Updated: Oct. 27, 2006, 12:10 PM ET

SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
CP3, new Hornets creating buzz

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 10 takes from ESPN's NBA experts.

ANALYST COMMENT
Marc
Stein
ESPN.com
They won't increase their win total by 20 again, but a jump from 38 to 48 isn't impossible. I'm convinced Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler will be great fits; my question is whether there's enough bench behind those two new guys, David West and Chris Paul (aka CP3).
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 7
Chris
Sheridan

ESPN.com
We've never been big Tyson Chandler fans, and we didn't like seeing Peja Stojakovic sit out the end of the Pacers' playoff series a year ago when his team was desperate for him. If the Hornets win 41, we'll be surprised.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 11
Jim
O'Brien

ESPN.com
Stojakovic gives them the scoring punch they needed. Chandler must come up big for them if they are going to be better. How much will they miss P.J. Brown's leadership? Paul and West must be their backbone.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 7
Tim
Legler

ESPN.com
The Hornets will be a playoff team with Paul leading the cast of Desmond Mason, Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic, David West, Bobby Jackson and Rasual Butler. With little depth, any key injury could doom their season, but I like this team a lot.
DIVISION RANK: 3 | CONFERENCE RANK: 8
Scoop
Jackson

ESPN.com
"Our Fam" member Chris Paul might be the second coming of Isiah Thomas, but it will be a while before he takes this squad to the Promised Land.
DIVISION RANK: 5 | CONFERENCE RANK: 13
John
Hollinger

ESPN.com
Yes, they made a lot of moves in the offseason, but they weren't as good as their record a year ago and have much more climbing to do than they think. Despite Chris Paul's brilliance, they don't look like more than a .500 team.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 9
Chad
Ford

ESPN.com
The talent upgrades won't amount to a huge jump in the standings. But if Paul continues to amaze, Chandler finds his offense and Stojakovic stays healthy, they'll make the playoffs. That's a best-case scenario, however.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 8
Ric
Bucher

ESPN Mag
While still in geographic limbo, they've added talent -- but does that make them a better team? Don't underestimate the value the one-two combo of Chris Paul and Speedy Claxton had last year. Or the leadership that P.J. Brown provided.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 9
Chris
Broussard

ESPN Mag
They will fight hard for that final playoff spot. Peja will have to be at his best, and Chandler will have to emerge as a double-double force to help Chris Paul get the Hornets to the postseason.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 10
Greg
Anthony

ESPN.com
I'm making this pick purely on the impact Chris Paul is going to have. The acquisition of Peja was huge, but can Chandler lead an otherwise unproven frontline? Bobby Jackson, talented and oft-injured, will have to give them 70 games and replace what Speedy Claxton did last year.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 8
 
Average ranks

DIVISION: 4.0 | Standings
CONFERENCE: 9.0 | Standings


New Shooter In Town
Stojakovic
AP Photo
Getting in sync with new Hornets teammates like Bobby Jackson is one key for Peja Stojakovic, a career 39.9 percent 3-point shooter.


Lineup Breakdown

STARTERS ANALYSIS
Chris Paul
Point Guard
6-0 | 175
Pure point is just 21 and already looking up at only Steve Nash.
Peja Stojakovic
Shooting Guard
6-10 | 229
Great shooter, yes. Clutch shooter? Hmm ...
Desmond Mason
Small Forward
6-5 | 222
Word is, he fixed hitch in jumper. We'll believe it when he sinks it.
David West
Power Forward
6-9 | 240
Nearly tripled his average (17.1 ppg). Thanks, CP3.
Tyson Chandler
Center
7-1 | 235
His salary anchors the cap, so he'd best anchor the D.
Bench: Bobby Jackson is made for running, kid PFs Hilton Armstrong and Cedric Simmons get up and down too, and Rasual Butler isn't afraid to go deep.

ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands October 25.



Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Bobby Jackson
Player efficiency rating
projection: 13.56
vs. NBA avg.: -1.44
Hornets profiles

Scouting report: Jackson isn't on the court to be a distributor. He ranked only 62nd among the league's 65 point guards in assist ratio, ranking right between Allen Iverson and Gilbert Arenas, and it was his best mark in years. He will dribble out the entire shot clock looking for his offense at times, which is why he works better with the second unit. He likes to shoot a jumper going to his right, usually kicking his right leg out to protect himself (for more on how I feel about this, see the James Jones comment).

Jackson's talent is the ability to create shots without turning the ball over, as his usage rate (14th) and turnover ratio (11th) were both much better than the norm for his position. In the past, the shots he created were also of a high quality, but last season his TS% slumped to well below the league average.

