Now that the NBA draft is over, it's time to reflect on just how amazing the New Orleans Hornets' turnaround is.
Just six months ago, the team was bankrupt, searching for an owner, and desperately trying to trade their unhappy superstar Chris Paul while contending with the meddling of the NBA.While they could take comfort in still being in better shape than the Charlotte Bobcats, the Hornets seemed to be moving toward permanent irrelevancy.
What a difference two months can make.
In April, the Hornets were purchased by Saints owner Tom Benson, and a month later the team unexpectedly won the NBA draft lottery, earning the rights to the top pick in the 2012 NBA draft. The Hornets also were awarded the 10th pick in the draft, which they had received along with budding superstar Eric Gordon and others as part of the Chris Paul trade.
After surprising absolutely no one by drafting Anthony Davis, the Hornets were pleased to find Duke standout and former prep star Austin Rivers still on the draft board, and then were even more surprised to find Kentucky senior Darius Miller still around at No. 46.
The Hornets find themselves with a radically different roster than they had last season. Leading the way will be Eric Gordon, who the Hornets have promised to retain. Gordon will almost certainly be joined in the starting lineup by Davis and Rivers.
Miller could also find himself in the starting lineup due to the team's paucity at the small forward position, but if the team instead starts Al-Farouq Aminu or brings in a free agent small forward, Miller could add depth to the Hornets' bench.
Who will make the biggest long-term impact on the Hornets?
Despite the excitement in the Big Easy over the new look Hornets, the team still has a lot of work to do in order to build the team into a contender. The biggest issue facing the Hornets is the lack of a center on the roster following the trade of Emeka Okafor to the Washington Wizards.
The team had been considering drafting a center such as North Carolina's Tyler Zeller with the 10th pick, but when Rivers was available they went in another direction.
Seven-foot power forward Jason Smith has indicated he would be willing to consider a move to center, a wise offer now that Davis is the team's new power forward. With a starting lineup that will include two and possibly three rookies, the Hornets might be wary to add an inexperienced center to the mix.
The Hornets could also seek to address the center issue by turning to free agency. Because of the Okafor trade, the Hornets will have plenty of salary cap room, allowing them to make a run for one of the centers on the market.
Available centers include Roy Hibbert, JaVale McGee, Brook Lopez, and Spencer Hawes. The team could instead choose to re-sign their own Chris Kaman, but after they deactivated him last year while seeking to trade him, they might be looking for a fresh start elsewhere. Also, Kaman's age (30) does not gel with the team's youth movement.
Any way you look at, it's an exciting time to be a New Orleans Hornets fan. Along with a little bit of luck from lottery, the front office has put the team in an outstanding position going forward. The Hornets still need to find a center and perhaps a small forward, and their bench needs reinforcements, but no team has come further in the past year than the Hornets.