Can Chris Paul Win in the Big Easy?

Arturo Galletti  – from Arturo’s Silly Little Stats – offers the following review/preview of the New Orleans Hornets.  As one can see, there is some hope that life in New Orleans will go better than life in Cleveland (and freechrispaul.com doesn’t need to be taken).

“The Mardi Gras memories
Of creole tunes that filled the air
I dream of oleanders in June
And soon I’m wishing that I was there” -Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans

A cross cultural melting pot with awesome food. A Colonial city with old world charm and kicking music. It’s no surprise that New Orleans is my kind of town and given the lack of a previous cheering interest, I always cheer for her team’s to do well. For the longest time that meant the Saints and the Tigers but in 2002 the Hornets brought the NBA back to town after an absence of more than 20 Years.

Mr. Basketball Louisiana

Now not only did basketball come back to the big easy but the 2005 draft brought them a once in a lifetime player: Chris Paul. How good is Chris Paul? If I look at all the players drafted in the last thirty three years (using my handy rankings ):

(Note: If you’re new here, the numbers used for the ranking and the rest of this post are explained here).

For his first four years, He’s fifth best behind some guys named Barkley,Magic, Bird and Robinson and just ahead of some piker named Jordan. So the Hornets lucked out and found that transcendent and rare superstar that we know gives you hope , keeps you in constant contention and guarantees the long term success of the franchise right? No. The Hornets got their superstar but have failed to keep him happy. They did such a bad job that trade rumors swirled this summer (and I may have made some jokes about that).

Still Available

Now the front office got overhauled and the team got remodeled. There are still some rumblings of discontent . In contrast to other disgruntled NBA stars (Hint: one is a superstar who makes lists and one is overrated and wants to go to the Big Apple), Chris Paul had a legitimate gripe. He’s a historically great player who’s franchise has not stepped up to the plate to build a winner around him in the last few years. The question is has that changed for this coming season?

The New Orleans Hornets in 2009-2010

25-20. That’s the Hornets record when Paul went down to injury January 29th against the Bulls. At that rate the Hornets would have won from 45 to 46 games if he hadn’t gotten hurt. So this was, at full strength a better team than their final 37-45 record. Let’s take a look at their roster from last year:

Based on wins produced, the Hornets slightly overachieved in 2009-2010. As for the roster turnover, while they lost what amounted to 43% of their minutes from 2009-2010 oddly enough they only lost 11% of their win production. In fact, if we average the WP48 for those lost minutes we get .022 WP48 which is below the level (.050 WP48) we use for rookies and replacement level players. This we shall see is a case of addition by subtraction.

The New Orleans Hornets in 2010-2011

(Note this is current as of 10/21/10) The Hornets brought in seven new players and two rookies to replace the players they lost and a simple projection shows that their roster as built only gets the to about 42 wins. A more complicated projection looks like this:

49 Wins. See here for detail on how this was done and note that Raw wins are simply ADJP48 (Raw productivity per 48 minutes) times Minutes played divided by 48. I’m also using depth charts from here (thanks to Sham Sports).Now this first projection only assumes 2368 minutes for Paul. If we move his minutes to 2008/2009 levels:

54 wins. So by clearing out the dead weight and getting some decent low cost pieces, this New Orleans team is not only better than last year’s team, they’re edging slightly into contender territory. New Orleans is a playoff team with a superstar (Paul) and a decent big (Okafor) and some complementary pieces. Rarefied air indeed for a small market franchise. We can only hope that the story plays out for the the Big Easy more like San Antonio than Cleveland.

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