Feb 21, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson (25) dribbles the ball as New Orleans Pelicans forward center Anthony Davis (23) defends during the second half at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Bobcats won 90-87. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

How the Charlotte Hornets Match Up Against: The New Orleans Pelicans

Leading up to the start of the 2014 NBA season, Swarm and Sting will be pitting the Hornets head to head with every team in the Association every Tuesday and Thursday. In this edition, we match the Hornets up with the New Orleans Hornets Pelicans.

2013-14 Series:  Charlotte split the series with New Orleans, 1-1.

Projected Starting Match-Ups:

PG:  Kemba Walker (17.7 PPG, 1.2 SPG, 6.1 APG) vs.  Jrue Holiday (14.3 PPG, 1.6 SPG, 7.9 APG)

Right out of the gate, this is a tough match-up to pick.  Jrue Holiday doesn’t score as much as Kemba Walker, but statistically, his all around game is slightly better than Kemba’s.  When it’s this close, we go to head-to-head match-ups from last season.  In their only match-up of the season (Holiday missed the second Bobcats/Pelicans game thanks to a broken leg), Jrue Holiday dominated Kemba.  They both scored 14 points, Holiday won the assist battle, 8-to-0, the rebound battle, 3-2, and Holiday posted a +/- of +15, while Kemba’s +/- was a game-low -24.  This is a small sample size to go on, and it’s even tougher given that Holiday is coming off of a broken leg, but that match-up alone makes me believe Holiday slightly has the advantage on Kemba.

ADVANTAGE:  Jrue Holiday

SG:  Lance Stephenson (13.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 4.6 APG) vs. Eric Gordon (15.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.3 APG)

This is a similar match-up to the Walker vs. Holiday battle, except this time it’s Stephenson who scores less but fills up the stat sheet more.  Personally, I’ll never forget being at Time Warner Cable Arena on MKG Bobblehead Night, watching Eric Gordon dismantle the Bobcats (24 points off the bench) en route to a New Orleans win.  In their two head-to-head match-ups last year, Eric Gordon put up 23 PPG/1.5 APG/4.5 RPG, versus Stephenson’s 17.5 PPG/4 APG/7 RPG.  Again, it comes down to whether or not you value scoring, or overall play.  I believe the X-factor in this match-up is Lance Stephenson’s defense.  If Lance can keep Gordon from putting up 20+ points, the Hornets have a substantially better chance of beating the Pelicans (obvious statement).  I think Stephenson will have Gordon’s number this year, thus the edge going to Charlotte.

ADVANTAGE:  Lance Stephenson

SF:  Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (7.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 0.8 APG) vs.  Tyreke Evans (14.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 5.0 APG)

Statistically, this is a fairly easy match-up to pick, as unfortunate as that is for Hornets fans.  Evans can score at a decent rate, rebound with MKG, and his passing makes him a very nice asset at small forward.  Evans’ passing ability makes him unique compared to other small forwards, and it allows the Pelicans to open up the floor against other teams.  While MKG’s long arms may help prevent these passes from getting through, I think Tyreke should win this match-up based on overall offense.

ADVANTAGE:  Tyreke Evans

PF:  Cody Zeller (6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 0.5 BPG) vs. Anthony Davis (20.8 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 2.82 BPG)

With all due respect to Cody Zeller, and the rest of the Hornets’ power forward depth chart, Anthony Davis is better than anybody Charlotte has at the 4.  Period.  He is the shot-blocker of the future, he can score, he can rebound, and he’s one of the not-so-secret rising stars of the NBA.  And yes, it hurts for Hornets fans that much more that he plays for New Orleans, despite the Bobcats having the worst NBA winning percentage of all time in the year leading up to his draft.

ADVANTAGE:  Anthony Davis

C:  Al Jefferson (21.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 1.1 BPG)  vs.  Omer Asik (5.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 0.8 BPG)

I’m not sure if I agree with the move to put Anthony Davis at PF and Omer Asik at C, given how good Ryan Anderson was at the 4 last year, but I’ll base this decision on ESPN’s depth chart for the Pelicans.  Much like Anthony Davis is far better than Cody Zeller, the same can be said for Al Jefferson against Omer Asik, who will have a difficult task guarding one of the elite offensive centers in the NBA today, especially if he is thrust into a starting role after backing up Dwight Howard for a year.

ADVANTAGE:  Al Jefferson

Key Reserves (New Orleans):  Austin Rivers, Russ Smith, Jimmer Fredette, Ryan Anderson, Patric Young, Alexis Ajinca

Key Reserves (Charlotte):  Gerald Henderson, Brian Roberts, Noah Vonleh, Marvin Williams, Jeff Taylor, PJ Hairston, Bismack Biyambo.

ADVANTAGE:  Charlotte.  The Pelicans have a bevy of shooters at their disposal, but the Hornets have their own snipers in PJ Hairston and Gary Neal.  I like Charlotte’s big man depth slightly more than New Orleans’.  Marvin Williams and Noah Vonleh can rotate in for Cody Zeller to hopefully keep fresh legs out against Anthony Davis, and Jeff Taylor can provide an offensive spark against Tyreke Evans.  Brian Roberts should serve well as a back-up against his former teammates, and Gerald Henderson is as solid of a back-up shooting guard as any in the NBA.

Rookies (New Orleans):  Russ Smith

Rookies (Charlotte):  Noah Vonleh, PJ Hairston

ADVANTAGE:  Charlotte.  I am very high on Russ Smith as a rookie, as he was sensational at Louisville.  However, Charlotte’s two first rounders are simply better than New Orleans’ one (which they traded for).  I think Noah Vonleh will have a greater impact than Russ Smith, while PJ Hairston is somewhat lost in the shuffle with Charlotte’s multiple options at the 2.

FINAL VERDICT:  This is a very, very tough match-up to pick.  I like the Hornets’ depth more than the Pelicans’, but New Orleans has the advantage in starting match-ups.  As a result, I think this series is a wash, and both teams will come home with a win apiece.

PREDICTION:  Charlotte and New Orleans split the series, 1-1.

Stats and depth charts are taken from ESPN.com

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