Anthony Davis and the Most Hyped Rookies in Hornets History

Matthew Dicker@@MattDickerContributor IIIJune 25, 2012

Anthony Davis and the Most Hyped Rookies in Hornets History

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    Unless New Orleans Hornets general manager Dell Demps decides to pull a Marisa Tomei at Thursday's NBA draft and select someone other than Anthony Davis with the first overall pick, Davis will go to New Orleans as the most hyped rookie of the league and one of the most hyped rookies in franchise history. This is what comes with the territory when a basketball player leads his school to a national championship in his rookie year while collecting armfuls of individual awards in the process.

    As excited as Hornets fans are to welcome Davis to the Big Easy, there is cause for concern. The Hornets have a history of welcoming highly-touted rookies to the organization, and while a few have turned into excellent players and others have earned their paychecks as reliable contributors, others have been disappointing flameouts.  

    Scouts across the league seem to be unanimous in their belief that Davis is a sure-thing prospect that will help reinvigorate the Hornets after their recent financial troubles and the departure of Chris Paul. Here, we look at others who have walked in the path that Davis will almost certainly head down after Thursday night. 

7. David West

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    Few players are lucky enough to have their school retire their number, but it is the rare player whose school retires his number while he is still wearing it. David West achieved this distinction while a senior at the University of Xavier in Cincinnati, where he led the Musketeers to a No. 3 seeding in the NCAA tournament while picking up the United States Basketball Writers Association National Player of the Year Award and a first-team All American designation.  

    The Hornets were pleased to find David West still on the draft board when the 18th pick came up in the 2003 draft, and they welcomed him to the Gulf Coast. West struggled to find his place early in his career, but broke out in 2005-2006, finishing second in the voting for the Most Improved Player award.  

    Since then, West has become a solid NBA contributor, earning two All-Star selections and a nice contract from the emerging Indiana Pacers.     

6. Baron Davis

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    Baron Davis has become a noted vagabond in his NBA career, playing for five teams in his 13 year NBA career. But when he was first drafted by the Charlotte Hornets third overall in the 1999 draft, the team hoped he would play in the Hornets jersey for a long time.

    Davis was a star coming out of high school, earning the Gatorade National Player of the Year award. After receiving recruiting interest from most of the top programs, Davis selected his hometown UCLA, where he played two years was named to the All Pac-10 First Team.  

    The Hornets were looking for a franchise point guard, and after the Grizzlies drafted Steve Francis with the second pick in the draft, the Hornets took Davis. He started his career coming off the bench, but was the team's everyday point guard by his second season, and in his third season, was named an All-Star when Vince Carter had to back out due to injury.  

    Davis began suffering regular injuries when the franchise moved to New Orleans, which led to him being traded to the Golden State Warriors.  

    Davis has been a good pro, earning two All-Star team appearances and twice leading the league in steals, but injuries and personality conflicts have left many with the feeling that his career has been a bit disappointing.

5. Kendall Gill

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    Kendall Gill arrived at the University of Illinois during what would become the school's longest ever streak of NCAA tournament appearances—eight years in a row, a number later equaled between 2000 and 2007—but despite the team's regular season prowess, the Fighting Illini had not reached the Final Four since 1952. 

    With the arrival of the "Flyin' Illini," a collection of recruits that included future NBA players Nick Anderson, Marcus Liberty, Kenny Battle and Gill, the Illini reached the Final Four in 1989, losing in an upset to Michigan, who would go on to win the tournament.

    When Gill announced for the 1990 draft, many teams desired the 6'5" swingman. Though much of the media attention surrounding the draft focused on the untimely death of Hank gathers, Charlotte fans were excited when the team took him with the fifth overall pick.

    Though Gill only spent three seasons in Charlotte before the team traded him to the Seattle Supersonics, Gill played in parts of 15 seasons, scoring 13.4 points per game.  Gill earned his paycheck in large part due to his defensive prowess, stealing 1.6 steals per game in his career and leading the league in the  1997-98 season. He memorably tied the NBA record for most steals in a game with 11. 

    Gill earned most of his accomplishments outside of the Hornets organization, but he was one of the first big names to be drafted in the early days of the franchise, earning his place on this list.

4. Chris Paul

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    Chris Paul was a promising athlete from the time he was a child, but once he hit a growth spurt during his junior year of high school that saw him grow from 5'2" to 5'10", Paul became a heavily recruited prospect. 

    Paul spent his college years at Wake Forest, where he led the team to tournament berths in both seasons he spent in Winston-Salem, including a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. Several publications named him National Freshman of the Year, and after once again racking up statistical accomplishments in his sophomore year, Paul declared for the draft.

