Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Checking in on ... the Hornets (For Some Reason)

At this point in the season, pretty much all you can do with your team is hope guys play well, hope they don’t break their leg in a freak practice accident, and constantly troll the waiver wire for guys who you might be able to pick up, even if it’s just for a game or two. So with that, I figured it might be time to check in on the New Orleans Hornets, a team where possibly every player is there on your free agent list for the taking.

Backcourt
The New Orleans backcourt is a mess right now, with five guys trying to split time at basically two and a half positions. If you’re holding on to Dan Dickau because of his strong January and February, don’t let that fool you into keeping him around. In six March games his minutes have dropped to 26.7, and the rest of his game has fallen apart. His shooting is back to being woeful, at 35%. His assists are a solid 5.8, but the 1.0 3s and steals are below average, especially for a point guard. Although he’s seeing three minutes less per game, Speedy Claxton is a better use of a roster spot right now. Why? Simple – steals. Claxton has always been one of the best pick pockets around, and even in his 23.7 mpg in March, he’s still averaging 2.2 spg. Along with his solid 5.3 apg, that’s decent help for those desperate at PG. He makes more of an impact with his 2.2 spg than Dickau does with his 1 3pg and 1 spg. He’s also coming off his best game as a member of the Hornets, and there’s a chance Byron Scott will want to see what he offers.

Speaking of Lord Byron, he seems to have had a run-in with rook J.R. Smith, which slows down his momentum considerably. Smith had been suffering from the PT crunch, too, but just three games ago saw 39 minutes and had a very solid 23/3/5 with 3 steals and 2 3s. Because of this incident, it might be best to stay away from Smith, unless you really need 3s. Like most shooting guards, he’s not as valuable as he seems, since his strongest category is points and plenty of people score as often as him. He’s shooting 39% on the year and only 67% from the line. His season high in rebounds is 6, and he doesn’t get consistent steals.

Swingmen Bostjan Nachbar and Casey Jacobsen are somewhat intriguing. Nachbar has scored in double digits in three of the last four, and he’s grabbed 7 rebounds in two of those games, and 2 steals in the two others. He even had 2 blocks in one, and has 6 total 3s. This shows he possesses all of the skills to be an effective fantasy player, at least. He also shot 59% while seeing 20 mpg in February. He seems similar to someone I highlighted recently – Matt Bonner. He can contribute in every category, but is best suited for a role in which he doesn’t get the PT to make that happen. Casey Jacobsen is less interesting. If he can’t shoot better than 40%, he’s not going to stick around the league much longer, as he doesn’t bring much else to the table. Going forward I’d like to see Nachbar start to eat into more of Jacobsen’s minutes.

Frontcourt
If there’s one player that’s likely not available, it’s good ol’ reliable P.J. Brown. Every year he slips in the draft because of his absolute lack of upside, and every year his durability and solid play make him a draft day bargain. He checks in at #68 on the overall Player Rater right now. The next five guys behind him? Donyell Marshall, Jalen Rose, Al Harrington, Gary Payton, Antawn Jamison. He’s seen a slight decrease in blocks this year and his FG% has taken a hit, but he gives you 10.6/9.0/2.5, and thanks to Jamaal Magloire’s injury, he’s center eligible. That’s a useful player.

Chris “No, wait, wait, this time, I swear!” Andersen is on the shelf, so that clears up the frontcourt situation a bit. Jackson Vroman is trying to take advantage of his opportunity, and he is, to the extent that he can. His 17 and 5 game last night was about the best you could ever hope for, although he is capable of getting double digit boards. Still, even as a starter, he’s not an option. Lee Nailon isn’t much of an option either. Yes, he’s back in the starting lineup and has scored in double digits in 7 straight. But he’s another empty points player. Doesn’t even attempt any 3s, no steals or blocks. You don’t want him. He’s another guy that I’d like to see on the bench in favor of Nachbar. And also Maciej Lampe. He got a season high 26 minutes last night and … well, he got 7 rebounds. Still, he’s a guy were talking about as a lottery pick before he plummeted to the second round and then got traded all around the league as a “wait, if we throw this dude in the trade will work!” guy. Not to be used, but could be fun for the folks in New Orleans. As for Jamaal Magloire … there are reports he will be back soon. We are always skeptical of reports like that. It would be nice for him to get a little in-game action before the offseason, but there’s more risk than anything else involved for the Hornets. For better or worse, he’s their main building block now. It would be nice to see how he interacts on the court with some of these players that the Hornets have to make decisions about in the offseason, which is one reason you might see him on the court. But temper your expectations. Greatly.

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