The New Orleans Hornets are lean and predictable. Stacked at point guard this offseason, the Hornets shipped 2009-10 Fantasy Waiver Wire MVP Darren Collison to Indiana in a four-team trade that landed them small forward Trevor Ariza. Ariza joins a starting lineup of Chris Paul, Marcus Thornton, David West and Emeka Okafor. None should be challenged by a backup for playing time. We can probably write in 35-40 minutes for each starter and pretty sweet fantasy stats for each to varying degrees. Isn’t this easy?
Collison proved to be fantasy basketball’s Olandis Gary last year, a backup who stepped in for a superstar without missing a statistical beat. That superstar is back, and Paul immediately returns to his perch near the top of all cheat sheets. Two years ago, he was essentially the best guy, and there’s no reason to think he won’t challenge for that honor should he remain healthy. What excites us the most is the other Hornet who blew up last year in his absence: Thornton. If Collison was the No. 1 waiver wire pickup in ’09-10, Thornton was 1A, a long-range bomber who immediately became a stud fantasy two-guard. The end of the Mo Peterson era depresses exactly no one. New Orleans finally has a shooting guard.
Another aging veteran will be riding off into the sunset this season, as Ariza makes Peja Stojakovic expendable. Unfortunately, Peja is owed about $77 million this year, so he’ll stick around and provide a shooter off the bench. Ariza should thrive playing with Paul. He’ll be more efficient, concentrate on defense, and become the strong everyday fantasy play we couldn’t quite count on in Houston. West is also doing cartwheels that Paul is back to feed him the rock. While West’s perpetual scowl annoys me as a viewer, as a roto player I’m targeting him at the end of the third round in drafts with no hard feelings.
Okafor had a terrible season even by his mediocre standards, but with no real competition for minutes he just needs to stay healthy to be a serviceable big man. Can he pull down 10 rebounds and block two shots a game? If so, he’s got a place on the outskirts of my roster. Okafor’s backup is Aaron Gray, a decent player who poses no threat in even the deepest of leagues. Only Marco Belinelli is a potential option should injury strike Thornton. He could be the team’s sixth man. Darius Songaila is actually a perfect 12-minute-per-game backup power forward. Like I said, this team is lean and devoid of positional battles. Draft these starters with confidence. The rounds? Paul in the first (no later than the 3rd pick); West in the late third (roto), early fourth (H2H); Thornton and Ariza in the sixth (Ariza is higher in H2H than in roto); Okafor in the ninth or so.
PG – Chris Paul, Mustafa Shakur
SG – Marcus Thornton, Marco Belinelli
SF – Trevor Ariza, Peja Stojakovic
PF – David West, Darius Songaila
C – Emeka Okafor, Aaron Gray
Up Next: Utah Jazz