    After the Utah Jazz drafted Deron Williams with the third pick in the 2005 draft, the Hornets selected Paul. Though Hornets fans were excited about Paul's promise, the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina shifted focus away from both Paul and the Hornets, as the team relocated to Oklahoma City. Paul was the clear choice for the Rookie of the Year Award, receiving all but one vote.

    Paul has gone on to become one of the very best point guards in the NBA, and though he no longer plays for the Hornets, he has proved himself deserving of every bit of the hype that surrounded his arrival in New Orleans.  

3. Alonzo Mourning

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    Every center who plays for the Georgetown Hoyas plays in the seven-foot shadow of Patrick Ewing, a shadow from which only Alonzo Mourning has truly escaped. Mourning entered Georgetown with high expectations after an invitation to try out for the 1988 Olympic team as a high schooler, and Mourning made an immediate impact. 

    As a freshman, Zo made his mark as a shot blocker, leading the nation. In only his third game, in which he recorded the first triple-double in Hoyas history, Mourning broke Patrick Ewing's single-game record of 11 blocks. What makes this feat even more impressive is that it only took him 22 minutes to do so.

    Though Zo would continue to be the best shot blocker in the NCAA, he continued to develop other aspects of his game. In his senior season, he scored 21.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 5.0 blocks per game, earning his third All-American nod. 

    The Hornets took Mourning with the second pick of the 1992 draft, one of the most talented draft classes in NBA history. His rookie year stat line was remarkably similar to his stats in his senior year of college and would have won the Rookie of the Year Award if he did not have to compete with fellow rookie and number one draft pick Shaquille O'Neal. The Hornets made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

    Mourning spent only three years in Charlotte due to clashes with both Larry Johnson and management before he was traded to the Miami Heat. His impact on the Hornets was short, but he was a key component to the early success of the Hornets, and his arrival in Charlotte helped usher in the franchise's first round of success.

2. Anthony Davis

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    When a basketball player who has led his school to a national championship declares for the NBA draft, he falls into one of two categories: the potential superstar believed to be the savior of the franchise lucky enough to draft him (Lew Alcindor, Glen Rice, Carmelo Anthony) or the player scouts believe to be solely college material, not built for the pro game (Kyle Singler, Miles Simon).  

    Since the New Orleans Hornets unexpectedly won the lottery and received the first pick in the 2012 draft, virtually ensuring that the Big Easy would be the new home for Kentucky's Anthony Davis, Hornets fans have been praying to the basketball gods that Davis will end up being in the former category of top draft picks.  

    Davis left such a legacy in Lexington that it's hard to believe he spent only a single year in college. He was a consensus first-team All American, the Naismith Award winner, the AP Player of the Year, the Oscar Robertson trophy winner, led all Division I players in blocks and was the NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player. He accomplished all of this while leading his team to a 38-2 record, a tournament run in which they won every game by at least eight points and a national championship.  

    Davis' hype upon entering the NBA is so strong that there is a conspiracy theory centered around him in which the NBA is supposed to have fixed the draft to give the league-owned Hornets a potential superstar, thereby making the franchise more financially valuable.

    It remains to be seen what impact Davis will have on the Hornets, assuming they draft him, but only one player has ever come to the Hornets with more hype. 

1. Larry Johnson

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    Larry Johnson began his collegiate career at tiny Odessa College, presently home to 5,803 students, and quickly gained notice by becoming one of the greatest players in the history of junior college basketball, becoming the first and still only player to ever win the National Junior College Athletics Association Player of the Year award in two seasons.  

    Despite calls to declare early for the NBA draft, Johnson transferred to UNLV, where he helped lead the Runnin' Rebels to a national championship over mighty Duke. The team returned with a vengeance the next season, turning in a perfect record in the regular season before being defeated by Duke in the Final Four.  

    Johnson collected a ton of hardware in his college career, including two first-team All American designations, the John R. Wooden Award and the Naismith College Player of the Year Award.

    Johnson was drafted first overall in the 1991 draft and made an immediate impact on the NBA. He finished second in the Slam Dunk Contest and won the Rookie of the Year award and became a darling of Madison Avenue when he appeared in a famous series of Converse commercials as Grandmama.  

    Johnson's initial success was rewarded with what was then the largest contract in NBA history, $84 million over 12 years. He continued to have success despite some injuries, and Johnson was sent to the Knicks following turmoil with one of his teammates. He was never elected to an All-Star team after 1995 and retired during the 2001 season due to chronic back problems.  

    Though Johnson's career did not end up living up to the immense hype that surrounded him early in his career, he was critical to the early success and legitimization of the Hornets franchise.