New Orleans Hornets' All-Time Dream Team

Dave Leonardis@@FrontPageDaveContributor IIIMarch 15, 2013

New Orleans Hornets' All-Time Dream Team

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    A Dream Team of the best players to ever wear a Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets uniform would be one of the greatest collections of talent basketball has ever seen. In fact, narrowing the roster down to 12 extraordinary current and former Hornets would be quite the daunting task.

    Since arriving in Charlotte, and joining the NBA in 1988, the history of the Hornets franchise has been one filled with big names but low on championship banners.

    The lack of postseason success makes it easy to ignore the fact that the team has harbored some amazing talent during the last 25 years.

    That's why I comprised a 12-man roster made up of the best players in Hornets history.

    This Dream Team may not stack up to the legendary 1992 Team USA edition led by Michael Jordan and Larry Bird but it is a veritable who's who of NBA greatness.

    The stipulations to make the cut were pretty simple. Each player had to either be currently on the roster or last at least a season with the team to be qualified (Sorry, Kobe!).

    They also had to have made some kind of impact while they were in a Hornets uniform (Sorry, J.R. Smith!).

    Here now is the Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets all-time Dream Team.

Starting Point Guard: Chris Paul

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    Chris Paul was arguably the greatest player to ever lace up a pair of sneakers for the Hornets franchise.

    While he didn't have the intensity of an Alonzo Mourning or the memorable commercials of a Larry Johnson, CP3 was a phenomenal all-around talent that spent most of his nights carrying the team on his back.

    The Hornets stole Paul when he slid down to them at No. 4 during the 2005 NBA Draft.

    Lesser talents like Andrew Bogut and Marvin Williams went ahead of the Wake Forest standout, which only added to the chip on the little guy's shoulder.

    Paul is a rare breed of point guard. He has the desire to get others involved and make those around him better but is talented to take a game over if the situation calls for it. He is also a superb defender, as evidenced by the four times he's led the league in steals as well as being named to the NBA All-Defensive Second team twice.

    Paul has always had the talent to be an MVP candidate, but it wasn't until he was sent to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2011 that his ability to turn around a franchise really became known.

    With forward Blake Griffin by his side, he has turned the Clippers into "Lob City" and made a once woeful franchise into a championship contender.

    During his six-year run with the Hornets, Paul became a fan favorite and one of the most exciting players to watch run a fast break.

    That made his spot as the starting point guard on this Dream Team an extremely easy decision.

Starting Shooting Guard: Eddie Jones

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    Newer Hornets/Pelicans fans may want current starting shooting guard Eric Gordon in this spot but Eddie Jones is here for a couple of reasons.

    First, Jones' best statistical season in his 14-year career came during the 1999-2000 season when he averaged 20.1 points and a league-leading 2.7 steals per game as a member of the Charlotte Hornets.

    Jones was a vastly underrated 2-guard who could score as well as he could defend.

    Second, even though Jones only played a season and a half for the Hornets before being shipped back to Miami, he's still played more games (102) during that span than Gordon (36) has.

    That makes Jones a bit more reliable of an option.

    Plus, pairing Jones with point guard Chris Paul would give this Hornets Dream Team a formidable defensive backcourt. Jones has also proven during his time with Los Angles Lakers and Miami Heat that he can be just as effective as a role player as he was as a lead dog in Charlotte.

    Like so many other great players during the George Shinn era, Jones' tenure with the Hornets should have been longer. He didn't have the flash to become a household name, but he was solid enough on both ends of the court to be the kind of guard the team could build around.

    That's why he was able to narrowly edge out the more currently relevant Eric Gordon for the starting shooting guard spot.

Starting Small Forward: Glen Rice

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    As the best player the Hornets got back in the team's first blockbuster trade, there was pressure on Glen Rice to be productive and legitimize the trade that sent center Alonzo Mourning to the Miami Heat.

    Lucky for the Hornets and their fans, Rice had a very productive three-year run with the team.

    Rice's claim to fame was that he was a deadly shooter, especially from behind the arc. He won the three-point contest during the 1995 All-Star break and won an All-Star Game MVP in 1997 when he scored an NBA record 20 points in the third quarter alone (and 24 points in the second half, also an NBA record).

