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Monday, January 21, 2013

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for December: 27. New Orleans Hornets

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of December 31st):  7-23,  fifth place Southwest Division

This Month:

Team Statistics and League Rank (as of December 31st)
  • Points Scored: 91.6 (29th)
  • Points Allowed: 97.5 (18th)
  • Team FG%: .441 (16th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .461 (26th)
  • Rebounds per game: 40.5 (25th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 41.1 (9th)
  • Turnovers per game: 14.6 (21st)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 13.1 (27th)

Individual Statistical Leaders  (as of December 31st)

Worst Player of the Month: Anthony Davis

Again Anthony Davis has been placed as the worst not for his play which has been pretty decent, but simply for his presence on the court.  For a player who has the abilities and skills to play all five positions along with his size and length, Davis should be producing so much more than he has been.  In his entire career thus far, he has only cracked the 20 point mark just three times in the 16 games he has played thus far.  Granted, he has spent much of the season on the injured list; however, it has still been quite a letdown nonetheless considering that Portland’s Damien Lillard has been stealing the show for most of the season.  Hopefully Davis can pick it up since it is still early in the season—sure he has been playing well; however, he has not been playing   up to the standards for the number one overall pick of the NBA Draft.  A play of his size, athleticism, fundamental skills and abilities should be producing much more than just 14.7 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
First Player of the Month: Robin Lopez

Robin Lopez’s story is quite remarkable to say the least—here was a guy who was given up for dead on his previous team and now plays stellar on his new team.  It goes to show how poorly the Phoenix Suns utilized him in his four years there and New Orleans certainly got their money’s worth signing Lopez for just 15$ million for three years.  Lopez has certainly been proving all his detractors and doubters wrong as he has posted a career high in scoring (12.0ppg), rebounds (5.7), blocked shots (2.1), field goals (.560), and free throws (.795) per game thus far this season.  Lopez has been thus far been on a tear in December as he has been scorching the field shooting .613 and has been all but perfect from the free throw line shooting at a .888 clip.  He has certainly shed the stigma of being “that other Lopez bother,” or “the not so great brother” of Brooklyn Nets star Brook Lopez and certainly has Phoenix looking bad for giving up on an exceptional talent.   

December was a rather rough month for the New Orleans Hornets as they won just three games for the entire month.  After splitting their first two games losing rather convincingly to the Oklahoma City Thunder (12/1/2012) and pulling of the surprising win against the Milwaukee Bucks (12/3/2012), the Hornets went on to lose eleven in a row.  The Hornets finally stopped the bleeding with a win on the road against the Orlando Magic (12/26/2012) and went on to start 2013 winning two of their last three games.  It could have been three in a row, if it had not been for that heartbreaking overtime loss on their home court against the Toronto Raptors (12/28/2012).  Nonetheless, despite struggling in December, there were still numerous positives that can be taken out of New Orleans' performance for the month.

For starters, despite their inability to win, New Orleans showed plenty of mocksy in December keeping most of their games rather close. Save for the four blowout loses at the hands of the Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers (12/5/2012), Miami Heat (12/8/2012) and Los Angeles Clippers (12/19/2012), the Hornets lost by a slim margin of just 6.1 points.  New Orleans also put up a rather strong defensive effort holding their opponents to under 100 points in all but five games.  Despite losing those games, the Hornets still held the Washington Wizards to just 77 points (12/11/2012) and then the  Indiana Pacers to just 81 (12/22/2012).  If they would have had a few possessions in their favor or the ball went in the basket, it would be a whole different scenario.

In their game where they faced the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road (12/12/2012), the Hornets held an eleven point lead late in the game and if were not for the heroics of Kevin Durant, New Orleans could have possibly gotten the "W."  If it were not for a last second three point basket from Damian Lillard, the Hornets could have pulled of the upset win on the road against the Portland Trailblazers instead of losing by just one point (12/16/2012).  They also had the chance to grab a major confidence boosting win against a road weary San Antonio Spurs team.  Unfortunately the Bugs could not seal the deal losing by just five points thanks to the heroic efforts of the Spurs' Tony Parker (12/21/2012).  If the Hornets would have just held on, or had a few balls bounce their way, they could have easily finished with 10 wins instead of just seven.

Much of the Hornets' inability to close the deal on the close games has to do with youth, inexperience and the the Hornets' lack of depth in the roster, especially in the backcourt where the Hornets have little or nothing to offer in terms of perimeter scoring.  With their major free agent acquisition of Eric Gordon sidelined for much of the season, the Hornets have literally no one who can be counted on to hit a big shot when needed.  In addition of having poor production from the wings, The greatest disappointing factor of the New Orleans Hornets, however, has to be the team's poor performance on the boards for despite having a treasure trove of size, strength and athleticism in the paint, rank near the bottom in the league in rebounds per game.  The Hornets should have a pretty strong front court with the number one overall pick Anthony Davis, two strong seven footers in Robin Lopez and Jason Smith, along with three point threat Ryan Anderson; however have not really been playing up to par when it comes to grabbing the boards.  Despite having the best season in his career, Robin Lopez has been rather underwhelming under the boards averaging just under six per game as a starter along with Ryan Anderson, whom despite having a perimeter oriented player, should be grabbing more than the 6.3 rebounds per game that he averaged in December, especially considering that he possesses a 6'10", 240 lbs frame.

The best rebounder thus far has been the rookie Anthony Davis; however, even he can be considered a bit of a letdown as he has not made the impact that many have anticipated.  He has certainly not been a major factor offensively as previous number one picks and despite the odd big game, has been rather passive, especially on the offensive end where he has only score more than 20 once the entire month of December.  With what everyone says about his skills and abilities being able to dribble and hot like a guard while at the same time pound down low in the paint, Anthony Davis should be doing much more; however, at the same time, he cannot do what is expected unless he gets a considerate amount of touches so it goes both ways.  Thus, the onus has to be on head coach Monty Williams, who needs to involve his young prodigy more in the offense and not allow his numerous talents go to waste.  If he does not, New orleans will continue to sputter along and remain in the shadows of obscurity.