A Daily Babble Production
Picking All-Time Lineups for Each of the Association's 30 Franchises*
Two cities (three, really, if you count Oklahoma City). Two conferences. Never further than two rounds into the playoffs. That's the story for the Hornets' franchise so far, the first of our two 1988 expansion teams. But throughout a history of turmoil experienced both with the move out of Charlotte and the troubles later caused in their new locale due to natural disaster, the Hornets have also assembled quite a bit of individual talent. As the team comes off the best season in its history, we take a look today at both the greats of the past and present of a franchise that may have its best right around the corner in the next few years to come. Let's run fives with the New Orleans Hornets:
Point Guard: Chris Paul - The principle justification for the high hopes for both present and future in the Big Easy. Despite Paul's having played just three seasons in the league, both Hornets247's Ron Hitley and Rohan from At the Hive showed no hesitance in labeling CP3 not just the best point guard in team history but the franchise's greatest player of all time. And they'll find no arguments here.
The 23-year-old from Wake Forest is a virtuoso at the point guard position. His quickness makes him scary good at pushing the ball up and down the floor, and his uncanny ability to get from the foul line to the low block with his stutter-step gives him one of the most dangerous assets in the game. The man is of course an unselfishly beautiful passer, and he has had no trouble finding ways to get his own points, averaging 18.2 per game (to go with his 9.5 assists) for his career.
The numbers and accolades are frankly just silly. In his three years in the league, he has finished seventh, fourth and first respectively in assists per game. He has already led the league in steals twice. His 2007-08 season that placed him second in the MVP voting is in the discussion for the greatest by a point guard of all time: 21.1 points, 11.6 assists and 2.7 steals per game to go with 57.6 percent true shooting. In his first trip to the postseason, Paul went for 24.1 points, 11.3 assists and 4.9 boards per game. Absurd. He is already seventh in scoring and first in assists per game in franchise history.
The kid is just spectacular to watch. I saw him in person for the first time back in January 2006 in a game in which all the rookie did was go for 27 points, 13 assists and 7 rebounds against the Knicks, after which point I was (like so many other fans around the country) completely hooked.
Ron sums it all up for us: "Three years deep and the kid's already a superstar, having shattered numerous franchise records set by Muggsy Bogues and mended numerous hearts broken by Baron Davis. I'll always hold a special place in my heart for the Bucks and Hawks for passing up CP in the draft."
Honorable mention: Muggsy Bogues - Still the shortest player in NBA history, the 5-foot-3 Bogues continues to hold a place in Hornets fans' hearts. Bogues spent a decade entertaining the Charlotte fans with his scrappy play, and he sits at second in team history to Paul with 8.8 assists to go with his 8.8 points per game. Rohan calls his selection of Paul over Bogues "...a tough choice for sentimental reasons. CP combines Muggsy's pass first attitude with great scoring ability."
Second honorable mention: Baron Davis - While Davis' tenure as a Hornet might not have fulfilled its initial promise, the team did get to the playoffs in each of his five full seasons in town. Though he was tremendously inefficient, the Baron did put up 15.3 points and 6.7 assists per game for his time with the team, and he only stepped his game up in the playoffs, going for 22.6-7.0-7.9 in 2001-02 in particular.
Shooting Guard: Eddie Jones - With Jones, we encounter the classic productivity-versus-longevity dilemma, and we're siding with the production on this one. Jones spent less than a season and a half in Charlotte, but he was an incredible asset to the team while in town.
Jones averaged 19.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game while with the team, and he was an absolute stud in 1999-2000. The shooting guard made All-Star, Third Team All-NBA and Second Team All-Defense, leading the league in steals along the way.
As Ron tells us, "Jones wasn't with the Hornets for very long, but I have fond memories of his time in teal. He was a terror on the defensive end and could score inside and out. Probably the most versatile 2-guard the Hornets have ever had."
Honorable mention: Dell Curry - The longevity side of the debate here, Curry was a Hornet for ten seasons and an excellent shooter from the outside. Rohan puts him in his starting five while commenting, "The team needs a shooter, and Curry had Peja Stojakovic's three point stroke (40.2 percent career) without as many injury issues."
Curry averaged 14 points per game as a Hornet, but his true shooting often hovered in the low-to-mid-50s, which isn't quite as high as one would like for someone who shot the ball so well from outside. He wasn't the defender that Jones was, and he also only started 77 of his 701 games with Charlotte. He's a worthy candidate, but Curry will have to be a back-up for this team.
Sentimental mention: David Wesley - The former Celtic gets some love from Ron: "I'd love to give this spot to David Wesley, because he was a Hornet for years and consistently won a starting spot despite the team's best efforts to find an upgrade. He was never the quickest or biggest guy in the backcourt, but he always held his own thanks to smarts and toughness."
Small Forward: Glen Rice - It may be easy to forget for some because Rice had several more stops afterwards and was never quite as good, but this guy absolutely killed it with the Hornets. He was in town for three seasons and made as many All-Star teams.
