2009-10 New Orleans Hornets Season Preview
In was during the 2007- 2008 season that the New Orleans Hornets (49- 33) surprised everyone going 56- 26 and winning the Southwest Division. Last season, the Hornets fortunes were reversed as they won seven fewer games and finished fourth in the Southeast. One major problem for the team was its lack of depth at center and point guard and the fact that the Hornets did nothing to alleviate the problem. They did sign free agent forward James Posey, but he did little to improve the club. They made a deal with Washington for Antonio Daniels to come and serve as backup point man. But Daniels was just about as incapable as their previous guy off the bench: Mike James. Point man supreme Chris Paul (22.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 11.0 APG) was the team’s leader as the Hornets toiled towards the playoffs. In their end of the season run, head coach Byron Scott over used the starters (he had no choice) and the team limped into the playoffs where they were quickly eliminated.
In the off-season, the Hornets partially addressed their problem in the middle by trading center Tyson Chandler for center Emeka Okafor (13.2 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 0.6 APG, 1.66 BPG). Chandler had been ineffective and was in essence a foul waiting to happen. Okafor arrives as a solid offensive player, excellent rebound man and tough defender. Darius Songaila has been added to come in off the bench and add some rebounding and inside banging moments. At power forward, David West (21.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.3 APG), a two-time All-Star, is a reliable shooter. The small forward spot will have a new starter: Julian Wright (4.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.65 SPG). Wright came off the bench the last two seasons and has worked hard and put in extra hours to earn coach Scott’s trust.
Paul is an extraordinary player who can set up plays, hit from outside and take it to the hoop. His backup will be rookie Darren Collison who was a four-year standout at UCLA. Collison will have to learn a lot quickly if he’s going to be used this season. The starter at the shooting spot will be Morris Peterson (4.4 PPG, 0.4 APG, 2.0 RPG). Peterson missed 39 games last season due to injury. He’s back, entering his 10th year in the NBA. Rookie Marcus Thornton will come off the bench to give him a break. Both Thornton and Collison performed well in the summer league.
The frontcourt shooting looks to be the strength of this team. Newly added depth will take the pressure off of West and generate more points. The tough spot for this team is at the two guard spot. Peterson’s skills have diminished and even though Thornton looked good this summer, he is a raw rookie. Forward Julian Wright may be worth a try. Last season in limited action he hit 47% from the field.
The Hornets are a better team than they were last season and this bodes well for a tick up in the standings and another run at the playoffs. They have remedied their frontcourt weaknesses and that will go a long way in making them better prepared to win some playoff games. Look for this team to finish third in the division and sixth in the conference.