With the lockout likely to linger well into November and perhaps well into 2012, trying to preview the season of 30 teams that might not actually have one seems about as worthwhile as raking leaves on a windy day. But I love raking and the wind only makes it last longer. Razzball has you covered, even if you didn’t want to be covered. That’s love. You’ll appreciate it when you’re older. Look at it like this, the only way any of this stuff can be disproven is if the season starts. So go ahead, NBA, make me a fibber! I dare you. Until then, consider this fantasy basketball gospel. From now until the start of the season, we’re bringing you the 2011 Fantasy Team Previews, which will focus on each team in order to paint a clearer fantasy picture. Who’s starting? Who might surprise you? And who might make you want to hurl yourself off a bridge in a few months … or years? Next up – The New Orleans Hornets (This will be a fun preview to re-read in January when none of these players are still in New Orleans).
Gained – … an increased sense of doom.
Lost – Joe Alexander, David Andersen
Probable position depth –
PG – Chris Paul, Jarrett Jack
SG – Marco Belinelli*, Willie Green*
SF – Trevor Ariza, Quincy Pondexter
PF – David West*, Carl Landry*, Jason Smith*, Patrick Ewing Jr.
C – Emeka Okafor, Aaron Gray*, D.J. Mbenga*
* free agent
Surprising Team Fact From Last Season – The New Orleans Hornets had the toughest road to the playoffs last season according to two factors in particular: 1) They had the fifth-lowest home attendance in basketball (third lowest among playoff teams) and 2) they had the highest Strength of Schedule rating among any team to make the playoffs. Of course, the playoffs weren’t made any easier by the Hornets franchise having to go with the golden “I’m In” home shirts needed to hide all the Lakers fans in attendance.
Number of Top 20 Fantasy Players (par 0-1) – 1, Paul
Number of Top 50 Fantasy Players (par 1-2) – 2, West
Number of Top 75 Fantasy Players (par 2-3) – 0
Number of Top 100 Fantasy Players (par 3-4) – 4, Okafor, Ariza
Number of Top 200 Fantasy Players (par 6-7) – 7, Landry, Belinelli, Jack
3 Concerns Heading Into the Season
1. Is David West going anywhere and if he isn’t, is his knee back to normal?
Look, everyone on the Hornets is going somewhere. Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me if NOLA pools every last cent together to keep Chris Paul, while picking a dozen different season ticket holders every night to play alongside him. Who Dat!?! No idea. Well, who dat den? Yeah, that’s just some other regular dude too. Don’t tell me it can’t be done – season ticket sales are up this year! … Until those tickets must all be refunded, of course. Anywhoodle, yeah. There’s a lot of interest in West from other teams and I tend to think he’ll gladly leave. He quietly had an efficient season (his second-best per-minute affair) despite playing fewer mpgs since 2005. Whatever team grabs West will almost certainly make him a major part of its offense, so we’re only looking at his ACL, which was a clean rip by all accounts. Like what Elvis did to Little Richard? Cleaner. Like when Richard Hamilton exits the shower? Cleaner still. Assuming West’s health reports are accurate, I’d draft him as you normally would.
2. Belinelli projects to be the starter, but will he play like one?
I’ll admit, I don’t have high hopes for Belinelli to move that rubber tree plant. Last year, he faced a platoon with Marcus Thornton. Thornton didn’t pose much of a threat, but he posed more of a threat than Slick Willie Green will. Which is the only way I see Belinellillilli improving on his 25 mpg, 11/2/1, 1.7 3ptm season last year. Even if he does improve, it won’t be much more than this. If you’re desperate for threes, I’d consider this guy, but not really for any other reason.
3. When should Carl Landry be drafted? If he stays with N’Awlins or moves to the Blazers, he’s a reserve, but if he gets picked up by Indiana or Milwaukee, ugh, he’ll have to play for one of them!
Easy. If he starts, he’s a top 75 player (16/6/1 in 55 games as a starter), if he’s a reserve he shouldn’t be drafted before the 110th guy is taken (11/5/1 in 212 games). On the Hornets or Blazers, I wouldn’t reach. If he lands a starting job on the Pacers or Bucks, I’d bump him up three or four rounds.
Fantasy Disappointment in ’11 – Trevor Ariza. There are a few players in the league whose per game averages don’t, in any way, reflect the irregularities in their play from game-to-game. Ray Allen, Josh Smith and Danny Granger are all like this. Trevor Ariza is too. For example, on January 1, Ariza ended with a 22/5/0, with 5 stl and 2 3ptm and .625 from the line. Two days later, he shoots .182 from the floor and ends with 4/3/4 with 2 stls. He’ll attract a lot of fantasy owners with his rebounds and assists and the fact that he’s a starter on a team without many big names (especially if West and Landry leave) makes him more attractive than he should be, but Ariza plays his best when others are taking heat away from him. His shooting is horrendous, both on paper and sitting there watching him throw up hopeless shot after hopeless shot. I’d avoid him unless you have a team stacked with efficient shooters and can afford to take a chance on him somewhere between picks 90-105.
Biggest Fantasy Contributor in ’11 – Chris Paul. … Unless he misses half a season again (assuming every player isn’t forced to miss half the season!). To be honest here, I’m not sure it would take Paul more than half a season to outproduce the rest of this team. I mean, seriously, look at this bench.
Deep Sleeper – Jarrett Jack. He’ll miss the first game of the season due to a driving violation suspension, but with Chris Paul’s injury history, you can usually count on the reserve PG for the Hornets getting at least a couple weeks of solo burn. In his lifetime as a starter, he’s averaged 13/3/5 in 210 starts. Last year, primarily as a reserve, Jack averaged 9/2/3 in 20 mpg. I’ll also add that Jack is a decent play at SG. And now I’ll ask you to review what Belinellillilli averaged in 25 mpgs last season at that position.