New Orleans Hornets 2012-13 Schedule: Monthly Breakdown and W-L Predictions

Dave Leonardis@@FrontPageDaveContributor IIIJuly 30, 2012

New Orleans Hornets 2012-13 Schedule: Monthly Breakdown and W-L Predictions

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    The 2011-12 season was a rough one for the New Orleans Hornets. They traded their franchise point guard, Chris Paul, to the Los Angeles Clippers before the season started. The main piece they received in return, shooting guard Eric Gordon, played just 9 games for them and they finished with a putrid 21-45 record.

    This season, things are looking up for the Hornets. They parlayed the third-worst record in basketball into the No. 1 overall pick, where they selected potential franchise-changing big man Anthony Davis. They used the No. 10 overall pick, acquired in the Paul trade, to snag Duke shooting guard Austin Rivers. They re-signed Gordon and added forward Ryan Anderson and center Robin Lopez.

    New Orleans also bid farewell to pricey veterans such as Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Jarrett Jack, which gave the team some much needed cap flexibility. With all the moving and shaking, the Hornets have managed to go from a sinking ship to a team with some promise in the span of a couple months.

    The question is, where will all of that promise get them this upcoming season?

    The NBA released its schedule last week and gave Monty Williams' boys the tough task of opening against perennial championship contender San Antonio. It will be a classic battle between a group of seasoned pros and intriguing squad of young talent.

    Today, I will break down the Hornets' 82-game slate, highlighting key contests and conjuring up the best- and worst-case scenarios for the team in each month. There will also be some predictions on how New Orleans will fare, which may or may not lead to me eating a healthy serving of crow by season's end.

    What do you say we get to it, shall we?

October/November Schedule

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    - Wednesday, October 31 vs. San Antonio Spurs

    - Friday, November 2 vs. Utah Jazz

    - Saturday, November 3 @ Chicago Bulls

    - Wednesday, November 7 vs. Philadelphia 76ers

    - Friday, November 9 vs. Charlotte Bobcats

    - Wednesday, November 14 @ Houston Rockets

    - Friday, November 16 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

    - Saturday, November 17 @ Milwaukee Bucks

    - Tuesday, November 20 vs. New York Knicks

    - Wednesday, November 21 @ Indiana Pacers

    - Friday, November 23 @ Phoenix Suns

    - Sunday, November 25 @ Denver Nuggets

    - Monday, November 26 @ Los Angeles Clippers

    - Wednesday, November 28 vs. Utah Jazz

Key October/November Games

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    Wednesday, October 31 vs. San Antonio Spurs

    This game is important for a number of reasons. For starters, it's the home opener. It's the NBA regular season debuts of Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers and it's the first chance Hornets fans will get to see their revamped team in action.

    It's also a good learning experience for Davis, going up against one of the greatest players to ever play his position in Tim Duncan. The Hornets will try to give the Spurs everything they can handle but, even with New Orleans' youth, it's going to be tough for them to overcome a team as good as San Antonio so early in the season.

    Saturday, November 3 @ Chicago Bulls

    Assuming they take a loss against San Antonio on opening night, the matchup against Chicago a couple nights later will be a good litmus test for the young Hornets. Even with Chicago potentially without star point guard Derrick Rose for this one, the Bulls are still a formidable opponent.

    However, if New Orleans can take advantage of Rose's absence and steal a victory on the road against a tough competitor, it will build some confidence for a young team going forward.

    Wednesday, November 14 @ Houston Rockets

    This is another good litmus test game for the Hornets. Both New Orleans and Houston are in a group of about four or five teams that are young and talented but could still make a run at sneaking into the playoffs if things break right for them.

    The Rockets have a slew of promising rookies in forwards Donatas Montiejunas, Terrence Jones and Royce White as well as shooting guard Jeremy Lamb. Still, New Orleans can counter that group of freshmen with a couple prospects of their own in Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers. It's a good battle of young, rebuilding teams that the Hornets could win.

    Friday, November 23 @ Phoenix Suns

    It's the return of former Suns draft pick Robin Lopez to the desert. It's also the place that Eric Gordon fell in love with after the Suns courted him heavily this offseason. Like the showdown with Houston, the Suns-Hornets tilt is a quality matchup between similar teams.

    Both New Orleans and Phoenix were very active this offseason in shaking up their roster, and the result is two teams that now have a bright future. It makes for a very interesting early-season contest.

