The New Orleans Hornets’ season is dwindling down. It has been a long year for the Hornets, who entered the season with exciting momentum. Winning the jackpot with the number one overall pick, the Hornets found the future of their franchise in Anthony Davis. However, this year was a rebuilding year. They have shown glimpses of their future, but their play has been very inconsistent. This is not surprising, considering that they are the second youngest team in the NBA. The following list is a detailed review on the entire Hornet’s roster. Should the Hornets keep some of these players for their hopeful success, or should they try and go in a different direction? The Hornets need to progress as they evolve from the bottom feeders to the (hopefully) bright future of the Pelicans.
Strengths: Aminu was blessed from the basketball gods with an athletic lanky NBA body. Unfortunately, these gods did not bless him with basketball skills. Aminu has progressed exponentially this year. He has found his role as a versatile wing defender and ferocious rebounder. He also can guard stretch power-forwards, which is the new fad in the league. He has finally quit shooting jump shots (which he is terrible at) and mostly gets his points from fast-break dunks, offensive rebounds, and nifty cuts in the paint.
Weaknesses: Aminu needs a lot of work on refining his raw offensive game. When he is on the floor, opposing defenses often sag off of him and clog the paint. This hinders the penetration of Gordon and Vazquez on their high pick-and-rolls. He needs to develop a corner three. He needs to mold his offensive game in the way of Metta World Peace of the Los Angeles Lakers. World Peace is not a great three-point threat. However, he has found consistency from the corner three spot which gives spacing to the Lakers’ offense.
Conclusion: Aminu is still a very young player. He needs to embrace his role as a defensive first player (preferably off the bench). He is a part of the future of Pelicans. However, he should NEVER be expected of becoming an efficient starter for a playoff team.
Strengths: Anderson is a lights-out three-point shooter. He is a very good rebounder. He is on a very affordable contract for a player who averages 17 points and six rebounds a game. Kudos to the Hornet’s front office for hijacking him from the Magic and only giving up Gustavo Ayon (sadly, I miss him somewhat).
Weaknesses: Anderson will never be a great defensive player. He is just not athletic enough to contend with the better post players in the league. However, he can improve his offensive game to help compensate for his defensive hindrances. He needs to develop a post-up game to use on teams that play a smaller forward on him. He also needs to learn how to make space for himself on the perimeter off the dribble. Often, his only offense are three pointers with space from multiple off-ball screens.
Conclusion: Anderson will be a key player in the future of the Pelicans. He offers great shooting and hard work on both ends of the floor.
Strengths: I am utterly surprised by Davis’s offensive touch. Watching him at Kentucky, I thought he was just a defensive monster taking advantage of the NCAA’s lack of a defensive three-second lane violation. He shoots a nice mid-range jumper from 15-17 feet. He can finish on alley oops. He also shot 75% from the line in his first year. He is a monster on weak side defense. He alters and blocks many shots when he comes to help his teammates in the lane.
Weaknesses: Davis needs to take advantage of his length and quickness with a post game. He will never be a Shaquille O’Neal in the post, but he should develop a nice running hook to vary his offensive game. Davis’s biggest improvement needs to come on the defensive end. His lack of bulk often causes problems against the more physical big guys in the league. He is also slow on his defensive rotations, which leads to a lot of easy layups in the lane for opposing teams. He is only a rookie. Time will allow him develop these skills.
Conclusion: Davis is the future star of the Pelicans. He will become a perennial all-star if he continues to develop his game.
Strengths: Gordon is a great ball handler, a prolific scorer on and off the ball, and a consistent shooter. He is also a very good on-ball defender, considering his relatively small size of 6’3” at shooting guard. People give him slack for his contract negotiations and injury history. However, these critics fail to recognize the true talent that Gordon is.
Weaknesses: Gordon needs to learn how to play the high pick-and-roll better. He often drives to the lane uncontrollably, which leads to a wild shot or a costly turnover. He needs to learn how to better pass for scoring opportunities out of the pick-and-roll. Gordon also needs to play better help defense. He face-guards his man too often. This lack of help-defense allows for opposing players to drive in the paint easier. It should be noted that Gordon is coming off a major knee surgery and is still not 100% back to full strength.
Conclusion: Gordon is a must for the future. The Pelican will need a creative and versatile scorer who can create his own shot. Gordon is that man.
Strengths: Henry has great size at 6’6” for a shooting guard. He also has a very nice shooting touch.
Weaknesses: Henry has been marred with inconsistency dating back to his college career at Kansas. He has never seen consistent NBA minutes, which has hindered his growth.
Conclusion: Henry does not play a role in the future of the Pelicans. I sincerely hope that Henry can find a consistent role elsewhere in order to discern whether he really could be a contributing player in the NBA.
