Updated: Oct. 27, 2005, 7:25 AM ET

SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
Hornets take one step at a time

Hornets

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | Hollinger Stats

Where will the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets finish in the Southwest Division and the Western Conference? Get 12 takes from ESPN's NBA experts.

ANALYST DIV CONF COMMENT

Chris Broussard ESPN Mag

5
15
Worst team in the league.
Ric Bucher ESPN Mag
5
15
Transient teams never do well in seasons as long as the NBA's. Chris Paul will provide moments of excitement.
John Carroll Scouts Inc.
5
15
Paul and J.R. Smith will give the Hornets a young and exciting backcourt, and P.J. Brown is a legit power forward who has not only talent but experience. Look for the Hornets to improve slightly on last year's 18 wins.
Chad Ford ESPN Insider
5
14

The Hornets are slowly getting better. Rookie Paul should make the Hornets respectable, but that's about it.

John Hollinger ESPN Insider
5
15
As if Hurricane Katrina didn't do enough to damage the spirits of the good people of Louisiana, now they have to watch the Hornets. At least Paul and Smith give them hope for the future.
Scoop Jackson ESPN.com Page 2
5
15


Chris Paul, ROY. That's it.


Tim Legler ESPN
5
15

See Item 7 for Legler's analysis of the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.



Eric Neel ESPN
Page 2


5
15
Say a prayer for P.J. Brown.
Jim O'Brien ESPN
5
14
The difficulties Katrina presents to this franchise and the youth in the backcourt are too much to overcome for Byron Scott. Paul is a very good pick, but in the NBA, the point guard spot is a difficult one to manage as a rookie.
Will Perdue ESPN Insider
5
15
Keep an eye on Smith. This kid is explosive. The team's record will improve, but the position in the conference will stay the same. If you're not the lead dog, the view never changes.
Chris Sheridan ESPN.com Insider
5
15
An absolute shambles of an organization from top to bottom. With Jeff Bower trading Magloire, and possibly Brown, too, it could be a sign the Hornets will stay in Oklahoma City for two years, not one.
Marc Stein ESPN.com
5
14
This was going to be a difficult season without the Hurricane Katrina-induced upheaval the Hornets face now. The harsh reality is that there won't be any mercy from the rest of the West.


Oklahoma!
Oklahoma City
AP/Sue Ogrocki
The Hornets are hoping to find new life in Oklahoma City and to improve on their 11-30 home record of last season.


Lineup Breakdown
ESPN The Magazine sizes up the Hornets roster:

PLAYER ANALYSIS RATING
Starters: A nice mix of young and old, but it doesn't add up to good.
PF
P.J.
Brown
Great guy, but he's getting old. And he ain't a bottle of wine.
6
SF
Bostjan
Nachbar
Has a rep for being a shooter. He'll get to show why.
6
C
Jamaal
Magloire
*
Hope he enjoyed '04 because his All-Star days are over.
7
SG
J.R.
Smith
Highlight reel who should finish plenty of Paul alley-oops.
7
PG
Chris
Paul
All signs point to future greatness. Future greatness.
6
Bench: Speedy Claxton, Chris Andersen, Rasual Butler, David West. It could be worse. Not much. But it could be. Seriously.
5

TOTAL SCORE

37

* Traded to the Bucks on Oct. 26

ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands Oct. 26.



Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Chris Andersen
Player Efficiency Rating
18.54
vs. NBA Avg: +3.54

Look past Chris Andersen's annual embarrassments in the dunk contest and you'll see one of the game's most productive frontcourt players. Andersen is one of the best-leaping big men in the game, making him a force around the basket. He's at his best when fed for alley-oops in transition, where he can soar over opponents for dunks. His hops also give him an advantage slamming home offensive boards, and they carry him on the defensive end, as well, as he is one of the game's better rebounders and blocked a shot every 14 minutes, on average.

Andersen rounded out his game by improving his other offensive skills. He stopped trying to handle the ball on the break, which had been a turnover waiting to happen when he was a Nugget. He developed a more reliable jumper from 12 to 15 feet, providing a reliable alternative to the dunk. And he added 100 points at the foul line, which is important because he averaged better than a free throw for every two field-goal attempts.

Andersen's biggest weakness is a lack of muscle. This was especially notable last year with him playing center, as he gives up 40 pounds to his opponent almost every night. That makes him a liability in post defense and renders him less effective on the glass. Because of the lack of brawn, he can't establish effective post position offensively. Of course, if he returns to his natural power forward spot, the strength issue should be less of a factor.

