June 29, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Hornets first overall selection Anthony Davis (23) holds up his jersey next to owners Tom Benson, Gayle Benson and tenth overall selection Austin Rivers during a press conference at the New Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

NBA 2012 Offseason Grades: New Orleans Hornets

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2011-12 Record: 21-45, 5th in Southwest Division, 15th in Western Conference

2012 NBA Draft: C Anthony Davis (Kentucky, 1st overall), G Austin Rivers (Duke, 10th overall), F Darius Miller (Kentucky, 46th overall)

Offseason Additions: G Roger Mason Jr. (1 year, $1.22 million), F Hakim Warrick (acquired from Phoenix Suns), F Ryan Anderson (sign-and-trade with Orlando Magic, 4 years, $34 million), C Robin Lopez (sign-and-trade with Phoenix Suns, 3 years, $15 million)

Offseason Losses: G Jarrett Jack (traded to Golden State Warriors), G Marco Belinelli (signed with Chicago Bulls), F Trevor Ariza (traded to Washington Wizards), F Daryl Watkins (traded to Philadelphia 76ers), F Rashard Lewis (waived, signed with Miami Heat), F Carl Landry (signed with Golden State Warriors), C Brad Miller (traded to Phoenix Suns, retired), C Emeka Okafor (traded to Washington Wizards), C Gustavo Ayon (traded to Orlando Magic), C Chris Kaman (signed with Dallas Mavericks)

Re-signed: G Eric Gordon (matched four-year, $58 million dollar offer sheet from Phoenix Suns)

Projected Starting Line-up: PG Greivis Vasquez, SG Eric Gordon, SF Al Farouq-Aminu , PF Anthony Davis, C Robin Lopez

OFFSEASON GRADE: A

There seems to be a lot of “buzz” around the New Orleans Hornets these days.

Get it? Buzz?

It’s a bad pun, I know.

When you finish with the absolute worst record in the entire conference (they still weren’t “Charlotte Bobcats bad”), I suppose the only direction you can go is up.

The Hornets good fortune began when in a surprising and most puzzling twist of fate, the franchise had a bunch of ping pong balls bounce their way to help secure the number one overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Anthony Davis, the 6’10 center out of Kentucky who helped lead the Wildcats to the National Championship was the consensus #1 pick around the league. He was the 2012 NCAA Tournament MVP and the 2012 National Player of the Year. Davis put up numbers of 14.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 blocks a game in his one season at Kentucky.

He is the cornerstone franchise player this team needs after the departure of Chris Paul. He’s marketable (who doesn’t love the Unibrow?), has an unbelievable work ethic and attitude as well as the huge potential to become an elite big in the NBA. His experience playing with the best the league has to offer on the 2012 USA Mens basketball team will only benefit him in his rookie season. It’s very rare that a first-year player gets the chance to play on the Olympic squad before stepping foot on an NBA court, so I’m sure Davis will take everything he learned playing with superstars like Lebron James and Kevin Durant and use it to aid his progression and growth as a player starting his new journey in New Orleans.

The New Orleans Hornets selected another player with a high ceiling in the NBA Draft, picking guard Austin Rivers out of Duke University 10th overall. Best known for being the son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, Austin has been prepared and groomed to be an NBA player his entire life. He will more than likely be brought off the bench to start off his career as a backup point guard, but it remains to be seen whether the PG position is something Rivers can handle. He put up averages of 15.5 points and 3.4 rebounds in his freshman year at Duke, but only dished out 2.1 assists a game. He’s more of a shooting guard in a point guards body, so Rivers is going to have to evolve his game to better suit the needs of his new team. His free-throw shooting will also need to see some improvement after hitting only 65% of his attempts from the charity stripe for the Blue Devils. He can sometimes be overconfident and arrogant in his demeanor, but that’s only because Austin truly wants to be the best player he can be. The Hornets could certainly use more players with that same desire to be great.

The NBA’s most improved player in 2012, Ryan Anderson, is now a member of the Hornets after a sign-and-trade with the Orlando Magic that will pay Anderson $34 million dollars over the next 4 years. Ryan averaged career-highs in points (16.1), rebounds (7.7) and field goal percentage (43.9%) last season for the Magic. Orlando averaged 107.1 points per 100 possessions with Anderson on the court compared to 94.1 points with him on the bench. He’s a tremendous three-point shooter for his size (6’10, 166 shots made from behind the arc), but he’s also shown a willingness to bang down low, improve his post-game and grab offensive rebounds (3.7 offensive rebounds).

New Orleans completed a second sign-and-trade this summer to acquire a big, receiving center Robin Lopez from the Phoenix Suns in a 4-player deal. Robin is nowhere near the offensive threat his brother Brook is for the Nets, but what he lacks on the offensive end he makes up for tenfold with his defensive play. The problem is that Robin has never had steady minutes in his career, having never topped the 15 minutes per game mark in a season. He will more than likely start at the 5 spot for New Orleans and get a healthy dose of playing time that he is unaccustomed to having.

The team also managed to resign guard Eric Gordon to a new deal, matching a 4-year, $58 million dollar offer sheet he was given by the Phoenix Suns. Despite declaring his want to play for Phoenix and start over with a new team, Hornets management still decided to match his offer and keep him in New Orleans for the foreseeable future. Gordon is an elite scorer (20.6 points in 9 games last season) and could very well be considered one of the top 5 or 6 shooting guards in the league today. The Hornets gave up Chris Paul to get Gordon, so there was no way they were going to give him up without a fight.

The New Orleans Hornets are in no way a playoff team just yet. Sending Chris Paul to Los Angeles at the beginning of last season set in a motion a period of rebuilding and starting anew for this franchise that won’t be completed overnight.

Getting quality players like Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers in the draft will certainly help heal the wounds left behind by CP3’s departure.

There is still a lot of work to be done, but it’s hard to argue with any of the moves GM Dell Demps made this offseason to improve this basketball team.

OTHER OFFSEASON RECAPS: Atlanta HawksBoston Celtics, Brooklyn NetsCharlotte Bobcats, Chicago BullsCleveland CavaliersDallas MavericksDenver NuggetsDetroit PistonsGolden State WarriorsHouston RocketsIndiana PacersLos Angeles ClippersLos Angeles LakersMemphis GrizzliesMiami HeatMilwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves

Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports

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Tags: Anthony Davis Austin Rivers Kentucky Wildcats NBA New Orleans Hornets Robin Lopez Ryan Anderson

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