What happened to the Hornets?

New Orleans was one of the best teams in the league last season. Chris Paul played at a MVP level and David West blossomed into a bona fide All-Star. Tyson Chandler turned into one of the best defensive centers in the league and the team got solid play from Peja Stojakovic and Morris Peterson. Over the second half of the season (and the playoffs) it looked like Julian Wright was turning into a starter-quality player right before our eyes.

Fast forward a few months, and after adding NBA Finals hero James Posey, the Hornets have lost five of their last seven games and are sitting at 5-5. It gets worse: they lost to Charlotte two weeks ago and lost last night, at home, to a Sacramento Kings team that was without Kevin Martin.

But Posey certainly is not the one to blame. His PER of 14.18 is actually the second-highest of his career. The only disadvantage I can see to the Posey signing is that it has taken valuable minutes away from Julian Wright.

No, the problem in New Orleans is not Posey, Paul, West or Chandler. They’re all posting the same numbers as last season. The problem is Peja Stojakovic. The team is paying him $13 million this season (and owe him another $29.5 million over the next two seasons) for the privilege of having him shoot 37% from the field and 38% from long range. Stojakovic is a poor defender, so if he’s not knocking down shots, he’s hurting the Hornets on both ends of the court. And right now he’s not knocking down shots.

I didn’t like the Stojakovic trade when it happened, and I really don’t like it now. I’d like to see the Hornets move him and give more minutes to Posey and Wright. But it’s going to be tough to find a team that wants to trade for a 31 year-old shooter who has two years left on a bloated contract and hasn’t shot better than 44% since the 2004-05 season. Stojakovic helped the team last year because he shot 44% from long range. Unfortunately, that was a career-high, and he’s not likely to match it this season.

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