This year has been hectic for us Hornets fans. First of all, the team brought in a lot of new players this offseason. They also had a rookie head coach, a franchise player in peril, question marks all over the roster and eventually had no owner; as in none; as in the league owns the Hornets. Through it all, this season has had its equal moments of gratification and frustration and each player who put on the Hornets jersey this season was counted on in one way or another throughout the season at some point. As a result, this is one of the first years in awhile where I felt like the entire squad actually contributed to the success of the team. Despite that though, the team was still mainly Paul, West and everyone else. But this Hornets team is as gritty a bunch as we've had in New Orleans probably since 2008. Whereas the 2009 team just kind of fell apart and the 2010 team couldn't overcome the injuries to Paul, I can say with confidence that this 2010 team played to its potential. But to fully evaluate it, we'll look at each player on the Hornets team and grade how they've handled their respective roles this season.
PG: #3 Chris Paul (80 Games, 80 Starts, 15.9 PPG, 9.8 APG, 4.1 RPG, 2.4 SPG, 87.8 FT Pctg., 38.9 3PT FG Pctg., 46.3 FG Pctg., 23.8 PER, 122 Offensive Rating, 103 Defensive Rating) - Paul, for all intents and purposes, had a great year for New Orleans. His raw numbers aren't as impressive as they have been in years past and this year he was oddly more passive than in years past and that can either be attributed to the system, to his previous knee injury or to Paul no longer being Paul. I don't know where I stand on that issue yet but Paul, himself, was great this year. He put up very efficient numbers in the Hornets system, played great defense, led the league in steals again and played 80 games through a concussion and through the nagging knee injury. He wasn't as great as in years past but anyone who is upset with Paul's performance this year is just spoiled by his previous dominance. Considering all that factored into this season, I'll give Paul a lenient grade.
#2 Jarrett Jack (70 Games, 2 Starts, 8.5 PPG, 2.6 APG, 1.9 RPG, 84.5 FT Pctg., 34.5 3PT FG Pctg., 41.2 FG Pctg., 14.7 PER, 104 Offensive Rating, 108 Defensive Rating) - Jack has been the subject of plenty of scorn here At The Hive. Initially, he was traded to the Hornets as part of the Peja Stojakovic deal. Because Peja was beloved by most of us fans, and because everyone else expected the Hornets to really bank on his contract, getting Jack in a trade seemed a tad anti-climactic for many Hornets fans. Jack then struggled immensely for a major part of the season and really didn't do much to justify the trade. But lost in that is how well Jack played over the last couple months of the season. When Paul went down, Jack stepped up his scoring and played basically the whole game for New Orleans and was huge in the upset victory over the Mavericks with Paul out. Jack didn't play as well on defense as was previously advertised and that DUI he got during the All Star Break frustrated me as a fan, but his play the past couple of months has helped him out in my eyes.
#15 Marcus Banks (Did Not Play) - Banks was another part of that Peja Stojakovic deal and was told not to report to New Orleans. He obliged and never suited up for the Hornets. But if you buy the sharp looking Hornets playoff shirt, he's listed on their roster on the back of the shirt and he's still been a Hornet this season. He even has an assigned number! When the Hornets went through their offensive woes, some people asked why Banks wasn't playing but he never did show up. Good luck on the runway, Mr. Banks!
SG: #8 Marco Belinelli (80 Games, 69 Starts, 10.5 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, 78.4 FT Pctg., 41.4 3PT FG Pctg., 43.7 FG Pctg., 12.2 PER, 107 Offensive Rating, 109 Defensive Rating) - Belinelli's been kind of hit and miss all season long for the Hornets. At some points he looks like a dynamite offensive asset, someone who can hit the three, is always active and who shoots well coming off of screens. Other times, when his shot's not falling, he's someone who jacks up a lot of bad shots and let's that affect his defense. I've watched Belinelli enough in the past to say he really underachieved defensively this season. He used to be able to chase players off of their spots but rarely is successful at it any longer. But his shot, when it's falling, is huge for the Hornets. He was basically the only consistent three point threat the team had all season long and he was able to shoot above 40 percent from three while having to account for that. He deserves some credit.
#33 Willie Green (77 Games, 13 Starts, 8.7 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.0 APG, 78.0 FT Pctg., 34.8 3PT FG Pctg., 44.3 FG Pctg., 10.8 PER, 100 Offensive Rating, 108 Defensive Rating) - I've gone through moments this season where I hate Willie Green and moments where I really, really like him. Even as I type this out, I'm not sure how I truly feel about Willie in reflecting his first full season with New Orleans. I'd assume a lot of the hatred towards him was how he took Thornton's job. Then, as time progressed, his non-efficient offense and low volume shots really hurt the Hornets in certain games this season. But when he stops taking bad shots and actually goes to his spots and drives to the rim, he's a huge asset to have off the bench. His defense was solid this season as well and when Belinelli was struggling there midseason, Green stepped into the starter's role and really helped bridge the gap for New Orleans. He deserves credit for that.