    Monday, November 26 @ Los Angeles Clippers

    It won't be as meaningful as when the Clippers come to New Orleans, but every Clippers-Hornets game will be important as long as Chris Paul is a Clipper and Eric Gordon is a Hornet.

    The two centerpieces of last winter's blockbuster trade will get reacquainted and CP3 gets his first look at a Hornets team that is completely changed from the one he departed last season. Emotions will run high and the game will be yet another hard-fought battle in what is becoming a blossoming rivalry.

    October/November W-L Prediction: 7-7

    Wins: Jazz(twice), Bobcats, Rockets, Bucks, Suns, Nuggets

    Losses: Spurs, Bulls, 76ers, Thunder, Knicks, Pacers, Clippers

Preview and Predictions for October/November

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of October/November

    There's a couple good ones in the season's first month. Obviously, Eric Gordon vs. Chris Paul is always something worth watching, but the one that takes the cake will happen on opening night.

    The highest hopes for Hornets fans is that their franchise savior, Anthony Davis, turns out to be everything Tim Duncan has been for San Antonio. It's a matchup of two former No. 1 overall picks with high expectations and unique skill sets. It's Duncan's jumper off the glass against Davis' immense shot-blocking ability. It will be a great battle of old school vs. new school to open the season up.

    Best Case Scenario for October/November

    New Orleans uses youth and opportunity to steal some quality wins against contenders like San Antonio and Chicago in the season's first week. The time spent learning from the game's elite in the Olympics pays dividends for Davis in terms of his development and he becomes a bona-fide superstar on both ends of the court right out of the gate.

    That, combined with the full health of Eric Gordon, catapults the Hornets to a surprising 10-4 start and the rest of the West starts to get nervous.

    Worst Case Scenario for October/November

    With seven of the season's first 10 games against playoff teams from last year including both Western Conference Finals participants, things get ugly in a hurry for New Orleans.

    Making matters worse, the new-look Hornets struggle to find chemistry and can't compete with similarly-talented teams like Houston and Phoenix. The Hornets stumble to a 2-12 start as Charlotte and Milwaukee are the only teams that fall victim to a Hornets team still trying to find themselves.

December Schedule

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    - Saturday, December 1 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

    - Monday, December 3 vs. Milwaukee Bucks

    - Wednesday, December 5 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

    - Friday, December 7 vs. Memphis Grizzlies

    - Saturday, December 8 @ Miami Heat

    - Tuesday, December 11 vs. Washington Wizards

    - Wednesday, December 12 @ Oklahoma City Thunder

    - Friday, December 14 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

    - Sunday, December 16 @ Portland Trailblazers

    - Tuesday, December 18 @ Golden State Warriors

    - Wednesday, December 19 @ Los Angeles Clippers

    - Friday, December 21 @ San Antonio Spurs

    - Saturday, December 22 vs. Indiana Pacers

    - Wednesday, December 26 @ Orlando Magic

    - Friday, December 28 vs. Toronto Raptors

    - Saturday, December 29 @ Charlotte Bobcats

Key December Games

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    Wednesday, December 5 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

    A game against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers is a key game for any team. This year, L.A. has Steve Nash on an already star-studded roster that includes Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. It's unlikely New Orleans can match all that talent so early in the season, but the games between these two are always fun to watch.

    Tuesday, December 11 vs. Washington Wizards

    The showdown between Washington and New Orleans is only important because it marks the return of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza to New Orleans. The Hornets shipped both men to D.C. in a trade before the draft in exchange for Rashard Lewis in an effort to save money.

    Lewis has since been waived, and it will interesting to see if Okafor and Ariza make their old team pay for giving up on them. It's also an intriguing matchup between rookie Bradley Beal and the man who he has drawn comparisons to, Eric Gordon.

    Tuesday, December 18 @ Golden State Warriors

    Be prepared to sense a theme here. The game features the Hornets taking on a team that harbors one of the many guys GM Dell Demps sent packing this offseason. In this case, we are talking about point guard Jarrett Jack.

    The Jack factor isn't much of a storyline, since he'll likely be coming off the bench, but it's worth noting. Overall, a game between these two is a fun contest between two young and exciting teams that could be competing for a playoff spot later in the season.

    Wednesday, December 26 @ Orlando Magic

    If, and this is a big if, Dwight Howard is still a member of the Orlando Magic when this game takes place, then this game becomes intriguing for Howard vs. Anthony Davis duel. If D12 is gone, then we at least have the return of Ryan Anderson to talk up.

