10 Reasons for New Orleans Hornets to Have Hope for the Future
I confess up front this is not an all together new topic for me. Even as I've gone through August looking back at the previous 10 years of New Orleans Hornets' basketball, I've always tried to look forward as well.
So parts of this article may seem a bit recycled. Still these reasons for New Orleans Hornets fans to have hope are the 10 best reasons one can think of, or at least that I could think up.
The future is bright New Orleans. The next 10 years without question ought to be much greater than the previous 10 years. And here are the primary reasons why.
Tom Benson Purchased the Team
Simply having an owner brings stability to a sports franchise. The fact that the owner is rooted and based in New Orleans and to some degree owns the city doesn't hurt either.
Neither the Saints nor Hornets are leaving New Orleans any time soon.
And if Benson's success with the Saints in the past seven-plus years is any indication, he has learned how to provide a great atmosphere for the front office, coaches, players and fans.
The Saints are an integral part of the New Orleans community and you can guarantee, under Benson, that the Hornets' presence will only pick up in that area as well.
Benson realizes a city's professional teams offer a release and a ray of hope for a city so desperately in need of just that. He wants his Hornets to play that role just the way his Saints have for the past six years.
Dell Demps and Monty Williams Running Things
I've spewed many lines many times over how great I think Monty Williams and Dell Demps are.
I'll keep it short and sweet here. Unlike previous regimes, this group has a plan and is looking to execute it. When they realized Chris Paul could not be kept, they were insistent on making sure the team could build for the future with younger players.
With that plan fully in place and being activated, Demps' primary job is now to continue to scour the league for under-appreciated role players who would fit this team well not only now, but also in the future.
With a strong analytic background, Demps has already proven he knows the right combinations to put together a winner in one year. Let's see if he can stay patient over the course of four or five years.
If he can, this team can become another Oklahoma City-type franchise--one that builds around a young GM and head coach, with great young talent.
Fan Interest Is Growing
It may not be the most professional video of all-time but one thing this video proves is that interest in Hornets' basketball is growing in the city of New Orleans.
This is encouraging on so many levels. In 2008 and 2009 the fans were instrumental in propelling the team to new heights on the court and providing an electric atmosphere in the playoffs.
And we've seen how the fans are capable of supporting the New Orleans Saints. If fans can bring that kind of gumption to New Orleans Arena, "The Hive" could become one of the most difficult places to play in the NBA.
And we've seen how that alone can carry a team to great heights in Oklahoma City and Golden State over the years, just to name a couple.
Eric Gordon Is the Franchise Guy
Sure Eric Gordon and the Hornets had their issues this summer. Need I remind you he signed a max offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns then continued to front that his "heart is in Phoenix". He labored to see that New Orleans would not re-sign him.
Some fans believe Gordon has no interest in playing in New Orleans.
Don't believe the hype. Gordon will buy into the Hornets' plan by day one of training camp and will lead this team in scoring, defense and likely dishing the ball to open teammates as well.
As long as he can stay healthy, Gordon will become the Hornets' next great All-Star guard, following along the lines of Chris Paul and Baron Davis.
Anthony Davis Isn't a Bad Second Wheel
When you're the college basketball player of the year, Final Four Most Outstanding Player, No. 1 draft pick and Olympic gold medal winner in the same calendar year, you've had a great year.
That is what Hornets' 19-year-old forward Anthony Davis accomplished the past year or so.
Don't expect his first season in the NBA to work out quite so smoothly. Though he's a long 6'10", he's a wiry 222 lbs.
He's going to need to put on about 30 lbs. before he can legitimately battle in the low post against some of the league's strongest men. Until then he'll get beat up down there.
But, his athleticism, quickness and speed should allow him to excel in the fast break game early in his career. He'll be catching lobs from Eric Gordon and Greivis Vasquez early and often, it would seem.
By year two look for Davis to begin to look more like the player the Hornets projected when they made him the No. 1 pick in late June.