SF: #1 Trevor Ariza (75 Games, 75 Starts, 11.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.6 SPG, 70.1 FT Pctg., 30.3 3PT FG Pctg., 39.8 FG Pctg., 11.4 PER, 97 Offensive Rating, 104 Defensive Rating) - Ariza came in with plenty of fanfare because of his days with the Lakers; having won a championship there in 2009. But Ariza struggled a lot this season; his first with the Hornets. He took way too many three pointers (almost 4 a game) and when you look at his 30 percent clip from the three point line, you know that's a big problem. In fact, it's fair to say his offensive production was bad for a majority of this season. But Ariza was big defensively for the Hornets this season. He stepped in and played a role the Hornets wanted him to defensively and was routinely assigned the other team's best wing player. There at the end, he was able to get to the basket more off of shot fakes but there's no guarantee, still, what Ariza you'll get on a nightly basis.
#20 Quincy Pondexter (66 Games, 6 Starts, 2.8 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 70.6 FT Pctg., 36.0 3PT FG Pctg., 40.6 FG Pctg., 8.5 PER, 102 Offensive Rating, 108 Defensive Rating) - Pondexter, I suppose, is a victim of circumstance. Coming off of last year's highly successful draft tandem of Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton, I very much so expected Pondexter and Craig Brackins to do big things for New Orleans this season. It was not to be as Brackins was traded before training camp for Willie Green and Jason Smith while Pondexter struggled with consistent production and consistent minutes. When you look at it all, Pondexter, for where he was selected, hardly underachieved in his first season and showed moments here and there where most felt he could be a consistent contributor for the team. But he was horrible in all six of his starts and his defense was much more inconsistent than it should have been for him to keep a spot in the rotation. If we are to be positive, his three point shot was a little better than advertised. But hopefully he comes back next year with a lot more polish.
#22 Patrick Ewing, Jr. (7 Games, 0 Starts, 0.4 PPG, 75.0 FT Pctg., 0.0 FG Pctg., 0.7 PER, 64 Offensive Rating, 109 Defensive Rating) - Once David West tore his ACL, Patrick Ewing Jr. was signed by the Hornets on a ten day contract and deserves praise as the only player brought in by the Hornets this season on a ten day contract and wound up being signed pass that initial deal. Ewing was signed for the rest of the season by New Orleans once his ten days expired and has seen time in mop-up duty. There is something there in Ewing maybe but he's still very raw as a player. I could see potential in him as a no offense, very good defensive player (maybe like a Jared Jeffries) and I expect him to be brought back this offseason by the team to get an extended look in training camp. Monty, obviously, saw something he liked in him to keep him around.
PF: #30 David West (70 Games, 70 Starts, 18.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 80.7 FT Pctg., 50.8 FG Pctg., 20.4 PER, 111 Offensive Rating, 104 Defensive Rating) - For all intents and purposes, the two time NBA All Star was probably having his best season as a professional this season very quietly. David West is the poster child of what commitment in practice to the defensive end can do to change you as a player. First of all, Monty changed up the Hornets offense and ran a lot of it through David West. West responded with good offensive numbers this season but it's his defense that surprised me most. We saw a new side of West defensively that really helped contribute to the Hornets' overall success and he was still the guy who the team went to in the clutch situations. West, sadly, tore his ACL a couple weeks ago at Utah and is facing a six month rehab. Hopefully he comes back well but that had to be devastating to happen just a few games away from opting out and receiving one last payday. West handled all the challenges and demands well this season even when everyone else was playing inconsistent basketball. For that, he deserves some extra credit.
#24 Carl Landry (23 Games, 10 Starts, 11.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 79.5 FT Pctg., 52.7 FG Pctg., 15.5 PER, 112 Offensive Rating, 108 Defensive Rating) - After coming over in the Marcus Thornton trade, Landry was inconsistent in his new role off of the bench for New Orleans and struggled to find time in the frontcourt when the Hornets most consistent player, David West, was the guy in front of him. But once West got injured, Landry was almost like a God-send. He started off playing terrific offensively, although that's tailed the past week or so, and gave the Hornets an adequate substitute for West when they really needed one. Landry, however, still has a lot to work on and still has to adapt to his role as a starter. He often got burned for defensive rebounds and that's still an area he needs to improve on. But he was strong for the Hornets when West got injured and deserves a ton of credit for that.
