N.O. takes steps to turnaround
N.O. takes steps to turnaround
Sunday, August 07, 2005
By John Reid
For the second consecutive offseason, General Manager Allan Bristow spent several months working to improve the Hornets' roster.
Despite his persistence, it still wasn't enough to convince a high-profile free agent to sign with the team. Last month the Hornets wined and dined former Los Angeles Clippers small forward Bobby Simmons in Las Vegas, only to get the news two days later that he had accepted a five-year, $47 million offer from the Milwaukee Bucks.
Although they didn't land the guy at the top of their free-agent wish list, the Hornets still have improved their overall talent enough to double their win total from last season's 18-64 disaster.
"Missing out on some of these guys that you thought were going to be available to get is sometimes a blessing in disguise, in giving somebody else an opportunity," Hornets coach Byron Scott said.
Make no mistake, the Hornets were headed for another long rebuilding season after signing only Lithuanian shooting guard Arvydas Macijauskas and bringing back small forward Bostjan Nachbar and power forward/center Chris Andersen. If those would have been the only moves made, the pressure would have been too much on top draft pick Chris Paul and second-year shooting guard J.R. Smith to carry the Hornets.
Then came last Tuesday's blockbuster trade that involved five teams, including the Hornets, and 13 players. The Hornets landed Miami Heat small forward Rasual Butler and guard Kirk Snyder, the 16th overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Utah Jazz.
Neither player is a superstar, but Butler, 6 feet 7, is a good spot-up shooter who fills the Hornets' need for a starting small forward. At 6-6, Snyder is a versatile player who can play both guard positions and even small forward.
The Hornets are now more capable of giving opponents matchup problems because of the depth and varying talents on the roster.
Depending on the opponent, Smith could be shifted to small forward, and there wouldn't be a talent dropoff with either Macijauskas or Snyder in the game at shooting guard. Snyder is a slasher and Macijauskas is a shooter, so opponents can't defend them the same way.
Scott can even go with a three-guard lineup, with Snyder, Smith and Paul, to maximize his preferred up-tempo style. Opponents might have to think twice about playing zone with top 3-point shooters Macijauskas and Butler on the Hornets' roster. Butler was a 46-percent 3-point shooter for the Heat last season. Macijauskas hasn't shot less than 55.8 percent while playing in Europe in the past six seasons.
Forget about Snyder's troubles with the Jazz last season. He didn't fit into Coach Jerry Sloan's offense, involving isolation plays set up by the pick-and-roll. Snyder is most effective when he has the opportunity to run and beat the defender to the basket. He showed that ability in 2004 at his pre-draft workout with the Hornets.
He will strengthen the Hornets' second unit enough so there won't be a huge dropoff in talent like last season. Scott's rotation could go 10 players deep, allowing them to play up-tempo for the entire 48 minutes.
"I've always felt that versatility and flexibility is a thing that can help you in so many different areas," Scott said. "This is something that we're just real excited about."
When training camp begins in October, competition is going to be fierce at small forward between Butler and Nachbar, and also at shooting guard between Smith, Macijauskas and Snyder.
It won't matter who will start, all five players likely will play a substantial amount. Butler and Nachbar are both better defenders than Lee Nailon, last season's starter who wasn't re-signed this summer.
But at point guard, it doesn't appear that backup Speedy Claxton will be more effective than Dan Dickau. Claxton has quickness but his shooting is questionable. He made only 37.7 percent of his shots and averaged 6.8 points per game in 16 games with the Hornets after his midseason trade from the Golden State Warriors. Dickau's outside shooting carried the Hornets in several games last season, but he was not re-signed.
There is no questions about Paul's ability to blossom into an effective first-year starter at point guard. He showed in last month's Vegas Summer League that he doesn't mind giving up shots to get his teammates involved.
But let's not get too carried away with the Hornets' talent upgrades this summer. They still are not a playoff-contending team in the Western Conference, mainly because of their frontcourt. They made no free-agency moves at power forward that would have allowed veteran P.J. Brown an occasional rest.
Although the Hornets drafted former LSU player Brandon Bass, who can play power forward, it's going to be a struggle for him to play a big role as a rookie. The Hornets could let him play in the NBA Development League, which is the NBA's new minor league system created by the new collective bargaining agreement.
Bass is an effective post player, but it's going to take him time to develop a mid-range shot. He must develop that shot in game action, and that's why the NBADL might be his best option.
Andersen, the team's backup center, could also spend a lot of time backing up Brown. Third-year forward David West still doesn't have the necessary confidence to take charge and be an effective low-post scorer. Also, forward Jackson Vroman is still developing as a scoring threat.
The biggest question mark is center Jamaal Magloire. Will he be comfortable in his role, knowing that the Hornets seriously considered trading him in June to the Toronto Raptors? There are not going to be many set plays run for him, so getting offensive rebounds is going to be crucial.
Regardless how Magloire performs, Bristow did what was necessary to improve the roster. There is no quick fix in rebuilding a franchise, but at least the right steps were taken. The team is deeper, more well-rounded and capable of winning at least 36 games in the Southwest Division.
"We've added talent to our team and that's the first step," Scott said. \
RE: N.O. takes steps to turnaround
Turnaround what turnaround?
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