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Better Know a Division Rival: New Orleans Hornets Edition

A Question & Answer Session with At The Hive Editor, Rohan Cruyff

Nick Laham

This weekend I had the chance to talk with At the Hive Editor/Writer extraordinaire Rohan Cruff (follow him on twitter, he's really excellent) about his team, the New Orleans Hornets.

1.) Who is in the starting lineup? Any update on the injury to Eric Gordon? Any other injuries to be aware of?

The preseason lineup has basically been Greivis Vasquez, Austin Rivers, Al-Farouq Aminu, Anthony Davis, and Robin Lopez. Eric Gordon looks like he might be done for the rest of preseason, so that should be the starting five tonight.

2.) Davis seems to be having a fine preseason, but how are you feeling about Austin Rivers and Darius Miller?

I've probably been as down on Austin Rivers as anybody on the internet, since the spring. I wrote a piece basically trashing his game (but courteously!) back before the draft in June, so of course the Hornets went out and drafted him. Of course, I'd absolutely love to be surprised, but it just hasn't happened so far. He's struggled to beat guys off the dribble in preseason (and even summer league), which is troubling given it was his one plus asset at Duke.

Miller's been about as decent as you can hope for with a second round pick - some defense, some shooting, but obviously a lot of development still remaining if he wants to be a regular NBA player.

Overall I can't complain too much because Anthony Davis looks rather excellent at this basketball sport game thing.

3.) Why trade for a backup power forward in Ryan Anderson when you already had one in Gustavo Ayon?

Anderson's a backup in name only; by most statistical systems, he was a top 10 offensive player from a production standpoint in the entire league last year (6th in Basketball Reference's offensive win shares, 6th in Basketball Prospectus' WARP). I think people often get caught up in the "can he create his own shot?" game, or its more tortured cousin, "can you put the ball in his hands with the game on the line?" The answer to both of those questions re: Anderson is, quite frankly, no. But basketball is a such a multifaceted sport and even though guys creating off the dribble get most of the publicity, the other stuff is still really important.

And Anderson does the other stuff extremely well. The vast majority of his shots come from beyond the arc or at the rim, the two most efficient shots in basketball from a risk/reward standpoint, and he's a great offensive rebounder. If he has talent around him (as he did in Orlando), he's shown that he can be an elite second or third option. The idea is that Gordon and Davis develop over the next couple years and let Anderson reprise that role once more.

4.) Why bring in Lopez? With the NBA trending smaller, do the Hornets just not feel comfortable with Davis at center?

Yeah, I think that was it more or less. It's still not really clear what position (or multiple positions) Davis will play. And moreover, the Hornets really had no centers on the roster before Lopez, unless you count Jason Smith who was more a converted power forward. Monty Williams has successfully used large, lumbering types in defensive schemes before (Aaron Gray and Chris Kaman coming to mind), so he probably had some input in the team going out and getting an actual center as well.

5.) With such a young team, what are the goals of the Hornets this season? What about the goals just for Davis and Rivers?

The biggest one will be structuring a defensive scheme around Anthony Davis. Literally everything else will be secondary (and I imagine the offense will be quite difficult to watch at times). I don't think anyone expects the team to make the playoffs, so the pressure should be off in terms of things like wins and stuff like that.

I'm hoping Davis' incredible collegiate defense translates because he was easily the most transcendent player I've seen on that end in all the years I've watched college. I'm still kind of shocked that we got him and I'd really like to see him replicate that defensive court vision in the pros. Rivers, well, if he can do even one thing at an above average level - whether that's defend, get to the foul line, shoot threes, get any assorted Clipper hit with a flopping fine, whatever - I will be quite pleased.

Thanks for your time, Rohan.