There are eight players who will get a chance to prove they deserve playing time at either the two or the three this year in New Orleans. Last year's starting shooting guard, Rasual Butler, was traded to the Clippers for a conditional second round pick this offseason leaving the spot wide open.
Although Rasual hit a number of extremely clutch shots, statistics tend to suggest that he was well below average as a starting shooting guard and shouldn't be hard to replace.
Here's a quick rundown of all the guys in contention to play some minutes and the time that they should see this coming season.
Peja Stojakovic—Peja followed up a great 2007-2008 season (where he shot his highest ever three-point percentage) with a back injury-plagued 2008-2009 campaign.
Down were his games played, minutes per game, points, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and free throw percentage. The Hornets will need him to rebound this year to have a real chance at competing in the brutal Western Conference.
There was speculation this offseason that Julian Wright would replace Peja in the starting lineup, but with the departure of Butler this won't be happening.
Peja will likely be the only three-point threat in the starting lineup and will be counted on heavily to spread the floor for the starting unit. Paul is best when he is able to penetrate and then kick out. Without a legitimate three-point threat, the opposing defense is able to collapse around him.
Prediction—Starting small forward. 30 minutes per game.
Julian Wright—Drafted in the lottery, Wright is now entering his third year in the league and despite being a fan favorite he has yet to meet expectations.
He's athletic, energetic, and certainly enthusiastic on his good days, but often his low basketball IQ rears its ugly head and leads to turnovers and miscommunication.
He's at his best offensively when he doesn't have the ball and can use his athleticism and quickness to cut into the lane for easy baskets. He's at his worst when he stands nervously in a corner, waiting to take a sub par jump shot.
Defensively he has taken steps forward, but is still not the lock-down defender many think he is capable of being. He's 6'8", long, quick, and capable of stealing nearly anything. At his best he can stop, or at least slow-down anyone.
This year will be when he finally gets enough minutes to prove that he can guard other team's marquee players.
Prediction—Starting shooting guard. 25 minutes per game.
James Posey—The Hornets big signing of 2008 turned out to be rather meaningless last year as he was never really given a chance to shine in the playoffs. He briefly kept us in a few playoff games, but it was obviously in vain. He produced solidly all year and single handedly willed us to a few wins early on.
With Peja staying in the starting lineup it appears that Posey will again be counted on to bring veteran leadership to a bench that has no shortage of youth. He will often be accountable for guarding the opponent’s best playmaker.
Prediction—Sixth man, 28 minutes per game.
Morris Peterson—The starting guard for the 2007-2008 team was rarely seen last year as he averaged only 12 minutes in 43 games. He was hampered by injuries at some points, but appeared to have fallen out of favor with Byron Scott.
If Julian Wright can't handle his starting job, it would seem that Morris would be the obvious second choice. He's familiar with the role and is capable of hitting the three ball. He's shot over 38 percent from downtown four of the last five years.
Given that Shinn expressed displeasure with the lack of player development it's unlikely that Peterson will see significant time unless Julian Wright proves incapable of starting.
Prediction—60 games, 12 minutes per game
Marcus Thornton—When the LSU alum and 2009 SEC player of the year fell all the way to No. 43, the Hornets traded two future second round picks to get him. He was great during summer league, but it's very rare that players drafted in the second round make an impact in the NBA.
It's nice to think that he will be one of those rare exceptions (see Ginobili, Manu), but in reality it's just not likely. What he might give us is a few minutes at the beginning of quarters and some garbage time highlights. Even factoring in Shinn's desire to develop players, we still won't be seeing much of Marcus this year.
Prediction—60 games, 12 minutes per game
Devin Brown—Undoubtedly the Hornets were hoping he wouldn't exercise his player option for this year, but unfortunately he did. Now we are stuck paying over $2 million dollars total (thanks luxury tax) for a guy who really shouldn't be on the court.
It was shocking to repeatedly see him put on the court last year. He averaged an amazing 14 minutes a game despite shooting 35 percent from the floor and under 29 percent from three. Last year he looked lost on the court. His assist to turnover ratio was a pitiful 1:1.
His defense is average and being on the wrong side of 30, he has zero upside. There is no real reason that he should be on the floor at all this year.
Prediction—20 games, 10 minutes per game
Darren Collison/Antonio Daniels- These guys will initially split time backing up Chris Paul, but Collison should win out that battle in the long run as his upside is clearly higher. He should be almost NBA ready considering he played four full years in college.
Scott has seemed intrigued with using a two point guard backcourt in order to allow Paul to rest and make plays as a two guard so there should be a few minutes available for that.
Prediction—One of these guys will probably get abut five minutes a game playing alongside Paul in a smaller lineup in addition to minutes played backing up Paul.
It must be noted that the Hornets are still over the cap by $5 million dollars and change. Being a small market team, they are obviously trying to get under the cap. It's likely that one of these guys (Daniels is expiring) will be traded for cap room before the deadline.
There are a lot of questions surrounding this group of players and with so much time before the first real game a lot can change. If Julian Wright and Peja have big years, the Hornets could really surprise a lot of people.
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