He remains the all-time average scoring leader in team history at 23.5 points per game, and he accumulated those points with stunning efficiency, shooting 44.4 percent from the field and posting true shooting marks of 58.6, 58.4 and 60.5 percent in his three seasons in town. The team won 50-plus games in each of his last two seasons, and he put up nearly 28 per game in the first of those two trips to the playoffs. The man put up 54 performances of 30-plus points while in town, breaking 40 in ten of those. Simply put, Glen Rice filled it up while in Charlotte.
Our Hornets correspondents have nothing but praise for Rice to offer us.
Rohan: "You can make the case that the best 3 years of his career were the three he spent with the Hornets; he was an All-Star in each of his seasons in Charlotte (96, 97, 98), winning the All-Star Game MVP in '97."
Ron: "Although G$ made the All-Star team three times with Charlotte, the 1996-97 season alone is what the old-school Hornets fans will always remember him for. Rice averaged 26.8 ppg, shooting 48 percent from the field and an insane 47 percent from deep. It seemed like he delievered 40-point-game after 40-point game, and big shot after big shot. He had the 6-8 frame and a high release; nobody could touch it."
Power Forward: Larry Johnson - All the more amazing that he gets the spot here given that LJ is just 6-foot-6. Despite the lack of height down low, Johnson could score the basketball with ease (19.6 points per game on 49.6 percent shooting) and rebound inside (9.2 per game), and throughout his time in town, he also developed some range. Despite shooting less than 30 percent from deep during each of his first three seasons in town, Johnson finished his five-year tenure with a 34.7 percent three-point mark and was consistently in the mid-50s in true shooting.
While both Ron and Rohan acknowledge Grandmama's injury issues, neither shies away from having him on the team. Ron simply raves, "Before he got hurt, he was a 6-6 Dwight Howard, with a jump shot. Dude was just beastly down low. I've always believed that LJ would have been mentioned alongside Barkley, Duncan and Malone as one of the greatest power forwards of all-time if not for those injury woes."
Rohan just throws icing on the cake: "He developed an adequate three point stroke, but could also bang down low (his rookie offensive rebound rates [are] just a shade below Dwight Howard's career rates). The stats don't tell the whole story on LJ's injury history- even though he only missed significant time during one campaign, he was known for constantly playing through intense pain. For his toughness and scoring, LJ is an easy choice for the team." Book him.
Center: Alonzo Mourning - Ron isn't his biggest fan, and he's hoping to see Tyson Chandler usurp the position from 'Zo in the long run, but for now, he concedes that this really isn't too close, and he throws some salt in certain wounds of ours in doing so: "No denying the game of a young Alonzo. He gave the Hornets their first and most dramatic playoff series win when he beat the Celtics at the buzzer in '93. Truly special."
Grand. 'Zo was pretty good even when he wasn't knocking the green out of the postseason: His 21.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game are good for second, second and first in team history. Mourning was a force at both ends of the floor in his youth, creating both a solid road-block in the middle defensively and providing a major scoring presence in the pivot.
Like Ron, Rohan isn't the Mourning's number one fan, but also like Ron, he concurs on the selection, stating, "Even though I've grown weary of his flexing biceps act in Miami, Zo was a flat-out beast in Charlotte. He was highly efficient offensively but is most valuable to this All-Hornets team for his interior defense. I think I've seen Zo block more dunk attempts than all other NBA players combined - those biceps aren't good for just flexing. Phenomenal block rates and defensive rebound rates made him the perfect fit alongside Larry Johnson in Charlotte. If not for their personal differences, that could've been the start of something special. Ah well, at least they can re-unite on the All-Hornets team."
Indeed they can. Paul, Jones, Rice, Johnson, Mourning: Our all-time Hornets team isn't quite as sizable as the Magic squad we picked two weeks ago, but it's got plenty of talent in its own right. Who wins a series between these two teams? That one is up to you.
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Thanks as always to our contributors, Ron Hitley of Hornets247 and Rohan of At the Hive. Both were tremendously insightful, and each runs a fantastic Hornets site. Definitely worth a look when you get the chance, or if you're just hankering for some James Posey love this season.
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*The official explanation for newcomers to our Runnin' Fives series:
Welcome to the latest edition of the CelticsBlog NBA page's newest feature, Runnin' Fives. Over the course of the next few months, we'll be picking a five-man all-time team for each of the Association's thirty currently active franchises. The rules are simple: The goal is to put together the best possible standard five-man line-up (two guards, two forwards, one center, with some room for finagling if need be) for each team based on the performance of the players while with said team. For instance, it's hard to imagine Michael Jordan making the Washington squad or Karl Malone or Gary Payton challenging for spots in Los Angeles (or Mark Blount making any team, anywhere). We'll be progressing from youngest franchise to oldest at the rate of one to two teams per week, pursuant to the workings of the NBA's news cycle and availability of sources as we'll be checking in with bloggers, beat writers, fans and anybody else we can get a hold of for insight on their teams. And of course, we're alwayslooking for your input, and we invite all readers to submit their own line-ups, honorable mentions, dishonorable mentions and everything in between in the comments section below. We eagerly look forward to hearing from you!
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Previously on Runnin' Fives: