While the New Orleans Hornets are technically in rebuilding mode, there are a number of steps the team can take to hasten their rise through the NBA's ranks. The Hornets have compiled enough talent this offseason that they can make an immediate impact and make a run at the playoffs this season.
To make a jump from the worst record in the West last year to the playoffs this year, New Orleans will need a few things to bounce their way.
It goes without saying that they'll need good fortune in avoiding injuries. Shooting guard Eric Gordon has been sidelined with knee troubles, but ESPN's Marc Stein tweeted Monday that the team is optimistic their franchise guard will be ready for the season opener against San Antonio.
Gordon's health is key to the Hornets' success, but it has become even more important after rookie Austin Rivers suffered an ankle injury in a preseason game against Dallas. It's the same ankle that Rivers had surgery on back in June to remove bone spurs.
Fortunately, X-rays on Rivers' ankle came back negative and the team awaits results from an MRI scheduled for Tuesday. The team believes Rivers will be ready for the opener as well, but Rivers currently finds himself in a walking boot and unable to put pressure on his foot.
Rivers and Gordon are just a couple of core pieces to this refined Hornets puzzle. The biggest piece, literally and figuratively, is No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis. Davis has had quite the year so far, going from collegiate national champion to top overall pick to Olympic gold medalist to lighting up the NBA preseason.
In his most recent performance, "The Unibrow" dropped six points and grabbed 17 rebounds. Davis is one of many new arrivals, including center Robin Lopez and forward Ryan Anderson.
Lopez and Anderson scored 14 points apiece in the loss to Dallas, while Lopez added 11 rebounds and a couple blocks to his stat sheet.
New Orleans enters this season with lofty expectations and a ton of promise. This may be considered a "rebuilding year", but the Hornets can use this season as the starting point to bigger things.
Here are five ways the New Orleans Hornets can speed up the rebuilding process and leave a profound mark on the NBA this season.