#14 Jason Smith (77 Games, 6 Starts, 4.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 84.3 FT Pctg., 44.3 FG Pctg., 10.9 PER, 100 Offensive Rating, 105 Defensive Rating) - Looking at Smith's numbers, I suppose he wasn't all bad in his first year with New Orleans. After he was acquired in the Willie Green trade, Smith became one of the Hornets most frequently played reserves to start the season. And Smith was big to start this season for New Orleans. He's 7 foot tall, he's active, he's got a solid jump shot; he's a competent big man. But Smith would always get beat for loose balls and is good for a few lapses a game defensively. I grew to really despise seeing him on the court and I guess I let that cloud my judgment a bit. Reviewing his production, he wasn't bad as a back-up. He finished strong this season and a good postseason would probably mean he returns as a Hornet next year.
C: #50 Emeka Okafor (72 Games, 72 Starts, 10.3 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 56.2 FT Pctg., 57.3 FG Pctg., 16.0 PER, 111 Offensive Rating, 102 Defensive Rating) - Okafor has been huge for the Hornets. But in a way, he's kind of disappointed me this season. I don't mean that to say he's been bad, his numbers obviously show that he hasn't, but I gave Okafor a mulligan last season for playing through an injury and also not being able to develop a rhythm with Chris Paul. This season, he had moments where he played really well but, after returning from his injury midseason, he just wasn't the same player. However, he's been a stable part of the Hornets front court and has been a huge part of the team's success this season. I don't mean my criticisms to undermine him. He's the team's best shot blocker and rebounder and when he's on, he makes the Hornets much better than they probably are. But when he's not, the team really struggles to make up for what he can't bring.
#34 Aaron Gray (41 Games, 6 Starts, 3.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 50.0 FT Pctg., 56.6 FG Pctg., 11.2 PER, 105 Offensive Rating, 103 Defensive Rating) - Gray, like Thornton, has been a subject of discussion many of nights amongst Hornets fans. Initially Gray was viewed as the back-up center after coming into Training Camp slimmer than last season but then lost that job to Mbenga to start the season. After awhile he finally started to become active in the lineup, and then he received consistent minutes once Okafor got injured. However, Gray still commits a lot of fouls away from the ball and still struggles to play well consistently. But there's no doubt that when he's given a chance to go out there and play his game, he's a more than competent back-up center in the league. I think he's played well this year.
#11 David Andersen (29 Games, 0 Starts, 2.7 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 46.7 FT Pctg., 38.5 3PT FG Pctg., 44.6 FG Pctg., 8.9 PER, 90 Offensive Rating, 105 Defensive Rating) - Andersen is a big who likes to shoot the three point shot. He had a handful of games this season where that shot looked really well, and every other time he was out there he was getting beat on the boards and clanking up jumpers offensively. He came over in the Jarrett Jack trade and was seen as someone who could potentially play the pick and pop game with Chris Paul offensively but that just didn't stick for the team. He hasn't seen the court in quite awhile and will likely be left off of the playoff rotation this season for the Hornets.
#28 D.J. Mbenga (41 Games, 0 Starts, 1.4 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 72.2 FT Pctg., 46.9 FG Pctg., 9.7 PER, 97 Offensive Rating, 102 Defensive Rating) - I wasn't a big fan of Mbenga taking Gray's spot earlier this season and I was glad when Gray eventually won the role of back-up center, but I love Mbenga. There's just something about him that makes him..... cool. I now know why Lakers fans enjoyed him as much as they did. He commits a lot of stupid fouls, can't catch a ball around the basket if you walked up to him and put it in his chest and is the worst screener possibly in the history of the league, but since he rarely sees the court, I love that about him. And because this is my thread and I like him, I can be as biased as I so choose.
Grade: A for Awesome
We Didn't Forget You - Players Who Have Worn The Hornets Jersey This Season:
This year, more than others in recent memory, the Hornets had some in-season turnover that expanded past a couple ten day contracts here and there. There were players brought in that just didn't make it, players that were traded to get some of the other guys we've already mentioned and so forth. But, since this is a season in review, we want to reflect and remember the guys who put on that illustrious Hornets jersey this season. After all, they all contributed to the team's overall success one way or the other.
PG: # 32 Jerryd Bayless (11 Games, 0 Starts, 4.5 PPG, 2.5 APG, 1.4 RPG, 76.5 FT Pctg., 21.4 3PT FG Pctg., 34.7 FG Pctg., 7.3 PER, 86 Offensive Rating, 109 Defensive Rating) -The Hornets picked Bayless up right before the season started and the fans and the franchise had high hopes for Bayless in a Hornets jersey. He seemed like a good back-up for Chris Paul, someone who could potentially play alongside him if necessary and someone who was young, had a lot of potential and who could still become a good contributor for a solid team. For whatever reason, it just didn't work out for Bayless in New Orleans. He struggled right out of the gate and continued to struggle until the Hornets eventually involved him in the Jarrett Jack trade. Bayless eventually received inconsistent playing time in Toronto before starting some down the stretch for the Raptors. He put up good numbers but still couldn't separate himself from the "lots of potential, not a lot of production" label that surrounded him going into this season.
