For the first time since the number 24, we hit a number in New Orleans Pelicans history that has been worn by a player that had at least a pretty good season in New Orleans. While that success came for just two players and two seasons so far, it is more than most numbers in franchise history have going for them.
The First to Wear Number 33: Lee Nailon, 2004-2005
The Most Recent to Wear Number 33: Ryan Anderson, 2012-Present
The number 33 got off to a nice start in the 2004-2005 season when Lee Nailon played a big role for a bad Hornets team. In 29.7 minutes per game Nailon averaged 14.2 points on 47.8 percent shooting as the mostly starting small forward for New Orleans. As it turned out the season would be the best of Nailon’s career as he would play just one more season after leaving for Philadelphia in the 2005 offseason but it was a nice start for the number 33.
After Nailon’s departure though the number 33 went into a rut, started by New Orleans second round pick Brandon Bass. While Bass has since developed into a productive NBA player his first two years in the NBA weren’t pretty. Bass played in a combined 50 games over the two seasons and just 430 minutes averaging a high of 2.3 points per game in his rookie season. With David West in front of him Bass was never going to see a lot of time and eventually he left and joined the Dallas Mavericks as a free agent.
With Bass gone Melvin Ely stepped into the role of bench big man wearing the 33 for just 83 games over the next two seasons. In 2007-2008, Ely averaged 11.9 minutes, 3.9 points and 2.8 rebounds per game for the Hornets as a big body off the bench. The next season was much of the same for Ely as he averaged 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 points in just 12 minutes per game. Like Bass, Ely then left for Denver and what he thought was greener grass, leaving the number 33 open for a season.
Willie Green then stepped into the role of bench player wearing 33, averaging 8.7 points and 2.1 rebounds in 21.7 minutes per game off the bench for the Hornets. Green’s most important contribution in that role was as a three-point shooter as he shot 35 percent from behind the arc as a floor spacer off the bench. As he had most of his career though Green moved on quickly from New Orleans when he signed with the Atlanta Hawks.
That signing freed up the number 33 for a player the franchise would acquire the next offseason in Ryan Anderson. In his first season in New Orleans Anderson was an elite offensive force for the Hornets, averaging 16.2 points mostly off the bench for the team thanks to his great floor spacing abilities. It wasn’t uncommon to look out behind the arc and see Anderson ready to drill a three for the Hornets as he knocked down 2.6 per game while shooting 38.2 percent that season to give the Pelicans hope they had an elite partner for franchise cornerstone Anthony Davis. That hope looked good again as the 2013-2014 season started as Anderson upped his shooting to 40 percent on 7.5 threes per game before a horrific neck injury cost him the last 60 games of the season.
Unlike many numbers covered so far the number 33 has a bit of good history behind it so far in New Orleans history. With Nailon’s great play in 2004-2005 and Anderson’s promise over the last two seasons things look good in comparison to most things in franchise history. With Anderson looking like a cornerstone for the franchise as they go forward as well it looks likely that the best of 33 is coming soon.