Ranking the Top 25 Players in New Orleans Pelicans History
The history of the New Orleans Pelicans is littered with great players who didn't stay with the team very long. In a 25-year existence that spanned three cities and two name changes, nearly all of the franchise's homegrown talent went on to a better career elsewhere.
In fact, the best player the franchise ever drafted somehow managed to spend less time in the team's uniform than rapper Master P. Kobe Bryant was the No. 13 overall selection of the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 but was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers on draft day for center Vlade Divac.
The revolving door of talent was the calling card of notoriously cheap owner George Shinn. Fans were wise not to latch on to a particular player for too long because it was only a matter of time before he was going to be wearing someone else's colors.
Despite that depressing theme, a list of the 25 best players in the franchise's history has been compiled. There were a couple factors in play when making these rankings.
First, what was the player's standing with the team? Was he their best player? Did the fans like him?
Second, we took a look at the statistics. After all, basketball is a numbers game, and production matters.
Third, the impact the player had on the team was considered. Was the team successful during his reign? Was there a significant drop after he left? What will fans remember him for?
Another thing to keep in mind is that these rankings are based on how the players fared for the Hornets. Their efforts outside of the organization were ignored.
Taking all of that into consideration, here are the 25 best players in New Orleans Pelicans history.
(Note: All statistics courtesy of basketball-reference.com)
25. J.R. Smith, SG, 2004-2006
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There were a number of candidates for this final spot. The late Bobby Phills was coming along as a third option before his untimely death in a car crash. Former Nets and Sixers bad boy Derrick Coleman had a couple productive seasons with the Hornets. The case can even be made for current Pelican Anthony Davis, who has a promising career ahead of him.
J.R. Smith didn't do very much during his two-year run with the Hornets from 2004 to 2006, but he showed flashes of the brilliance he would later unleash with the Nuggets and Knicks. His best season was his rookie year when he averaged 10.3 points per game and shot nearly 40 percent from the field.
As a kid drafted out of high school, Smith needed time to grow. He still found ways to contribute via his breathtaking athleticism. The St. Benedict's Prep product participated in the Slam Dunk Contest and wowed fans with his thrilling dunks.
After two seasons, the powers-that-be grew tired of Smith's erratic shot selection and shipped him to Chicago with P.J. Brown for center Tyson Chandler. The Bulls would send him to Denver, where he would be a solid second fiddle to Carmelo Anthony.
These days, he's playing alongside 'Melo in New York and is the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
His lack of production while with the team is what kept him from being higher on the list. It is obvious the team gave up on Smith too soon, but at least it managed to get a productive player in return. For that, he edges out the other contenders.
24. Emeka Okafor, C, 2009-2012
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Emeka Okafor has made a career out of being a steady big man. He hasn't become the star some thought he would be after a stellar run with UConn, but he has been an adequate starter for nearly a decade.
Okafor spent three of his nine years in the NBA as a member of the New Orleans Hornets. He was acquired in a straight-up swap for Tyson Chandler. On paper, it looked like an even trade.
Both men were talented shot-blockers and rebounders. Both were limited offensively beyond the ability to finish around the basket. The biggest difference was that Okafor lacked Chandler's athleticism, which made him an inferior running mate for point guard Chris Paul.
Okafor still managed to have a couple nice seasons in the Big Easy. He nearly averaged a double-double in his first two years with the team, contributing at least 10 points and nine rebounds a game. He also found a way to get his hands on some shots to the tune of nearly two blocks per game.
Okafor helped the team out cap-wise by getting traded to Washington, along with Trevor Ariza, for Rashard Lewis. The deal rid the Hornets of the $43 million remaining on both deals, and the subsequent buyout of Lewis opened the door for some of the moves that have formed the team you see today.
23. J.R. Reid, PF, 1990-1993, 1997-1999
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The fact that J.R. Reid managed to make this list should tell you something about the lack of depth in this franchise's talent pool. The North Carolina product never averaged more than 11 points per game for an entire season during his 11-year career.
His statistical peak came during his early years with the Hornets. After the team selected him with the No. 5 overall pick in the 1989 NBA draft, Reid rewarded them by averaging 11.1 points and 8.4 rebounds a game as a rookie.
