Though their 2011-2012 record may not indicate it, the New Orleans Hornets are a winning organization. After losing CP3, and only winning 21 games, the Hornets concentrated their efforts on developing young players, maintaining pride and professionalism, and retaining their often-fickle fan base. And under the leadership of Monty Williams, they did a great job on all counts. Though they struggled offensively, managing just under 90 points per game, they only allowed 93 points per game, a defense that ranked 8th overall in the league. Many of their offensive struggles can be attributed to the fact that their six of their seven leading scorers (Eric Gordon, Jarrett Jack, Chris Kaman, Emeka Okafor, Carl Landry and Trevor Ariza) all missed over twenty games apiece. These players absences allowed future role players like Gustavo Ayon, Grevis Vasquez, Al-Farouq Aminu, Marco Bellinelli and Jason Smith to log valuable crunch time minutes, and better understand their roles for the long term.
Going into the offseason, the Hornets have begun to shed salary in an effort to offer larger salaries to their better players. The Hornets traded Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza to the Wizards in exchange for Rashard Lewis and the 48th overall pick. Shard is likely to be bought out and waived so he can join a contender. The Hornets can use the nearly $30 million in cap space that they freed up in a variety of ways, including free agency. Most reports indicate they’ll match any offer extended to shooting guard Eric Gordon, and they should have enough leftover to snag another second-tier free agent. They will not have enough money to keep Chris Kaman, so you can probably look at him to walk. Which means they’ll need a center. And luckily, there’s pretty good one waiting around to be picked first.
Oh yeah -- Did I mention the Hornets won the draft? Yes, that happened. So, at #1 they should probably draft Anthony Davis. He’s going to be pretty good. At #10, they should try and obtain another starting-quality wing player to replace Ariza and help Eric Gordon and Davis out. While either Al-Aminu or Bellinelli could start, those guys are better suited for a scrappy, veteran bench mob. The Hornets are looking very good for the future.