New Orleans Hornets: Eric Gordon-Anthony Davis Core Sets Up Incredible Future

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 28:  Anthony Davis (R) of the Kentucky Wildcats greets NBA Commissioner David Stern (L) after he was selected number one overall by the New Orleans Hornets during the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft at Prudential Center on June 28, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The New Orleans Hornets may have been cellar dwellers in 2011-12, but with a core of Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis, they could be set up for prodigious success down the road.

With massive skill, athleticism and four first names between them, Gordon and Davis would give the Hornets one of the best young one-two punches in the entire NBA.

I say "would" because Gordon is a restricted free agent, garnering (well-deserved) attention from multiple teams across the league. But GM Dell Demps went out of his way to articulate the Hornets' desire to re-sign Gordon during draft night interviews, and the team has stated their intention to match any offer he receives on the open market.

So assuming Gordon suits up in New Orleans, he and Anthony Davis would give the Hornets two excellent building blocks for the future and make them a force for years to come. Here are some reasons why.

Defense Wins Championships

Despite going scoreless in the first half of the national championship game, Anthony Davis was the consensus top pick in the draft, with some saying he was the best prospect they've seen since LeBron James.

If that's not a testament to his defensive impact, I don't know what is.

With a 7'5.5'' wingspan and superb timing, Davis should immediately challenge Serge Ibaka for the league's shot-blocking crown. In addition to his physical gifts, Davis also possesses an elite basketball IQ and a precocious ability to stay out of foul trouble.

In the era of small lineups and dribble-drive offense, the importance of a long, rim-protecting big man cannot be overstated.

In addition to that, Eric Gordon is an excellent perimeter defender whose size, quickness and athleticism allow him to defend both guard positions efficiently. With elite defenders both inside and out, the Hornets can build around a defensive identity.

They Complement Each Other Offensively

Davis' offensive game is still developing, and while he is expected to improve exponentially, he may never be a Tim Duncan-esque back-to-the-basket scorer.

Where he excels offensively is on the offensive glass, where his length and rebounding intuition make him a threat to come up with any missed shot. He averaged three offensive boards per game at Kentucky, a number that could proliferate given the wide-open nature of the NBA.

All of this makes him an ideal complement for a high-volume shooter like Eric Gordon. He only played nine games for New Orleans last season, but he averaged almost 16 shots per night, after averaging 17 in his final season in Los Angeles.

Gordon, along with No. 10 pick Austin Rivers, are explosive scorers who are capable of creating their own shot off the bounce. Their ability to do so should not only make them high-volume scorers, but should also allow Davis to do what he does best: chase down their misses.


Davis and Gordon's youth benefits the Hornets in multiple ways.

On the one hand, they are only going to get better. Davis is a tender 19 years old, while Gordon is only 23. As they work together, play together and challenge each other, both players are sure to get better every season.

But, more importantly, their youth should ensure that they don't get too good too quickly. Counting on a 19-year-old as one of your best players has not yielded favorable results in the past, but the Hornets shouldn't want to make the playoffs in 2013.

If you're modeling your franchise around the Thunder model and trying to build through the draft, you need to have at least one more high draft pick.

People seem to forget the two years Kevin Durant struggled in the NBA before the Thunder rose to prominence. The first year he struggled, the Thunder—then the Sonics—used their high draft pick on Russell Westbrook (and a later pick on Serge Ibaka). The next season, they struggled again, using their high draft pick on James Harden.

With Gordon, Davis and Rivers already in the fold, the Hornets are poised to replicate the Thunder's paradigm for success, whereby they have great pieces for the future, but not necessarily for the immediate present.

And one more top-five pick after one more lousy season could see them ascend just as quickly as Oklahoma City did.

Of course, all of this is predicated on the assumption that New Orleans will indeed re-sign Eric Gordon this offseason. And while that is no sure thing, his status as a restricted free agent makes it an overwhelming probability.

This young core is going to get the opportunity to grow together, and the thought of that should keep Western Conference coaches awake at night. If it doesn't, they're in for a big surprise.