The NBA’s second youngest team, the New Orleans Hornets played like it the first two months of the season. Third year coach Monty Williams will be fortunate to win 30 games this year but considering their youth and turnover from the 2012 campaign, there is much credit due to Williams and GM Dell Demps.
New Orleans is certain to surpass last year’s win total of 21 despite replacing 6 of their top 8 players. The teams’ plan coming out of last season was build the foundation of a winner with maximum youth. The oldest of their top 7 players is third-year guard Greivis Vasquez (age 26). Rookies Austin Rivers and Anthony Davis are playing starters minutes.
22-year old Al-Farouq Aminu is having a career year (on pace for 7 Wins Produced according to The NBA Geek). The 6’9″ forward has increased his defensive rebounding from 17% to 25% in just one season. This puts Aminu in a rebounding class with Kenneth Faried and Zach Randolph. Coming out of Wake Forest, the Clippers bestowed the 8th overall pick on him in 2010. After looking questionable prior to this year that draft slot seems at least reasonable today.
New Orleans strongest attributes on defense are rebounding and keeping their opponents off the foul line. In addition to Aminu’s contributions Centers Robin Lopez and former Kentucky standout Anthony Davis have been superb. The young center combo average only 2.6 fouls/36 minutes compared to 3.5 fouls committed by the NBA average big man. The Hornets bigs are saving the team more than two fouls/game total. Considering they are both elite shot blockers the combination of their defensive tenacity and not getting into foul trouble proves quite valuable. Lopez has been especially good on “D” holding opponent centers to 51% eFG. Lopez himself shoots 55%.
The team has been league average on offense which is really saying something considering the early season injuries to #1 overall pick Davis and former 20 PPG scorer Eric Gordon. In Gordon’s 11 games back the team is 7-4 including a win over the Spurs where the former Clipper led all players with 24 points.
Finally, New Orleans has to be thrilled with the continued super offense provided by Ryan Anderson. After being traded from Orlando and signing a big 4-year contract last summer the NBA’s Most Improved Player from 2012 has continued his high-powered offense. Despite taking over half of his shots from beyond the arc Anderson is still highly efficient. His scoring has increased from 16 to 17 PPG with all of his shooting percentages remaining exactly the same as last year. No Dwight, No Problem.
As a team New Orleans was outscored by wide margins in November & December. Contrasting with their January play during which time the Hornets have outscored their opponents in the last 12 games. This should be further proof that Williams has the team moving in the right direction.
New Orleans fans have plenty of good basketball to watch today and much more success to look forward to in the next three seasons.
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