New Orleans Hornets

Smith was one of the high-flying rookies in the 2004 class.
Gregory Shamus/NBAE/Getty Images
No. 4, No. 33
Chris Andersen (player option)
Dan Dickau (unrestricted)
Casey Jacobsen (unrestricted)
Bostjan Nachbar (unrestricted)
Lee Nailon (unrestricted)
2004: 18. J.R. Smith, St. Benedictís Prep, N.J.
44. Tim Pickett, Fla. St.
2003: 18. David West, Xavier
48. James Lang, Central Park Christian School (Birmingham, Ala.)
2001: 16. Kirk Haston, Indiana
2000: 19. Jamaal Magloire, Kent.
1999: 3. Baron Davis, UCLA
43. Lee Nailon, TCU
By Bill Evans

When the 2004-05 season began: Following Tim Floydís ouster after one season, the Hornets were getting ready to begin the Byron Scott regime. They were also preparing for life in the Western Conference, where the going was expected to be a little rougher.

What happened? Nobody expected the going to be quite this rough for the Hornets, who tripped out of the starting gate at 2-29 and won only 18 games all season. The Hornets had losing streaks of eight, nine, 10 and 11 games en route to the worst season in franchise history.

Baron Davis and Jamaal Magloire, All-Stars in 2004, made the all-injured team last season, playing in only 41 total games between them. Thatís 41 more than Jamal Mashburn, who sat out the entire season with a knee injury.

With nothing to play for by Christmas, General Manager Allan Bristow began the retooling process. Darrell Armstrong was shipped to Dallas. David Wesley was dealt to Houston. Davis was sent to Golden State. Mashburn and Rodney Rogers were traded to Philadelphia.

In return for trading most of the teamís successful nucleus, the Hornets received prospects Dan Dickau, Speedy Claxton, Bostjan Nachbarand players who had no interest in staying (Jim Jackson) or whom the Hornets had no interest in keeping (Dale Davis, Glenn Robinson). Jackson was sent to Phoenix for Maciej Lampe, Casey Jacobsen and Jackson Vroman.

Though the team took a huge step back, it did acquire roster flexibility and allowed young J.R. Smith a stage for his acrobatics. In 56 starts, the 6-6 rookie averaged 13.1 points and 2.4 assists per game.

What now? New Orleans will pick fourth and 33rd in the draft. With a backcourt full of young prospects like Smith, Claxton and Dickau, the need would appear to be up front, where journeyman free agent Lee Nailon and 35-year-old P.J. Brown, logged most of the minutes at forward.

The expiring contracts acquired by the Hornets will allow them the freedom to pursue free agents. The team could benefit from some the influence of a few veterans. Outside of Brown and George Lynch, no one on the Hornets roster has more than five seasons of NBA experience.