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Hornets Seek Elite Talent in 2012 Draft
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
May 8, 2012

Hornets Seek Elite Talent in 2012 Draft

The New Orleans Hornets learned something about their ability to compete against quality opponents when Eric Gordon was on the floor during the 2011-12 season, beating playoff teams Memphis, Denver and Utah, while going 6-3. In the 57 games the shooting guard missed, the Hornets also learned something but it wasnt good. New Orleans (21-45 overall) went 15-42 in those contests, including losing 27 times by 10 points or less.

That drastic divergence in results revealed how critical it is for the Hornets to have a go-to guy and All-Star-caliber player on offense, who often makes the difference in the NBA between an impressive victory and a narrow defeat.

As New Orleans headed into the offseason with an eye on the May 30 NBA draft lottery and June 28 draft, a primary objective is to obtain a franchise-changing player or two next month. Monty Williams Hornets were praised league-wide in 11-12 for their relentless effort, but Williams understands theyll need some reinforcements to make a significant jump in the standings next season.

I think for us right now we have to get as much talent as we can, Williams said of the 2012 offseason. We play hard, we defend, (but) the one thing Im seeing we dont have is the upper-echelon talent. Having Eric Gordon for a few games has helped me to realize how much I miss Chris Paul and David West. Those guys are elite talents. So I think we need some talent, and then its up to me to try to fit it together with what we already have.

Since taking over as Hornets general manager less than two years ago, Dell Demps has often noted that he prefers a best-player-available approach in the draft, as opposed to selecting based on positional needs. Williams indicated that the philosophy will likely remain in place this year, with the Hornets potentially getting the extremely rare opportunity to pick twice in the top 10 of the first round. If form holds in the lottery, New Orleans will have the No. 4 and No. 10 choices, though both of those could change depending on how the ping-pong balls bounce on May 30.

Obviously you take the best player available, Williams said. We dont know where were going to be (picking) we wont find out until May 30. So that will determine which positions we go after. We may go after a center or a power forward, but if we dont get the pick we want, and the best player is a wing, then Im pretty sure Dell is going to be inclined to take that wing. He and Hugh (Weber) will be doing their due diligence (prior to making a decision on draftees), along with Mr. Benson and his family.

Interestingly, due to the timing of his hire in July 2010 a few weeks after the 10 NBA Draft had taken place Demps still has not overseen the selection of a Hornets first-round pick as GM. New Orleans traded its first-round choice in 2011 several months earlier.

The process of determining which rookies will be added to the roster will continue in earnest in June, when the Hornets invite numerous marquee draft prospects to work out at the Alario Center. Once the Hornets two draft positions are solidified at the May 30 lottery, it will be easier to target which players are realistic options. The Hornets pair of lottery picks could be as high as 1 and 2, or as low as 7 and 13.

As is the case with head coaches around the NBA, Williams does not have sufficient time during the hectic season to do extensive research on college players. On the other hand, Demps and his basketball operations staff follow prospects all over the globe on a year-round basis. During the past year-plus alone, the Hornets uncovered a promising international find in Mexicos Gustavo Ayon, while also trading for undervalued NBA veterans such as Jason Smith and Marco Belinelli.

I try to talk to (Demps and his staff) about what I think fits my style of coaching and our system, Williams said of his input on draft prospects. But they know the (potential draft picks) better than I will ever know them. And so I watch the workouts from afar, get to know the (draft prospects) a little bit, (but) knowing that when you meet some of these young guys, theyre going to put their best foot forward. We want to see both feet. I try to give as much input as I can.

Once the (Hornets regular) season is over, I start watching more film on younger players, but Dell hes a maniac. Hes going to Europe, or some island, wherever theyre playing ball, hes going to go find players. Hes found some guys like Jason Smith or Marco Belinelli. In the past this organization has drafted well, and now were looking forward to doing the same thing.


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