June 20th, 2012
With all the exciting conjecture leading into the 2012 NBA draft, one perceived certainty is that the New Orleans Hornets will select Kentucky superstar Anthony Davis with the No. 1 overall pick.
Davis is the no-brainer pick at this spot. With his combination of size, athleticism and seemingly limitless potential on both ends of the floor, the Hornets would make a grave mistake in passing on him.
What the franchise needs to ensure it doesn’t do is use Davis as the epicenter around which to build.
Unfortunately, much like last season, roster uncertainty is plaguing New Orleans right now. It might be even worse than the situation in the lockout-shortened offseason in 2011.
Pending free-agent shooting guard Eric Gordon is the key cornerstone the Hornets need to lock up for the long term and use as the primary catalyst for a championship contender.
Necessary to note: Gordon has vaguely hinted at his desire to return to New Orleans, saying it’s a “pretty good city.”
Along with all else he said in the above external link, it wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.
The invaluable contribution Gordon has to the offense is even more valuable than what Davis’ talent can bring to the table on either end in the beginning of his career.
The arrival of Davis signals the departure for Chris Kaman, whose $14 million-plus contract will be off the books.
What the Hornets need is serious offensive help.
Gordon can create his own shot off the dribble and is also an underrated passer as a shooting guard. However, the pressure can’t be squarely on him to create the offense for the entire team.
Something Davis will certainly help with is passing from the post. The question is whether he can establish position in the first place. Due to Davis’ slender physique, he won’t be able to body up on NBA bigs until his frame fills out—that is, if it ever does.
His offensive stats at Kentucky were also misleading, as he was surrounded by a starting lineup all headed for NBA futures.
The likelihood that Davis will get roughly 14 points per game at 65 percent shooting immediately in the pros seems ridiculous.
Davis’ experience at guard in high school allowed him to develop his jump shot, but 6’10”, 222 lbs. simply won’t get it done in the pros as far as immediately establishing a well-rounded offensive skill set.
On the defensive end, Davis can still contest shots in the paint even if he’s out of position due to his high basketball IQ and 7’6” wingspan.
All that Davis brings to the table for one of this league’s top defensive teams from this season, he doesn’t bring to fix an extremely stagnant offense. Scoring suffered immensely without Gordon, but with the pending loss of Kaman, the offense definitely needs another jolt aside from Jarrett Jack.
Marco Belinelli and Trevor Ariza are the next best options as far as scoring goes. While Davis’ passing ability and range will help spread the floor, it will also hurt the team’s rebounding ability.
The biggest need for New Orleans after it drafts Davis is a true pass-first point guard.
So much potential oozes out of the Hornets’ young core that has shown a willingness to play defense for head coach Monty Williams—no small task in today’s NBA.
Without Gordon, who has the talent and offensive versatility to win NBA scoring titles, this team will have no offensive firepower in the next few years barring drastic changes involving multiple players.
Austin Rivers—the choice in NBAdraft.net’s latest mock for the Hornets at No. 10 in this year’s draft—will not be nearly as effective as Gordon has the ability to be. Even though Gordon is slightly undersized at the 2, the 2 is not the position Rivers is accustomed to. Plus, Rivers and Jarrett Jack in the backcourt together as shoot-first combo guards would be a disaster, and would kill ball movement and cohesion on offense, to the detriment of Davis.
Davis will have more room to operate and develop more quickly with Gordon’s presence on offense, in addition to a point guard.
As for that point guard, the quick fix would be convincing Jeremy Lin to come to town. Any lack of defense he has will be made up for in Williams’ scheme, which most of the returning roster understands.
More practically, the Hornets could wisely grab the University of North Carolina’s savvy floor general Kendall Marshall with the 10th pick in this year’s draft. The tandem of Marshall and Gordon would create a devastating backcourt for years to come, with Emeka Okafor and Davis on the inside wreaking havoc.
Jack could then come off the bench as sixth man, and Belinelli wouldn’t be forced into carrying too big of a scoring load. Plus, there’s the wild card of explosive wing player Greivis Vasquez.
The Hornets would suddenly transform into a formidable force in the Western Conference in 2012-13, with the aforementioned bench and this starting lineup: C Okafor, PF Davis, SF Ariza, SG Gordon, PG Marshall/Jack.
Striking the balance of explosiveness and athleticism on offense while building on an already stellar defensive unit would bolster hope for the organization’s future.
Contrary to popular opinion and sensationalism over No. 1 overall picks, building Rome in New Orleans won’t happen overnight with the selection of Davis.
Building a perennial powerhouse will start—or end—with Gordon.
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