Strengths: Lopez is the gnarliest looking player in the NBA, by far. This doesn’t stop my love for the gnarly big man. Lopez plays hard post defense, crashes the defensive and offensive boards, rolls hard to the basket, and is a decent free throw shooter for a center. He is also the best team defender on the Hornets. He is always rotating well on defense and helping out on perimeter defenders. The Hornets also have him on a killer contract for a player of his caliber — on contract for only $5 million a year over the next three years.
Weaknesses: Lopez needs to become a better finisher at the rim. Too often, Lopez goes up for the dunk, only to see it get blocked. He needs to learn how to draw contract from the defender and lay it up for the And-1 opportunity. Lopez also needs to develop a 12-foot set jumper to help add spacing to the offense. Opposing teams sag off of him outside of the block to help a penetrating perimeter player. Developing that jumper would make teams pay for their help in the lane.
Strengths: Lopez will be a key cog in developing a sound defense in the future. He has also continued to refine his offensive games. These qualities make his future very satisfying for Pelican fans.
Roger Mason, Jr.
Strengths: Mason is a very good mid-range and three-point shooter. He plays hard on defense, and he is a great veteran mentor for the young roster.
Weaknesses: Mason is past his prime as a contributor for a playoff team. He cannot create offense for himself. He also (despite his effort) is a liability on defense. Two-guards are too quick for him, and three-guards are too big and strong for him.
Conclusion: Mason should be kept on the roster, but he should not play significant minutes for the Pelicans. He should be kept, not for his skills, but instead for his veteran leadership and sagacity.
Strengths: Darius Miller is 6’8” and can shoot, dribble, play defense, and rebound.
Weaknesses: Sadly, Miller is not above-average in any of these categories to warrant consistent playing time.
Conclusion: Miller needs to spend time in the Developmental League to become better in his all-around game. He may have a future in the league as a versatile 8th or 9th man. However, that future is not with the Pelicans.
Strengths: Rivers is a quick undersized combo guard. Rivers also possesses great ball-handling skills. This allows him to pull decent mid-range looks and penetrate the lane. He is also a very active defender with his help defense. Rivers is also still very young, having recently turned 20 years old.
Weaknesses: Rivers has been terrible from the arc this year, shooting a poor 32% on three- pointers. He has been Dwight Howard bad on free throws, shooting 55%. And, he is shooting a league worst in the paint this year at 35%. This is a HISTORICALLY bad number. He does not even try to pass on his penetrations in the lane. He is too small to play defense on most NBA shooting guards. In contrast to Eric Gordon, Rivers helps too much on penetrating guards and post men. He leaves his man wide open on the arc, which allows for easy threes for opponents.
Conclusion: Rivers is still young and has shown improvement slowly over the season until breaking his hand last week. He will continue to be part of the team’s future due to his high selection in the draft. Hopefully, he models his game after O.J. Mayo. This may be wishful thinking, but if his shooting is improved, he could be a very competent 6th man leading the bench unit.
Strengths: Roberts is a very solid shooter in both mid-range and three-point areas. He is also an adept passer when he is the primary ball handler.
Weaknesses: Roberts cannot create his own shot. He plays hard on defense, but his lack of athleticism and size makes him a liability on that front.
Conclusion: Roberts is a player who is expendable for the Pelican’s future. He is just a stop-gap for depth at the guard spot. The front office will jump at any opportunity to improve this area.
Strengths: Other than being the most likable Hornet, Smith excels in greatness in one area: the mid-range game. He has such a quick release, and he consistently makes defenses pay for leaving him open at the elbow. Smith is also an decent rebounder. It always helps being seven foot.
Weaknesses: Smith gets easily dominated by the more athletic players in the league on defense. It’s something he will never be able to improve. This makes playing him large amounts of minutes troublesome.
Conclusion: Smith definitely has a place on this roster for the future. He averages 8 points a game, while only playing a miniscule 17 minutes a game. He is a great teammate who can be the scoring big-man for the second unit.
Strengths: Vazquez holds very unique qualities in a starting point guard. He has hulk-size for a point guard at 6’7”. He is a great passer on the dribble. He can also finish with an array of floaters when attacking the middle, and he can finish with both hands when he goes right off the dribble. Vazquez is also a consistent rebounder for the point guard position.
Weaknesses: His size can be a disadvantage on defense. Quicker guards can frequently beat him off the dribble. Although his shooting has improved, it needs to become better to add more balance to his game. Vazquez also needs to be more cautious with the ball in pick-and-roll situations. He commits a fairly high number of turnovers when he gets too aggressive with his passing. Also, Vazquez needs to become a better passer and finisher when he goes left. Defenses often shade their entire defenses to the right because they know of his lack of skill when he goes left.
In conclusion, the future of the Pelicans is very bright. They are a couple of key players and positive developments in their current roster from evolving into a perennial playoff team in the Western Conference.
[Photo Credits: ESPN.com, NBA.com, and Hornets.com]