    Anderson was traded to New Orleans for center Gustavo Ayon a couple months after the slick-shooting big man won the NBA's Most Improved Player award. Like with Jack and the two ex-Hornets in Washington, the revenge factor for Anderson is something to keep an eye on. The same can be said for Gustavo Ayon, if he's asked to fill in for Howard.

    December W-L Prediction: 9-7

    Wins: Bucks, Wizards, Timberwolves, Trailblazers, Warriors, Pacers, Magic, Raptors, Bobcats

    Losses: Thunder (twice), Lakers, Grizzlies, Heat, Clippers, Spurs

Previews and Predictions for December

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of December

    There's the rematch of Duncan vs. Davis as well as Davis vs. Howard, regardless of whether Dwight is playing for the Magic or the Lakers. The best matchup, however, goes to Eric Gordon vs. Kobe Bryant, assuming both are healthy enough to compete.

    Injuries kept the two from squaring off against each other last season. If both are suited up, it's a great duel between two crafty scorers with a flair for the dramatic when driving to the hoop.

    Best Case Scenario for December

    The Hornets establish themselves as a tough defensive team that dominate the boards thanks to the efforts of Robin Lopez, Anthony Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu. Meanwhile, Eric Gordon manages to stay healthy and solidifies himself as a top-5 shooting guard and one of the best players in the league.

    The combination of these two factors lead to upset wins over the likes of upper echelon teams like Miami and Oklahoma City, and an already-favorable scheduling month for the Hornets becomes even more beneficial for New Orleans.

    Worst Case Scenario for December

    The Hornets not only lose the games they're supposed to against the NBA's elite but can't pull out W's against young, up-and-coming teams like Toronto, Portland and Golden State.

    The team struggles to find offense beyond Eric Gordon, who continues to sulk after fantasizing about playing for Phoenix for most of the summer. Davis shows flashes of brilliance but becomes maddeningly inconsistent as he can't keep himself out of foul trouble.

January Schedule

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    - Tuesday, January 1 vs. Atlanta Hawks

    - Wednesday, January 2 @ Houston Rockets

    - Saturday, January 5 @ Dallas Mavericks

    - Monday, January 7 vs. San Antonio Spurs

    - Wednesday, January 9 vs. Houston Rockets

    - Friday, January 11 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

    - Sunday, January 13 @ New York Knicks

    - Tuesday, January 15 @ Philadelphia 76ers

    - Wednesday, January 16 @ Boston Celtics

    - Saturday, January 19 vs. Golden State Warriors

    - Monday, January 21 vs. Sacramento Kings

    - Wednesday, January 23 @ San Antonio Spurs

    - Friday, January 25 vs. Houston Rockets

    - Sunday, January 27 @ Memphis Grizzlies

    - Tuesday, January 29 @ Los Angeles Lakers

    - Wednesday, January 30 @ Utah Jazz

Key January Games

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    Saturday, January 5 @ Dallas Mavericks

    It's the first showdown against division rival Dallas. The Mavericks lost quite a bit of veteran talent this offseason and were denied in their attempts to lure Deron Williams and Dwight Howard to town.

    The transition to Plan B could lead to a down year for the Mavs and the Hornets could upset them if they catch them on the right night. On a lesser note, former Hornets first-round pick Darren Collison will be facing his old team for the first time as a Dallas Maverick.

    Sunday, January 13 @ New York Knicks to Wednesday, January 16 @ Boston Celtics

    This is a rough three-game road trip on the East Coast for New Orleans. It kicks off with a battle in the Garden against the Knicks, led by Carmelo Anthony and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler.

    From there, the Hornets travel to "The City of Brotherly Love" for a dogfight with the Sixers, and cap it off with their first showdown against Boston. It's a solid test for a young Hornets team, but the odds are long of the, beating three playoff teams on the road in the span of four days.

    Monday, January 21 vs. Sacramento Kings

    Like the Hornets, the Kings are a good collection of young talent that could make a splash this season. This game will feature a tag-team battle on the boards with DeMarcus Cousins and rookie Thomas Robinson squaring off with Robin Lopez and rookie Anthony Davis.

    Davis and Robinson were considered the two best forwards in this past June's draft, and this will be their first matchup against each other since the two met for the NCAA Championship.

