Hilton heading in the right direction for Hornets

Updated: July 13, 2006, 1:26 AM ET
By Brian Windhorst | Special to ESPN.com

LAS VEGAS -- The day of the plodding center in the NBA is nearly dead. It's partly due to an attrition of talent, the influence of European face-up shooters and, now, the up-tempo trend where athletic and versatile big men have become valuable commodities.

With their major roster upgrade this summer, the Hornets are certainly en vogue.

Hilton Armstrong
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesHilton Armstrong aims to make his presence felt in the paint.
Picking up Tyson Chandler -- well, picking him up when the Bulls and Ben Wallace make things official -- was a move in that direction, with the burgeoning David West already in place. Now, watching Hilton Armstrong at the Vegas Summer League makes it look as if the Hornets could have one of the most athletic frontcourt rotations in the league.

Of course, their point guard and brand new small forward (Chris Paul and Peja Stojakovic), aren't bad either.

The Hornets picked up two big men in the first round in Armstrong and Cedric Simmons who are both projected to be good shot blockers at the next level.

But so far in Vegas, Armstrong's athleticism has been the most eye-popping.

He scored 20 points and had four rebounds in the Hornets' loss to the Cavs on Wednesday, and is averaging 12.7 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 61 percent in the league. As always, stats in summer league should be looked at with a somewhat slanted view.

More important has been how active Armstrong has been, swiftly running the floor and working to challenge as many shots as possible. Because he can play both power forward and center, his energy off the bench could prove to be very useful for the Hornets, if he can stay consistent.

"He moves very well for a 7-footer," one Eastern Conference general manager said. "Plus he plays very smart."

Douby getting the point
Quincy Douby came out of Rutgers billed as a great shooter and scorer, but the Kings didn't really watch those skills during summer league.

Quincy Douby
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Kings are hoping Quincy Douby can provide depth behind Mike Bibby.
Regardless of what happens with free agent Bonzi Wells, the Kings already have depth at shooting guard with Francisco Garcia and Kevin Martin (who's lit up Vegas to the tune of 22.8 points a game) developing there nicely. But with no solidified backup to Mike Bibby at point, the Kings worked Douby almost exclusively on the ball to see if it's worth pursuing in training camp.

He finished the league averaging 13.3 points and three assists. He doesn't have the same smooth moves as some of the high-profile point guards on display here, but he was effective enough to make the Kings consider extending the experiment.

"I thought he did very well," new Kings coach Eric Musselman said. "We saw that he had great court vision and defended better than we anticipated."

Guard Ronnie Price, who went undrafted last year and made the Kings after a strong summer performance, stepped up his game, perhaps as a result to the challenge from Douby. He averaged 15.2 points in Sacto's five games including a 31-point effort Wednesday against Dallas.

Podkolzin showing improvement
The development of long-term Mavericks project Pavel Podkolzin, the 7-foot-5 Russian who has been plagued with various ailments since being drafted in 2004, seems to be bearing some fruit. He looks to be in good shape and his skills are showing a little polish. Mostly, he's out there acting like a 7-5 guy should, getting his hands on a lot of balls around the basket and finishing over smaller guys, and working to get in position to do so.

He had 20 points in a loss to the Kings on Wednesday and is averaging 12 points and 7.5 rebounds in about 21 minutes a game so far.

Brian Windhorst covers the NBA for the Akron Beacon Journal.

ALSO SEE