healthy Houston squad. Last season was no fluke. New Orleans be right there at the end, and a team to be reckoned with come playoff time.

BK
 
Comments () | Archives (18)

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Hey, are you all more nervous or excited about Tuesday night's game? The first games mean only slightly more than the preseason does. But it would set a great tone if we won. Portland is a contender, no?

A question I ask myself is whether it wouldn't be better for us to lose the first game? A good kick in the rear motivates one to work harder. But, and perhaps this is just Jordan and Ariza (the dynamic duo), I see this team being more motivated by joy than rigor. Plus, even for their own good, I can never hope for the Lakers to lose.

If we win, we can start the mother of all streaks and get to 75 wins by the end of the year. I want this to happen. That is why I am nervous about Tuesday night.

GOOOooOOOO LAKERS!!!!

Byron Scott your time will come but this is the year of the Beast

i'm pumped up for the season

let's get it started!!! LAKER FANS

YOUR 2008-09 STARTING LINEUPS!!!

AT POINT GUARD #2 DEREK FISHER!!!!

AT SMALL FORWARD # 10 VLADIMIR RADMANOVIC!!!

AT CENTER # 17 ANDREW BYNUM

AT POWER FORWARD #16 PAU GASOL

AT SHOOTING GUARD YOUR 2007-08 MVP KOBE BRYANT!!!

SPECIAL MENTION DEODOMEN!!! as in odom with other the other bench men

YOUR COACH PHIL JACKSON!!!

AND THEY ARE YOU'RE LA LAKERS!!!

the lakers opening game i'm predicting that it will be close and the last shot will go to kobe's hands with the dagger 3 in the face of rudy fernandez (again!)

LET HELL BE RAISE LAKERS!!!

GO LAKERS!!!

GO MAMBA!!!

If we win, we can start the mother of all streaks and get to 75 wins by the end of the year.
I want this to happen. Posted by: JohnnyP | October 27, 2008 at 11:11 AM
NOW THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT! I can feel it JohnnyP one more day

All I have to say is "Thank God they're not very deep and that SOME injuries are inevitable."

The Hornets are a very good team that is extremely well-coached and Chris Paul an amazing player. I don't like the Hornets, but, like the San Antonio Spurs, I respect them.

They're a team that has to be beat, as opposed to a team that occasionally beats itself.

GO LAKERS!

With this win streak coming off the preseason, I hope the crew isn't feeling over confident. Kobe for sure will try to set the tone and get the team focused on their mission, but a loss would definitely knock them off their horse and maybe reemphasize the feeling they had at the end of last year.

Mamba24,

Byron Scott's time will only come if Phil Jackson retires and the Lakers organization decides to go with Byron Scott over Jim Cleammons or Kurt Rambis.

The Hornets are crazy good, but they lack the front court strength to win a Championship. Even if they beat the Lakers (not going to happen), Boston or Detroit would beat them in the Finals.

GO LAKERS!

I love B Scott (except he kind of sounds like he's doing deep "radio/public speaking" voice in interviews). I think CP3 is a talent and the team is well constructed around him.

However, Chris Paul may have led the league is assists last season but the Hornets were 13th in team assists per game. It's not like he's adding assists to the team or making them a better passing team. The offense just runs through him and he's the guy making the pass before the shot at least half the time.

Deron Williams on the other hand, averaged almost as many assists and his team was 2nd in overall apg. Nash and PHX as well. When you know close to half the assists are coming from one guy, the danger is it makes you more predictable, unless you're just that good it doesn't matter what the opposition does.

Take the Lakers. They were 4th in team assists last year (3 more than the hornets) but had no single player averaging more than 5 apg. All that means is, in the triangle, you don't know who is going to make the last pass before the shot.

I like the way NO is constructed. Everyone has very clearly defined roles. They're kind of a home-grown team. The only ceiling on their overall success will be their talent level. They have the pieces but are each of those pieces good enough?

I think the Hornets are really going to miss Pargo coming off the bench for them. He really gave them a scoring boost off the bench and was one of the few Hornets who was able to create his own shots. The addition of Posey doesn't help replace that.

Byron Scott's time will only come if Phil Jackson retires and the Lakers organization decides
to go with Byron Scott over Jim Cleammons or Kurt Rambis.Posted by: Jon K. | October 27, 2008 at 11:34 AM

Sounds good to me Jon K.

K Brothers,

Nice threads today, by the way.

Except, of course, the one on Coby Karl.

GO LAKERS!

Lakers_sth-

"When you know close to half the assists are coming from one guy, the danger is it makes you more predictable, unless you're just that good it doesn't matter what the opposition does."

In the case of Paul, I'd say it's the latter, for sure.

Jon K.-

Thanks.

BK

BK, you guys are in mid-season form!! lol


We will be fighting these guys to the Finals for years to come. Welcome to the NEXT big rivalry!!

dan

Yeah, that Mo Pete pick up scares me almost as them getting Posey. I had the chance to catch one of their pre-season games, and offensively, he was a great extra spark. In a broken down play, he can be an effective slasher and works well around the basket. They will still be no match for us, but I'm still looking forward to see how they all play together.

Really sad to see Coby go - there was something about having a league monopoly on Cobies that made the team special last year.

As far as the artists formerly known as the NOOCH, I've got nothing but respect for those cats. They are classy, they hustle, they've got flash and style, and they've got an All-Star from Compton and a former Laker coaching them. What's not to like? A little more depth and they're going to be giving us fits. That's cool, though - the more noble the opponent, the greater the glory of winning.

Peace to the Laker Kingdom - let the Year of the Beast commence!

Damn, they're really drink the Koolaid though on CP3. Him and Magic as the 2 best point guards ever? Magic was the best basketball player ever, in my most humble opinion. Score, rebound, pass, even shoot. Best teammate and team leader. CP3 is a great player, but how can you put a guy that doesn't have the physical stature nor the floor presence to match Magic up there with him?

Before anyone gets all panties-in-a-bunchy, CP3 is the best point guard in the game today. I feel he'll be as great as Nash 05-06 and probably better given where is now, which is no small feat.

But in terms of PGs, there are point guards and then there is the one point god, and that's Magic.

As a Hornets fan, I just want to thank you all for being civil (can't be said about alot of fans including fellow hornets).

To the post ahead of me, no one is saying that Chris Paul is in anyway better or as good as Magic. No PG can rival Magic as of now (except maybe Oscar Robinson), but all the guy was saying was that CP3 has the potential to maybe reach Magic's level by the time he's done. He's already the best PG in the league and he just turned 23!

I think the Hornets are going to land around 60 with the lakers doing slightly better than that. I think the hornets can take on any team but the lakers, along with the jazz because D-Will gives CP3 fits, match up the best with us (for them). I don't know how the hornets, or any one for that matter, will be able to stop gasol and bynum if they're on the court at the same time. Not to mention Kobe....

well, I can wait another season for a title.

Thor512,

Welcome to the blog bro, much respect goes out to CP3 on here for what he brings off of the court as well. He's such a classy guy, it hard not to root for him. But the fact that he's developing into a point guard for the ages doesn't hurt either.

Since the Hornets are so new to the Western Conference, and since we've never battled for a championship, we don't have a strong rivalry yet.

Expect that to change soon!!

BRING ON THE SEASON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

dan


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