We did a reciprocal Q+A with Rohan at AtTheHive about the states of our two teams. You can see the other part over there. Here are their responses.
Blazersedge: So the L*kers sacrificed six chickens and some virgin's blood (where they found that in L.A. is beyond me) at the altar of the basketball gods and got good again. Give the rest of us some hope and tell us why your team is the one to prevent them from representing the West again in the Finals.
AtTheHive: Hahah. As disheartening as that giant deficit versus L.A. was, we still have this: the Lakers could do absolutely nothing against Chris Paul. All the talk about the strong side zone, all the talk about how they might be better than the Celtics' D, all the talk about how Bynum/Gasol/Odom would deny the inside completely could do nothing to stop CP3. The Hornets played a ton of terrific teams last year. Virtually every team that beat them did so by taking away Paul- Utah successfully did it, Boston successfully did it a couple times, San Antonio played a couple great games against him to win the playoff series. If Peja and Morris Peterson had bothered showing up for that game, I think the Hornets would've won. Between the two of them, they bricked more than eight wide open trifectas.
I know it sounds cliche, but Paul really is the soul of this team. I'll be the first to admit: I think the L.A. Lakers are a better team than the Hornets this year. But when you have a player of Paul's caliber on the floor, you can never be counted out.
Sports are fun because random things happen. The most talented team won't always win. I wish I could offer some more hope... but that's all I'm clinging to myself. In CP3 We Trust.
Blazersedge: Chris Paul was mentioned heavily in the MVP race last year. What more can he do to break away from the pack and become THE dominant MVP candidate? Do you see him being able to go that extra mile (whether he wins it or not)?
AtTheHive: The biggest "extra mile" he could've used last year was media coverage. I think if New Orleans had made it on national TV more than two times all year (!!!), he would've been MVP. Instead, it took until February and March for ESPN to start the "Oh look! Chris Paul's saving basketball in New Orleans!! How amazing!" and the rest of his season was largely ignored. Kobe had prime media coverage all year (the Chicago thing, the Phil Jackson thing, the 'oh look, he's passing' thing, etc, etc).
Honestly, the way I (and statisticians) see it, it's LBJ and CP3 and then everybody else. His "breaking away" needs to occur more in a media sense than in an actual on-court way. That's not to say Paul can't improve. He could improve from a great to awesome (40%+ from three) shooter and he could improve his man defense. Those are the two biggest things. But if he stayed at last year's levels, he'd still be far and away the game's best player, alongside LeBron.
Blazersedge: Talk to us about David West. What do you love about him? Anywhere he needs to improve his game? How important is he to the Hornets' chances?
AtTheHive: Hah, everything I loved about him last year has disappeared (so far) this year, though I expect it to return soon. First of all, his outside jumper is a perfect complement to Chris Paul's game. His driving game is very underrated; he can dribble pretty adeptly and take quicker and stronger defenders alike to the hoop.
His back to the basket game could use some more work- it generally ends in him taking a turnaround fadeaway or getting called for an offensive foul. While he's relatively good at the turnaround fadeaway, that's not a shot you want to rely on heavily. The other thing I'd like to see him improve is rebounding. He started his career as a great rebounder, but his numbers have been slipping across the board recently. My feeling is that it's been a lack of effort on the glass more than anything else.
He's definitely crucial to New Orleans' chances for one huge reason. He represents the only legitimate non-Chris Paul scoring option the Hornets have. A lot of people automatically assume that Chris Paul "made" David West. That couldn't be further from the truth. David West iso's more than anyone else on the team (including Paul), and he gives Paul an important rest while on the court. There are very few teams in the league that ask one player to create shot after shot after shot like the Hornets demand of Paul. So having West step in and create a few of his own shots is hugely beneficial.
Blazersedge: Which is more crucial to the Hornets' chances of winning, their multi-pronged offensive attack or their surprisingly adept defense?
AtTheHive: Probably equal parts of both. The Hornets' offensive attack is quite impressive, but I'd like to see their defense improve this year. Specifically, they need to improve on allowed field goal percentages. New Orleans was decent at forcing turnovers, very good at defensive rebounding, and stellar at staying away from fouls. Too often though, they'll leave players wide open from the perimeter.
Blazersedge Bonus Question: Miss Bonzi Wells much?
AtTheHive: James Posey has been awesome thus far, so not much. Perhaps we'll miss not signing him for depth. But given the dollars he was demanding, it was a good idea not to re-sign him. If anything, he would have stunted the development of Julian Wright, who the Hornets have high hopes for. A guy we do miss: Bobby Brown, who played for the Summer team. He ended up signing with Sacramento. Given the abysmal play of Mike James, the Hornets could really, really use a backup point guard right now.