Though only 6-foot-1, Jackson is one of the best rebounding guards in basketball, ranking fourth among point guards. He's also an above average defender with good quickness and intensity, explaining why the Griz were 1.2 points better per 100 possessions with him on the court.

2006-07 outlook: The Hornets inked Jackson to a three-year, $17 million deal over the summer, rolling the dice that Jackson can stay in one piece and produce. If I had to bet, I'd say they'll get one good season and two bad ones. Jackson hadn't played more than 59 games in any of the three seasons before he came to Memphis, and he missed 11 contests even last season. So the over/under on Jackson's games should be around 60 for next season.

In addition to the injury risk, there's serious performance risk. Jackson got a late start on his career and is older than many people imagine at 33. He's coming off a rough shooting season, which could be a fluke -- or could be the start of the downhill trend. History says it's more likely to be the latter, which is why Jackson's projected numbers for next season will dismay some Hornets fans. He'll be a productive reserve, and his ability to play both guard spots will help since the Hornets traded away half their backcourt this summer. But his Sixth Man of the Year days are long gone.


Casting A Paul
Paul
AP Photo/Ty Russell
Rookie of the Year. Team USA point guard. Chris Paul should take another step toward superstardom this season, John Hollinger predicts. He says the key thing to watch will be his usage rate, which was a bit low for a star guard last season.


SportsNation Speaks
The Hornets were the feel-good saga of last season. Now SportsNation actually expects something of them. SN is a tough bunch.

What's your take on the Peja acquisition?
53.0% He'll help, but less than hoped
34.5% Just what the Hornets needed
12.5% The Hornets overpaid

Vote: Hornets in 2006-07



Ask A Blogger
Hornets

What would it take for you to get a tattoo of the Hornets' logo on your chest?

Almost 20 years as an NBA franchise, and not one lousy trip to the conference finals. The Hornets have often been good, but rarely great. Bad contracts, injuries, Baron Davises -- there has always been some pain in the ass.

But this year is destined to be different. The millions invested in Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic won't go to waste. There will be no injuries. Everybody will know their role and fill it to perfection. Chris Paul will lead us to the conference finals. At last.

I'll happily get that ink and go shirtless all summer.

Ron Hitley | hornets247.com



Coach's Corner

BYRON SCOTT COACHING FILE
Experience: 6 years
Record: 205-247
Playoffs: 25-15
NBA titles: 0
Coach's profile

The Hornets may have been the feel-good story of last season, but Byron Scott has his work cut out for him to replicate those feelings again this year.

He'll have to work in two new core guys, Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler, who could end up being the team's leading scorer and rebounder, respectively.

But neither player is coming in with a lot of genuine confidence, and Scott will be challenged to get these two playing to their career best.

Scott may go more up-tempo now that he has Chandler to team with David West, who together should gather enough rebounds to keep Chris Paul happy on the break.

David Thorpe, ESPN.com NBA analyst



Hollinger's Team Strength
Transition offense. While this team can't get out of its own way in the half court, it's a completely different story when they're off and running.

Paul is one of the best transition point guards in basketball, finishing sometimes but more often placing a perfect pass to a streaking wingman. And on this team, he'll have several.

Mason might be a horror show on set plays, but he's a freak show on the break who throws down massive jams off the wing. Jackson has great speed and likes the open court as well, while Stojakovic's ability to scoot up court is vastly underrated. Up front, Chandler and West are two of the faster players at their positions, and West especially is very good at getting points as a trailer.

With all that, here's a puzzling stat: New Orleans/Oklahoma City only ranked 21st in pace factor a year ago. As famous New Orleans chef Emeril Lagasse might say, it's time for them to kick it up a notch.

More Hollinger Hornets analysis Insider



Fantasy Fix
Chandler
Chandler

Sleeper: Tyson Chandler is the obvious choice here, if only because the change of scenery should provide him with a chance to prove everyone wrong about his toughness and durability. If he can avoid the injury bug, Chandler will receive the most minutes he ever has, which should translate to better scoring numbers and maybe a double-digit rebounding average. It's unlikely he'll shoot 56 percent from the field again, though.

Bust: Peja Stojakovic, although he is not even 30 years old yet, appears to be on the downside of his career, albeit the early stages of decline. He'll likely play lots of shooting guard with the Hornets, which means his rebounding totals will take a hit; and he'll never regain the form of '03-04 when he was nearly unstoppable on the perimeter. Still a solid performer, but be realistic about what he can do for you.

Keith Lipscomb | Fantasy Hoops Index

 

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