While the Orlando Summer League begins today, we're going to try and squeeze the rest of the teams in before the Vegas league. Next up is the New Orleans Hornets, who have a fair amount of roster concerns for a good team. Starting center Tyson Chandler was almost traded last season (and for all intents and purposes was) before getting hurt, and is now reportedly available for trade again. The Hornets can just let his backup step into a starting role, right? That questions assumes they have an adequate backup, as last year that role went to guys like Hilton Armstrong and Sean Marks. So they need to get that taken care of as well. Oh, and they also could use a decent backup to Chris Paul. Oh, and Peja Stojakovic isn't getting any younger, nor his back any less sore. Oh, and the Hornets got absolutely no scoring from their bench last year. It's a good thing coach Byron Scott lets younger players develop on the court, right? Oh.
I'm making things sound bleaker than they are, but the team also hasn't been an active player in free agency and so there are guys on the Hornets' Summer League roster who have a reasonable expectation of a shot at a regular season gig. Let's take a look at the roster after the jump.
Julian Wright (6'8" F) - Wright bore a lot of Scott's mistrust of young players not named Chris Paul, and neither he nor the team has really figured out whether he's a small forward, an undersized but rangy power forward, or some kind of FreeDarko-esque guard. Wright turns the ball over a fair amount and makes questionable decisions more than you'd like to see from a guy about to enter his third season, but he's really athletic and has somewhat understandably had his confidence shaken a bit from having his playing time yanked around. Wright will likely need to show more consistency and better defense this season to solidify having a future role with the Hornets, and what better place to start than Summer League?
Marcus Thornton (6'4" G) - Thornton was drafted this year to help provide some bench scoring, which was non-existent for the Hornets last year, and luckily for both him and the team he's fairly efficient. He does a good job at coming off of screens, though he has a tendency to fade away on his shot, which has worked for him so far, but I wonder if it will continue to do so in the NBA. He improved his shot selection and turnovers his last season at LSU, but he's still probably a higher-volume shooter than Scott might like. He's not a great pull-up shooter, and he's not great from the mid-range, but he's active defensively, which the Hornets will surely welcome.
Darren Collison (6'1" G) - Collison played alongside and behind several current NBA players as a point guard at UCLA, including Jordan Farmar and Russell Westbrook. He's a good finisher, executes the pick and roll well, and is an efficient shooter. He also makes smart decisions with the ball, which will serve him well as Chris Paul's likely primary backup. He's also a solid defensive player. He's a little undersized and pretty thin, but he's about the same height as Paul, and he'll have access to NBA weight training programs now. The SBN Hornets blog At the Hive also has an in-depth profile of Collison.
Terry Martin (6'6" G) - Martin was Thornton's teammate at LSU, and the local connection (he also was born in Monroe, LA) is likely why he's here. His best season was his sophomore year ('06-'07), as his shooting percentages have fallen pretty much across the board since then. He doesn't get to the free throw line with any real regularity, doing so in just eight out of the 31 games he played as a senior. He had the occasional game where he rebounded fairly well, but other than that he doesn't give much in terms of non-scoring categories.
Luke Nevill (7'1" C) - Nevill has a nice touch around the rim and has decent size for a center, but he doesn't have much upper body strength, and he's a pretty poor rebounder - most of his numbers there, particularly on the offensive end, came more from being bigger than the guys around him and less from any kind of technique or athletic ability.
Courtney Sims (6'11" C) - Sims was one of the top centers in the D-League last year, if not the overall best, a good scorer and a solid rebounder who got some brief looks from NBA teams towards the end of the year, including the Knicks. He's very efficient, a good free-throw shooter, and he has some shot-blocking ability. While he occasionally gets into foul trouble and turns the ball over too much every now and then, Sims is probably the best center prospect the Hornets have brought in to Summer League.
Earl Calloway (6'3" G) - Calloway is a former Fort Wayne Mad Ant (he was team MVP a few years ago) who spent last year playing in Croatia. He's a decent three-point shooter and overall scorer from the point guard position, and he's pretty quick, though while he's a decent passer Calloway doesn't get as many assists as you'd like to see. He could be a decent third point guard behind Paul and Collison.
Anthony Tolliver (6'9" F/C) - Tolliver has been all over the place, including the D-League, Europe, and the NBA, and he's no stranger to the Hornets having received a 10-day contract from them last season. He's an interior player who occasionally fancies himself a three-point shooter, though he's not very good at it. Tolliver's a decent rebounder and defender, though he has a harder time guarding perimeter players. He's also a pretty good passer.
Earl Barron (6'11" F/C) - One assumes that Barron's being brought in to audition for the Chandler backup job, though Hornets fans had better hope that he doesn't end up as Chandler's outright replacement. Not that Barron isn't decent enough, but he was pretty inconsistent in the D-League last season (a game of 10 points and 17 rebounds was followed by one with 4 and 4 in only three fewer minutes, for example) and he didn't stand out much during his three stints with the Miami Heat. He's not a very efficient scorer, but he'd be a solid backup option
Jaycee Carroll (6'2" G) - After playing in last year's summer leagues, Carroll spent last season playing in Italy, where he reportedly worked on continuing to transition from being just a scorer to more of a combo guard and ballhandler. He's a pretty good scorer though, and he has a variety of shots in his arsenal. He's not particularly quick, though, so he sometimes has trouble getting his shot off. He's a smart player, but he's also 26 (he went on a two-year mission in college) so there's not a ton of improvement to be had at this point.
Brian Cusworth (7'0" C) - Cusworth is an interesting center prospect who has played in Estonia and Spain after attending Harvard. His scoring is mostly efficient, he's a pretty good rebounder and he's a good free-throw shooter. He's not a great passer, though, and I wasn't able to find anything about his defense, which usually isn't a good sign. Still, I'd say he's definitely worth a look, especially for New Orleans.
Larry Owens (6'7" F) - What's odd about Owens is that his three-point shooting spiked up in '07-'08, from 19 percent to 31 before dropping back down to 16 percent last year. I don't know if that's a result of him getting lucky on a few extra shots or evidence of some greater talent that needs to be tapped into. He posted decent numbers in college, so it might be the latter. Otherwise, Owens is more of an undersized power forward, though his rebounding numbers weren't great last year in Belgium. He's a fairly efficient scorer, though he may be headed back to Europe.
Marc Salyers (6'9" F) - Salyers was the top scorer in Europe a few years ago, and in reading about him I'm reminded a bit of Antawn Jamison's game. Salyers is a similar type of tweener-forward who spends a lot of time facing the basket and is tough to defend because of his wide variety of shots and good range. He's not nearly as good a rebounder, though, and he's a pretty poor defender, but if New Orleans is looking for a guy to do nothing but score, they certainly could do worse than Salyers.
Quinton Watkins (6'3" G) - He's an undrafted rookie, but I listed Watkins down here because I couldn't find much information about him. He was originally going to play for the University of Illinois a year ago but was ruled academically ineligible, so he attended classes San Diego State instead and it sounds like he intended to play, but I don't see any stats or articles to that effect. I did find pictures though so apparently it happened. He was considered a top SG prospect coming out of high school, though from what I could gather he still had work to do on his outside shot. Sorry this one is so thin, but there's just not a lot out there about Watkins. Any LA-area high school basketball watchers out there have anything to add?