So... Did We Get Better?

With the acquisition of Sean Marks, the Hornets are unofficially officially set for the season opener. They've carried only 14 guys into the last few openers, a practice they're sure to continue. For one, it allows roster flexibility in-season, and second, virtually every player that signs on as a 15th man will be available later. So, a revised version of the depth chart I posted a couple weeks ago:

PG SG SF PF C
Chris Paul Morris Peterson Peja Stojakovic David West Tyson Chandler
Mike James Devin Brown
James Posey Melvin Ely Hilton Armstrong
Rasual Butler Julian Wright Ryan Bowen
Sean Marks

Obviously, things can and will shift around. I expect Devin Brown to get some minutes at the point, Posey at the 4, Ely at the 5, etc. How does this depth chart stack up against last year's playoffs depth chart?

PG SG SF PF C
Chris Paul Morris Peterson Peja Stojakovic David West Tyson Chandler
Jannero Pargo
Rasual Butler Bonzi Wells
Melvin Ely Hilton Armstrong
Mike James Julian Wright Ryan Bowen Chris Andersen

According to the CBA, a team can have only 12 active players. Andersen and Butler were the odd men out last spring. My best guess is that Sean Marks joins Butler on the inactive roster to start the year. With that in mind, let's do a quick head-to-head.

Backup Point Guard (Advantage: New Hornets)

I discussed this in more depth (pun alert!) earlier this week. Short story short, I think James is significantly better than Pargo. While last year's Hornets had more depth at the 1 (Paul-Pargo-James), this year's version has the correct guy in the 2nd string role. And Devin Brown should be able to fulfill third point guard duties.

Backup Shooting Guard (Advantage: New Hornets)

Last year, the Hornets' biggest holes were at backup shooting guard and backup center. The reason for the lack of production from the spot is obvious with a glance at the depth chart- the players who manned the spot (Pargo, Wright, and even Wells) were by no means shooting guards. You have a 6'1", 175 dude and a rookie drafted as a SF/PF masquerading as off guards, and you've got problems. Those issues were compounded when Mo-Pete played far and away the fewest minutes among the starters (the other 4 averaged at least 35.2 mpg; Mo played 23).

I think the Devin Brown acquisition will help much more than people anticipate. Because Byron Scott liked to play Pargo and CP at the same time, Chris Paul was often left to guard talented off guards (Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon, and even Manu Ginobili were all checked by Paul last year). Devin Brown's size alone will help Paul out tremendously, defensively. Brown may bring little to the table offensively, but the defensive upgrade at the back-up 2 can't be emphasized enough.

Backup Small Forward (Advantage: New Hornets)

Julian Wright is a year older and James Posey replaces Bonzi Wells. Enough said.

Backup Power Forward (Advantage: Tie)

I'm pretty sure Ryan Bowen beats out Sean Marks on the active roster; Byron Scott can't get enough of his hustle. Honestly, I'd rather have the 6'10", 250 lb. Marks on the bench instead of Bowen, but it's a tough decision. But either way, nothing really changes from last year. David West will probably still have to play the entire first quarter and first few minutes of the second quarter.

Backup Center (Advantage: Tie)

With Marks relegated to IR duty, we're left with the fantastic duo of Batman and Robin, Tyson and Hilton. Just as with the comic books, you bow down to the greatness of Batman and groan every time you see Robin.

Overall

The Hornets went into the off-season looking to bolster the front-court, first and foremost. Did it happen? No. Yeah, I know Posey can slide over to the 4 and all that. But the bottom line is we went into the summer hoping to find a replacement for Ely or Armstrong, and it didn't happen. While I think the Devin Brown signing is underrated, while I think letting Pargo walk was an awesome move, and while I love that we snatched James Posey from the defending champions, the lack of upgrade at F/C just doesn't seem right.

I guess the title of this post- "Did we get better?"- isn't asking the right question. Rather: Did we get better at the right spots?  Is it smarter to carry 3 point guards or 3 centers? Is a good backup power forward more valuable than a good backup point guard? How about a good backup center? Wouldn't it change from year to year, based on the opponents you face? And what exactly is "good" anyway, considering we can't even measure an entire half of the game- defense- very effectively?

I don't know. On paper, this team did get better. But until next June, we won't know the answer to the biggest question of all: can an NBA champion have Hilton Armstrong and Melvin Ely in its frontcourt?

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