In any case, Andersen was easily the Hornets' best player. Considering how well he played and how bad the rest of the Hornets were, it's puzzling that he played only 21 minutes a game. For much of the year, Byron Scott started Rodney Rogers at power forward instead of Andersen, even though Rogers looked as though he had just gotten back from the Bellagio lunch buffet while Andersen was putting up monstrous numbers (for a Hornet) off the bench. It's an all-too-common example of a coach riding a familiar player (Rogers played for Scott in New Jersey) even when said player was obviously in need of replacement.

Andersen had played well in Denver, too, but he has been virtually ignored on the free-agent market. He signed for the relative pittance of $1.5 million last season and didn't command top dollars on the free-agent market even after his big year. His is the latest example of when teams look at per-game averages instead of per-minute performance and miss out on a talented player as a result.

-- Hornets player profiles from John Hollinger's "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06," available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books.


Pope Paul
Paul
AP/David Zalubowski
The Hornets' hopes rest on the shoulders of multifaceted rookie point guard Chris Paul.


SportsNation Speaks
From afar it might look like a dark season for the Hornets, but doubtless they will thrill the fans of Oklahoma City (and New Orleans and Baton Rouge).

When the fans in Oklahoma City cheer, for whom will they be cheering. We asked SportsNation:

Who will lead the Hornets in scoring?
53.0% J.R. Smith
26.1% Jamaal Magloire
15.6% Chris Paul
5.3% P.J. Brown

Vote: Hornets in 2005-06 | Results



Tim's Time
J.R. Smith

Legs on Hornets: The Hornets were, let's just say, not very good last year. I am not going to beat up a team when it's down.

The devastating effects of Mother Nature on New Orleans will force the Hornets to relocate at least temporarily. Too bad they couldn't relocate out of this division.

It isn't all bad news, however, because first-round pick Chris Paul (point guard) is my preseason pick for rookie of the year. Second-year player J.R. Smith is one of the most exciting young players in the league.

And, of course, I have to put a shout-out to newcomer and fellow La Salle alum Rasual Butler.

But beyond that, it's going to be a whole lot of blues in the Bayou.

Tim Legler, ESPN Insider



Coach's Corner
Byron Scott
Experience: 5 years
Reg. season record: 167-203
Playoff record: 25-15
Coach's profile

Byron Scott handles adversity with dignity. Last year's difficulties and the devastation of Katrina are difficult pills to swallow. Injuries led to a poor start, and the Hornets never recovered.

Scott will try to find some early wins using Paul and Smith in the backcourt with Speedy Claxton competing for time.

Jim O'Brien, ESPN Insider



Q & A
Where will the points come from?

With former franchise linchpins such as Baron Davis and David Wesley traded last season, Charlotte/New Orleans/Oklahoma City/Baton Rouge has to develop new scoring options.

The Hornets were unsuccessful last year, making them the league's worst offensive team in terms of points per possession, and this year might not be a major improvement. Paul adds a steady hand at the point, but the man he replaces, Dan Dickau, was the team's best shooter last year. Arvydas Macijauskas also will help, but he's more of a secondary option who will rely on teammates to find him for open shots.

Thus, the pressure will be on veteran center Jamaal Magloire, who missed most of last season with a broken finger. The Hornets will run a lot of their half-court sets through him and hope he can draw double-teams to create shots for the others, especially sharpshooters such as Macijauskas and forward Bostjan Nachbar.

Magloire's return also cements the team's one true strength: For a bad team, the Hornets have an unusually talented frontcourt. Chris Andersen is one of the league's most underrated big men and was easily the Hornets' best player last season (for what that's worth), and veteran P.J. Brown is a solid defender and rebounder. Add in third-year forward David West, who also missed much of last year with an injury, and developing big men Maciej Lampe and Jackson Vroman, and it's a playoff-caliber big-man rotation.

More Hollinger Hornets analysis



Fantasy Fix
Brown
Brown

Sleeper: P.J. Brown does pretty much the same thing every season, and still fantasy owners look elsewhere for someone younger, with more potential to score and rebound? What's wrong with a durable fella who gets you 10 points, nine rebounds consistently and hits his shots? Nothing. Brown barely goes in the top 10 rounds in fantasy. Don't draft unproven kids who might not play over him.

Bust: Speedy Claxton has called four franchises home in four seasons. How long before he's on the move again? The Hornets are going with top pick Chris Paul as leader, leading scorer, future of the franchise. Claxton did very little after coming over in the Baron Davis trade. As reserve point guards go, fantasy owners can do better.

Eric Karabell | Fantasy Basketball Index

 

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