    The former Michigan star is the Hornets' all-time leader in scoring average at 23.5 points per game. He once lit up the Orlando Magic for 56 points in 1995, converting 20 of 27 shots including 7-of-8 from the three-point line.

    While he was a star for a few years in Charlotte, Rice's role on this Hornets Dream Team would more closely resemble the one he had as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers during their first championship run with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.

    On a team with this collection of talent, Rice could excel as a second and third option and just feast on taking advantage of all the attention paid to the other Hornets.

    With a fine facilitator in Chris Paul and a formidable duo inside, Rice could become a real weapon along the perimeter.

Starting Power Forward: Larry Johnson

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    A supremely athletic forward with uncanny strength and power, Larry Johnson was the Hornets' first real star.

    Johnson was the No. 1 overall pick in 1991 and immediately took the league by storm, winning Rookie of the Year.

    Johnson was an excellent finisher around the rim and he was an absolute beast on the glass. He averaged double digits in rebounds his first two seasons in the NBA and was a two-time All-Star during his tenure with the Hornets.

    A series of entertaining commercials with Converse helped make the UNLV big man into a household name as his lovable alter ego "Grandmama."

    Alongside center Alonzo Mourning, L.J. gave Hornets fans a formidable and promising young frontcourt duo that may have been able to lead the team to bigger things had they managed to stick together.

    However, Mourning was sent to Miami in 1995, not long after that, Johnson followed suit in a trade to New York a year later.

    The dream of 'Zo and L.J. making Charlotte a championship contender was quickly shattered and the team never became more than a middle-of-the-pack dark horse in the East.

    On this Dream Team though, Johnson gets reunited with his old pal.

    With his power inside and a sneaky outside jumper, "Grandmama" would become a real force and would give Hornets fans another glimpse of what could have been.

Starting Center: Alonzo Mourning

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    Many people will remember Alonzo Mourning for his impressive run as a member of the Miami Heat. It is understandable to forget that he spent the first three years of his career as a member of the Charlotte Hornets.

    After securing their franchise power forward in Larry Johnson a year earlier, the Hornets set out to give opposing frontcourts nightmares by using the No. 2 overall pick on Mourning.

    'Zo was another in a long line of impressive Georgetown centers that included the likes of Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo.

    Like Ewing and Mutombo, Mourning was an excellent rebounder and shot-blocker who made his presence felt in the paint. With his very 90's flat-top and his penchant for shouting after big dunks, it was hard to overlook the big man.

    After three seasons, however, the tandem of Mourning and Johnson wasn't working out and that led to a trade prior to the 1995 season that sent 'Zo to South Beach.

    Mourning immediately made the Heat into a contender and Miami went on to be part of one of the great NBA rivalries of the 1990's with the New York Knicks.

    The Hornets, without Mourning, still managed to stay afloat.

    They didn't have the success of Mourning's Heat teams, but Glen Rice (acquired in the Mourning trade) emerged as a productive star.

    On this Dream Team, Mourning isn't just reunited with his former frontcourt tag team partner, but will have the luxury of being on the receiving end of many Chris Paul lob passes.

Sixth Man: PG Baron Davis

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    Here lies one of the most frustrating talents in Hornets history.

    Baron Davis was a unique combination of speed, athleticism, and power. He was a point guard with a shooting guard's body. He was as electrifying with a lob pass as he was with a thunderous tomahawk dunk.

    He was also a coach's nightmare. For anyone familiar with "The Wire", Baron Davis was the Jimmy McNulty of point guards.

    He had the potential to be one of the greats, but he never showed a true commitment to taking care of himself. He was routinely out of shape and struggled staying healthy, even after his Hornets days were over.

    Davis played six seasons with the Hornets after being drafted with the 3rd overall pick in 1999. He didn't really break out until his third season, when he averaged 18.1 points and 8.5 assists per game. He made two All-Star appearances as a member of the Hornets.

    However, friction between him and then-coach Byron Scott as well as a hefty contract led to Davis being sent to Golden State for a pair of expiring contracts.

