COMMENTARY | Despite sporting one of the worst records in the NBA, the 2012-13 New Orleans Hornets have given their fans hope for the future. Greivis Vasquez has emerged as a quality NBA starting point guard. Anthony Davis is as good as advertised. And Eric Gordon has recovered nicely from his knee problem. As a result of their win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday, April 7, the Hornets have clinched a better record than last year's squad.
The 2011-12 Hornets went 21-45 in the strike-shortened NBA season. This year's team is 27-50 with five games left to play. If the Hornets lose their last five games, they will still have a higher winning percentage than last year. The worst winning percentage that New Orleans could post this year is .329, which would be better than the .318 winning percentage that the Hornets had last season.
Quite frankly, there was no reason for the Hornets not to improve this season. Considering that Eric Gordon only played in nine games last season, his 37 games played this season should have helped New Orleans tremendously. However, Gordon still doesn't play in the second games of back-to-backs and he has struggled in the fourth quarter even when healthy.
While Gordon was out early in the season, New Orleans' struggles were compounded by Anthony Davis also missing time. But Davis has steadily improved as his rookie season has progressed and he is now an integral part of the Hornets' offense. Davis has an amazingly soft touch on his midrange jumper and he and Greivis Vasquez are combining on so many alley-oop dunks that it's starting to look like the "Crescent City Connection" v 2.0 in New Orleans.
With so many injuries and Monty Williams' bizarre rotations, it's miraculous that Greivis Vasquez leads the NBA in assists by such a wide margin. Without his incredible play at point guard, the Hornets do not improve this season. Vasquez has only missed two games and his leadership has kept the young, inexperienced Hornets' together. In addition to being one of the NBA's most improved players, Vasquez is also one of its best bargains at $1.1 million.
The highlight of the season in New Orleans had to be the recent 4-3 homestand that included wins over three playoffs teams, including the Denver Nuggets who had a 15-game winning streak. Although that successful homestand may have cost the Hornets a couple of ping-pong balls, it gave New Orleans confidence to build upon for next season. Those four wins virtually guaranteed the Hornets of an improved record.
It's too soon to tell if New Orleans can continue to improve next season as the Pelicans. A lot will depend on New Orleans' draft position and what underclassmen leave college early. Perhaps the biggest decision the Hornets need to make is what to do with Eric Gordon. With Tom Benson in charge, quick-fixes appear to be a thing of the past. As long as the Hornets keep improving incrementally, they will be playoff contenders in a couple of years.
Patrick Michael was born in New Orleans and currently resides in the Big Easy. Patrick has followed the Hornets since they moved to New Orleans and has covered the team since 2010. He was in attendance the night the Hornets were one win away from the Western Conference Finals. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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