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The Hornets will still make the playoffs. After a rough stretch through February and early March, CP3 got some rest as a result of a concussion that kept him out of two games (as odd as that sounds) and has come back at full strength, averaging 22 points and 11 assists. At full strength, he's good enough to carry most teams the rest of the way into the playoffs even without his high-scoring partner.2. What happens to the bench with Carl Landry in the starting lineup?
Before the Landry-[Marcus] Thornton trade the Hornets had one of the weakest benches in the league. They had three players who could score off the bench in [Jarrett] Jack, [Willie] Green and Thornton, but there wasn't any way to play them all at the same time. The acquisition of Landry, despite the admittedly heavy price of Thornton, actually gave the Hornets three players off the bench who could impact the game, and all three could work off each other. It formed an eight-man rotation I would have been comfortable with against all but two or three other NBA teams. With Landry now in the starting lineup, however, the Hornets are once again short on scoring off the bench, and will again be forced to rely on Jason Smith and David Andersen behind him -- two jump-shooting big men who run very hot and cold and don't rebound much. That's a disaster.3. Should the Hornets hang on to the seventh seed, they'll draw the Lakers. What does a seven-game series with the L.A. look like from a matchup standpoint? How much confidence would the Hornets have?
The Lakers were the worst draw the Hornets could have gotten even with West. Odom routinely hounds West into bad games, Emeka Okafor is overmatched by the Bynum-Gasol combination, and the Hornets' wings are typically limited. For the Hornets to beat the Lakers in the recent past, they've always needed one other huge game from someone other than Paul. I don't see that coming from anywhere reliable, and I'd be happy with even a pair of Hornets wins.
I do hold out some hope, however, that the Hornets will take back the 6 seed from Portland. The Hornets give Dallas fits, and that would still be their best chance, sans West, to reach the second round. If they had West, I'd have been confident going into a Dallas-Hornets series.