With added strength, a low post game and a jump shot, Davis can become one of the best all-around power forwards in the game in a few short years. When that happens, the Hornets will be ready to compete for NBA titles.
Ryan Anderson and Gordon Draining Threes
The NBA is a game where you have to play defense to win. In fact, the teams that have won the title the past decade or so, have all been elite defensive teams. The Hornets are already moving in that direction (more on this later).
But the winning teams have also won because they could hit shots, specifically from the outside. The Miami Heat would not have won this year's title without Shane Battier getting white-hot in the finals.
The Hornets have two elite three-point shooters in Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon. Their percentages may not be elite, but both can get hot and carry the team for stretches at a time.
Having two guys like that only figures to make the Hornets a great offensive team in a year or two. With Anderson at small forward and Gordon working as a combo guard, the Hornets will have a non-traditional offensive alignment which will create more open jump shots than most teams are permitted.
Maybe this is too soon, but "The Hive" might start to look like a hurricane with all the threes raining down by Hornets' players over the next few years.
Monty's Defensive Schemes
Monty Williams is a defense-first head coach. Those guys have done pretty well in the NBA in the past decade.
Bulls' coach Tom Thibodeau has put his name in the hat as best coach in the league with that same reputation. In 2010-11, with a healthy squad for most of the season, Williams' defensive schemes and approach yielded one of the best shutdown teams in the league.
In 2011-12, with a lack of continuity from game-to-game the team struggled to find an identity at either end of the court. Defensively the team struggled to do anything right. Yet they battled, and improved as the season went on.
With two incredibly talented defenders—Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon—leading the way, look for Williams' team to take a step forward at the defensive end of the court in 2012-13 and to quickly become one of the league's best defensive teams.
Austin Rivers the Fourth Wheel
If Austin Rivers is the guy you're counting on to be your fourth-best player in the future, you should have a pretty bright future.
Rivers entered the 2011-12 college basketball season as the No. 1 freshman prospect. He was of course passed by his new teammate Anthony Davis, but he remains one of the elite prospects in the game.
There was a lot to be concerned about with his play at Duke. But his competitiveness and desire to have the ball at the end of a game are qualities which will suit him well in New Orleans, especially when Gordon has to miss time due to an inevitable injury.
If Gordon is not around, there is no doubt who is taking the last shot for New Orleans. With Gordon, the defense has to prepare for two possible gunslingers.
If Rivers can buy into Williams' defensive schemes and mindset, his offense will flow naturally, because he'll get to play a lot. But he must become a better-than-average defender to play in New Orleans.
He needs to look up to the equally offensively-talented Gordon and see the effort the older veteran puts in on that end. Using Gordon as a model, Rivers can become a good defender and then an elite scorer.
Team Is Creating Depth
When you have an Olympian coming off your bench, like the Hornets will with Al Farouq-Aminu, it is clear the depth of your team is going to be adequate at worst and great at best.
That you have veterans Hakim Warrick and Roger Mason to provide leadership off the bench is a strength as well.
To have Greivis Vasquez as your backup point guard, well let's just say you have a ridiculous chest of riches at your disposal.
And Jason Smith as your backup center, well most teams would take that.
Even in 2012-13 this team looks like it has a chance to do some real damage. This roster is quite impressive.
The Team Has Time
The best news for everyone involved in New Orleans is that there's time. The team is intentionally looking to the future with their plans. They do not expect 2012-13 to be their best season.
They expect 2014 and 2015 and 2016 to be the time the youngins grow their wings and truly learn to fly like Hornets.
The next couple of seasons are going to be great for player development and chemistry-building. By 2014 the team ought to be ready to seriously compete.
The great thing for Hornets fans now? We get to see this future great product at its development stage. It is an exciting stage seeing all these young kids begin to figure things out.
As the team begins to contend and makes the playoffs, then wins a series, and finally goes all the way, we get to look on like proud parents who see their child mature from crawling to walking to riding a bike to finally driving a car and going to college.
That's what the Hornets development will look like. What a great time to jump on board and be "All In".