@Dinner Arizona is basically the sweetheart of sports writers and the refs and they don't want to admit it. It's obvious to everyone watching football that they're not better than Carolina, let alone Minnesota or probably even Green Bay. But the media keeps up with this "best team in the NFC" silliness and the refs keep handing them calls they apparently think everyone is too blind to see. Fortunately Carson Palmer will predictably implode when playoff time comes around and either Honey Badger or Patrick Peterson will find a way to get injured again.
Off-Season Grade: D+
Due to a couple of terrible contracts on the roster, New Orleans had little wiggle room this summer. They turned their main trade chip, Darren Collison, into Trevor Ariza who should finally provide some stability at the three. Plus, they rid themselves of the remaining two years, $13.4 million on James Posey's deal.
Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful summer. The Hornets traded down from the 11th pick in order to get two first-round picks and dump the final year of Mo Pete's contract. Aside from that, they turned deep bench players into other deep bench players by swinging a pair of trades.
Perhaps the most important move of the offseason was convincing Chris Paul not to force a trade and that the franchise was committed to surrounding him with more talent. We shall see how long that promise keeps Paul happy.
As long as Chris Paul is a Hornet, New Orleans will have a chance of making the playoffs. Coming off a year in which he only played 45 games, Paul has the capability of single-handedly leading this team back to the postseason.
The Hornets have solid complementary players in their starting five. Emeka Okafor is not the player he once was, but can still bring some defense and rebounding to the paint. David West gives Paul a scoring big man who is the king of the 17-foot jump shot. The addition of Ariza provides an athletic wing player who can run the floor and defend on their perimeter. Marcus Thornton was a huge surprise last season as a rookie and gives the starting unit a dangerous outside shooter.
What really concerns me is that New Orleans might have the worst bench in the NBA. Peja Stojakovic and newly acquired Willie Green are the only proven scorers in that group. Marco Belinelli has put together a nice preseason and might be ready to surprise some people after a fairly unimpressive career. Rookie Quincy Pondexter could find his way onto the floor as well. The depth up front of Aaron Gray, D.J. Mbenga and Jason Smith is garbage. Curtis Jerrells is the only true point guard on the bench. In other words, if the Hornets suffer an injury to one of their starters, they are in real trouble.
Of course, there is the possibility that the Hornets could dangle Peja's expiring contract as trade bait to try and entice a team looking to clear some cap space to send them a valuable player or two. Then again, New Orleans might be better off keeping Peja around and using the cap space themselves next summer in case they are forced to switch to re-building mode.
Looking Ahead to the Summer of 2011:
There is the good: Peja Stojakovic's awful, terrible, horrendous contract finally comes off the books which will save the Hornets more than $15 million in cap space.
There is the bad: Chris Paul enters the final guaranteed year of his contract and might force the Hornets' hand (a la what Carmelo Anthony seems to be doing with the Nuggets) and demand a trade. Plus, David West has a player option worth about $7.5 million and he will be in for a pay raise almost guaranteeing he will opt out of his contract unless an extension is reached during the season which I highly doubt will happen. There could be major change coming in New Orleans next summer if the Hornets do not show a fair amount of improvement this season.