NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
By Justin Phan
The Hornets' front office was quite productive this off-season, rewarding Coach of the Year Byron Scott with a two-year extension and locking up franchise player Chris Paul to a three-year, $68 million extension with a player option for the fourth year. They also made it a priority to address their bench depth by signing free agent James Posey to a four-year, $25 million deal. Posey is a proven winner; he has won two NBA Championships in the last three seasons and has played a major role on each of those teams. Signing Devin Brown and Sean Marks will also add some depth to their bench. The loss of Jannero Pargo, who departed for Moscow, has been extremely overstated and will not hurt as much as people think. As a shooting guard, Pargo did not bring much more to the table than assists and good free-throw shooting. His below average contributions across the board coupled with his poor shooting efficiency netted the Hornets a whopping -1.3 wins last season. It is unlikely that the Hornets will bring Bonzi Wells back for another season.
Byron Scott said that he will start Morris Peterson and Peja Stojakovic at the swing spots, relegating James Posey to the bench as the backup to both positions. Although Posey will initially come off the bench, he should still see 28 minutes per game with the potential for more. Opposing shooting guards averaged 21.2 points per game last season against the Hornets and the top notch defensive ability that Posey brings makes him the much more suitable candidate for the job. Morris Peterson's minutes will take a hit and he should only see around 18 per game. If healthy, Peja Stojakovic should average 34-35 minutes per game at small forward. Most of the remaining minutes at the swing spots will go to Julian Wright and Devin Brown.
Melvin Ely: Ely is a good scorer in the low post and has the size necessary to give New Orleans a veteran backup up front. He will play about 10 minutes per game this season as the Hornets primary backup at center and may see some minutes at power forward as well.
Hilton Armstrong: In 2006, the Hornets drafted Armstrong with one of their lottery picks hoping that he would be able to step in and become a regular rotation player. Two years later, Armstrong continues to disappoint and still has not cracked the rotation. After a disappointing rookie season, he followed it up with an even worse sophomore campaign. With Melvin Ely ahead of him on the depth chart, Armstrong might not even see 5 minutes per game this season.
Peja Stojakovic: Stojakovic took everyone by surprise, bouncing back from a 13-game season cut short by back surgery to play 77 games and put up top-40 value. When healthy, he is one of the game's best pure shooters, and on a team with a dynamite passer in Chris Paul and excellent inside play from Tyson Chandler, he is in a position to post really huge numbers. The addition of James Posey will mean a dip in minutes and three-point attempts, but his career marks of 40.5 percent from beyond the arc and 89.4 percent from the line will ensure that he will put up at least sixth round value. But don't fool yourself -- everything went right for Peja in 2007-08, and that's unlikely to happen again.
Julian Wright: Wright is a good athlete at 6'9 who can handle the ball and use his long arms to be a very good defender. The loss of Jannero Pargo and Bonzi Wells means that James Posey will take on most of the minutes at the 2, giving Wright the opportunity to backup both of the forward spots. He will only see between 12-15 minutes per game this season, which will not be enough for him to be relevant to fantasy owners. He will make for an intriguing play though if Peja Stojakovic goes down with an injury for an extended period of time.
James Posey: We have been accustomed to seeing Posey play the three and four on the teams he's been on in the past, but he is going to be making the transition back to the two this season. The Hornets did not spend $25 million on Posey to have him ride the pine, so expect an uptick in production across the board as he should approach 30 minutes per game this season. He will provide your fantasy team with sizable contributions in three-pointers made and steals while shooting a high percentage from the line and not turning the ball over a whole lot.
Morris Peterson: Peterson was given a golden opportunity to take advantage of the departure of Desmond Mason and Devin Brown last off-season but failed to capitalize. Coach Byron Scott said he will initially start Peterson at shooting guard, but it is only a matter of time until Peterson drops the ball again and loses the job.
Article first appeared on 9/25/08