New Orleans Hornets: Can the Small-Market Hornets Compete in Today's NBA?

Louis GertlerContributor IIAugust 12, 2012

EL SEGUNDO, CA - AUGUST 10:  Dwight Howard speaks after being introduced to the media as the newest member of the Los Angeles Lakers during a news conference at the Toyota Sports Center on August 10, 2012 in El Segundo, California. The Lakers aquired Howard from Orlando Magic in a four-team trade. In addition Lakers wil receive Chris Duhon and Earl Clark from the Magic.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

If you are a fan of a NBA small-market team, the last few days have been a real downer.

Once again, a large-market team—the Los Angeles Lakers—has pulled out a free-agent coup, essentially swapping out talented, but erratic, center Andrew Bynum for megastar Dwight Howard.

And this was after the Lakers had previously signed free-agent point guard and two-time MVP Steve Nash.  

The Lakers are once again a leading contender for the NBA title. The rich always seem to get richer in the NBA.

Meanwhile, small-market teams—like the New Orleans Hornets—simply don't have the opportunity or the glamour to build a team in this fashion.   

Instead, small-market teams must be very smart. And it also really helps to be lucky.

They must either win a high pick in the NBA lottery, draft extremely well or find those under-the-radar players that develop into big contributors.

Take the Spurs, for example. They got lucky in the lottery (Tim Duncan) and found two diamond-in-the-rough foreign players (Parker and Ginobili) who have turned out to be superstars.

Or the Thunder, who have struck gold (Westbrook, Harden, Ibaka) in several recent drafts, despite not having a top-three pick. 

On the other hand, the risk of failure for small-market teams is extremely high. A couple of bad drafts, and a small-market team may be consigned to years of misery.

Just ask the Bobcats.

How are the Hornets doing?

Well, as mentioned above, they certainly got lucky, winning the draft lottery and selecting can't-miss big man Anthony Davis.

But even drafting a sure-fire All-Star is not nearly enough in today's NBA. Not with the likes of the big, bad Lakers and the Heat out there. 

The Hornets need their other lottery pick—Austin Rivers—to develop into the attacking, but capable, point guard that Hornets management believes he can become.

They need their free-agents acquisitions, including sharp-shooting forward Ryan Anderson, to excel at their assigned roles.

And the Hornets desperately need emerging star guard Eric Gordon to stay healthy.

Even with all of that, there is no way that the Hornets can contend this year. They are too inexperienced and young. There are still too many holes in the lineup. 

No, the Hornets must continue to build through the draft. They must look to develop their young talent. And they must hope to get lucky and find that diamond-in-the-rough player that others have overlooked.

Even then, it may not be enough to contend with the likes of the Lakers or the Heat.

But as a small-market team, they don't have a choice. They must be patient and continue to build for the long haul.

Because there is only one direction that the top free agents are heading now.

And it is not toward small-market teams.