It seemed like the start of a long, productive career.
Reid's stat line stayed the same for the next two seasons with only his rebounding numbers taking a dip. By 1993, he was a member of the San Antonio Spurs after being traded for Sidney Green and a draft pick that became Scott Burrell.
During those first three years in Charlotte, Reid's teams finished seventh, seventh and (wait for it) seventh. He would return to the team as a free agent in 1997 but wouldn't stick around long. The team sent him to Los Angeles in 1999 as part of the Glen Rice trade that would bring Elden Campbell and Eddie Jones to the Hornets.
His time with the Hornets was largely forgettable but seemingly more productive than those behind him on this list. In the end, his stats beat out Okafor's lone trip to the playoffs for the right to be No. 23 on this list.
22. Rex Chapman, SG, 1988-1992
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Rex Chapman was the Charlotte Hornets' first-ever draft pick. He was selected out of Kentucky with the No. 8 overall pick in the 1988 NBA draft. He made the NBA All-Rookie Second Team, averaging 16.9 points per game in his debut season.
He followed that season with an even more impressive year, scoring 17.5 a night in 1989-90.
Chapman was mainly a second option during his time with the Hornets. He played second fiddle to Kelly Tripucka in his rookie season and did the same for Johnny Newman a couple years later.
Midway into the 1991-92 season, he was traded to Washington for forward Tom Hammonds. Chapman's most productive seasons came while he played in Charlotte, save for one big year with the Bullets in 1993-94.
As one of the best players on an expansion team, Chapman was productive but his teams didn't win much. The Hornets never finished better than sixth during Rex's three-year run. Because of that, Chapman finds himself trailing guys on this list who provided more in the win column than the stat sheet.
21. Vlade Divac, C, 1996-1998
Vlade Divac could have broken Wilt Chamberlain's single-game scoring record during his two years in Charlotte. He could have averaged a triple-double like Oscar Robertson did.
It wouldn't have mattered.
To me, he will always be "the guy that we traded Kobe Bryant for." It may be unfair that Divac's career is stained by being a part of one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history. After all, he didn't demand to be traded. He didn't ask to be a Hornet.
Still, the biggest impact the Serbian big man made for this franchise was being the reward for giving away one of the best players of the last 25 years.
It doesn't help Divac's case that he only played two seasons in Charlotte before skipping town to Sacramento. The fact that those Kings teams became very successful once Divac came on board doesn't ease the pain either.
Divac had a couple decent years with the Hornets. He averaged 12.6 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in his first season. He followed that up by contributing 10.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks the next year. The Hornets made the playoffs both years.
Much like his entire career, Divac was never the best guy on the team. He was known for being a good passing big man and a notorious flopper. By all accounts, he seemed like a likable guy and a good teammate to play with. It is just tough to not hold him back for the Bryant trade and how well his teams performed after he left Charlotte.
20. Elden Campbell, C, 1999-2003
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The 2013-14 New Orleans Pelicans could use a center like Elden Campbell. "Big E" put up modest numbers for nearly four seasons with the Hornets. He was acquired in 1999 and immediately filled the void in the middle for Charlotte.
The Hornets made the playoffs in each of the three full seasons Campbell played for them, including two trips to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Campbell was never a star, but he managed to average roughly 13 points per game during his tenure.
He is second behind Alonzo Mourning on the team's career leaders for blocked shots with 515. He's also eighth in total career rebounds and seventh in free throws. More importantly, Campbell's four years with the team seems like a lifetime given how quickly players were discarded during the George Shinn era.
The team lucked out after trading Campbell to Seattle for Kenny Anderson. Jamaal Magloire made the transition seamless and went on to have a decent career of his own. Still, for a journeyman center, Campbell left quite a mark during his time with the Hornets.
19. Kelly Tripucka, SG, 1989-1991
Photo courtesy of Yahoo! Sports
Kelly Tripucka's statistics during his first two years are a bit misleading. He led the team in scoring both years, but who else was going to score on those early Hornets teams?
Dell Curry and Rex Chapman were too young. Muggsy Bogues was too short, and the rest of the team was a mix of declining veterans and scrubs. It was like Tommy Maddox dominating the XFL.
