The New Orleans Hornets are off to a 3-0 start in the 2010/2011 season and looking nothing like the team from last year or even the one that just finished the preseason with a 1-7 record.
Something about them shows that this is a much different team then last year and also that there seems to be a bit more stability then the team new coach Monty Williams was trying to put together a couple weeks ago. They are playing better, transitioning smoother, and just an all around improved team.
And it's all because of the line-up.
Williams has finally found a rotation that truly works for the Hornets, but it helps that there were finally some personnel changes during the offseason. The starting line-up so far has consisted of Chris Paul (obviously), David West, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Marco Belinelli.
If you've been watching the Hornets for the past few seasons then one noticeably name absent from a starting spot is that of Peja Stojakovic, and rightfully so.
This is in no means meant to downplay the heart or talent or Peja, but his play has been very inconsistent and his health has been deteriorating every single season. Coming off the bench and giving 15-18 minutes a game is the perfect role for him.
It allows him to come in and maybe drain a few clutch three pointers or hit some foul shots late in the game while not having to play defense for long periods of time. Let's face it, we all know that defense was never his strong suit.
In steps Trevor Ariza who plays the small forward spot a bit better then Stojakovic and is better on the defensive side of the ball. Ariza's addition to West and Okafor in the front court gives New Orleans a very formidable starting three that can hold their own with about anyone in the NBA.
The bench isn't exactly too deep here, but Williams has learned how to use the talents and minutes of D.J. Mbenga, Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Jason Smith very well. Alone, none of them are anything to write home about. But used sparingly and with some combination of starters, and they provide some productive time on the floor.
Not to mention that it never hurts having Chris Paul getting the ball to you.
Speaking of Paul, he now has a great array of talent around him in the backcourt that will make things easier on him. Having missed much of last season due to injury, the talents of then rookies Marcus Thornton and most notably Darren Collison came to light. They filled in very nicely and kept the Hornets season afloat, but Paul's presence was sorely missed.
His return though made point guard Collison expendable and away he went in an offseason trade with the Indiana Pacers. Many fans wondered if this was just asking for trouble in case Paul had to miss (knock on wood) substantial time yet again. Had New Orleans place themselves in a huge hole?
Actually, no. They improved their position with the Collison trade as in came Belinelli, Willie Green, and Jerryd Bayless. All three of these guys can not only pass and defend well, but they've got a good outside shot which also helps fill in the void of three-point shooting when Stojakovic isn't on the floor.
We can't forget about Thornton either, who is improving with every single game. He's already averaging 11.7 points per game coming off the bench and playing just at 20 minutes. This is all on 52 percent shooting mind you.
Four Hornets are averaging double-digits in points and all but two on the entire roster are playing at least ten minutes a game, which goes to show you that coach Williams is using his entire bench and keeping defenses guessing.
He's doing that by utilizing the talents of each player when they would be most effective even if it means his starting center (Okafor) is only getting 25 minutes per game. Even Paul is only averaging only 35 minutes a game, and we all know that we've seen him play well into the forties on countless occasions.
That's what depth and proper player alignment will allow you to do and Williams is doing it well in his first ever stint as head coach in the NBA.
In order for this team to make the playoffs and compete in the very tough Western Conference, 45 wins if not at least 50 is going to be absolutely necessary. The Hornets 3-0 record is a great way to make a statement and show that they are legitimate and mean business.
Their victories weren't over basement teams either. Well, that is if you consider the Spurs, Nuggets and Bucks to all be scrubs, but I highly doubt you do. If the Hornets keep this pace up, then not only would coach Monty Williams be looking at a "Coach of the Year" title, but maybe even an NBA one as well.
Read more from Danny Cox at Examiner.com.
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