October 25th, 2012
The New Orleans Hornets made it a point this offseason to completely revamp their roster by making numerous additions through the draft and free agency. All in all, the team will welcome seven new faces when they open up their regular season on Halloween. The question now becomes how can head coach Monty Williams utilize all of this new talent?
The biggest addition for New Orleans was No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis. Davis made a name for himself as a freshman at Kentucky as an elite shot-blocker and rebounder. His biggest impact will come on defense and dominating the boards. Offensively, the Hornets can best utilize Davis by playing to his strengths.
Davis is going to score a brunt of his points by using his athleticism to finish at the rim or put shots back up off rebounds. However, in this highlight package of Davis’ Kentucky Wildcats taking on Vanderbilt, you see a few of the uncanny things Davis can do on offense.
Scattered throughout the highlight reel are moments when Davis uses his impressive ball-handling skills to take his defender off the dribble and drive to the hoop. It’s unusual for men of Davis’ size to be able to handle the ball like he does, but Davis’ skill as a dribbler will allow the Hornets to get the ball to him outside of the post and let him challenge his opponent.
Also, while not shown much in the video, Davis has an underrated jump shot for a big man. Instead of taking his opponent to the hole, he can just as easily spot up for a jumper. Davis’ shooting is something that will need some fine-tuning, but it’s a weapon he can use every now and then.
Davis isn’t the only heralded rookie on the roster. Former Duke shooting guard Austin Rivers was New Orleans’ other first-round pick, as he was drafted No. 10 overall. Unlike Davis, Rivers will be tried out at a new position in the pros. The Hornets are hoping Rivers can make the transition from college 2-guard to NBA point guard.
While this compilation of Rivers’ best moments at Duke doesn’t show Austin’s ability to facilitate, it does give you a glimpse of what makes him special. Rivers is a dynamic scorer, and his array of offensive moves will come in handy for a Hornets team that can use another scorer besides Eric Gordon.
In this video, you’ll see Rivers’ fearlessness when attacking the basket. Like Davis, Rivers shows the ability to take his opponent off the dribble and uses a quick first step to blow by the defender. Rivers also has good range on his jumper, although he hasn’t shot the ball particularly well from deep since joining the Hornets.
Once he learns to get others involved, Rivers will become a more well-rounded guard, and the team will be able to form an impressive one-two punch in the backcourt with Rivers and Gordon. For now, Rivers will be at his best when he’s allowed to drive to the hoop while he becomes more consistent as a shooter.
The next big acquisition for the Hornets is forward Ryan Anderson. Anderson’s role with the team is still uncertain, but his skill set and versatility will probably lead to him logging major minutes. Anderson can play either forward position or some center, and he can score in the paint or from outside. Anderson led the league in three-pointers last year and won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
In the highlights from this January clash with the Knicks, Anderson (then with the Magic) shows off all of his offensive tricks. The first part of the video sees Anderson getting down low and scoring around the basket. A majority of the remaining video showcases Anderson’s shooting ability. In this game, Anderson scored 30 points and hit seven three-pointers.
You also see a clip of Anderson taking his defender off the dribble and hitting one of the most awkward layups you’ll ever see. The best way for New Orleans to utilize Anderson would be pairing him with someone like Davis, who can draw a defender into the post.
The attention paid on the interior will allow Anderson more open looks on the perimeter. While Anderson can certainly score in the post, it’s clear he’s more comfortable on the outside.
The Hornets could go with a bigger lineup that sees Anderson and Davis playing the forward spots while fellow new addition Robin Lopez mans the center position. Anderson isn’t a good enough defender to see significant minutes at small forward, but his size and shooting touch gives New Orleans an advantage on offense.
The remaining new faces don’t generate the excitement of the previous three. Lopez was acquired from Phoenix to log minutes at center and keep Davis at his more natural power forward position. Lopez’s game is mainly blocking shots and working the boards. If he does get involved in the offense, it will be the occasional baby hook or layup down low.
Guard Roger Mason was a late signing by the Hornets to help provide depth after injuries to Rivers, Gordon and Xavier Henry during training camp. Mason won’t see much action unless injuries continue to decimate the depth chart, but he’s a solid shooter who can nail some three’s if given a good look.
Rounding out the less-recognized newcomers is forward Hakim Warrick. Now, Warrick is listed on ESPN’s depth chart as a backup at small forward. However, Warrick will probably see most (if not all) of his time at power forward. Warrick doesn’t have the kind of requisite jumper to play on the perimeter.
In this highlight package from Warrick’s first season with the Suns, you’ll see what Warrick does best. Warrick’s offense comes from when he can creep into the paint and take advantage of the ball-handler drawing away his defender. Most of the highlights you’ll see here find Warrick getting the ball inside and throwing it down with a defender too slow to get in front of him.
Warrick’s a solid athlete and capable defender. The video shows Warrick’s leaping ability, and how, much like many of the other bigs on this Hornets roster, he can use his length to contest shots. He’s not going to be relied upon too much on the offensive end. Instead, the Hornets will use him to give the starters a breather, and perhaps, use Warrick in pick-and-roll situations to get him the ball in open space.
The Hornets will enter this upcoming season with a ton of promise and heightened expectations. On paper, this team is significantly better than the group that finished with the worst record in the Western Conference last season. With some lucky breaks and continued growth, the Hornets can sneak into the playoffs.
It really comes down to the team staying healthy and how Monty Williams chooses to utilize all of the new weapons he now has at his disposal.
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