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NBA Preview: Hornets
NBA Preview: Hornets. By WagerWeb.com
There was no storybook finish for the Hornets last season. They didn't even qualify for the playoffs.
But the love affair that developed between the team and new part-time home Oklahoma City was indeed heartwarming. The city adopted the Hornets and, in the process, placed itself on top of the list among expansion franchise possibilities.
In the meantime, the Hornets became the most improved team in the NBA, raising their victory total from 18 to 38 and contending for a playoff berth until a late-season swoon. Rookie of the Year point guard Chris Paul performed well beyond his years, averaging 16.1 points, 7.8 assists and 2.2 steals a game.
Thank goodness sophomore slumps are more prevalent in baseball.
Don't bet against three key additions elevating the Hornets into the playoffs this season. Small forward Peja Stojakovic hopes he finally finds a home after playing the role of nomad a year ago. Tyson Chandler gives them a credible center who can at least clean the boards. And free agent Bobby Jackson adds scoring depth to the backcourt.
This is a deep division that houses two NBA powers in Dallas and San Antonio. Fellow Southwest Division rivals Houston and Memphis are also playoff possibilities. But New Orleans/Oklahoma City can't be ignored in discussions about the postseason.
Key additions: F Stojakovic, C Chandler, G Jackson
Key subtractions: F P.J. Brown, G Speedy Claxton, F Aaron Williams, G Kirk Snyder
Sportsbook odds: Bettors are giving the Hornets the benefit of the doubt. WagerWeb.com places their over/under in victories at 41 but the rugged Western Conference and Southwest Division competition translates into a +10000, or 100-1, to win the NBA championship.
Player to watch: This team has an abundance of talent at guard and forward, but the effectiveness of Chandler in the middle will greatly determine if it can take the next step in its remarkably rapid turnaround and reach the postseason. Chandler has been a rather significant disappointment in the NBA. On a Bulls team that needed a scoring upgrade, he couldn't produce. But the Hornets boast enough offense to allow Chandler to concentrate on defense and rebounding. He has proven to be a decent scoring threat close to the basket. If Chandler performs well, this team can compete for third place in the division. And that should be good enough to extend the season.
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