    Sunday, January 27 @ Memphis Grizzlies to Wednesday, January 30 @ Utah Jazz

    As if the three-game stretch on the East Coast wasn't tough enough, the Hornets get an equally-difficult three-game run against Western Conference playoff teams just two weeks later. Take that, NBA conspiracy theorists!

    New Orleans will start off in Memphis and then travel to Los Angeles for another meeting with the Lakers. After that, the Jazz come calling for a showdown in Salt Lake City. When you throw in the Jan. 23 game on the road against San Antonio, that's seven games in three weeks on the road against playoff teams for the Hornets. Ouch.

    January W-L Prediction: 7-9

    Wins: Hawks, Rockets(three times), Timberwolves, Warriors, Kings

    Losses: Mavericks, Spurs(twice), Knicks, 76ers, Celtics, Grizzlies, Lakers, Jazz

Previews and Predictions for January

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    Key One-on-One Matchup of January

    The first matchup between Anthony Davis and Dirk Nowitzki will be intriguing, but it's going to be Davis' showdown with college rival Thomas Robinson that will be worth the price of admission.

    Davis and Robinson are two promising big men who can dominate the glass and keep defenses honest on the offensive end with their decent mid-range jumpers. Davis has the height and wingspan advantage, but Robinson has the luxury of a rising star in DeMarcus Cousins to draw opponents' attention. This should be the start of an exciting rivalry.

    Best Case Scenario for January

    The Hornets survive both of their brutal road trips on the plus side in the win column and take care of business against talented but less accomplished foes in Minnesota and Sacramento.

    With a couple months of experience under his belt now, Austin Rivers starts showing progress as an NBA point guard and New Orleans showcases one of the most dynamic scoring back-courts in the league.

    Worst Case Scenario for January

    The Hornets show they are not ready for prime-time in their two road trips against playoff-tested competition. Dallas, while not what they once were, still takes care of business. Houston proves to be better than expected, making the fact New Orleans would face them three times this month even more daunting.

February Schedule

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    - Friday, February 1 @ Denver Nuggets

    - Saturday, February 2 @ Minnesota Timberwolves

    - Wednesday, February 6 vs. Phoenix Suns

    - Friday, February 8 @ Atlanta Hawks

    - Sunday, February 10 @ Toronto Raptors

    - Monday, February 11 @ Detroit Pistons

    - Wednesday, February 13 vs. Portland Trailblazers

    - Tuesday, February 19 vs. Chicago Bulls

    - Wednesday, February 20 @ Cleveland Cavaliers

    - Friday, February 22 vs. Dallas Mavericks

    - Sunday, February 24 vs. Sacramento Kings

    - Tuesday, February 26 vs. Brooklyn Nets

    - Wednesday, February 27 @ Oklahoma City Thunder

Key February Games

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    Saturday, February 2 @ Minnesota Timberwolves

    An exciting matchup that, as the season progresses, could have playoff implications. Minnesota will be bringing rebound machine Kevin Love and play-making wizard Ricky Rubio to go up against Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis in a battle of some of the league's best young talent.

    Tuesday, February 26 vs. Brooklyn Nets

    It doesn't have the same luster as when CP3 was with the Hornets, but a battle with Deron Williams is still exciting. If, by some miracle, Dwight Howard is also a member of the Brooklyn Nets, this will be an exciting game to watch between the NBA's newest "Big Three" and another blossoming trio in New Orleans with Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon.

    Wednesday, February 27 @ Oklahoma City Thunder

    Even though, by this point, the two teams would have played multiple times already, it will still be interesting to see how New Orleans stacks up with an Oklahoma City team that is the class of the Western Conference. There's the potential of a shootout between Kevin Durant and Eric Gordon as well as the presence of two good shot-blockers in Serge Ibaka and Anthony Davis.

    February W-L Prediction: 7-6

    Wins: Suns, Hawks, Raptors, Pistons, Trailblazers, Cavaliers, Kings

    Losses: Nuggets, Timberwolves, Bulls, Mavericks, Nets, Thunder

Preview and Predictions for February

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of February

    There's a couple good ones this month. If both can manage to hold up physically, Brandon Roy vs. Eric Gordon could be interesting. Anthony Davis vs. Greg Monroe would be a good battle of two young forwards with a ton of potential.

    The best of the month, however, is Gordon vs. Russell Westbrook. Both are talented combo guards that can fill up a stat sheet. Westbrook has the advantage of having the superior team and a partner in Kevin Durant who is also one of the three best players in the league. Still, Gordon-Westbrook will be fun to watch.

