New Orleans Hornets – Hornets 24/7

October 9, 2006

Website: Hornets 24/7
Author: Ron Hitley

Last Years Record: 38-44
Key Losses: PJ Brown, Speedy Claxton, Kirk Snyder, JR Smith.
Key Additions: Peja Stojakovic, Tyson Chandler, Bobby Jackson, Hilton
Armstrong, Jannero Pargo, Cedric Simmons.

1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?The Hornets were one busy ballclub during the offseason, obtaining seven new faces.

Starting with the Draft, the Bugs picked up Hilton Armstong and Cedric Simmons in the middle of the first round. Offensively, those two didn’t show much in college, but they should clog up the middle, rebound and alter a few shots on defense. The second round saw the Hornets take 6-8 Brazilian Marcus Vinicius, who should replace Arvydas Macijauskas as the foreign guy who doesn’t play much.

Moving on to free agency, where the Hornets entered unchartered territory and threw megabucks at one of the most high-profile names available: Peja Stojakovic. Is he worth the $64 million investment? Will he stay healthy? Can he rejuvenate his career? Will he show up in the Playoffs? Why did he pose topless for that one picture? With Peja, there are more questions than answers. But really, think about it, how can he not help this team? He’s that third offensive threat the Hornets lacked last season, and someone the Hornets can turn to to avoid those five minute scoring droughts they regularly endured last year. Sure, signing Peja is a gamble, but one the Hornets needed to take.

Next on the scene was Bobby Jackson. (Or maybe it was Tyson Chandler. I’m not sure. It all happened so fast.) The Hornets decided to take a pass on re-signing Speedy Claxton when they realized they could get pretty much the same player at a lower price in Jackson. Sure, Jackson is older and has a slower first name, but he’s a far better outside shooter than Claxton. The Hornets did pretty good here.

Tyson Chandler is probably the most intriguing addition to the team this year. He’s a five-year vet, he just turned 24, and he can rebound, block shots and commit fouls like nobody’s business. The Bulls gave up on him, but the Hornets are using big words like “untapped” and “potential”, often in the same sentence. It’s a lot like how the Denver Nuggets are talking about JR Smith right now. Apparently that’s called irony. Anyway, I’m happy to have Chandler on the team. Chris Paul has magic powers, and he may well make Tyson look like Hakeem Olajuwon out there.

As for Jannero Pargo, well, somebody’s gotta be the third string point guard. He might be better than most. As Matt Bernhardt of Blog A Bull told me, Pargo’s “a nice emergency chucker
who can get hot at points.”

Works for me.

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
The Hornets are pretty funky now at every position, with Chandler, David West, Stojakovic, Desmond Mason and Chris Paul as the starters, and a bench consisting of Jackson, Rasual Butler, Armstrong, Marc Jackson and Pargo. Linton Johnson and Brandon Bass may also see some significant minutes given their steady play so far in training camp. So I guess you could call the Hornets a deep team, which is a big change from last season.

Team rebounding and defense should get a boost from the rookies and Chandler, the perimeter game will improve with Jackson and Peja on the wings, and Chris Paul will only continue to morph into some sort of demigod. Also, I consider one of the Hornets strengths to be Byron Scott as head coach. He’s (understandably) left a sour taste in the mouths of New Orleanians by speaking bad of the city in the wake of Katrina, and Lang Whitaker constantly refers to him as an assistant coach, but whatever plan Scott has seems to be working: The Hornets are getting better. The front office has faith in him too, having extended his contract this summer, and bringing in players he wanted (Peja, Chandler) and getting rid of those he didn’t (JR Smith).

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Given the past medical expenses of several players, durability (or lack thereof) could prove to be the Hornets unraveling this season. Peja, Bobby Jackson, Chandler and West are no strangers to the inactive list, making this team about as fragile as the contents of a box that has “fragile” written on the side.

The Hornets also lack a true low-post scoring threat. That shouldn’t be a problem if they can play at Chris Paul’s preferred break-neck pace, but opponents like San Antonio and Detroit could kill us if they slow the game and clamp down on the shooters.

Not so much weaknesses, but these factors could also cause problems for the Hornets this season:

a) Playing in the toughest division in the NBA. It was bad enough without Bonzi’s agent being a klutz.

b) Traveling more than any other team in the NBA, what with six games in New Orleans, 35 in OKC and 41 elsewhere.

4. What are the goals for this team?
If this team doesn’t make the Playoffs, I’m putting my head in the oven. Injuries or not, playing beyond game 82 must become a reality, especially given the amount of money the team spent this season. The fans expect results. I personally think this is the best squad the Hornets have ever put together, so I’ll be disappointed if they don’t at least reach the second round.

Individually, the goals look something like this:

Chris Paul – All-Star.
Peja Stojakovic – Stay healthy, drop 18+ ppg.
David West – Prove last season was no fluke.
Desmond Mason – Prove last season was a fluke.
Tyson Chandler – Double-double.

5. Can the Hornets win it all this season?
Yes, they can. I’m dead serious. Everyone just needs to fill their role and stay healthy. Do that, and we’ll be right there.

6. I heard Chris Paul can walk on water. Is this true?
Yes. While juggling.

Predicted Record: A ten-win improvement sounds reasonable: 48-34