January 23, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Hornets small forward Trevor Ariza (1) celebrates with point guard Jarrett Jack (2) during the second half of a game against the San Antonio Spurs at the New Orleans Arena. The Spurs defeated the Hornets 104-102. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
You probably already know but in case you didn’t, the New Orleans Hornets traded Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor for Rashard Lewis and the 46th pick in next weeks draft.
In the short term, swapping Ariza and Okafor for the ineffective Lewis isn’t a move that will improve their 2012-13 team significantly. In fact, Lewis is irrelevant in the context of this Hornets team. They will likely buy out his contract, shaving off $10 million of their cap space, another reason why the deal is so favorable despite the fact that they didn’t acquire anyone that will help their rotation this season.
Elevating a team from the depths of despair into an instant title contender is nearly impossible in the NBA especially in a small-market market. It takes a sense of granularity, of extreme attention to minute detail, good coaching and a whole lotta luck. A lot of luck, actually.`
New Orleans has the luck part covered after their fortunate, yet not completely improbable, foray into the No. 1 overall pick in a solid draft class. Anthony Davis is the obvious prize and his combination of, well, everything will be provide the perfect juxtaposition of talents alongside his (assuming they match any offer) new teammate, Eric Gordon. Gordon was one of the most efficient players in isolations and as the handler in the pick-and-roll, scoring 1.21 points per possession in an admittedly small 71 possession sample size.
Along with the No. 10 pick in next weeks draft, New Orleans will have a solid, albeit shallow, crop of players in their rotation. Al-Farouq Aminu is long, athletic wing that compensates his limited offensive game with an ability to find crevices of spaces in the defense. Gustavo Ayon, undrafted, was a pleasant surprise. Ayon exhibited an impressive ability to score as the roll man in the pick-and-roll. The head of the proverbial snake in their pick-and-roll attack, Jarrett Jack, finished as the fifth most effective option in the entire league. New Orleans certainly has something here. They also have cap space. The conjugation of the two usually equal winning.
So is this new Hornets team a pressing problem for the Spurs? Honestly … probably not. They will be too young and too depleted to compete with a team of the caliber of San Antonio. Memphis, Dallas and even Houston are more immediate threats to the Spurs’ supremacy.
By the 2013-14 season, though? As long as they make astute financial decisions and develop talent, they should be in position to compete for a playoff spot at least.
For a perennial bottom feeder like New Orleans being mentioned in the same sentence as San Antonio will suffice. By then they may not have to ward off the Spurs. Father Time may do their work for them. Either that or their burgeoning empire will be too much to handle.