As many of you know, the New Orleans Hornets are 6-0 and remain one of two NBA teams without a loss, the other being two-time defending Lakers. And to me the Hornets have been the most impressive team thus far in the young season. Now I am not saying they are the best or will be the best, but through six games they are the most impressive. Under rookie coach Monty Williams the Hornets are a whole new team. It has been remarkable to see what he has done with the players he has in such a short time period, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
The Hornets are the 4th best defensive team in the NBA if you look at defensive efficient rating. Last year the Hornets were 22nd in the league. Much of that is due to Monty’s system and how more importantly the players are bought into that system. Emeka Okafor and David West last season were awful on defensive pick and rolls and rotations. This year they have played with extra passion, hustle, and most importantly smarts. Okafor, except for the first game of the season, has been on fire on defense shutting down or at the very least making the opponent’s best big man work extremely hard for every point and rebound they get. This is why Okafor was taken 2nd overall in the 2004 NBA draft.
West has been a beast. This is the D-West that I loved earlier in his career. He has dove on the floor for loose balls, out muscled rebounders, and for the most part kept his cool when things have not gone his way. Last season West rarely did any of those things. West’s defense has been stellar through six games.
Now onto the other side of the ball. Chris Paul has played a career low minutes per game so far this year and we are 6-0!? Yes. Paul is only averaging 35 mpg. Yet one can argue that he has never been in more control of the game. He has been the BEST POINT GUARD in the NBA this season. Apologies to you Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, and Deron Williams fans. Paul has not hesitated to score when the team needed him to score, but I have maybe only seen one or two shots forced by him. That is the CP3 I love!
Back to the big men. Okafor’s 26 points and 13 rebounds game versus Miami was spectacular. And he never missed one shot in the paint (12-12 in paint and 12-13 overall). I mean I do not expect that every game, but Emeka has not shown that ability to score since his days at Uconn. Then he got Mr. Reliable David West. In last Saturday’s win at Milwaukee, West was the one Hornet who did not look a little tired, after the previous nights dramatic and draining win in New Orleans against the Heat. His play that game showed that he too can still put on a show and lead his team to victory. Then you the biggest surprise player for the Hornets this season Mr. Hustle, Jason Smith. Smith is the team’s leading rebounder and scorer off the bench 8.7 ppg and 4.7 rpg. Smith, although this stat is unofficial, leads the team in ‘Hell Yeahs’. Or in other words every time I see Smith do something it has a impact on the game. Whether it be a monster dunk on the Heat, a hustle rebound, a clutch mid ranger jumper, or solid defensive play, Jason Smith is quickly becoming one of my favorite Hornets.
With those 4 guys along with Trevor Ariza’s solid play, Marcus Thornton’s spark off the bench, Willie Green’s leadership, and Marco Bellinelli’s 3 point shot, I only see this team as getting better through the season. No I do not expect them to win the West or even the Southwest Division, but I do see them as a legitimate playoff contender. This team has been fun to watch and I can not wait til Tuesday night’s home game versus Blake Griffin and the Clippers.
About the Author
Written by Andrew Tressler