The Hornets solidified their future in June, when Saints owner Tom Benson bought the team for $338 million and the draft yielded stars-in-waiting Anthony Davis (the No. 1 pick from Kentucky) and Austin Rivers (taken 10th out of Duke). Succeeding in the present will be more challenging. New Orleans's offense sputtered last season, averaging 89.6 points per game, second fewest in the NBA. The acquisition of Ryan Anderson—last year's Most Improved Player—in a sign-and-trade with the Magic should at least boost the team's terrible three-point shooting (33.3%).

G.M. Dell Demps re-signed restricted free-agent shooting guard Eric Gordon for $58 million over four years, but he has played in just 65 games the last two seasons and has been dealing with pain in his surgically repaired right knee. If Gordon does stay in the lineup, the 6'4" Rivers will have to make the move from the two to the point, a tough transition for any guard, let alone a 20-year-old.

FAST FACTS

COACH: Monty Williams (3rd season with Hornets)

2011--12 RECORD: 21--45 (5th in Southwest)

OFFENSE: 89.6 ppg (29th)

DEFENSE: 93.4 ppg (8th)

PICK-AND-ROLL OFFENSE: 26.5 ppg (T-9th)

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE

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F Ryan Anderson PPG: 16.1 RPG: 7.7 FG%: 43.9 3FG%: 39.3
G Greivis Vasquez PPG: 8.9 APG: 5.4 RPG: 2.6 FG%: 43.0
F Hakim Warrick PPG: 6.4 RPG: 2.6 APG: 0.9 FG%: 41.1

New acquisition (R) Rookie, college stats

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE HORNETS

They got lucky in the draft with Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers, but they have to try and win with young players, and that is almost impossible to do in the NBA.... I worry about playing Davis at center with that thin body. To bang with the fives over 82 games—he'll never last. They need to use him at the four and force-feed Robin Lopez minutes at the five.... If Lopez can get eight or nine points, play 28 to 30 minutes, they can keep their players at the right positions. No one knows if he can do it though. He hasn't proved that he is anything in this league.... Ryan Anderson is a great pickup. He is so much more than a guy who played off Dwight Howard and shot threes. They can play him in pick-and-pop and run him off screens. He's a better post-up player than Davis or Lopez. Plus, he is a tremendous offensive rebounder—he has the kind of rebounding gifts you can't teach.... I'm very impressed with Monty Williams. He has complete control of his emotions. His X's and O's are good. He is a very good defensive coach. His teams are well prepared. He is Doc Rivers--like.

THE LOWDOWN

Best Case

Gordon stays healthy, Rivers has the skills to back up his cockiness and the young Hornets join the playoff race.

Worst Case

Gordon goes down, and the pressure on two rookies with a combined two years of college experience is overwhelming.

TELLING NUMBER

9.0

Fast break points per game last season for New Orleans, the lowest in the league. The Hornets finished 28th in fast break point differential; they were outscored by an average of 3.9 points.

PHOTOLAYNE MURDOCH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (GORDON) PHOTOGREG NELSON (RIVERS) PHOTOGREG NELSON (DAVIS)GOOD BUZZ The lanky Davis has shown he's more than just a shot blocker, averaging 15.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in his first four preseason games.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)