    Best Case Scenario for February

    February becomes New Orleans' breakout month with only a couple tough opponents on the schedule. They have a puncher's chance against Chicago if Derrick Rose is still out, and there's no certainty that Brooklyn is the juggernaut many project them to be.

    With most of the month's games against lottery teams, the Hornets could start the second half of the season with a double-digit win month.

    Worst Case Scenario for February

    While most of the schedule is filled with teams that played poorly last year, those teams still have young talent and are promising enough to take some W's away from New Orleans. Even games against Cleveland and Detroit aren't necessarily locks for the Hornets.

    February is the Hornets' best chance to gain some ground in the playoff race but there's still a decent chance it ends badly for them if these middle-of-the-pack teams hit their stride.

March Schedule

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    - Friday, March 1 vs. Detroit Pistons

    - Monday, March 4 vs. Orlando Magic

    - Wednesday, March 6 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

    - Saturday, March 9 @ Memphis Grizzlies

    - Sunday, March 10 vs. Portland Trailblazers

    - Tuesday, March 12 @ Brooklyn Nets

    - Friday, March 15 @ Washington Wizards

    - Sunday, March 17 @ Minnesota Timberwolves

    - Monday, March 18 vs. Golden State Warriors

    - Wednesday, March 20 vs. Boston Celtics

    - Friday, March 22 vs. Memphis Grizzlies

    - Monday, March 25 vs. Denver Nuggets

    - Wednesday, March 27 vs. Los Angeles Clippers

    - Friday, March 29 vs. Miami Heat

    - Sunday, March 31 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Key March Games

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    Wednesday, March 20 vs. Boston Celtics

    Yes, this is the second time these two teams would meet. Yes, the angle of Austin Rivers playing against the team his father coaches won't be as fresh as when they faced each other for the first time in January.

    The difference here is that, if Rivers shows a good grasp of being able to play point guard, he could actually be in the starting lineup. Sure, it might be a reach, but I find the possibility of Austin Rivers starting against Boston more compelling than Rivers coming off the bench against his father's team.

    Wednesday, March 27 vs. Los Angeles Clippers

    It's Eric Gordon vs. Chris Paul for the second time this season, but this time it's in New Orleans. The storyline of Paul coming back to New Orleans to face his old team won't get old for a while and, while Hornets fans would rather CP3 be playing for them than against them, they will be glad to see their former face of the franchise back in town.

    Depending on how things go for New Orleans, this game could mean a little more if the Hornets are still in the playoff hunt.

    March W-L Prediction: 9-6

    Wins: Pistons, Magic, Lakers, Trailblazers, Wizards, Warriors, Nuggets, Clippers, Cavaliers

    Losses: Grizzlies(twice), Nets, Timberwolves, Celtics, Heat

Preview and Predictions for March

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of March

    The Gordon-Paul rematch is the most obvious choice, but the overall matchup between Golden State and New Orleans will pose some intriguing individual match-ups. Al-Farouq Aminu, who has been cutting his teeth as a defensive specialist as of late, will get the chance to lock down rookie Harrison Barnes.

    There's the battle between two college shooting guards turned NBA point guards in Austin Rivers vs. Steph Curry. Anthony Davis will be battling for rebounds with David Lee. Any one of those duels could be worth watching.

    Best Case Scenario for March

    The Hornets close the month with a seven-game skid at home. Granted, that stretch features games against Miami, Boston, Memphis and the Clippers but a good home momentum late in the season could be just what this team needs as the playoffs near.

    It also helps that Cleveland is on the docket at the month's end, and that games against Detroit and Washington are also on tap. The Hornets use the home stretch to make a late-season run as we enter the closing weeks of the season.

    Worst Case Scenario for March

    Even with nearly two weeks playing at home, the Hornets can't capitalize against the NBA's elite. The team nails easy layup games against Cleveland, Detroit and Washington but an overall tough month takes New Orleans out of playoff contention and back into the lottery.

April Schedule

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    - Wednesday, April 3 @ Golden State Warriors

    - Friday, April 5 @ Utah Jazz

    - Sunday, April 7 @ Phoenix Suns

    - Tuesday, April 9 @ Los Angeles Lakers

    - Wednesday, April 10 @ Sacramento Kings

    - Friday, April 12 vs. Los Angeles Clippers

    - Sunday, April 14 vs. Dallas Mavericks

    - Tuesday, April 17 @ Dallas Mavericks

Key April Games

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    Friday, April 5 @ Utah Jazz

    This game only becomes important if the Hornets are still in the playoff race. Last season, the Jazz made a late surge to claim the eighth seed and earn the right to be destroyed by the San Antonio Spurs.

