Congratulations David Stern. You’ve officially turned the New Orleans Hornets into the Little Giants, perhaps the one team in the league I might not watch all season. It is what is is though. The Hornets were already a disaster. Now your franchise is in L.A. because Stern was left to pick up the pieces. I was going to come in here and have someone argue with me over which deal was the better one – the Lakers nixed trade or this one – but let’s face it, you get a possible future All-Star, an athletic wing player, a huge expiring contract and an unprotected lottery pick; that’s a great haul for Chris Paul. But as John Schuhmann of NBA.com pointed out this morning, this trade will probably turn New Orleans into the worst team in the league.
Eric Gordon is an explosive scorer, but as I said on my top 10 shooting guards list, how much do we really know about him? He played 56 games last season, scoring big numbers as a somewhat forgotten wing player next to Blake Griffin. He had one of the worst rebounding rates of anyone playing big minutes, and doesn’t exactly create a ton of shots either. As a two guard playing 37 minutes a night, you should be able to finish with more than 4.4 assists a night playing next to Griffin and DeAndre Jordan (Paul might average that in every first quarter). Gordon is a scorer, and score he will in New Orleans. But to give you an idea of how he’ll handle being the No. 1 option – 55 percent of Gordon’s buckets were assisted last year (In comparison, Dwyane Wade was at 37 percent). Without players around him, expect a lot of turnovers and a lot of forced shots. But at least he’s always been very good at getting to the cup and drawing fouls.
Al-Farouq Aminu is a role player at best, and we don’t know what to expect out of Chris Kaman (will he even play there this year?).
The Hornets got the best deal they could for their future, but in the present, they’re going to be awful. If the fans weren’t already ignoring them, I’d say we might have the first NBA team getting WNBA attendance. The real key to this deal will come next summer.
As of right now, here are the five worst teams in the league, one through five:
1. New Orleans – talent-wise, they might be able to sneak out of the cellar, but with the season starting in 10 days and the Hornets still without a full roster, I can see them starting somewhere around 3-20.
So let’s look at the draft. Amazingly, the unprotected first-rounder the Clippers gave up probably won’t be as good as the Hornets own pick. New Orleans should finish as one of the worst three teams in the league while Minnesota, certainly not a playoff contender but much improved, could finish with close to 30 wins. As Chris Webber told me earlier this week, Rick Adelman is one of the first guys you should call when you’re building a team (His words were: “He’s going to empower players to be as good as you want and he’s going to give you enough rope to hang yourself.”).
Adelman teaches playing without the ball so well that inevitably, he always fields great passing teams. And look at Minnesota’s roster. They have skill at almost every position: shooters, passers, ballhandlers.
The Hornets have no starting-caliber point guard (They don’t even have a backup). As of now, they have no power forward at all, and even if they re-sign Carl Landry (it sounds like they have), he’s such a pathetic rebounder that he’ll be totally outmanned playing 35 minutes a night. Gordon’s going to have to score 25 a night for New Orleans to stay afloat.
Talk about a massive conflict of interest… what happens next year, as John Hollinger has pointed out, if Stern still doesn’t have a buyer and the Hornets somehow end up with the top pick?
They could conceivably end up with the top two picks. Let’s be realistic and take a stab at the two lottery picks N’awlins will have. For an example, I’ll say their own pick could be No. 3 and Minnesota’s may turn out to be No. 7. According to Draft Express, that would net them Harrison Barnes and John Henson. Two future starters at the forward positions, and who knows, perhaps Barnes develops into an All-Star. They could also possibly draft names like Perry Jones, Thomas Robinson or even Jeremy Lamb. Looking at their roster, everywhere besides the two is crumbling. The four is a plain crater.
Going from the playoffs to the worst team in the league can be partly expected when you trade someone like Chris Paul. But the final measurement of this deal hasn’t come yet. It’ll be decided with ping-pong balls next June.
Who should New Orleans look to draft next summer with two probably lottery picks?
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