New Orleans Hornets: Why the Hornets Are a Lock for a 2013 Playoff Appearence
The New Orleans Hornets will make the playoffs this upcoming season.
While it may take some time before they become perennial contenders, the Hornets have a promising young nucleus and a good coaching staff. They have three potential franchise cornerstones in shooting guard Eric Gordon as well as rookies Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers.
Now, the Hornets' best bet for a playoff spot might be the bottom two seeds. They probably won't last long in the first round, but they will get there next season.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind. The Hornets played the entire 2011-12 season having sent their best player to L.A. and the centerpiece they got back for him playing only nine games. Down the stretch, the best player on the Hornets was point guard Jarrett Jack.
This season, they have a possible superstar in No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis. Davis makes the team more formidable on the defensive front with his elite shot-blocking ability and he's a better rebounder than anyone on the team last season.
Another component is fellow rookie Austin Rivers, who gives New Orleans another dynamic scorer to go along with Eric Gordon. Both Rivers and Davis are extremely athletic young guys who can make an immediate splash because of their respective skill sets.
The biggest key, however, will be the health of Eric Gordon. Gordon played in just nine games last season after a myriad of ailments sidelined him. With the Hornets expected to match the four-year, $58 million deal that Phoenix offered, Gordon's contract situation is no longer an issue either.
If Gordon, Rivers and Davis are all healthy, they are good enough to at least double the 21 wins the team posted last year. If the team can reel in a true center like restricted free agent JaVale McGee, they become even more intriguing.
The other reason the Hornets will return to the postseason is the competition. While the top five seeds seemed to be locked with San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Memphis and both Los Angeles franchises, the other three could be up for grabs.
Denver finished last season with the sixth seed and was 17 games ahead of New Orleans last year. However, if the team finds McGee too expensive to retain, they may slide out of the playoffs with no interior presence to replace him.
The Dallas Mavericks were the seventh seed last year and they've had a rough offseason. First, they watched guard Jason Terry flee to Boston. Then, they were runner-ups in the Deron Williams Sweepstakes. After that, former Mav Steve Nash decided to go to the Lakers. Now, Jason Kidd has departed for the New York Knicks.
The eighth seed was the Utah Jazz, who finished with the same record as Dallas and were 15 games ahead of the Hornets last year. The Jazz's two best players, Paul Milsap and Al Jefferson, are both free agents next summer. It remains to be seen how that affects the team this season but if Utah chooses to sell them off midseason, they could be out of the running for the playoffs as well.
There are a lot of things that need to bounce New Orleans' way to make the postseason, but luck has been on their side the last few months. They won the lottery and the chance to add Davis. They found someone crazy enough to offer an expiring contract for the contracts of Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor. Soon, they'll have Gordon locked up for the next four seasons.
They'll need Davis and Rivers to stay healthy and contribute. They'll need Gordon to live up to his huge contract and potential and they'll need to outperform slumping teams that continue to find ways to make the playoffs.
It may seem like a long shot, but the Hornets have proven over the last few months that they are capable of beating the odds.
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