Still, averaging 22.6 points per game, even on an expansion team, is nothing to turn your nose up at. Tripucka may not have had the postseason success of a couple of the guys behind him, but those gentlemen never had the distinction of being their team's best player.
Again, being the top guy on an upstart Hornets team with no other proven options is more sizzle than steak, but it is still noteworthy. Tripucka's numbers took a dip the year after his big debut season in Charlotte. Oddly enough, that was around the time Armen Gilliam came to town.
Tripucka's teams never won much, but they weren't very talented either. In the end, he's this high on the list for the same reason he was productive as a Hornet: He was the best of a bad bunch.
18. Jamaal Magloire, C, 2000-2005
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Jamaal Magloire was a decent NBA center who parlayed the league's lack of solid big men into an NBA All-Star Game appearance (although he did manage to drop 19 points and eight rebounds that night).
He will be remembered as the center after Elden Campbell and before Tyson Chandler. After a slow start to his career, he broke out during the 2002-03 season. He averaged 10.3 points and 8.8 rebounds a game.
The following year, he had his best season in the pros. He averaged 13.6 points and 10.3 rebounds. He also chipped in a block per night. That would be the peak of the Kentucky product's career. He would last one more season with the Hornets before being traded to Milwaukee for Desmond Mason.
Magloire's teams made the playoffs his first three seasons, mainly because they played in the Eastern Conference. Once the team moved to the West, it struggled mightily.
Still, during the nearly five years in Charlotte and New Orleans, Magloire was productive enough to finish fourth among all Hornets in total rebounds, fifth in blocks and 10th in games played.
His lone All-Star visit and the team's success during his tenure helped put him above the other journeyman big men on this list.
17. Eric Gordon, SG, 2011-Present
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The sheer lack of star power during this team's history is the main reason for Eric Gordon being ranked this high. Since coming over in the Chris Paul trade in 2011, Gordon has played in all of 51 games.
For those keeping score at home, that means Gordon has missed 97 games in two years. Somehow, he has still managed to lead the team in scoring both years (20.6 points per game in 2011-12, 17.0 PPG last season). For younger fans, he is this generation's Kelly Tripucka.
When healthy, Gordon has the talent to be among the league's elite shooting guards. He's a thickly built athlete capable of banging bodies when he attacks the basket. He also has the touch to score from the outside (as evidenced by his career 36 percent shooting from behind the arc).
Fans may have grown frustrated with the former Hoosier's lack of durability, but the fact remains that his presence signifies hope. With Gordon 100 percent, New Orleans has a chance to be relevant for the first time in years.
That kind of impact can't be said for the guys sitting behind Gordon on this list. However, until he proves he can stay happy and healthy, his career will always be hindered by wonders of "What if?"
16. Peja Stojakovic, SF, 2006-2010
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Peja Stojakovic was a shell of the player he once was when the Hornets traded for him in 2006. He still had a great shooting touch for a guy his size, but wear and tear took its toll on the Croatian forward.
He never played a full season during his four years with the team. The closest he came was playing in 77 games in 2007-08. Coincidentally, he averaged 16.4 points a game, shot 44 percent from three and led the league in free-throw percentage. The Hornets also nabbed the No. 2 seed in the West.
However, he wasn't the three-time All-Star he was during his time with Sacramento Kings. He was a solid third option behind Chris Paul and David West for a couple years, but he couldn't stay on the court. After 2007-08, his scoring numbers dwindled and the team never reached that same success.
By 2010, New Orleans was happy to ship him to Toronto for a package headlined by Jarrett Jack just so it could rid itself of his contract. If New Orleans managed to get the Peja of old, his standing on this list may have been different.
As it stands, Stojakovic was a good player during one of the best seasons in this franchise's history who just came along a little too late.
15. David Wesley, SG, 1997-2004
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David Wesley is one of the few Hornets who managed to have a long career with the franchise. He is fourth on the team's all-time list in games played (522) and second in minutes. He's also fourth among the Hornets' all-time scorers.
For seven seasons, he was remarkably solid. He averaged double digits in scoring for his entire Hornets career. The team also made the playoffs in six of those seven years.
