Welcome to Hornets Opening Day!
Our first gamethread of the season will go live a couple hours before tip. Come join us to talk about the game. To tide you over until then, the results of our preseason roundtable.
1. Does Anthony Davis win rookie of the year?
Will: Yes. He won't be the leading rookie scorer, but he'll score enough points and impress on defense enough to take home the hardware. I think Lillard might be his biggest competition, because he will be putting up big points right away.
Oleh: Yes. Although some might fear small market bias, Anthony Davis has already secured his position
among influential mainstream types. For anyone else to win, it would require Davis missing
significant time to injury or one of the other rookies playing like a top 25 NBA talent.
Brian: Barring injury, Davis has to be the overwhelming favorite.
Nico: Absolutely. With the production, the probably huge improvement in the win column, the hype (he is the #1 pick) and the marketing (Unibrow), it's his award to lose.
David: Yes. Damian Lillard of Portland to me is Davis' only serious challenger because he will put up big numbers in Portland as the starting point guard and the voters may reward him for that. But NO ONE will have the same impact on their team as Davis will. A stat line of 15 PPG, 11 RPG and 3 BPG will be his rookie year stat line. Not bad.
2. Fill in the blank: I'm currently feeling _____ about Eric Gordon's future with the Hornets.
Will: A little nervous, based solely on injury concerns. I am not at all worried about his comments about Phoenix or not wanting to be back here, but him already missing time with that knee is troubling. It could turn out to be just the Hornets being cautious, or it could turn into a recurring nightmare issue. Time will tell.
Oleh: Queasy. He was regarded injury prone prior to the Chris Paul trade, missed almost all of last year
and his knee has already hampered him through preseason. All fan’s stomachs should currently be
reaching for the Pepto when remembering our huge financial commitment to this guy.
Nico: weary and wary. It's a storyline that we followed so closely last year - will Gordon play, when will Gordon be back, how is he, etc.. I feel like Gordon's health is so important to the Hornets future not only as a productive player but also as a trade chip.
David: Cautiously optimistic. He is participating in drills and scrimmaging with the team and we "think" he'll be able to play tonight; even if he doesn't he should be at full strength for the rest of this season. But one cannot ignore his inability to stay healthy for a prolonged period of time. That will always be in the back of my mind going forward.
3. Are you more concerned about the team's play at point guard or small forward play?
Will: I'd say PG, just because I believe the team had somewhat of high hopes for Vasquez going into this season, after giving away Jarrett Jack. I really don't think they were expecting much out of Aminu at this point, and an upgrade is certainly in the team's long-term plans. Honestly though, that statement is probably true for both spots.
Oleh: Point guard play. Teams with questionable playmakers need stability from their point guards
to ensure proper offensive execution. Grievis Vasquez struggled mightily this preseason (4.2
turnovers in an average of 26 minutes) calling into doubt his decision making. Don’t forget he’s
already widely viewed as a below average defender and shooter.
Brian: Point Guard, for sure. The position is more critical for the offense and the Hornets are probably weaker there, too.
Nico: PG play. Because of the recent changes in the rules, the NBA is entering a new era that helps small guards that have skillz. Each team now has it's own definition of this - except us. In the West - Paul, Nash, Russ, Lawson, Conley, Curry, Rubio, Lillard, Thomas, Collison, Lin, Parker, Dragic heck even Mo Williams. In the East - Rondo, Deron, Felton (to a degree, LOL), Holiday, Lowry, Rose (injured), Irving, Knight, Hill, Jennings, Ellis, Teague, Walker, Chalmers, Wall and heck even Jameer. The closest guy that approximates that for us is Rivers, who's struggled in the preseason. It's going to be a LONG season watching Vasquez/Roberts contain these fellas. And I know people will talk about cross matching Gordon. But Gordon's a big "?" right now.
David: I'm going to say small forward for now because Vasquez is capable of playing starter-caliber minutes for stretches in games, although we may see him struggle more times than not this season as things play out. I just think that Aminu is too inconsistent and the other options (Henry and Miller) are either too young or too....Xavier Henry to be counted on. (expect a trade sometime this season to add to this position)
4. What would need to happen this year for you to consider the season a "success"?
Will: I think they need to show some improvement from the beginning of the season to the end, and to be competitive on most nights. I think hoping for the playoffs is a bit much this early on, and I'd be happy to see an improving young team, with Anthony Davis delivering on much of his abundant promise by the All-Star break.
Oleh: Eric Gordon staying on the court. With the way the team is currently constructed, our offense
relies heavily on his abilities: leadership, playmaking and scoring. With him, the Hornets offensive
rating should fall in the top half of the league. Without him, the team would be in or very near the
cellar. More importantly, we should fear the dreaded domino effect were he to sit again for major
stretches. Young guys being thrust into uncomfortable roles is a sure fire recipe for disaster.
Brian: Gordon plays more than 60 games, Anderson has no post-Dwight dropoff (and gets more than 25 minutes/game), and Davis is who we think he is.
Nico: Davis shows his defensive prowess through out the year, even if his offense will be inconsistent. Gordon plays at least 60 games (a low benchmark, to be honest), Anderson shows he can thrive in a different system and Rivers gives us some glimpses of his future (maybe a 25+ point game won't hurt).
David: Continued development of the young players, Anderson proving he is/can be a top-3 player on a winning team, Gordon STAYING healthy and having a breakout season, and the team staying competitive no matter who they play.