#22 Jerel McNeal (Did Not Play) - Following Chris Paul's concussion, the Hornets did something unprecedented for the team in quite some time (in fact, Marcus Fizer is the only player I can remember the Hornets ever calling up from the D-League, correct me if I'm wrong) and called up McNeal from the NBDL to play back-up. There was some hope that McNeal could possibly stick around during his 10 day contract but he never got into a game for the Hornets and his contract quietly expired. He returned to the D-League and has since continued his stellar play there.
SG: #5 Marcus Thornton (46 Games, 0 Starts, 7.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 75.8 FT Pctg., 37.6 3PT FG Pctg., 41.0 FG Pctg., 14.0 PER, 99 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - Ah, Marcus Thornton. How I miss you! Thornton has a soft spot amongst all Hornets fans given how well he played last year, given that he's from the area and given that he's just a streaky shooting guard. And when streaky shooting guards are good, people love them. When streaky shooting guards struggle, it divides the fan base. Thornton divided the fan base this year. He was seen as a potential 6th man of the year candidate by Monty Williams but Thornton struggled to adapt to the bench role and couldn't find ways to contribute without dominating the basketball as frequently as he did last season. There were moments of last year's Thornton, though. He came up big in a victory over Orlando in New Orleans and his deflection/layup combination over the Grizzlies in New Orleans remains my favorite game from this season. He was traded to Sacramento at the deadline for Carl Landry where he's now recaptured his form from last season. Whether or not Thornton is just a guy who puts up big numbers on below average teams remains to be seen. Sadly, he just couldn't click with the Hornets this season.
SF: #16 Peja Stojakovic (6 Games, 0 Starts, 7.5 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 85.7 FT Pctg., 44.0 3PT FG Pctg., 42.4 FG Pctg., 16.7 PER, 118 Offensive Rating, 109 Defensive Rating) - Oh how I miss Peja and the glorious Peja heads. Peja entered this year with a phat (and fat) expiring contract and many fans all but knew the Hornets were going to try and trade him this year as a result. Peja was inactive for a handful of games due to Monty simply not wanting to play him before he got some play during the first couple games with Dallas. Peja played great in those games and was quickly traded to Toronto as part of the Jarrett Jack trade. I have a soft spot in my heart for Peja and when the Raptors released him there was a chance he was going to return to New Orleans. It was not to be, however, as he signed with the hated Dallas Mavericks.
# 6 Sasha Pavlovic (4 Games, 1 Start, 1.0 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 BPG, 0.0 FT Pctg., 0.0 3PT FG Pctg., 18.2 FG Pctg., 2.9 PER, 61 Offensive Rating, 105 Defensive Rating) - Sasha was brought in on a ten day contract following Trevor Ariza's ankle injury and upset a lot of Hornets fans by taking playing time, immediately, away from Marcus Thornton. Pavlovic didn't play very much for New Orleans and wasn't very good when he did play either. I felt bad when his ten day contract expired and he eventually went elsewhere, but he quickly landed on the Celtics team and he'll be on their roster come playoff time. So good for him.
PF: #44 Pops Mensah-Bonsu (7 Games, 0 Starts, 0.3 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 0.0 FT Pctg., 33.3 FG Pctg., -0.1 PER, 82 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - For a second there, I almost forgot that Pops had been on the team at the beginning of the year. He was a regular in the rotation to begin the season but as Monty became comfortable with the team, Jason Smith took all of Pops minutes and he eventually served no role with the team. He was on a non guaranteed deal (along with D.J. Mbenga) and was quietly released by the Hornets in December. He went back to the NBDL soon after.
Coaching: Monty Williams (46-36, 106.2 Offensive Rating, 105.2 Defensive Rating) - Coming into this season, not much was known as to how Monty would run this team but it was quickly evident that slow offenses and smart defenses were going to be the staple of his team. This shouldn't come as a surprise. He's praised Pat Riley (whom he played under) and he worked under Greg Popovich and Nate McMillan as an assistant, all coaches who love that similar style of play. Monty's main problem this season was his inability to ever develop a consistent offense for the Hornets. His play calling left a lot to be desired, his rotations were confusing, and the team lost a couple of games this season simply because they couldn't inbounds the basketball. But eventually Monty cleaned those things up. The Hornets defense was elite all season long until David West got hurt and it was the main reason why Monty was able to overcome some of the shortcomings on the roster. By all means, Monty and company overachieved a bit this year. And he's a big reason for that.