The longest tenured impact Hornet forward, David West, has been the face of New Orleans’ frontcourt since 2003, yet continues to receive minimal love from fans and pundits alike.
With career averages of 15.7 PPG and 7.2 RPG, West’s numbers are solid, yet unspectacular. His name, like his game, isn’t sexy but it’s effective. He’s nearly automatic from mid-range, and works a deadly pick-and-roll with Chris Paul to free him up for open jumpers.
He’s a fiery player, but those outside of New Orleans rarely see that. Combine that with the fact that he’s in the same division with forwards named Nowitzki, Duncan, McGrady, and Gay, and it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.
In the 22 moderately successful years the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets have been in existence, they have had a myriad of game-changing point guards (Mugsey Bogues, Baron Davis, Chris Paul), as well as one of the most talented and passionate centers to ever grace the hardwood (Alonzo Mourning).
Yet, when you really sit down and take a long, hard look at the franchise, you’ll notice the forward position, which has featured a revolving door of All-Stars (mostly acquired through trades, not homegrown), is where the majority of the Hornets’ talent lies.
At 29, West is in the prime of his career, and for all we know he could wind up among the Alonzo’s, Baron’s, and Mugsey’s of Hornet lore. But for now, I think David is just happy being David.
For your viewing enjoyment, the greatest forwards in Hornets history.
Three Seasons: (1988 - 1990)
Stats With Team: 15.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.6 APG
Tripucka, the only member of this list to have played in the 1980's, was drafted by the Hornets in the 1988 expansion draft.
One of the ugliest white players in recent memory, Tripucka's game was the exact opposite. He scored the first points in Hornets' history, and led the team in scoring that season at 22.6 PPG.
He would see a sharp decline in skills over the following two seasons, but finished off the eighties in style with a career-best 91 percent FT percentage during his final season. He remains one of the most feared white forwards in Hornets history.
Three Seasons: (1998 - 2001)
Stats With Team: 12.7 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.1 BPG
A free agent acquisition in the ’98 season, nobody quite seems to remember "DC" in the purple and teal.
Known more conveniently for his weight gain, lazy attitude, conduct problems, injury proneness, and being an overall "clubhouse cancer," Coleman thrived alongside Anthony Mason during his short stint in Charlotte.
He averaged 14.9 points 8.7 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks during his two most productive seasons, including leading the Hornets in scoring (20.3) and rebounding (12.5) during their ’99 first round playoff loss to the 76ers, before breaking down and playing just 34 games in his final year with the squad.
Six Seasons: (2000 - 2006)
Stats With Team: 9.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.7 APG
Shipped over from the Heat in a nine-player deal with Jamal Mashburn, the always reliable Brown had some of his best seasons in a Hornets uniform -- including his most productive three-year span from ’02 to ’05 when he averaged 10.6 PPG.
During his tenure, he never once played less than 75 games, finished in the top-10 in the NBA in offensive rebounds five times, and averaged above 9.0 rebounds per game in all but two seasons, including a career high 9.8 in 2001.
A year prior, Brown made the NBA All-Defensive Second Team after averaging 9.3 boards, 1.0 steals, and 1.1 blocks in a season that would make fantasy owners drool. Ever the good samaritan, Brown was active in the pre-Katrina New Orleans community. He was the Central Division recipient of the NBA Sportsmanship Award three times, and he captured the NBA Sportsmanship Award in 2004.
Brown’s work ethic and model citizenship no doubt benefited the Hornets, who made the playoffs four of the six seasons Brown was on the team.
Brown represented the anti-Rasheed Wallace -- simply workman-like in the way he approached each game, and never once complained about a call or playing time. Most importantly, he played the game the right way.
Four Seasons: (2006 - present)
Stats With Team: 14.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.2 APG
Hard to believe Peja has given 12 years of NBA service, only once averaging below double-figures in points (his rookie season in Sacramento).
The Bad: Believing the Hornets needed some star-power/name recognition to accompany Chris Paul, GM Jeff Bower signed Peja to an exorbitant contract, when it was clear he was on the back-nine of his career. Since 2005, his scoring average has dipped exponentially each season concurrently with his shooting percentage. 2010 may be Peja’s last gasp.
The Good: Stojakovic has actually enjoyed moderate success in a Hornets uni, amping up his 3PT per game average to a career best 3.0 in the '07-'08 season.
He’s prone to going on streaks of absolutely lights-out shooting performances, having once hit 10-of-13 3’s in one game. He’s also nailed seven bombs on four separate occasions, while cashing in six treys nine times in his career with the Hornets.
Peja is as money is gets from beyond the arc, as well as a prolific FT shooter, never once shooting below 85 percent in his career. If you can shoot in this league, you’ll always be gainfully employed, and Stojakovic is a premiere poster child for that adage.
