RotoWire Partners

NBA Team Previews: 2008 New Orleans Hornets Preview

Justin Phan

Justin Phan

Justin Phan writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.


NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
By Justin Phan
RotoWire Writer



STATE OF THE FRANCHISE



The Hornets exceeded all expectations last season, turning doubters into believers in what was one of the most highly contested playoff races in NBA history. Not only did they win the toughest division in the league, but they easily took down the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs and nearly upset the San Antonio Spurs in the second. The second round loss was a sad end to their Cinderella season but it gave them a solid foundation on which to build upon in the future.


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.

PLAYING TIME DISTIBUTION



The trio of Chris Paul, David West, and Tyson Chandler will be leaned on heavily once again this season. Paul and West will each log 37-38 minutes per game, while you can pencil Chandler in for 35 minutes per game at center. There will be a timeshare for backup minutes at each of these three positions. Mike James and Devin Brown will battle for the remaining minutes at point guard, Ryan Bowen and Julian Wright will scrap for minutes at power forward, while Melvin Ely and Hilton Armstrong will compete at center.


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.

PLAYER OUTLOOKS



Center



Tyson Chandler: Chandler played a career-high 35 minutes per game last year and averaged a double-double (11.8 points, 11.8 rebounds) on a very efficient 62.3 percent from the field. His field goal percentage can be explained by the fact that 33 percent of his field goal attempts last season came from dunks. You can fully expect him to continue terrorizing the rim with Chris Paul locked up for at least three more seasons. And unlike many other big men, Chandler has been nearly injury-free in his career -- he has only missed 15 games over the past three seasons. His free throw percentage is a bit of a drag (59.3 percent on 3.7 attempts), but if you plan on punting the category altogether or have a group of strong free throw shooters already, Chandler is a solid second center to own. In most standard 12 team leagues, Chandler should be drafted in the 7th-8th round.


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.

Forward



David West: West is finally starting to get the respect and recognition that he deserves. He made great strides in his game over the past two seasons, from averaging 16.4 points and 0.8 blocks per game on 45.8 percent from the field and 76.6 percent from the free-throw line during the first half of the 2006-07 season to 22.1 points and 1.2 blocks per game on 49.3 percent from the field and 85.8 percent from the free-throw line during the second half of last season. What a difference two seasons has made. With Chris Paul locked up in New Orleans for another four seasons, things can only get better for West from here on out. Draft him in the third or fourth round in standard leagues with confidence.


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.

Guard



Chris Paul: There are not enough words that can describe the type of season that Paul put together last year. In just his third season, he fell just shy of becoming the first player in NBA history to average 20 points, 10 assists and 3 steals in a season. Paul's presence alone allows his teammates to improve and elevate their game to newfound highs. Despite finishing second to Kobe Bryant in the MVP voting, Paul is the unquestioned MVP in the fantasy realm. Draft him first overall with confidence and rest assured that you are on your way to winning a fantasy championship.


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.

Sleeper:



James Posey: Posey is a player who seems to be a lot more valuable in real life than he is in the fantasy realm. He may fly under the radar and go undrafted in standard 12-team, 13-player drafts which is surprising considering he nearly put up top-100 production last season. His three-point ability may take a hit considering his age, but he should be able to hang on for another season with Chris Paul at the helm. There is also the major possibility of an uptick in production since Peja Stojakovic could miss some games next season due to injury. Look for Posey around the 10th-11th round of your drafts.

Bust:



Peja Stojakovic: Pretty much everything imaginable went well for Stojakovic last season and it is unlikely and unrealistic to expect his lucky streak to continue this season. To start, he managed to stay healthy and play 77 games last year after only playing 13 games in 2006-2007 because of back surgery. Back injuries tend to linger and there is no guarantee that they will not come back to plague him this season. In addition, he managed to shoot a career-high 44 percent from deep which allowed him to match a career-best in three-pointers made per game. The addition of James Posey means a drop in minutes, rebounds per game, and three pointers made. You could justify taking Stojakovic in the 6th round given that he put up top-40 production last season, but because of all the question marks surrounding him this year, he should not be drafted until the 7th-8th round.


Article first appeared on 9/25/08