Though the New Orleans Pelicans are a young NBA franchise, they have made some great picks since arriving in the Big Easy in 2002. Here are their 15 best.
The NBA had its first run in New Orleans back in the mid-1970s. Though it was only a five-year run, the New Orleans Jazz were a sight to behold in the Crescent City. They had their local legend in “Pistol” Pete Maravich running the show and the Jazz did draw well. However, financial difficulties saw the team leave for Salt Lake City in 1979. The nickname stuck and that’s why we’ve had the Utah Jazz for nearly 40 years.
Flash forward to the early 2000s. While they were insanely popular in the Queen City, the Charlotte Hornets couldn’t get their arena updated in time. The original Charlotte Hornets would venture down to the Big Easy and began playing as the New Orleans Hornets in 2002. Hurricane Katrina would ravage New Orleans, forcing the relocated Hornets to temporarily play home games in Oklahoma City. The Hornets would return for good to New Orleans in 2007, but an inevitable rebrand was upon us.
New Orleans would shed the Hornets moniker in 2013 in favor of the Louisiana state bird: the brown pelican. The New Orleans Pelicans were born just a few years ago, but hoops down in Nawlins have certainly been interesting for the last decade plus. New Orleans has fluctuated from competitive to downright awful on the hardwood, resulting in several lottery picks in NBA Drafts.
Though it is an incredibly short history, we’re going to give this a shot anyway. Here are the 15 greatest draft picks made by the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans to date. Before we begin, a few of these guys never played for New Orleans, but were part of important draft-day deals that would prove most beneficial for the franchise. With that in mind, let’s go!
Like many before him, center Cole Aldrich was an outstanding player in college for the Kansas Jayhawks of the Big 12. He helped KU win its most recent national title in 2008, earning several personal accolades during his time in Lawrence. His No. 45 jersey is retired by the Jayhawks hoops team. New Orleans used its No. 11 overall pick in 2010 to draft Aldrich out of Kansas. However, he would never play for the then Hornets.
Aldrich would have his draft rights traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder along with swingman Morris Peterson for power forward Craig Brackins and small forward Quincy Pondexter‘s draft rights. Though he spent his first two years in the league with the Thunder, Aldrich has become a journeyman in his eight-year NBA career, playing for six franchises.
Peterson would only play four games with the 2010-11 Thunder before seeing his 11-year NBA career come to an end. Brackins would never live up to the hype of being a former first-round pick out of Iowa State. He would be traded before the season even began as a rookie, as the Hornets shipped him to the Philadelphia 76ers along with Lithuanian big man Darius Songaila for shooting guard Willie Green and power forward Jason Smith.
Green played one season with the Hornets. Smith would stick with New Orleans for four seasons. Pondexter would play his first of two stints with the Hornets beginning in 2010. After spending four years with the Memphis Grizzlies due to the Greivis Vasquez trade, Pondexter would come back to the now Pelicans in 2015 and play for New Orleans through 2017 before joining the Chicago Bulls.
Drafting Aldrich will likely get forgotten in the annals of New Orleans hoops lore, but it did yield key contributors like Pondexter and Smith during the team’s first few years back in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina.