The New Orleans Hornets are on tomorrow's docket so we sat down with Ryan of Hornets247.com for a few questions.
Blazersedge: Even in the stacked Western Conference New Orleans looks to be in strong position to make the playoffs. Is that even a question for you at this point or is it a fait accompli? If so, where in the seeding do you think you'll end up? Are there certain teams against whom you match up well?
I'd be pretty shocked if the Hornets fell out of the playoffs at this point. Teams that are prone to slide are usually those that are getting lucky in close games and aren't winning by large margins. Already this season the Hornets have 7 wins by more than 20 and 9 wins by more than 10, giving them 5 more blowout wins than losses. That's the mark of a good team. As for seeding, things are so close in the West it's hard to predict. I ran through the Hornets schedule a week ago at Hornets247 and came to the conclusion our odds of reaching 52 wins is pretty good, which last season would of given us a top 4 seed. I'm not convinced that same record will be good enough this year, but I'd estimate a 3-5 seed. For matchups against playoff contenders - we do well against Houston, Phoenix and Golden State. West and Chandler are near impossible for them to handle, Paul does well against Nash, Baron, and the rotating PGs of Houston, and their benches are as weak as ours. We don't do so well against teams with physical post defenders that can get into Chandler's body, and long, quick power-forwards that can bother West's forays into the paint.
Blazersedge: How critical is a healthy Peja Stojakovic to your eventual success?
Vital. Don't get me wrong, Peja is not the all-star he once was, and he's not going to carry our team to victory. But he is an irreplaceable threat on the perimeter. Teamed with Peterson, our team always has two threats from range at all times to open up West's post game, Paul's penetration and Tyson's lob/offensive rebounding. Doubling our team is near impossible. If Peja went down, we'd have to replace him with someone from our bench. Pick anyone from that crew, and you've got a non-shooter, and our offensive suffers.
Blazersedge: Is this team, as constituted, ever going to be a legitimate championship threat? If not then what do you need to add and how do you plan to get those additions?
Our starting five is one of the most effective in the league, and they compliment each other very well on both ends of the floor. If it was a 35 minute game, with 5 man squads, I'd say we had a chance right now. But it's not, and our bench is streaky as can be. It defends very well, but offensively it just went through a half-month-long drought where the entire bench managed to score 11 points a game. If we could add a scoring wing and a slightly more dependable backup point, we'd be contending. As for getting those additions, the Hornets will shed about 5 million in salary next year, and will also have an expiring contract with Bobby and a reasonably good trade chip in Rasual Butler and a late first-rounder for sale. Jeff Bower is careful with our cap, has been solid at picking up low cost options since he took over, and our scouting department has a pretty good record at picking up solid late-draft guys. We also have the mid-level next year. I think we're in good shape. It's easier to add solid bench guys than capable starters.
Blazersedge: People are already beginning to anticipate Chris Paul's impending contract renewal and possible free agency. There are mutterings about George Shinn's history of not wanting to give out huge contracts. How concerned are you?
Not at all. I've seen a couple of those articles in Portland talking about how Paul is the missing piece. They are patently absurd, and deserve to be tossed on the same pile of lame rumors most Sam Smith articles end up on. The reporting on Shinn being cheap is badly overblown. In the past 5 years Shinn green-lighted 60+ million for already injury-prone Peja, 45 million for David West after he had played one good year, a maximum contract for Baron Davis, 24 million for a 34-year old PJ Brown, and a trade for Chandler and his 10-mil a year contract when Chandler was not a sure thing. The reputation of Shinn being cheap came from his unwillingness to give Alonzo Mourning the largest contract in history (at the time) and not wanting to pay Eddie Jones a maximum contract(phew!). Shinn knows he's got perhaps the greatest player in Hornets history, and GM Jeff Bower will give Paul a maximum contract extension before he can become a restricted free agent. The salaries of our other players have been designed to specifically free up 15+ million dollars in two years - when he becomes eligible. Paul will take it because the Hornets can offer him more than anyone else, he's a very loyal person, and the team is already contending. Why would he go elsewhere? He'll be Hornet for a long time.
Blazersedge: We can all see what Chris Paul does well. What parts of his game need to improve?
Shooting off the dribble going left. He's able to drive anyway he wants, but before shooting, he usually comes back to the right on a spin move or cross-over before launching a shot - and those shots aren't always wonderful. He can drive hard right, get to the basket or hit a nice jump-stop fadeaway or amazing quick set shot, but those moves aren't there going left. His 3-point shooting isn't perfectly consistent, though it's improving and he's already a good three-point shooter. Lastly, his backcourt defense can be spotty sometimes. In the half-court he really is a very disciplined and solid defender, but he can get a little over eager and will pressure a team too much as it brings the ball up. He can sometimes be caught by fast ball movement in those situations and give up an easy transition basket.
Thanks to Ryan and Hornets247.com Check out their site today for some questions they asked us.