However, he was never "the guy."
Throughout Wesley's career, he was a second fiddle who managed to stay productive with ideal quickness and a good jumper. In today's NBA, he would be Jamal Crawford.
Wesley's best season came in 2000-01. He averaged 17.2 points per game and shot 42 percent from the field, including 37 percent from behind the arc.
The team missed Wesley so much after shipping him to Houston in 2004 that it brought him back three years later (albeit for only a month). His legacy with the team will be as the consummate sidekick. He supported better players for many years and his teams were successful during his tenure.
He was never the alpha dog, but he was the kind of player you used to build around your core. Every team should have a David Wesley in its starting lineup.
14. Anthony Mason, PF, 1996-2000
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Anthony Mason made up for lack of ideal height with unmatched toughness and a willingness to bang on the inside. "Mase" was a guy who enjoyed physical contact and making opponents feel his presence, whether it was a hard foul or going strong to the hoop.
Mason was a workhorse. After coming over from the Knicks, he led the league in minutes played per game in his first season in Charlotte with an average 43.1 in 1996-97. That season turned out to be his best one as a Hornet, as he added 16.2 points and 11.4 boards to his nightly stat sheet.
He had a sneaky jumper outside of the paint that complemented his rough-and-tumble post game. He was like a smaller Zach Randolph or Reggie Evans.
Mason is the first of this list's cream of the crop. What keeps him from being higher here is a lack of longevity. The former Tennessee State star only lasted four seasons with the team and missed one of them due to injury. The team still managed to make the postseason all three of those years.
The appreciation for Mason's tenure seems to be overshadowed by the man he replaced, Larry Johnson. "Grandmama" was a larger-than-life personality who made funny commercials and thrilled fans with his uncanny athleticism.
Mason was more menacing. He threw his body into guys and found ways to get into their heads. He didn't endear himself like Johnson did.
Still, he had a pretty productive run and deserves to be recognized as one of the best to ever wear the uniform.
13. Kendall Gill, SF, 1990-1993, 1995-96
Photo courtesy of Grantland.com
There are a few things that hinder Kendall Gill from being higher on this list. First, he basically played just three seasons with the team. Granted, that's pretty much the standard for most of the notable names during the Shinn era, but it's still a small sample size.
His second stint with the team lasted 36 games and isn't even worth mentioning any further.
Second, Gill essentially had one really good season. In his second year in the NBA, Gill established himself as "the man" on a Hornets team that had a rookie named Larry Johnson on it. He averaged a team-best 20.5 points per game despite shooting just 24 percent from the three-point line.
Beyond his dominance in 1991-92, there isn't much to talk about statistically. His scoring dropped to 16.9 points per game the next year, mainly because the team had Johnson and Alonzo Mourning as the alpha dogs.
After that season, he was traded to Seattle.
Lastly, Gill's teams didn't win until his third season in the pros, and that 1992-93 Hornets team was loaded. Beyond Gill, there was Johnson, Mourning, Muggsy Bogues, Dell Curry and a still-decent Johnny Newman. That team dominated the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.
What separates Gill from the names below is that he had at least one very good season and was a solid contributor on a playoff team in another. He was a No. 1 option who managed to stay healthy, which gives him an edge over guys like Anthony Mason and Eric Gordon.
He is one of many former Hornets who left too soon. Fans will always wonder how a core of Gill, Johnson, Curry and Mourning would have fared if they'd stayed together.
12. P.J. Brown, PF, 2000-2006
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Anthony Mason did it better, but P.J. Brown did it longer. For six seasons, Brown flirted with averaging a double-double and was the veteran leader on some scrappy Hornets teams.
Brown wasn't just a lanky big man who could hold his own on the glass. He could defend as well. He averaged at least a steal and a block per game in two of his six seasons with the team. He was also named to the All-Defensive Second Team in 2000-01.
The Louisiana Tech star was unassuming. He wasn't menacing like Anthony Mason or a crowd-pleaser like Larry Johnson. He didn't make a bunch of flashy plays. He just provided workmanlike performances and helped guide the Hornets to the playoffs four times.
