Let's talk Hornets. At 11-26, they are dead last in the loaded Western Conference, and yet things are looking up in The Big Easy.
First there's the future of the franchise, Anthony Davis, also known as "The Brow." A fascination of mine has always been how top draft picks make the transition from being on a great college team (in Davis' case, a powerhouse Kentucky squad whose rotation comprised six of the first 46 picks in last June's draft) to a floundering NBA franchise, and all of the initial losing that comes with it. In truth, I haven't paid enough attention to the Hornets this year to know if that specific question has been asked to Davis, but he may have an advantage on other top picks because of a crazy fact: Anthony Davis' high school team was well below average. Like, downright bad.
Some people already know about this (and forgive me if you are one of them), but man, this still blows my mind. Equipped with the best prep player in the country, Perspectives Charter School on the south side of Chicago finished 6-19 during Davis' senior year. After doing a quick Google search, I stumbled upon this website, where the author wondered the same thing, namely how the hell this could happen. I know Chicago has a rich basketball history, but it still doesn't make much sense. Oh, and the comparison to Robin Williams in Jack, where he dominates playing basketball against a bunch of 11 year-olds, is genius.That's literally what his highlight tape looks like!
Despite his lack of success in high school, everyone knows what Davis accomplished during his short stay in Lexington. Now in the NBA, he's already doing a decent job individually by scoring, rebounding, and blocking shots at impressive rates for a rookie big man. And even though the Hornets are still trying to figure out how to play around his set of unique skills, the future is bright. I enjoyed this Rob Mahoney piece over at Sports Illustrated that talked about even without a go-to post game, The Brow's offensive skill set is perfect for where the NBA is headed. At a time when the pick and roll is such a staple in the NBA game, there is a premium on bigs who are athletic enough to dive to the basket (Tyson Chandler) or skilled enough to flare and shoot jumpers at a high percentage (David West, Kevin Garnett), which the Sixers have neither of. Davis has the potential, with repetition and refinement on an already decent jumper, to be elite in both areas. Scary stuff.
As for the rest of the team, they have played much better basketball since getting their injured star back, weirdly despite him not playing up to his usual level. Since Eric Gordon returned on December 29th, the Hornets have won 5 of the 7 games he's played in (they lost another where they sat him on a back-to-back). All this, despite a rusty Gordon's true shooting percentage at only 46 percent, which he'll surely boost tonight in Philly.
Other players of interest on the Hornets' roster are the ultra-reliable Ryan Anderson, a three-point marksmen that head coach Monty Williams runs a ton of creative sets for, as well as Austin Rivers, who has stumped statisticians all over the Internet with an amazingly low level of play to start his NBA career. Am I forgetting anyone?
Oh, right, the Sixers. After playing a brutal recent schedule that involved a ton of back-to-backs and road games, they find themselves in a favorable stretch where they are playing three games, all at home, in 11 days. The Sixers played a nice game against the Rockets the other night, and if they want to get back to around .500 for when HWMBN returns, this is a game they really gotta have. That said, if you look at point differentials and strength of schedule, you could easily argue that the Hornets are just as good as this Sixers team, and maybe better now with the addition of Gordon.