Team Preview #4: New Orleans
by Eric Wong AKA Roto EvilAugust 4th, 2008
LAST SEASONThe Hornets surprised many around the league by winning the toughest Division (Southwest) in the NBA and easily knocking out Dallas in the 1st round. Byron Scott was named Coach of the Year for his efforts, and Chris Paul had one of the greatest seasons EVER by a point guard, finishing 2nd in the MVP voting. They lost in 7 games to the Spurs, but it was a very successful season for such a young team.
OFFSEASON MOVESKey Additions: James Posey
Key Losses: Bonzi Wells, Jannero Pargo?
Fresh off a key 6th man role for the champion Celtics, James Posey was able to parlay his solid play into a 4 year, $25 million deal with the Hornets. Posey's arrival means Wells is now expendable. New Orleans would like to re-sign backup guard Jannero Pargo, but he is receiving interest from other teams as well. And while the Hornets traded away their only draft pick, they had much more important matters at hand, as they signed Chris Paul to a 3-year contract extension for $68 million.
ROTATION / PLAYING TIMEHow good was CP3 last year? Well, the only other player in NBA history to average 20+ points (21.1), 10+ assists (11.6), and 2.5+ steals (2.71) was Isiah Thomas in '83-84 (also at the age of 22). Two key differences: Paul had 2.51 turnovers per game vs. 3.74 for Isiah, and Paul shot 85.1% from the line vs. 73.3% FT for the former Piston. Needless to say, Paul (37.6 mpg) will get the bulk of the PG minutes once again. David West also had a stellar season, and will play roughly 38 minutes as well at power forward. At center, Tyson Chandler played a career-high 35.3 minutes, but blocked a career-low 1.06 shots per game (his rookie year, he blocked more shots in less than HALF as many minutes!). Chandler was supposed to be an alternate for Team USA this summer, but a toe injury has prevented him from travelling with the team. Obviously, this is a key injury that needs to be monitored.
Minutes are a little more up in the air at the swingmen spots. In '07-08, Peja Stojakovic played 35.3 mpg at SF and Morris Peterson played 23.6 mpg at SG. Ideally, Posey would replace Mo-Pete in most situations, but as of now, Byron Scott is saying Mo-Pete will start and Posey will back up both players off the bench. Tentatively, I'm going to project 34 minutes for Peja, 28 minutes for Posey, 18 minutes for Mo-Pete, and 18 minutes for Pargo (assuming he returns). Julian Wright had a fine rookie campaign, and should see about 12-14 minutes of action at both forward spots. And lastly, Hilton Armstrong & Melvin Ely will battle for the remaining big men minutes, so keep an eye on them if TC's toe is still bothering him.
DON'T SLEEP ON: David West & James PoseyDespite being named to the All-Star team last year and nearly every single analyst calling him the most underrated power forward in the game, David West will still be overlooked by many on draft day '08. In this article from a year ago, I suggested that if West could just block a few more shots, he would be able to join the exclusive 1+ Block & 77% FT club. Well, he did just that and improved in other areas as well. In fact, only 4 players averaged 20+ points and 8+ rebounds while shooting over 48% FG and 80% FT in '07-08: Amare Stoudemire, Yao Ming, Chris Bosh, and David West. That's exclusive company right there. I strongly recommend drafting West before more popular players such as Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, and Al Jefferson, and if you let him fall past the 4th round, you're going to regret it.
I'm not certain of it, but there's a good chance that West met James Posey on a recruiting trip way back in 1998. You see, Posey led Xavier University in rebounding for 3 straight years before graduating in 1999. A few months later, West stepped onto campus and proceeded to lead Xavier to 94 wins in 4 seasons while being named the A-10 Player of the Year three years in a row. So don't be surprised if you see them throwing up a lot of X's this season.
A lot of people are going to ignore Posey this year due to his lowly 7.4 ppg average, but I think he's going to be an excellent late round value pick. He may start the season on the bench, but the Hornets aren't paying him $25 million to ride the pine, so his minutes are sure to rise from the 24.6 that he played last year. As a result, Posey could easily crack the Top 50 in both threes and steals in '08-09. For his career, he's a rock solid 82% FT shooter, and he also pitches in with boards & blocks. I'm suggesting you target Posey in Rounds 10-12, which is exactly where people targeted Mo-Pete a year ago. Peterson didn't deliver, but Posey will.
BE CAREFUL OF: Peja StojakovicAfter playing in just 13 games the year before, Peja bounced back nicely in '07-08, playing in 77 games and knocking down 231 threes (2nd behind Jason Richardson). However, this is not the same fantasy stud that we used to know and love. For proof, let's compare some of his '07-08 stats to his '03-04 stats.
In '03-04, he shot a blistering 92.7% FT on 5.2 attempts per game. Last season, he made a career-high 92.9% of his freebies, but he attempted just 1.8 per contest. In '03-04, he pulled down 6.3 rebounds and grabbed 1.3 steals per game. Last season, those averages were down to 4.3 and .7, and they could plummet even further with Posey now in town (a superior rebounder & defender). A lot of people are going to draft Peja in Round 5 because those 3 threes per game are so juicy, but those people probably don't realize that he had to shoot a career-best 44.1% from beyond the arc to make that many. Since most of Stojakovic's stats are going to decline this year, I suggest waiting until Rounds 7 or 8 to grab him.
ROUND BY ROUND TARGETS(Where you should draft these guys in an 8-cat Roto league with 12 teams and 14 man rosters)
Paul: Top 3