If you’re talking about a team making the biggest improvement as far as records are concerned, then you can throw the Hornets into that conversation after a 21-45 season. With the number one pick in the draft as most of you know, they selected Kentucky forward Anthony Davis. The kid is versatile offensively with the ability to make his presence felt on the defensive side. Not only does he alter shots and crash the boards, dribble and create for teammates at 6’10, but the NCAA National Champion is now the face of a rebuilding franchise. You hear a couple different comparisons for the number one pick, but I feel he best resembles a player with Kevin Garnett’s skill set. Garnett is a future Hall of Fame player with a ring, multiple all-star appearances, won defensive player of the year awards, and MVP.
New Orleans also had the 10th pick of the draft, where they selected Duke guard Austin Rivers. Rivers just got surgery to clean up some bone spurs in his ankle, and the team is expecting him to be their point guard. Rivers will join Davis as the cornerstone and foundation of the franchise. The combo-guard is an offensive threat with his shooting and playmaking ability, with the work ethic and pedigree (Boston Celtics Coach Doc Rivers) that should give you every reason to believe he will leave his mark in the NBA.
Concerning last year’s team that struggled, shooting guard Eric Gordon was sidelined for basically the entire season with a knee injury. He flirted with the Phoenix Suns by signing an offer sheet, but the Hornets were smart to match to keep Gordon around. He is an excellent shooter, but he has more of an all-around offensive game than given credit for. With a young backcourt of Rivers and Gordon, the Hornets have a bright present and future when you calculate Davis and their other additions.
Other additions such as versatile big man Ryan Anderson. Coming off a couple breakout seasons for the Orlando Magic, Anderson joins a New Orleans team that has rebuilt overnight. This year they have the personnel to not only compete in games, but to push for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Anderson will stretch the floor with his shooting, while improving on his rebounding and putting the ball on the ground.
They also traded for center Robin Lopez and veteran forward Hakeem Warrick. Lopez is a solid player on both ends of the floor, his defense is probably ahead of his offense at this point. But he adds size and will be the man in the middle, while Warrick adds size and athleticism off the bench. It’s hard not to love what they have done, but with the Olympics and elite teams they will be overlooked because of their youth and inexperience.
They have seasoned depth off the bench with forwards Ryan Anderson and Carl Landry, with young role-players that will get minutes like Al-Farouq Aminu, Greivis Vasquez, and Xavier Henry. They also drafted Davis’ teammate, forward Darius Miller, and await the arrival for Yugoslavian big man Edin Bavcic. Head Coach Monty Williams played in the NBA for the Knicks, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers. With new ownership from Tom Benson, also owner of the New Orleans Saints, the franchise has taken a positive direction whether you think it’s conspiracy or legitimate. Conspiracy as in the number one pick and ownership throughout the bounty scandal the Saints have been going through this offseason. That’s another conversation for another day, if I opened up a can of worms with that feel free to discuss in the comments and I’ll add my two cents as well.
Let’s close this out where we started. I’m sure when the Hornets start playing like I expect them to, they will get some love across the league similar to how the Oklahoma City Thunder came up. I’m just calling my shot right off the bat. To reference our beloved football season that’s rapidly approaching, in a year or two they’ll get that Houston Texans and Detroit Lions hype because I think they will play themselves into that category! I do think they can make a push for the playoffs, as for actually picking them, well you’ll have to wait for my NBA Predictions before the season starts!