|2012-2013 NBA Season|
|November 16th, 2012|
|New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, Louisiana|
|7:00 PM CST|
|Fox Sports Net Oklahoma, Fox Sports Net New Orleans, WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1)|
|Enemy Blogs: At The Hive, Hornets 24/7|
|Previous Meetings: None|
|Russell Westbrook||PG||Greivis Vasquez|
|Thabo Sefolosha||SG||Austin Rivers|
|Kevin Durant||SF||Anthony Davis|
|Serge Ibaka||PF||Al-Farouq Aminu|
|Kendrick Perkins||C||Robin Lopez|
Yes, the Hornets are back! Well, they're not back to being actually good, but the Hornets right now are kinda like the Hornets back in 05-06, their first year in Oklahoma City. There's some exciting young players, some old guard, and some journeymen. Overall, the team is in transition and probably won't make the playoffs this year, but their future looks bright, and they don't have the shadow of George Shinn's small pocketbook to ruin everything for them.
It's hard to classify the Hornets as a team, because they're so new and have only played 6 games. Statistically they're middle of the pack in most categories, and don't really stand out as good in any particular area. Rather, the team seems to flourish through individual performances. And not just from the rookies. A great shooting performance from Ryan Anderson and the emergence of Brian Roberts lifted the Hornets over the Bobcats. Greivis Vasquez, Robin Lopez, and Jason Smith were the leading scorers in the Hornets win over the Bulls. And Vasquez hit the game-winning layup in the Hornets win over the Jazz, a game where Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers were arguably the Hornets' worst performers.
Still, I think it's fair to say that this team can be said to contain four types of players. Their guards are mainly stop and pop shooters who can have wildly fluctuating nights. Their wings are super long and athletic. Their power forwards can shoot the three and rebound. And their centers do the traditional post battling, but can also fire off jumpers when necessary. In other words, the team is extremely fun to watch, especially when their offense is clicking. On the other hand, things can get really ugly when nothing works right.
Greivis Vasquez might seem like an odd choice to be the point guard of the team, considering his 6'6" height, his inability to drive the lane, and how he was little more than a shooter while playing for Memphis two years ago. Still, his role has been in the making. He first started to experiment with the role for last year's Hornets (who, admittedly, many people didn't watch), and really hit his stride in the second month of the season. He continued to work on his role with Venezuela in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament over the summer, so much so that the position is a natural fit for him now.
Vasquez really excels at passing on the break, post entry passing, and drawing double teams on the wing. He's a quick player and hangs around the perimeter, so he's always there on the fast break to help his team out. The Hornets have two extremely athletic wings to pass to in the lane, so Vasquez's uncanny ability to put the ball in the right spot is a perfect fit. Also, he draws double teams because opposing coaches know that he can stop and pop.
Ryan Anderson has always been a terrific shooter for someone of his size, and he can really make a team pay for leaving him open anywhere on the three point line. Aside from his rebounding, he's not much of a post player, so it would make sense for a guy like Collison to try to body him up a couple of times. Still, I could easily see him having a killer night against the Thunder, like he did on opening night last year.
Brian Roberts is a guy that really came out of nowhere. After going undrafted out of Dayton, he spent time in Israel and playing for Brose Baskets, Germany's best team. He signed with the Hornets this year, and it's best to think of him as a more scoring-minded Greivis Vasquez. He can stop on a dime and get his shot off before you have time to blink. When one of his shots goes in, it's really an amazing thing to watch.
Yeah, I know, I haven't talked about Rivers or Davis. But you know everything about those guys already, and, to be honest, they haven't really been the big stories coming out of New Orleans over their first six games.
Anyway, how will this game go? Well, the Hornets have the talent to win this game, but they're still figuring out an offensive strategy, and the team is young, so they're bound to have off-nights. They shot themselves in the foot with a bad bench performance Wednesday against the Rockets, and they shot 33% when they were lulled to sleep by the Sixers defense. If the Thunder can take advantage of whatever plagues the Hornets on any given night, whether it be bad shooting, turnovers, or lack of rebounding, I'm confident that they can win this game. But if they let the Hornets get easy hoops down low or let them take too many open shots, they're as capable as anyone at putting the Thunder away.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 95, New Orleans Hornets 88