Two Seasons: (1998 - 2000)
Stats With Team: 18.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.2 APG
When you think of Eddie Jones, what comes to mind?
Personally, a long and talented guard-forward in the Scottie Pippen mold. One of the few pre-Kobe stars of the mid-nineties Lakers, and a steady contributor to the Heat during the Tim Hardaway-Alonzo Mourning era.
Yet in 1999, Jones averaged a career high 20.1 PPG for neither one of those teams. Where did he do it? You guessed it – Charlotte. Jones played two seasons with the Hornets, and was the main cog in a deal that sent Glen Rice packing to Miami.
Jones averaged 17.0 points and a career best 3.0 steals during the strike shortened ’98-’99 season, and his ’99-’00 season was LeBron-light (20.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.7 steals).
He was named to an All-Defensive Second team, as well as an All-NBA Third Team during his tenure, but eventually decided to return to his hometown, signing a free-agent deal with the Heat following the 2000 season.
Three Seasons (1996 - 2000)
Stats With Team: 13.5 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 4.8 APG
Mason, like Glen Rice, had some mighty big shoes to fill when the Hornets acquired him from the Knicks in exchange for Larry Johnson in 1996.
A 6’8’’ bruiser, although just as brash and playful as LJ, Mason continued the trend of undersized power forwards to don the teal and purple. Widely under-appreciated on offense, and often overshadowed by Glen Rice during his time in Charlotte, Mason had three of his best NBA seasons with the Hornets.
Most impressive was his initial season, when he averaged 16.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 1.1 steals, including four triple-doubles.
Four Seasons: (2000 - 2004)
Stats With Team: 21.0 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 5.0 APG
“Monster Mash” played five successful, although injury riddled seasons with the Hornets from ’00 to ’04. Coming over in a trade that sent Glen Rice back to Miami, Mash was teamed with Baron Davis to become the face of Hornets franchise as they transitioned from Charlotte to New Orleans.
Using his patented fade-away jumper (which, oddly enough, never looked like it had a chance when it left his fingers), Mashburn managed to average 20 or more points during each of his four seasons with the team, as he was finally the featured scorer on an offense for the first time in his career. His 21.0 PPG leaves him third all-time in franchise scoring history. Squished in between disappointing injury-plagued seasons, Mash played all 82 games for New Orleans in 2003, earning an All-Star appearance while finishing the season with averages of 21.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 1.1 steals.
Mashburn’s last season in the NBA would also be the first for little-known rookie out of Xavier, David West. A changing of the guard (at the forward position) would unknowingly take place.
Four Seasons (1995 - 1998)
Stats With Team: 23.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.4 APG
Rice could’ve been a villain.
After all, he was the reason that the face of the franchise, Alonzo Mourning, got the boot. Or at least that’s how he could’ve been perceived. Yet, as a disgruntled Mourning was sent packing for Miami prior to the ’95 season, the Hornets received quite the consolation prize in Rice.
One of the purest shooters the league has ever seen, Rice would go on to become the Hornets’ all-time leading scorer. He was a three-time All-Star (including All-Star MVP in 1997, in which he set records for most points scored in a quarter (20) en route to a game high 26). Rice’s three most productive NBA seasons came with the Hornets, and he was integral making the losses of Hornet greats Mourning and Larry Johnson much more bearable.
Five Seasons: 1991 - 1996
Stats With Team: 19.6 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 4.1 APG
Professional sports’ FIRST (and certainly more well-liked) Larry Johnson was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets out of UNLV with the No. 1 overall pick in 1991. Forget all the “Grandma-ma” hoopla, plain and simple: LJ put the Hornets on the map.
Teamed with Mugsey Bogues, (a year before Alonzo Mourning was drafted to complete the three-headed monster which became the face of the Hornets’ franchise in the early nineties) the undersized Johnson averaged a double-double (19.2 PPG, 11.0 RPG) his rookie season, en route to ROY honors.
Aside from the numbers (which were stellar), LJ made the Hornets a much more marketable franchise with his brash, always smiling demeanor and striking good looks.
He finished second to Ced Ceballos in the 1992 Slam-Dunk contest, and his television character “Grandma-ma” (an old lady who can miraculously dunk, which he used for his Converse shoe commercials) graced the cover of SLAM magazine, and made him instantly recognizable to the masses.
After five successful seasons with Charlotte, due to grumblings that he and Mourning were at odds, he was shipped to New York for Anthony Mason and change.
Seasons: 10 minutes in 1996 until he was traded away on draft night for Vlade Divac.
Kobe has played a little small forward in his career, right?