And let's end with some "awards":
5. Team MVP?
Will: The Commissioner. Watching the offense during the preseason should tell you how important he will be to this team.
Oleh: Ryan Anderson. This is likely the last time for the next decade that this is a pertinent question as
Davis will have a stranglehold on this honor. However, for this season it’s a tossup and I’m leaning
towards Mr. Anderson. He is one of our most experienced players and has a strong statistical
record to boot. Every team needs a player they can trust night and night out to show up and meet
expectation. Although he appears to be slated the team’s sixth man, he’s primed to be the most
Brian: If Gordon is healthy, he'll be the MVP. If not and if Anderson gets minutes, he'll be the MVP. If not and if Davis is who we think he is, he'll be the MVP.
Nico: Am I allowed to say Monty? He'll be the glue that holds this group together - with or without our best player in Gordon.
David: Anderson: Gordon's knees are still too iffy for me to bank on him and though I feel Davis will be REALLY good this year no one changes the dynamic of the team quite as much as Anderson. When he's out there, the team becomes MUCH more dangerous offensively and teams have to adjust their gameplan to counter. Anderson stat line: 18 PPG, 9 RPG.
6. Team LVP? (let's say the most actively harmful player that combines minutes and poor play, as opposed to "worst").
Will: I feel like this is baiting me to say Rivers, but I think Vasquez may take it if he doesn't clean up the TOs and start defending, simply because he is the only actual NBA PG on the roster. If he stinks it up, we're in trouble.
Oleh: Austin Rivers. He ends up here almost by default. It was common knowledge he wasn’t NBA ready
entering the draft and looked raw in the summer league and preseason, but is likely to be thrust
into a major role. I’m still bullish on his future but with Vasquez and Gordon penciled in as the
starting back court, Rivers is bound to be thrown to the wolves and endure numerous lumps in his
Brian: Austin Rivers has to be a shoo-in for this, right?
Nico: Lopez for me. The fact that he'll eat minutes away from what appears to be a solid trio of Davis/Anderson/Smith is reason enough for me to vote him. He'll be average once again but because of the proverbial "size" reason, he'll get lots of minutes. *GULP*
David: I'm going to give Aminu the slight edge over Vasquez here. I hope they both improve over the year and prove me wrong but I feel like they'll both struggle but Vasquez will have more "big" games than Aminu and Aminu may get shipped out of town this season even.
7. Team Most Improved Player?
Will: Vasquez, Aminu, and Lopez will get the biggest bumps in minutes that usually accompany this award, and I'll go with Lopez for this one, mainly because of his competition. I think Vasquez is pretty much at his ceiling now, and Aminu is a few airballs shy of being a lost cause. Lopez hasn't shown much since a solid rookie season, and has looked nothing short of great in the preseason. Him playing well could frustratingly take away minutes from Ryan Anderson, but I think Sideshow Bob is the best bet for improvement on this team.
Oleh: Al-Farouq Aminu. Despite his shaky preseason, I’m sticking with him. Opportunity – check. Talent
– check. Good understanding of Monty’s system – check. Aminu has shown flashes that when he
plays within himself, he can contribute in a variety of ways. If he sticks to his gameplan, he has as
good a chance as any on taking the next step.
Brian: Al-Farouq Aminu! He can dribble now! (TM)
Nico: Just by the numbers, it'll be Vasquez. But it'll be marginal. If Gordon plays 60+, he's my vote.
David: Austin Rivers: with Gordon's ongoing uncertainty to play, Rivers will get ample opportunity to grow into one of the Hornets core players to build around. What position he plays I don't know, but I feel like he has no where to go but up.
8. Team 7th Man? (after Ryan Anderson)
Will: Austin Rivers. Still not a passer. Still takes terrible 3 pointers off the dribble. However, he has shown some things in the preseason that make me think he could be serviceable in the role this team has in mind for him. That combined with the "who the heck else could it be?" factor makes me go with Doc's son.
Oleh: Darius Miller. This kid has skills. In preseason, he showed a deadly accuracy from the perimeter
and this ability alone makes him valuable. Luckily for us, it doesn’t stop there with this rare 4 year
collegiate player. He also possesses a good IQ, athleticism to defend and rebound and decent ball
handling skills. Considering all the holes and turmoil among our wings, it is probable he emerges as
one of our best rotation players in due time.
Brian: Brian Roberts will be the most critical bench player other than Anderson. He plays at a need position and is capable of soaking up minutes without screwing things up too badly.
David: Jason Smith: I can't wait for Jason to get back out on the floor because he also brings some skills to the table that will make the Hornets frontcourt even more dangerous. With Lopez showing me more than I expected already, that 4-man rotation (Davis-Lopez-Anderson-Smith) is legitimately one of the best in the league.
9. Who beats whom in the Finals?
Will: Pelicans edge out the Krewe........oh, Heat over the Lakers.
Oleh: The Lakers beat the Heat. With the Thunder dropping down a tick after dealing Harden to the
Rockets, the West appears to be a tight 3 team race. Primarily due to the Lakers formidable
starting lineup, they’ll prevail in any best of 7 series.
Brian: Heat vs... Spurs, I guess.
Nico: New Orleans beats the Heatles in 7 games. But seriously, a repeat from the Heat is what looks awfully probable right now.
David: Heat over Lakers in 6. Did you watch Miami beat Boston last night?? Yeah, they're really really really good. Even the revamped Lakers won't be able to take down the King.