    As a Los Angeles native who played his college ball at UCLA, Davis had little trouble being motivated to be playing back home again.

    In Don Nelson's fast-paced offense, Davis teamed with young up-and-comer Jason Richardson to lift the Warriors to new heights. They pulled off an uncanny upset of the No. 1 seeded Dallas Mavericks in 2007 and instilled the same hope in Warriors fans that Hornets fans once had.

    Much like his Hornets tenure, Davis' stint with the Warriors was short-lived.

    After a couple injury-riddled seasons with Golden State, Davis opted out of his contract and signed with Clippers. From there, Davis would begin a journey around the league that would lead to stops in Cleveland and New York.

    Davis' career will always be a "What if?"

    Injuries hindered most of it. On this Dream Team though, Davis could be an offensive spark off the bench and provide depth at either guard position. There would be less of a need to rely on him to stay healthy and he could keep his ailing knees fresh with limited minutes.

Reserve: SG Eric Gordon

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    As the centerpiece of the package the Hornets received in 2011's Chris Paul blockbuster trade, the Eric Gordon era in New Orleans has been filled with frustration and plenty of DNP's.

    Gordon came to the Hornets with a reputation for being brittle and he wasted no time living up to those expectations.

    A bum knee sidelined him for all but nine games of his first season with the Hornets. Then, the team rolled the dice that their franchise guard would be happy in the Big Easy by matching Phoenix's four-year $58 million deal (a deal that Bill Simmons recently listed as the fourth-worst contract in basketball).

    That gamble got off to a rocky start when Gordon missed the first 29 games of this season due to problems with the same troublesome knee. That led to speculation over Gordon's desire to be in New Orleans as well as the team shopping their franchise player around.

    When healthy, Gordon is a dynamic shooting guard who can provide instant offense.

    His thick build and athleticism allow him to absorb contact when attacking the basket while still being able to make a play. The former Indiana Hoosier is also a career 37 percent shooter from behind the arc.

    As with Baron Davis, a reserve role for Gordon on this Dream Team would work wonders in keeping the oft-injured guard healthy. The limited minutes would be a blessing on his troublesome knee.

    Also like Davis, Gordon could provide depth at either guard position.

Reserve: SF Jamal Mashburn

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    Jamal Mashburn is probably better known for his stint with the Dallas Mavericks in the early 90's playing alongside Jim Jackson and Jason Kidd.

    However, Mashburn spent the last four years of his career as a productive member of the New Orleans Hornets.

    "Monster Mash" averaged at least 20 points per game during his four seasons with the Hornets. He was acquired in 2000, in an eight-player deal that sent Anthony Mason and Eddie Jones to Miami.

    In New Orleans, Mashburn would earn the only All-Star appearance of his career in 2003.

    The former Kentucky phenom and fourth overall pick of the 1993 NBA Draft was a talented scorer, but never really became a star thanks to a myriad of injuries.

    On this Dream Team, he could be more of a slasher-type forward off the bench, which would be a nice alternative to sweet-shooting starter Glen Rice.

    Mashburn doesn't offer much in terms of defense but he helps bolster a strong offensive unit off the bench.

Reserve: PF Anthony Davis

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    As the latest in a long line of potential franchise cornerstones, Anthony Davis is being heralded as the guy that will help turn the Hornets into a future championship contender.

    The reigning No. 1 overall pick has the right mix of speed, athleticism, ball-handling, wingspan and defensive acumen to be an absolute force for years to come.

    Midway into his debut season, Davis has shown glimpses of the potential that made him a can't miss prospect. His biggest game came against the Memphis Grizzlies on March 9 when he notched 20 points and 18 rebounds.

    He is averaging 12.9 points per game while also shooting 51 percent from the field. Davis leads all Hornets in rebounds per game (7.9) and blocks per game (1.8). Barring something unforeseen, he'll lose out on top rookie honors to Portland point guard Damian Lillard but he definitely has a bright future ahead of him.

    On this Dream Team, Davis' role will be similar to the one he had as a member of the most recent USA Olympic basketball team.