The team was successful after Brown's departure, but it could have really used him in 2007-08. After grinding their way to a No. 2 seed, the Hornets were eliminated by San Antonio in seven games. That same year, Brown won an NBA title with the Boston Celtics.
The Hornets could probably have used Brown's length and toughness off the bench to help stop Tim Duncan in the conference semifinals.
11. Muggsy Bogues, PG, 1988-1997
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When you look at the Hornets' history in its entirety, one of the most recognizable figures was Tyrone "Muggsy " Bogues. Charlotte acquired the diminutive point guard from Washington in the expansion draft.
When it was all said and done, the 5'3" Bogues ended his nine-year stint as the team's leader in minutes, steals and assists. He's also eighth on the team's all-time scoring list. He even managed to score a role in Michael Jordan's hard-to-watch film, "Space Jam."
He finished in the top five in assists per game five times and finished in the top 10 in steals twice. In 1993-94, he averaged a double-double with 10.9 points and 10.2 assists per game.
Bogues countered a clear lack of size with great court vision, exceptional ball-handling skills and a ton of heart. When big names were coming and going in Charlotte, he remained the one constant. His time with the franchise is only surpassed by Dell Curry.
His ability to make plays despite his lack of height made him a crowd favorite, and he was the floor general for some very good Hornets teams. His stats may not jump out at you like others on this list, but he is as important to this team's foundation as any of the names above him.
10. Tyson Chandler, C, 2006-2009
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If Tyson Chandler was never traded to Charlotte for Emeka Okafor, would Chris Paul still have demanded a trade in 2011?
It is a question that is impossible to answer, but there was no denying how well Chandler and CP3 played off of each other. As an athletic big man who was most effective around the rim, Chandler was the perfect receiver for Paul's crisp passes.
Okafor was never the finisher around the basket that Chandler was. He didn't have the foot speed to run with the quick point guard. The team became less dynamic on both ends of the court when Tyson Chandler left.
That is the biggest testament to Chandler's legacy during his short time with the Hornets. As has become obvious these days, Chandler was a talented rebounder and defender. His ability to protect the rim made opponents think twice about attacking the basket.
Okafor was a good shot-blocker in college, but it never fully translated to the pros. He could never match the efforts of Chandler's 2007-08 season. That year, the kid out of Dominguez High scored 11.8 points, grabbed 11.7 boards and contributed at least a block a night.
Even Chandler's 2006-07 season (9.5 points, 12.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game) surpasses any of Okafor's efforts.
We will never know if Chandler would have become the elite defender he is now had he stayed in New Orleans or if Paul wouldn't have gone to L.A. if he still had his prized big man.
What we do know is that, for three seasons, Chandler and Paul put on a show and gave fans a reason for optimism.
9. Eddie Jones, SG, 1999-2000
Eddie Jones played just a season-and-a-half with the Charlotte Hornets, but it was still an impressive stretch.
Finally out from the shadow of Shaquille O'Neal and an emerging Kobe Bryant, Jones established himself as one of the league's best two-way guards. In his lone full season with the Hornets, he averaged 20.1 points per game and led the league in steals. He also made his third All-Star appearance.
Jones was eventually traded to Miami, but the team was able to land two solid additions in exchange for his services. Jamal Mashburn replaced Jones as the team's alpha dog and P.J. Brown was a solid role player for years.
The fact that Charlotte was able to get such a haul for Jones after just one season is a testament to his skills. If he stayed with the team longer, there is no doubt he would be higher. Few guards during that time were as good on both ends of the court as Eddie Jones.
8. Dell Curry, SG, 1988-1998
Photo courtesy of NBA.com
Dell Curry was one of the premier shooters of his era. It was a gift that he passed down to his son, Stephen, who is rapidly becoming of the best players in the game.
Unlike his son, the elder Curry was more of a role player than a superstar. For 10 years, he was one of the mainstays in an always changing Hornets organization. He finished his stint in Charlotte as the team's all-time leader in games, field goals and three-pointers.
He is also in the team's top 10 in free throws, rebounds, minutes and assists. The former NBA Sixth Man of the Year is the longest-tenured player in Hornets history. He's played alongside many Charlotte greats, from Larry Johnson to Alonzo Mourning to Glen Rice.
In a few years, he will probably only be remembered for being Steph's dad but, for now, his legacy is as one of the greatest members of the Hornets/Pelicans family.
7. Jamal Mashburn, SF, 2000-2004
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Jamal Mashburn was the last in a rotation of star wing players who came through Charlotte and New Orleans. It started with Glen Rice (acquired in the Alonzo Mourning trade). Rice was then traded for Eddie Jones, who was eventually traded for Mashburn.
Once he got here, "Monster Mash" would far exceed his predecessor. For starters, he lasted four seasons (compared to Jones' one). In that span, he averaged at least 18 points per game, including scoring 19 a night his last three years.
Secondly, Mashburn was a superior rebounder. He grabbed 6.9 boards per game in his first season with the Hornets and then averaged around 5.0 a night for the next three seasons. While he wasn't the defender that Jones was, the Kentucky star still managed to get his hands on a few steals.
In the playoffs, he averaged nearly 25 points per game in two separate years.
A knee injury cut short Mashburn's Hornets career at the age of 31, but his production in the regular and postseason make him one of the team's best ever.
6. Baron Davis, PG, 1999-2005
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Baron Davis gave the Hornets franchise five-and-a-half seasons. Out of all of them, he managed three-and-a-half good ones. The UCLA star was a unique athlete. He was big-bodied point guard with the explosiveness to get to the hoop and the athleticism to make a dramatic finish.
He fed off the energy of the crowd and had a knack for making plays despite being a score-first point guard.
His undoing was his inability to stay healthy or in shape. Davis played in all 82 games for the first three years of his career, but his body began to unravel. The added weight on his upper body was taking its toll on his knees and back. He was limited to 50 games in 2002-03 and 67 games the year after.
In those seasons, Davis managed to average 17.1 and 22.9 points per game, respectively. He made two appearances to the All-Star Game and two trips to the playoffs while with the team.
Injuries, a lofty contract and constant turmoil with the coaching staff led to Davis being shipped to Golden State for two expiring contracts in 2005.
In Charlotte and New Orleans, he will be remembered as a good player who could have been great had he taken better care of himself. His inspired playoff run with the Warriors in his second season in San Francisco gave fans a taste of what the real Baron might be like.
However, his lack of durability and motivation caught up to him and he's bounced around the league numerous times ever since.
5. Glen Rice, SF, 1995-1998
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Glen Rice gave the Charlotte Hornets three amazing seasons. He averaged more than 20 points per game each year, including scoring 26.8 a game in 1996-97. He made the All-Star Game three times and took the team to the playoffs twice.
His finished in the top 10 in the league for three-point field goals twice and led the league in three-point percentage once with an astonishing 47 percent from behind the arc.
Like everyone on this list, Rice's peak with the franchise was short-lived. By the new millennium, he was chasing titles with Shaq and Kobe in Los Angeles. The trade to the Lakers was one in a long line of disappointments for Hornets fans.
His 44 percent shooting from behind the arc during his tenure is second only to Tony Delk. He is eighth in field goals and seventh in points. His 23.5 points per game is the best scoring average among all Hornets.
Arguably, nobody was as dominant during their time with the Hornets than Rice was from 1995 to 1998.
4. David West, PF, 2003-2011
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For anyone who saw David West play at Xavier, his success in the pros comes as no surprise. West was the 2002-03 NCAA AP Player of the Year, but his lack of size caused him to drop to the Hornets with the No. 18 overall pick in 2003.
He wouldn't get his big break until his third season. After sitting behind P.J. Brown for two years, West averaged 17.1 points and 7.4 rebounds a game in his first full year as the starting power forward. By 2007, he was averaging nearly 20 and nine a night.
With Chris Paul and West as 1 and 1A in the Hornet pecking order, New Orleans made it to the playoffs twice. He also earned two All-Star Game appearances in 2008 and 2009.
By the end of the 2010-11 season, West and Paul were gone. The team hasn't been the same since.
On the franchise's all-time leaderboard, you can find West's name all over. He is in the top five in games (third), minutes (fourth), field goals (second), free throws (second), total rebounds (second) and points (second).
West defied the critics once again by managing to squeeze two more productive seasons out of his declining body with the Indiana Pacers. It is that kind of grit that made him a star for so many years in the Big Easy.
