New Orleans Hornets: Predicting the Depth Chart at Each Position

Argun Ulgen@@Brooklyn_BeatAnalyst IJuly 16, 2012

New Orleans Hornets: Predicting the Depth Chart at Each Position

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    The New Orleans Hornets are the NBA's new kids on the block. Will that block end with a playoff berth?

    If the 2012-13 NBA season started today, the Hornets average age would be 24 years old.  Three of the Hornets' rookies—Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers and Darius Miller—will play major minutes in 2012-13. 

    Here are predictions for the Hornets depth chart.  While the team may not have the talent to match the NBA's very best, it has enough positive attributes to make a playoff push this season.

Point Guard: Greivis Vasquez (Starter), Jerome Dyson (Bench)

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    Vasquez, a second year point guard, was an excellent back-up to Jarrett Jack last year.  In 28.9 minutes of play per game, he averaged 8.9 points and 5.4 assists. 

    Because the Hornets traded Jack earlier this month, Vasquez will assume the starting point guard position for the team.  Though, the Hornets would rather have Vasquez as an effective back-up than an average starter.

    However, Vasquez's role will be limited because shooting guard Eric Gordon will be handling the ball most often.  As a fourth option scorer and a reliable ball-handler, the Hornets will do fine with Vasquez at the 1-spot.

    The Hornets' back-up point guard will be second year player Jerome Dyson.  Dyson saw limited minutes as the third-string point guard last year.  However, in his last 10 games, he averaged 10 PPG. He should serve as an effective back-up.

Shooting Guard: Eric Gordon (Starter), Austin Rivers (Sixth Man)

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    The shooting guard position will be the New Orleans Hornets bread and butter.  And it should be delicious.

    Assuming he is healthy, Eric Gordon will have a monster year for the Hornets.  Yes, Gordon has only played half of all games the past two years due to injuries.  But when he was playing, he was balling to the tune of 21.5 PPG and about 1.5 steals per game. 

    Gordon's offensive game will flourish with recently acquired small forward and three-point threat Ryan Anderson spreading the floor. 

    Coming off the bench will be rookie Austin Rivers, who has the poise and maturity of his father, Doc Rivers, the legendary NBA player and current coach of the Boston Celtics.

    Austin Rivers averaged 15.5 PPG in his freshman year at Duke University.  Notably, he got to the line five times a game and shot 37 percent from the three.  With some time to develop, the long, 6'4" guard could be a star in the league. 

    Expect Gordon and Rivers to spend considerable time together in the back court, with Gordon assuming the role of point guard (he averaged 4.4 APG in 2010-11).

Center: Anthony Davis (Starter), Jason Smith (Bench)

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    As the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA draft, Davis will immediately be inserted into the Hornets' starting line-up.  The rookie will receive major minutes as a starter and he will not disappoint. 

    It is certain that Davis will provide instant shot-blocking and rebounding on defense.  It is also likely that his above the rim game will flourish quickly from receiving entry-passes from the slashing Gordon.

    Davis may not average twenty points a game, but he will get his high percentage looks and contribute on offense. 

    Fifth year player Jason Smith may be a starting forward with the Hornets, which has a lack of depth at that position.  However, the 7'0" Smith may also play back-up at center, even though his rebounding numbers for a player his size are very low (4.9 a game).

Small Forward: Ryan Anderson (starter), Darius Miller (bench)

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    The Hornets' recent acquisition of Ryan Anderson in a trade with the Orlando Magic for forward/center Gustavo Ayon was major coup. 

    Ayon proved he could be a strong center in this league.  Anderson, on the other hand, has already established himself as an elite small forward. 

    Anderson had a break-out year for the Magic in 2010-11, averaging 16.1 PPG and 7.7 RPG.  Moreover, he proved to be a an active and lethal three-point shooter hitting 39 percent from beyond the arc on an average of six attempts a game.

    An Eric Gordon/Anthony Davis/Ryan Anderson triangle could be an opposing match-up's nightmare.  If Gordon can balance between dominating the ball and distributing to Davis on the inside and Anderson on the corners, the Hornets will have an unpredictable offense. 

    Darius Miller—a rookie out of Kentucky University and the 46th pick in the 2012 NBA draft—should add some versatility to the small forward position.  Miller is a reliable defender and, like Anderson, a sharpshooter (he averaged 38 percent 3FG in his senior year).

Power Forward: Jason Smith (Starter), Al-Farouq Aminu (Bench)

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    The 4-spot will be the New Orleans Hornets' biggest trouble position.  Free-agent Carl Landry, who put up adequate numbers for the Hornets last year (12.5 PPG and 5.2 RPG), has indicated he does not wish to re-sign this year.

    That leaves the power forward slot in a bit of a disarray.  Jason Smith, a 7'0" back-up center, could start at the position.  He had a nice 2011-12 campaign averaging 9.9 PPG and 4.9 RPG off the bench.

    Of course, what you want from a 7'0" player is closer to double digits in rebounds, and it looks like Smith is sorely lacking in that department. 

    Off the bench, the Hornets may rely on a slightly undersized Al-Farouq Aminu.  Aminu's traditional role is small forward, but he proved he could be a strong rebounder in March of last year (he averaged 6.8 boards a game that month).

    At times, the Hornets may play the taller Jason Smith at center, and move Anthony Davis to power forward. However, Davis' shot-blocking and athleticism are too valuable not to slate him at center a good percentage of the time. 

    If anything, the Hornets have some interchangeable parts at the power forward and center positions.  Besides Davis, those parts are average.  But if Davis and Gordon have monster years, the Hornets could still be a .500 team in the Western Conference.