Tonight the Hornets take on the Houston Rockets in what is a potential playoff clincher for New Orleans. A win would, at worst (best?), give the Hornets the 8th seed in the playoffs. This creates a couple of different options for Hornets to choose as they head toward the end of the regular season. So the question is: What would you do? Let’s find out after the jump…
(All of these scenarios assume that the Hornets beat the Rockets and clinch a playoff spot.)
Option 1: Tanking
This seems to have people torn the most. The Hornets matchup terribly with the Lakers. Would it be worth sacrificing the remaining games to play the Spurs and have a chance at winning a first round series? Or would this kill any momentum heading into the playoffs? Maybe it’s better to rest your starters. Maybe it’s not.
Option 1A: Get The Guys Off The Pine
This kind of goes hand in hand with Option 1. Do you dislike the word “tanking?” Then how would you feel about the reserves getting some more playing time before the playoffs start? The Hornets bench has played better recently but they still stink. Aaron Gray has show promise over the past couple of games, so why not unleash him for the remainder of the regular season?
Side Note: Gray’s PER is up to 12.5! He’s getting closer to average! His per 36 minutes stats (the time a starter normally plays) are 9.4 points and 10.9 rebounds while shooting 65%. I would love that out of a Hornets backup big. Unfortunately he would also pick up 6.4 fouls which means those numbers can’t quite happen. Gray worked very hard to get in better shape over the summer. Now that he’s dropped weight, I’d like to see him focus on his offense this summer. He makes me optimistic for next season.
Option 2: The Mad Scientist Approach
Without the pressure of trying to clinch a playoff spot, Monty Williams can experiment with his lineup. How would a huge lineup of Gray, Emeka Okafor, Carl Landry, Trevor Ariza and Chris Paul look? Would it maybe, potentially, hopefully be effective against the Lakers? Or even Memphis (another team with height which the Hornets matchup terribly against)? This would also let Monty give Patrick Ewing Jr. some playing time—the team is paying him so they may as well see what he can do.
Monty could also let Ariza just do whatever Trevor wants on the court. Letting Ariza just do his thing and ad libbing leads to three outcomes. 1) Monty finds something that works with Trevor, his offense comes around and he stops being a black hole on the offensive end. (Trevor Ariza: where good possessions go to die.) 2) Trevor shoots and shoots and finds his shot. Trevor stops being a black hole on offense. 3) Everything stays the same and the Hornets are in no worse position than they are now.
Marco Belinelli can also just start taking shots from behind the arc. If he takes ten three’s a game he’s got to start consistently making them, right? Imagine how much better the offense would look if he started consistently nailing three-pointers? This would be huge if the Hornets want to win a first round series.
Option 3: You Play To Win The Game
This is the most likely outcome. Monty can take a page out of Herm Edwards’ playbook and play to win. Momentum is important heading into the playoffs and the Hornets have a chance to build it. Look at the remaining schedule: Phoenix, at Memphis, Utah and at Dallas. Phoenix and Utah are out of the playoffs so they won’t be trying. By the final game of the season Dallas should have already clinched their seed and will be resting their core players for the playoffs. The Hornets could head into the postseason hot on a winning streak.
Recently, the Hornets have been playing better on offense. Over the teams last ten games their offensive rating has been 110.39. On the season the team’s offensive rating is 104.1. For a team that’s struggles offensively for most of the year that’s not a trend you want to cut short.
So how would you approach the end of the season? Did you think another possibility? Let us know in the comments below or on twitter (@nolajake)!
Links to check out before the game tonight
-Andrew61388 from At The Hive makes a case for Monty being coach of the year.
-Ryan Schwan of Hornets247 points out that the Hornets have the worst shot selection in the league.
-Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook takes a great look at how Landry has done replacing David West.
-This isn’t Hornets related, but here is the most bizarre fan-fiction story about Dirk Nowitzki. Warrning: It is very, very, very strange.
-Because the Hornets are welcoming the Houston Rockets to the Hive, here is a story about Texas.
And finally your pre-game metal song to fire you up.