New Orleans Pelicans: Revisiting the 2003 NBA Draft

Hop in the DeLorean, crank it up to 88 MPH, and travel back with me to the 2003 NBA Entry Draft. Known in basketball lore as one of the greatest draft classes of all-time, it was also the debut draft for the then-New Orleans Hornets.

Disclaimer: From here on out, I will be referring to New Orleans’ then monicker, Hornets, as the Pelicans. New Orleans was nice enough to forfeit the Hornets to allow their original owners, Charlotte, to reclaim it, but the Utah Jazz has remained adamant they wish to keep their name, despite its New Orleans roots—for shame. Back on track, the 2003 NBA Draft found homes for names such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, and, wait for it, hold for applause… Darko Milicic! Let’s see which names the New Orleans Pelicans selected.

The Pelicans did not have any draft picks in 2002, as they traded both their first and second rounders away (which is never ideal, but in this instance, they dodged a bullet as neither player panned out). They played well in their 2002-03 debut season, sporting an impressive 47-35 record and a playoff berth. For their efforts that regular season, they sat outside the lottery and chose 18th overall in the following draft.

With that pick, they selected David West out of Xavier. West played four years of college ball, compiling career averages of 16.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and 1.4 steals per game on an efficient 53 percent of the field. By all accounts, a very productive college career, and his game would translate to the NBA level for New Orleans.

West slipping to 18th was the biggest blessing the organization could have wished for in their initial draft appearance. Take this into consideration, the five players picked ahead of West were the following: Marcus Banks, Luke Ridnour, Reece Gaines, Troy Bell, and Zarko Cabarkapa. Yeah, New Orleans could not have asked for a better outcome in the first round.

West would play eight seasons in the Big Easy, averaging 16.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists on 49 percent shooting from the field. He was an all-star in the team’s best season in franchise history back in 2007-08, where they won 56 games and were one game away from the Western Conference Finals. For their first selection in franchise history, West went above and beyond the team’s expectations for him.

Alright, with the first round concluded, let’s take a brief look at what transpired in the second. With their second-round selection, the Pelicans selected James Lang straight out of high school. You would hope Lang is not mentioned in any argument if you’re pro picking players out of high school, as he’s a prime example of this method failing, miserably.

Lang never played a game with New Orleans. In fact, he only played 11 career games in the NBA, all of which came in the 2006-07 season with the Wizards. He did show promise in his second game, recording 7 points and 3 blocks in just under 20 minutes of action. For the remaining nine games, he scored just 4 points and would never block a shot again (he literally only had 4 points and 7 rebounds over that stretch, zeroes everywhere else).

It’s difficult finding all-star talent in the second round, most picks either find themselves in/out of the league or at best enjoy a limited role with the second unit of an NBA roster. Lang was not the latter in this particular instance; also doesn’t help that  James Jones landed the very next pick after Lang, Kyle Korver landed three picks after, and then Mo Williams, a former all-star in his own right, landed a pick before Lang, wow…that’s just unfortunate.

Next: Knicks gathering lotto picks for Davis?

From here until the NBA Draft on June 20th, we’re going to take a look at every single draft selection the Pelicans have made up to this point. There have been some good ones, and man, oh man, there’s been some James Lang‘s.


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