Hornets Must Find Way to Win, Keep Chris Paul Happy

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Chris Paul Hornets

There is a new regime in charge of the New Orleans Hornets.  They hired a new head coach in Monty Williams and a new general manager in Dell Demps with the hopes of putting the franchise back on the winning track.  In order to successfully do that, they must keep Chris Paul happy and show him that the team is truly willing to surround him with pieces needed to win a championship.  If not, CP3 could soon be leaving the Big Easy.

By: David Kay

New Orleans Hornets (37-45 in 2009-10)

2010-11 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Emeka Okafor/Aaron Gray/D.J. Mbenga
PF: David West/Jason Smith
SF: Trevor Ariza/Peja Stojakovic/Quincy Pondexter
SG: Marcus Thornton/Marco Belinelli
PG: Chris Paul/Willie Green/Curtis Jerrells
Head Coach: Monty Williams (1st season)

2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $68.9 million

Offseason Moves:
-Hornets acquire G Willie Green and PF Jason Smith from 76ers for PF Daruis Songaila and F Craig Brackins
-Hornets acquire G/F Trevor Ariza in four-way trade that sends PG Darren Collison and SF James Posey to Pacers
-Hornets acquire SG Marco Belinelli from Raptors for SF Julian Wright
-Hornets re-sign C Aaron Gray to 2-year deal
-Hornets acquire PF Craig Brackins (21st pick) and SF Quincy Pondexter (26th pick) from Thunder for C Cole Aldrich (11th pick) and SG Morris Peterson

Off-Season Grade: D+
Due to a couple of terrible contracts on the roster, New Orleans had little wiggle room this summer.  They turned their main trade chip, Darren Collison, into Trevor Ariza who should finally provide some stability at the three.  Plus, they rid themselves of the remaining two years, $13.4 million on James Posey’s deal.

Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful summer.  The Hornets traded down from the 11th pick in order to get two first round picks and dump the final year of Mo Pete’s contract.  Other than that, they turned deep bench players into other deep bench players by swinging a pair of trades.

Perhaps the most important move of the off-season was convincing Chris Paul not to force a trade and that the franchise was committed to surrounding him with more talent.  We shall see how long that promise keeps CP3 happy.

2010-2011 Outlook:
As long as Chris Paul is a Hornet, New Orleans will have a chance of making the playoffs.  Coming off a season in which he only played 45 games, Paul has the capability of single-handedly leading this team back to the post-season.  And if the Hornets have hopes of playing more than 82 games in the 2010-2011 season,

David West HornetsThe Hornets have solid complimentary players to CP3 in their starting five.  Emeka Okafor is not the player he once was but can still bring some defense and rebounding to the paint.  David West gives Paul a scoring big man who is the king of the 17-foot jump shot.  The addition of Ariza provides an athletic wing player who can run the floor and defend on their perimeter.  Marcus Thornton was a huge surprise last season as a rookie and gives the starting unit a dangerous outside shooter.

What really concerns me is that New Orleans might have the worst bench in the NBA.  Peja Stojakovic and newly acquired Willie Green are the only proven scorers in that group.  Marco Belinelli has put together a nice pre-season and might be ready to surprise some people after a fairly unimpressive career.  Rookie Quincy Pondexter could find his way onto the floor as well.  The depth up-front of Aaron Gray, D.J. Mbenga, and Jason Smith is garbage.  Curtis Jerrells is the only true point guard on the bench.  In other words, if the Hornets suffer an injury to one of their starters, they are in real trouble.

Of course, there is the possibility that the Hornets could dangle Peja’s expiring contract as trade bait to try and entice a team looking to clear some cap space to send them a valuable player or two.  Then again, New Orleans might be better off keeping Peja around and using the cap space themselves next summer in case they are forced to switch to re-building mode.

Looking Ahead to Next Summer:
There is the good: Peja Stojakovic’s awful, terrible, horrendous contract finally comes off the books which will save the Hornets more than $15 million in cap space.

There is the bad: CP3 enters the final guaranteed year of his contract and might force the Hornets’ hand (ala what Carmelo Anthony seems to be doing with the Nuggets) and demand a trade.  Plus, David West has a player option worth about $7.5 million and he will be in for a pay raise almost guaranteeing he will opt out of his contract unless an extension is reached during the season which I highly doubt will happen.  There could be major change coming in New Orleans next summer if the Hornets do not show a fair amount of improvement this season.

NBA Power Ranking: 17th

Other NBA Season Previews:
#18 Memphis Grizzlies
#19 Philadelphia 76ers
#20 New York Knicks
#21 Los Angeles Clippers
#22 Indiana Pacers
#23 Golden State Warriors
#24 Washington Wizards
#25 Detroit Pistons
#26 New Jersey Nets
#27 Sacramento Kings
#28 Cleveland Cavaliers
#29 Toronto Raptors
#30 Minnesota Timberwolves

Check out David’s Fantasy Basketball Rankings

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