Scott likes depth of ’09 draft class

Sunday, June 7, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

A year after New Orleans dealt its 2008 first-round pick (27th overall) to Portland, there has been somewhat predictable speculation that the Hornets will again trade their top draft choice, which this year is the 21st selection. Most notably, on June 3, listed New Orleans – along with Detroit and Portland – as teams that are “willing to make a deal” and trade their first-rounder.

However, there are a few factors that make the Hornets’ pre-draft perspective now a bit different from last June. For one, New Orleans’ pick is obviously six slots higher than a year ago, meaning the chances of finding a quality player who can help immediately are much better this time. For another, the Hornets appear to be more enthusiastic about the caliber of players who could be on the board in the 20-30 range of the first round in comparison to the crop in 2008.

“There are a lot of good players we feel will be available at 21,” Hornets sixth-year coach Byron Scott said. “Impact players in this league who can help our bench.”

While there aren’t many years in which a team picking somewhere in the 20s can add an immediate starter or future star, the Hornets’ focus is on adding pieces to the reserve unit.

“I think our starters are fine,” Scott assessed. “I think we need to add a couple guys besides (James Posey) who can come in off the bench and be effective for us. It’s no secret that our bench wasn’t one of the best in the league, and that we have to upgrade that part of our team. If we do that, obviously we’ll have a much better team.”

For comparison’s sake, during the 2008 draft, among picks 20 through 30, Orlando and Portland both landed role-playing starters in Courtney Lee and Nicolas Batum, respectively. New Jersey (Ryan Anderson), San Antonio (George Hill) and Memphis (Darrell Arthur) landed players who remained in their rotations for the majority of their rookie seasons. Other players such as Kosta Koufos (Utah, 7 starts, 7 double-figure scoring games) and D.J. White (Oklahoma City, 8.9 ppg in just 18.6 mpg) showed promise during their brief chances to play.