New Orleans Hornets: Top 10 Players in Franchise History
The 2012-13 season marks the 10th anniversary of the Hornets' franchise in New Orleans (including the 2005-07 seasons when the team hardly played in New Orleans). Due to the Hurricane Katrina evacuation to Oklahoma City, and an otherwise difficult basketball tradition, those 10 years have been up and down at best.
There have been bright moments though. With those in mind, let's remember the 10 best players in the Hornets' 10 years in New Orleans.
10. Guard Marcus Thornton
Marcus Thornton was such a good scorer for the New Orleans Hornets, the team couldn't possibly keep him. Of course much of that had to do with his inabilities to hold down opposing offensive players on the other end.
Over the course of his brief Hornets career Thornton was a .375 (three out of every eight) 3-point shooter. He averaged 14.5 points his rookie season in 25 minutes per game. Under Monty Williams, both those numbers dipped due to his inability to play on both ends of the court.
That said, when he and Darren Collison were running the two-guard spot at the end of the 2009-10 season, the Hornets were an exciting team to watch.
9. Guard Eric Gordon
So he only played in nine games and wanted to be gone after playing in those, Eric Gordon is still one of the 10 best players to put on a Hornets uniform in the past 10 years.
Of course he has a chance to climb up the rankings over the next four years (and hopefully many more).
In the nine games he played for New Orleans in 2012, Gordon managed 20.6 points per game, 2.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. And his player efficiency rate was 15.67. That number is decent though can certainly be improved over a larger sample size for the 23-year-old veteran from Indiana.
Most importantly, Gordon keyed six wins in nine games, including the inaugural game of the campaign against Phoenix when he hit the game-winner with less than a second left.
The future is bright in New Orleans, and Gordon is a huge reason why.
8. Center Emeka Okafor
Emeka Okafor has been a slight disappointment over the course of his NBA career, after being drafted No. 2 out of UConn. Still he is one of the top 10 players to ever put on the New Orleans uniform.
In his three seasons Okafor never averaged more than 10.4 points per game. That was his first season in NOLA, when Chris Paul was still wearing the teal and gold.
In his first two seasons he came close to two blocks per game. And he had more than nine rebounds per game.
His 2012 season was his worst season statistically, where he averaged eight rebounds per game, less than 10 points a game and only one block per game.
That is the primary reason he was traded away. But in his first two years he was a solid center for the Hornets; certainly one of the best to play in the New Orleans era.
7. Center/forward Chris Kaman
Chris Kaman enjoyed his time in New Orleans. Interestingly enough, the team never really felt the same.
Kaman has always been one of the elite scoring centers in the league. For a team who just needed people capable of putting the ball in the basket, it was quite curious the team did not make a run at keeping him in free agency.
In the 47 games he played in during the 2012 campaign, Kaman scored 13 points per game with 7.7 rebounds. He also proved to be an effective passer out of double teams, averaging over two assists per game.
Kaman, like Gordon, is the ultimate "put a Hornets uniform on" guy. But his inclusion on this list is justified by the fact he was at least on the roster for a full season.
6. Forward P.J. Brown
P.J. Brown always reminded me a lot of A.C. Green, an old, wily veteran who was calm and incredibly wise. One of the most impressive stats with the veteran Brown is that he played in 315 of the 328 regular season games the Hornets played in his four seasons in New Orleans.
And he never averaged fewer than nine points per game or 7.3 rebounds per game while playing for New Orleans. He was the epitome of consistent.
There seems to be little doubt that his veteran leadership helped develop David West into the player he became. Finally, Brown is and was a winner.
You don't just find P.J. Brown's lying around too often. The Hornets were fortunate to have him.
5. Guard/Forward Peja Stojakovic
Few men in NBA history could stroke the basketball the way Peja Stojakovic could.
Though Stojakovic's best days were in Sacramento and to a lesser extent Indiana, he was a key player in the Hornets' 2008 playoff run.
During that regular season he shot over 40 percent from three-point range. In the playoffs, he was the key outside assassin the team used to score with unreal efficiency.
Yes, Stojakovic became an overpaid, underutilized player by the time Dell Demps and Monty Williams came to town. But his early days in New Orleans were borderline epic.
No basketball fan will forget the look on his face sprinting across the sideline after another 3-point hit.
4. Forward James Posey
In some ways James Posey's time in New Orleans was a microcosm of his entire NBA career. It left you thinking, "This dude could be great."
But Posey, both in New Orleans and in previous stops in Boston and Miami, also provided something few others could. Posey was the ultimate glue guy. He was the one who would defend the other team's best offensive player.
He'd also hit the big three-point shot. And he did all the little things the team needed to win. Unfortunately his presence didn't quite equal a championship for the Hornets but it gave them the best opportunity they've had in the team's history.
3. Point Guard Baron Davis
Baron Davis mostly wore a Charlotte Hornets uniform, but it's also not as if Baron spent no time in the Crescent City.
In fact, the 13-year veteran had his finest overall season in 2003-04 when he put in a career high 22.9 points while dishing out 7.5 assists per game. He also managed 4.4 rebounds per game.
Over the course of his Hornets career he was one of the league's finest point guards. As a guy who could routinely get to the rim and out-muscle opposing point guards, he made the Hornets a legitimate threat to win any given night.
Unfortunately, when Baron was in the Crescent City, it was an odd time in the team's history, and in the NBA as a whole. His presence in the city did not have the positive result it could have, had it taken place at a different time.
2. Forward David West
It's amazing to think of the talent that has jettisoned from New Orleans since Dell Demps and Monty Williams took over. David West was in reality the first to go.
Minus his first two seasons (2003-05), which were clearly an adjustment period for West from the college game at Xavier, West was one of the most consistent players in the NBA. During that stretch he ranged from 17.0 to 21 points per game, and never had less than 7.4 rebounds per game.
He always shot around 50 percent from the field, which is good for a player who shot so many mid-range jumpers. And he showed an ability to pass effectively, never averaging less than two assists per game.
From 2005-06 (when those statistics were registered) West combined with Chris Paul to make up one of the finest duos in the NBA. West was a two-time all star in New Orleans, but one who clearly benefited from Paul's presence.
Without him in 2012, West averaged just 12.8 points per game. That came one year after averaging nearly 19 points per game as the Hornets earned a surprising playoff bid in the 2010-11 season.
Still, West was one of the finest players to ever play in the city of New Orleans.
Without significant research, it seems fair to say that only two players would come in ahead of West--this list's No. 1 (no surprise who it is) and one of the most exciting players the NBA has ever known: "Pistol" Pete Maravich.
1. Point Guard Chris Paul
Chris Paul's career in New Orleans was mostly eclectic. And it ended much too soon.
He could have gone down as not only the finest player in a franchise's history, but as one of those old school types who spent the whole of a Hall of Fame career with one team. And he probably could have brought New Orleans a championship.
It was not meant to be though. New Orleans fans still remember him with fondness after he nearly took down the Los Angeles Lakers by himself in the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
In the team's first season back in New Orleans full-time, Paul had a career high 11.6 assists per game. A year later he had an MVP-like season when he averaged 22.8 points, 11 assists and 5.5 rebounds in a great Hornets season which had a disappointing ending (first round playoff loss to Denver).
The team never accomplished everything Paul and Co. desired, but the Hornets were always a scary team to play with Chris Paul and David West paired together.