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2009-10 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit: New Orleans Hornets Team Preview

October 12, 2009 | By Buck Davidson | comment on this post
Emeka Okafor gives the New Orleans Hornets an offensive centre.
Emeka Okafor brings his talent — and belief in causes — to the Hornets.

The 2009-10 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit surges forward with another team preview today. And while Kevin Durant fights back against dissing bloggers, we take a look at Hornets, who will seek to return to Western Conference contender status.

After their shocking finish atop the Southwest Division in 2007-08, the New Orleans Hornets took a rather pronounced step backward last season. While the team’s 49 wins was respectable enough, it was good for only fourth in the Southwest – and the 4-1 thrashing the Hornets suffered in the first round of the playoffs left a bitter taste indeed in the mouths of hoops fans all over the Big Easy. Even a cup of the Café Du Monde’s finest Joe couldn’t wash away the 58-point home-court drubbing the Denver Nuggets laid on the Hornets in Game Four of their series.

The Hornets clearly are a team with something to prove – namely, that they belong among the NBA’s elite. With that mandate, it was surprising to see New Orleans remain fairly quiet this offseason. The team swapped centres with the Charlotte Bobcats, and while Emeka Okafor should be an upgrade over Tyson Chandler, he’s not the imposing low post presence the Hornets sorely lack.

The Hornets feature two of the NBA’s best players in point guard Chris Paul and power forward David West, but the talent level drops off quickly after that. If New Orleans is going to return to championship caliber status, the team’s role players need to step up and provide better support for the Hornets’ dynamic duo. Coach Byron Scott has his work cut out for him, but there is enough talent in the Big Easy to carry the Hornets to the playoffs once again this season. Beyond that, though…

Projected Starting Lineup

PG: Chris Paul
SG: James Posey
SF: Julian Wright
PF: David West
C:   Emeka Okafor

Key Bench Players

Peja Stojakovic, Devin Brown, Hilton Armstrong, Darius Songalia, Darren Collison

Position Battles

It’s not much of a battle any longer, but it looks as though there will be a new starting SF in ‘Nawlins this season. Wright has relegated Stojakovic to the pine, and Wright could become a major Fantasy sleeper by the time Week One rolls around. We’ll chat more about Wright a little later on.

Stud

This just in: That Chris Paul guy can play a little bit. CP3 did it again in ‘08-09, bumping both his points and rebounds average northward – while still averaging 11 dimes per contest. Want more? – He shot over 50 per cent from the floor, 86 per cent from the line, lobbed in 64 treys and posted 2.7 steals per outing. Why are you still reading this – go out there and draft him…he’s a top-two Fantasy talent in just about every format.

Dud

Stojakovic is a one-trick pony that isn’t very good at his trick anymore. Peja’s prolific trey totals have kept him Fantasy relevant for years, but his rather, well, putrid 39.9 field-goal percentage of a season ago has led to a major fall from Fantasy grace. The problem is, Stojakovic isn’t much of a contributor in any other departments, and his declining skills have made him not worth the Fantasy hit he brings in virtually every other category. Perhaps the 32 year old with the creaky back can regain some Fantasy worth as the Hornets’ sixth man, but we’d recommend you let someone else roll the dice on Stojakovic this season.

Sleeper

Third-year man Wright appears to have unseated veteran Stojakovic as the starter at small forward, and has leaped onto the Fantasy sleeper radar as a result. Wright averaged only 14 minutes per game last season, but the 6-foot-8 former Kansas Jayhawk tossed in 12 points and grabbed 7.8 rebounds per game his sophomore (and final) year with the ‘Hawks. He also showed a propensity for blocking shots (1.3) and grabbing steals (1.4), so he is quite capable of making some meaningful Fantasy contributions as long as he remains a starter. Don’t reach for Wright, but he’s a great late-round grab in deeper leagues.

Rookies to Watch

Point guard Collison was a curious choice as the Hornets’ No. 1 draft pick, but the rookie from UCLA could see a fair amount of playing time if the Hornets stick to their plan of reducing CP3’s minutes. That is, of course, a colossal “if,” but Collison could play about 10 minutes off the bench every night. Since he is listed at only six-foot-zero, Collison is not much of a two-guard candidate, so spelling Paul figures to be his only game action.

Guard Marcus Thornton averaged 21.1 PPG for the LSU Tigers last season, but he’s essentially a pure shooter who lacks the size (6′4″) and defensive skills to crack the Hornets’ rotation in a Fantasy-relevant way this season.

Fantasy Stories to Watch

Okafor is a solid defensive centre, but attempted fewer than 10 shots per game last season. There are hopes that the presence of uber point guard Paul will vault Okafor back into the 15-plus PPG range, and make him a viable starting No. 1 Fantasy centre. Recall that Okafor averaged 17.6 points in his final season at UConn and 15.1 in his rookie season in Charlotte, so he knows how to score the ball when he’s called upon to do so.

Keep an eye on Wright’s development; as mentioned earlier, the Hornets are in desperate need of a No. 3 scoring option – and Julian could be the Wright guy for the job.

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