    He will provide energy and defense off the bench. Davis will be relied upon to hold his own on the boards and also hit the occasional outside jumper.

    He doesn't have the seasoning that the rest of this collection of veterans possesses, but he will still find a way to make his mark as the token new kid finding his way straight out of college.

Reserve: C Tyson Chandler

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    The Tyson Chandler from the Hornets days isn't the same guy that won a championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 and earned Defensive Player of the Year with the New York Knicks in 2012.

    The New Orleans version of Tyson Chandler was still a bit raw—significantly improved from the prospect who floundered early in his career with the Bulls.

    Chandler's best rebounding averages came during his first two seasons in New Orleans, when he averaged 12.4 boards per game in 2006-07 and 11.7 a night in 2007-08. Offensively, there wasn't much to the former Dominguez High prospect beyond tip-ins and being on the receiving end of Chris Paul alley-oop passes.

    However, there were signs that Chandler was ready to become a promising big man.

    In 2007-08, he averaged a double-double with 11.8 points to go with his 11.7 rebounds per game. He averaged a block per game during his Hornets tenure, which was a trend that has continued throughout his 12-year career.

    It's still mind-boggling why the team chose to trade Chandler to Charlotte in exchange for disappointing center Emeka Okafor. Chandler's post-Hornets career has been indicative of a guy trying to get the last laugh on his former employer.

    In just a few short years, Chandler went from prospect to champion and elite defender.

    Along with Anthony Davis, Chandler gives the Hornets an imposing defensive frontcourt off the bench. The lanky-yet-athletic duo would also be a force on the glass on this Dream Team.

    Things never worked out the way they should have in New Orleans for Chandler but a run with this Dream Team gives him a chance to get the last laugh in a Hornets uniform.

Reserve: F David West

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    Throughout his career, David West has made up for a lack of size with a combination of tenacity and perseverance. At 6'9" with limited athleticism, West still became an excellent NBA forward during his eight seasons with the Hornets.

    West slid down to New Orleans at No. 18 in 2003, despite being a former AP National Player of the Year at Xavier.

    After sitting behind veteran P.J. Brown for his first two seasons, West immediately became a force as the Hornets' starting power forward.

    He averaged 17.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in his first full season as a starter. He would go on to two All-Star appearances as a member of the Hornets and would form an exciting duo with point guard Chris Paul.

    West combined his determination of the boards with an impressive mid-range jumper to become one of the game's most underrated all-around forwards.

    After injuries slowed him down during the tail end of his Hornets career, the team decided to let West sign with Indiana in 2011.

    His void wasn't filled until this season, when the team lucked into the chance to draft Kentucky big man Anthony Davis with the No. 1 overall pick. West's presence on this Dream Team gives them the depth in the frontcourt that the most recent USA Olympic basketball team lacked.

    West could provide quality minutes at power forward but also has a sneaky enough jumper to be adequate at small forward. He was one of the rare Hornets stars to have a lengthy stint with the team and that made him a no-brainer choice for this collection of All-Stars.

Reserve: PG Muggsy Bogues

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    There are a number of directions you could have went with the 12th and final spot on this Hornets Dream Team.

    Trevor Ariza would have provided defense as well as depth at either shooting guard or small forward. Peja Stojakovic would have given the team another shooter and someone who can play either forward spot.

    For me, a Hornets Dream Team doesn't make sense without point guard Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues.

    He is as synonymous with the Hornets teams of the 90's as much as Glen Rice, Alonzo Mourning or Larry Johnson. The little guy played 10 seasons with Charlotte, far exceeding the tenures of any of the aforementioned trio.

    At 5'3", 136 pounds, he was vastly undersized but still managed to carve his niche as a quality facilitator.

    He averaged at least 10 assists per game twice while with the Hornets and even earned a role in the hard-to-watch Michael Jordan/Looney Tunes collaboration "Space Jam."

    He'll struggle to get minutes at point guard depth chart that includes two world-class stars like Baron Davis and Chris Paul.

    His extreme lack of height will put him at a disadvantage against almost anybody he's tasked with defending. He doesn't offer much in terms of offense, but it will be a joy to watch him suit up for the Hornets one last time.