All throughout NBA history the number 34 has been worn by great big men. From Hakeem Olajuwon to Shaquille O’Neal to Charles Barkley the number 34 has been attached to a great big for the majority of the last 20 years. In New Orleans Pelicans history the number 34 similarly has been worn by big men. Unfortunately for them though, those big men haven’t been anywhere close to great.
The First to Wear Number 34: Robert Traylor, 2002-2004
The Most Recent to Wear Number 34: Greg Stiemsma, 2013-2014
The number 34 got off to a decent start when the late Robert “Tractor” Traylor donned it for two seasons in the early 2000s. Traylor averaged just 12.3 and 13.3 minutes per game over the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 seasons but he was able to do everything that was asked of him in that time to the tune of 11.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per 36 minutes in his first season and 13.8 points and 10 rebounds in his second. After the two successful seasons Traylor left for more playing time in Cleveland for the last season of his career, setting in motion mostly bad things for the number 34.
After Traylor moved on the number shifted to Corsley Edwards for 10 games early in the 2004-2005 season. Unlike Trayler before him Edwards was far from effective in his brief playing time, averaging just 2.7 points and 2.5 rebounds in 11 minutes per game on just 32 percent shooting, an awful, unfathomable number for an NBA center. The Hornets decided they had seen enough after those 10 games and waived Edwards, putting the number 34 back into storage for a bit.
Aaron Williams was the next player to try the number 34 and as he was for most of his career he was very average in it. Williams played 20.4 minutes per game for the Hornets in 34 games and averaged 5.8 points and 4.9 rebounds on 51.6 percent shooting for New Orleans as they struggled to a 38-44 season. Like the players before him though Williams moved on to finish out his career, this time with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Aaron Gray then got a two season stint in the number 34 off the bench for New Orleans where he quickly became a fan favorite. Gray used his strength and sheer size to be effective for New Orleans with the highlight coming in the 2010-2011 playoffs when he gave the team a much-needed boost off the bench for 14.5 minutes a night as the Hornets tried to overcome the loss of David West to beat the Lakers. While Gray’s numbers were modest in the series (3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game) his body and fight gave the team someone to match-up with the sheer size of Andrew Bynum and someone for Chris Paul to work off of in the pick-and-roll. Gray used that series to boost his stock in free agency and left for the Toronto Raptors leaving the 34 open one more time.
While the 34 was filled for this past season it turned out that many Pelicans fans wished it would have stayed open. Greg Stiemsma played in 55 games this past season in the jersey and was pretty terrible the entire time in it, cramping the team’s spacing, tanking their defense and really doing nothing well. Finally the Pelicans decided to move on from Stiemsma late in the season, waiving him with just two games to go in the year to sign Melvin Ely as a contract chip to be used in trades this summer, a move that paid off when it helped them acquire Omer Asik.
While the number 34 may have a great history of big men wearing it in NBA history it is far from that in New Orleans franchise history. While plenty of big men have donned the number in New Orleans, none could be considered anything more than average. When compared to the rest of the numbers in team history though that average may be good enough to not be one of the five worst in team history.
Tags: New Orleans Pelicans