The New Orleans Hornets undoubtedly got much better in the draft when they picked Kentucky forward Anthony Davis with the first choice and Duke guard Austin Rivers with the 10th. But the organization was quick to temper the enthusiasm over the multiple lottery picks with a cautionary note.
"These guys are 19 and they're going to take their bumps and bruises," general manager Dell Demps said. "But that's a part of our development program. We've got a great staff, and we're going to put them in an environment where they can continue to grow and develop."
Nonetheless, both players will be integral parts of the Hornets upon arrival.
Demps and coach Monty Williams emphasized that shooting guard Eric Gordon, a restricted free agent they're committed to retaining, will be the leader of the team next season. But Davis will anchor the defense and Rivers will provide another offensive option for a team that had limited offensive options last season.
"I think with Davis and his defensive presence, then Austin with his offensive upside is great," Demps said. "I think with Austin's playmaking abilities along with Eric, I'm hoping we're going to be really hard to guard and to score on."
One thing the Hornets didn't get in the draft is a true center, something Demps said they will have to address in free agency or through a trade.
Even though the Hornets were at or near the bottom of the Western Conference throughout the season, they managed to play their best basketball at the end of the season. Having a healthy Gordon for a handful of games helped, but they often played competitively even when he wasn't available. The Hornets won eight of their last 13 games and six of their last nine, including a season-best four-game winning streak, and never looked like a team that was just playing out the string. They won their last four home games.
This season turned in the wrong direction just a few days before it ever began. That's when All-Star point guard Chris Paul made it clear that he would opt out of his contract at the end of the season and look for work elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent. That left general manager Dell Demps with no choice but to trade Paul and get something in return while he still could. After NBA commissioner David Stern nixed a trade to the Lakers, Demps worked one out with the Clippers that passed muster with Stern. The departure of Paul left the Hornets without a star and with very little offensive firepower. The season was essentially doomed as it began.
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