    They finished the season playing just slightly better than .500 basketball. The same can hold true for New Orleans at this point of the season. If so, this matchup with Utah could be a fight for the eighth seed and a battle between Utah's dominant frontcourt against New Orleans' dynamic backcourt.

    Tuesday, April 9 @ Los Angeles Lakers

    Every game in April is key for teams in playoff contention. We know the Lakers will be in the playoff hunt, but will New Orleans be joining them? The Lakers-Hornets clashes are always hotly-contested and, with the Hornets significantly better than they were last year, this showdown late in the season would be no different.

    Sunday, April 14 vs. Dallas Mavericks and Wednesday, April 17 @ Dallas Mavericks

    At the risk of repeating myself, the disclaimer here is that these games only matter if New Orleans has a shot at the postseason. Dallas is a team that could be in the playoff picture or in the lottery, depending on how their offseason gamble shakes out.

    That would make these final two games of the season, both against the Hornets, very important. Playoff races very rarely come down to the final day, but the West is so deep with promising teams that anything can happen.

    April W-L Prediction: 3-5

    Wins: Suns, Kings, Mavericks (at home)

    Losses: Warriors, Jazz, Lakers, Clippers, Mavericks (on the road)

Preview and Predictions for April

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of April

    There are plenty of nominees here. Dirk vs. Anthony Davis will happen twice in the season's final two games. Davis and Thomas Robinson will do battle again, as will Eric Gordon and Kobe Bryant.

    The matchup I'm going to be most excited to see will be Anthony Davis vs. Blake Griffin. We know about the Eric Gordon-Chris Paul dynamic, but The Blake Show vs. The Unibrow could be one for the ages.

    Both are athletic freaks who dominate the boards. Davis excels on defense while Griffin is a beast on offense. There's also the caveat of Davis replacing Griffin on the Olympic team. Will Davis become another member of Blake's poster club, or will Davis shut him down? It's yet another reason to love these Clippers-Hornets showdowns.

    Best Case Scenario for April

    With playoff spots already set for some teams, most of the contenders New Orleans faces decide to rest their starters and allow the Hornets to pick up a few easy W's and make a run at sneaking into the playoffs. With the playoffs in their sights, New Orleans edges out declining Dallas in the final days of the season to nab the eighth seed.

    Worst Case Scenario for April

    The Hornets are long out of it, and the team decides to give some of the younger guys some burn. Davis and Rivers get big minutes for a late push at the Rookie of the Year award, and the team focuses its attention on next season.

Final Predictions

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    Final Record: 42-40

    New Orleans GM Dell Demps worked steadfast in completely overhauling a Hornets team that finished last season with a .318 winning percentage. They were fortunate enough to have Anthony Davis fall in their laps, and built around him nicely by re-signing Eric Gordon and drafting Austin Rivers.

    However, it's the less-publicized moves that will benefit Davis in the end. The acquisition of Robin Lopez gives the team a true center and keeps Davis at his more natural power forward spot.

    Ryan Anderson gives the team another scorer and allows the team to go big by playing Anderson at the three with Davis and Lopez playing the four and five, respectively.

    Swapping out Trevor Ariza and Jarrett Jack for Al-Farouq Aminu and Greivis Vasquez gives the team more length and makes them better defensively.

    Vasquez proved to be capable of putting points on the board when given the chance and, at 6'6", he's a matchup nightmare for opposing guards. Once Rivers gets acclimated to the pros and shoots better than he did in Las Vegas, that's another weapon at the Hornets' disposal.

    Still, the Hornets are going to need some things to bounce their way to make the playoffs. Eric Gordon must stay healthy for this team to compete. He's the team's best player and most reliable scorer, and they will need more than nine games out of their franchise guard. They'll also need Davis and Rivers to develop fast if they'll make a playoff run.

    As it stands, a 42-40 record puts New Orleans just outside of the playoffs. However, they are built well for the future, with three potential cornerstones in Gordon, Davis and Rivers.

    They have an outside shot at the postseason this year but, as they continue to add pieces, this can be a very dangerous team for years to come.