It was one gut punch after another for New Orleans last year, as they traded their franchise player in Chris Paul and finished at the bottom of the West with a 21-45 record.
The third worst winning percentage in the entire league had its advantages though, when the lottery turned up their ball last, giving them the first pick in the draft. They promptly drafted Anthony Davis, re-signed Eric Gordon and brought in a legitimate pair of big men in Ryan Anderson and Robin Lopez.
How quickly rosters, and fortunes, can change in the NBA.
The Full Monty - Monty Williams has been a perfect fit with the Hornets as he enters his third season as their head coach. Williams won the respect of his players and was able to get them to buy into his defensive scheme. The result last season was a team that allowed just 93.9 points per game, which was eighth best in the league. Williams now gets a talent infusion as he tries to lead his young club back into the post-season.
Next Big Thing
Anthony Davis was the clear prize in this year's draft class and puts the Hornets rebuild on the fast track.
Number One - Davis will only help to improve the Hornets defence as he is a strong defensive post player. By all accounts, Davis is as certain as top draft picks come, with the size (6'10) and skills to be an excellent front court player. The offensive tools will need to be worked on, but with a proven scorer (Eric Gordon) already on the roster, Davis doesn't need to be the top option. With Davis and Gordon on board, New Orleans has two elite stars.
Youth Movement - While the young players in New Orleans bring a lot hope to the franchise, it will also take time for them to learn to play together, while figuring out the strengths and weaknesses in their own games. Their surprising defence a year ago was wasted because they were unable to score at the other end. As we saw with the Thunder, it takes time for promising young clubs to learn how to win in the pros and the Hornets will be no different.
Overshadowed - With all the hype around Davis, many forget the Hornets had a second top 10 draft pick, which they used to select Duke guard Austin Rivers. The rookie was originally expected to compete at point guard, but in the pre-season he has played off the ball. Rivers has been accustom to being a star and will now have to deal with being a role player in New Orleans. The best case scenario would see Rivers come off the bench as a strong sixth man in his rookie year.
Landing Anthony Davis should help speed up the rebuilding process.
Eric Gordon will see plenty of opportunities to score and is the top Hornet at 29.
X Factor: Ryan Anderson
In a very savvy move, New Orleans acquired Anderson in a sign-and-trade with the Magic. What they received was a 24-year-old, who just won the NBA's Most Improved Player award for a season where he averaged 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. The power forward can help spread the floor with his three point shooting, but isn't afraid to battle down low.
What to Expect
Asking the Hornets to compete for the post-season may be a bit over the top, but the impact Davis is going to make can't be understated. Davis has already been showing his elite skills off in the pre-season and with some of the other additions, the Hornets are definitely headed in the right direction. Expect a better year for New Orleans, where they will pull themselves off the floor in the West and begin moving towards a bright future.
Tim Chisholm's Offseason Grade
Had the Hornets landed Anthony Davis alone this summer they would have had a successful offseason.
However, they also shed Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza (and their bloated contracts), re-signed star guard Eric Gordon, picked up Most Improved award winner Ryan Anderson, traded for reserves Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick.
Oh and they also picked up Austin Rivers on draft night, a guy most clubs would be putting on billboards if they'd landed him.
None of this will put them into the postseason this year, but it all puts them solidly on a path to get there eventually.