3. Larry Johnson, PF, 1991-1996
Photo courtesy of SI.com
The top three was pretty much set in stone, and the top spot should be obvious. For the bronze and silver medals, it basically came down to former teammates Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson.
Before we make the case for Mourning in the next slide, here's the case against Johnson being in the No. 2 spot. First, none of Johnson's individual seasons in Charlotte can compete with Mourning's all-around production.
Johnson's best season as a Hornet: 22.1 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in 1992-93.
Mourning's best season in Charlotte: 21.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.1 blocks in 1993-94.
Secondly, Johnson and Mourning made the playoffs together twice as Hornets. After Mourning was traded to Miami, Johnson never sniffed the postseason again in a Hornets uniform. Furthermore, Johnson struggled to match the production from that vaunted '92-93 season after 'Zo's departure. He also never made it back to the All-Star Game once Mourning left.
Johnson was the bigger personality and was more entertaining to watch. He still managed to put up solid numbers as the anchor of a young Hornets team. He also scores points in the loyalty department for sticking around a couple years longer than Mourning.
However, while Johnson is great, Mourning proved to be a better overall player in a shorter span. He gets the nod for the No. 2 spot.
2. Alonzo Mourning, C, 1992-1995
During his three years with the Charlotte Hornets, Alonzo Mourning's yearly average stat line reads as follows: 21 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks per game. In a golden era for big men, Mourning was among the most dominant centers in the league.
His ability to produce on both ends is what solidifies his spot on this list. His lack of longevity is what keeps it from being higher.
The frontcourt tandem of Mourning and Larry Johnson could have been the greatest interior duo the league had seen in decades. With Mourning's ability to protect the rim and Johnson's ability to attack it, the Hornets could have owned the paint for years.
Instead, ego and poor management prevailed.
That doesn't mean Mourning's time in Charlotte was a failure. He made two trips to the postseason and was a two-time NBA All-Star. He finished in the top six in blocks in all three seasons and had a top-five finish in free throws in 1992-93.
In a series-clinching win against Boston, Mourning took charge to the tune of 33 points, seven rebounds and six blocks. From the minute he entered the league, he was dominant and only got better once he got to Miami.
That's where the problem lies. Hornets fans got to witness the peak of Mourning's career in another uniform. Two Defensive Player of the Year awards, nine trips to the playoffs, five more All-Star appearances and a championship ring...all while wearing another team's laundry.
The breakup of Johnson and Mourning was one of the sport's most underrated tragedies. Thankfully, we can still relive their greatness at the top of this list.
1. Chris Paul, PG, 2005-2011
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You didn't think the top spot was going to Austin Rivers, did you?
Chris Paul was a combination of all the great things that were mentioned about the other guys on this list.
He was exciting to watch in the open court like Larry Johnson. He was great on both ends like Alonzo Mourning. He got others involved like Muggsy Bogues. He could score at will like Baron Davis. Some nights, he even shot the ball like Glen Rice and Dell Curry.
CP3 was more than just this generation of Hornets fans' first superstar. He was the franchise's first legit MVP candidate in a long time. He finished second in the MVP voting in a year he should have won in 2007-08.
That season, Paul averaged 21.1 points per game. He led the league in assists (11.6 dimes a night) and steals (2.7 thefts per contest). More importantly, he carried the Hornets to the second seed in the Western Conference.
Unfortunately, voters thought Kobe Bryant deserved the league's top individual honor.
Paul led the league in steals two more times while playing in New Orleans before doing it the last two seasons with the Clippers. He also led the league in assists one more time and has never finished with less than nine helpers per game.
Eventually, a troublesome knee and a depleted supporting cast made Paul want out. It remains one of the saddest days in this franchise's history. Adding insult to injury, Paul's presence has turned the once-downtrodden Clippers into a championship contender.
The ending to the Chris Paul era may not have been how Hornets fans scripted it, but you can't help but be thankful for those six years. For a little over a half decade, the best point guard in the game wore teal.
He may not call New Orleans home anymore, but he has a permanent residence on the top of this list (at least until Anthony Davis kicks him out in a few years).