New Orleans Hornets a Legit Playoff Contender After Ryan Anderson Trade

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 8, 2012

ORLANDO, FL - APRIL 26:  Ryan Anderson #33 of the Orlando Magic celebrates a three point shot against the Atlanta Hawks during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 26, 2011 at the Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida.  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 J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images

The New Orleans Hornets have added yet another piece to the playoff puzzle with their recent trade for Ryan Anderson, the NBA's reigning Most Improved Player and one of the sweetest-shooting big men in the game. 

Anthony Davis hasn't even signed his rookie contract with the New Orleans Hornets yet after going No. 1 overall in the 2012 NBA draft, and the unibrow is already permeating throughout the culture of this franchise. 

Much like those extra hairs in the middle of his singular eyebrow are all about winning, the Hornets are now adopting the vaunted "win now" and "win at all costs" strategy typically employed by the traditional powerhouses of the NBA. 

Sending Gustavo Ayon to the Orlando Magic to complete a sign-and-trade for Ryan Anderson is a move that makes that perfectly clear. The Hornets can taste the playoffs, and they'll stop at nothing to take a bite out of them at the conclusion of the 2012-2013 regular season. 

This move all but ensures that the Hornets won't be bringing back Carl Landry or Chris Kaman, who are both free agents this summer. New Orleans doesn't need them now that they have two big men who complement each other quite well. 

Davis is sure to block a massive number of shots in the paint, while Anderson can stretch the court and force opposing players out to the perimeter as they strive to keep him from knocking down triples. Between the two of them, this is a frontcourt to be reckoned with. 

There's a solid chance that Al-Farouq Aminu blossoms into an above-average small forward as well, which would make this set of forwards on the roster even more impressive, even though they're a bit undersized and might struggle against the more physical lineups they face. 

The backcourt may be just as impressive if Eric Gordon's services are retained. 

For all the pre-draft gripes about the Hornets' needs at point guard, Jarrett Jack is still a good option who distributes the ball well, gets to the charity stripe and plays defense bigger than a 6'3" floor general normally can. He's not elite, but he doesn't need to be.

That's the job of the shooting guard rotation on this roster.

New Orleans has seemed intent on bringing back Gordon throughout the free-agency process. Despite the offer sheet set forth by the Phoenix Suns and the subsequent quote by Gordon about how he wanted to move to the desert-based organization, the Hornets have steadfastly maintained interest in retaining the shooting guard's services.

Plus, you'd have to believe that a move like this one increases Gordon's desire to stay in Bayou country. Trading for Anderson shows that the Hornets' brass is committed to winning right now. 

The addition of Austin Rivers with the No. 10 pick in the draft only increases the scoring output from the position. Rivers will likely serve as a high-scoring rookie combo guard and the team's sixth man, backing up both Gordon and Jack.

From 1 through 5, the Hornets are solid across the board and should be able to not just sneak their way into the Western Conference playoffs, but even clinch a spot with more than a few games left on the docket.

This team is already eight players deep when you remember that Greivis Vasquez and Jason Smith will come off the bench and provide quality minutes, and it's sure to get even deeper as the free-agency period progresses.  

New Orleans finished dead last in the West last season with a putrid 21-45 record during the lockout-shortened season, but they've added a significant amount of talent.

With a healthy Gordon playing throughout the next campaign, two rookies who are ready to compete from day one and could potentially finish near or at the top of the Rookie of the Year voting and the addition of the reigning Most Improved Player, don't sleep on these Hornets.