The New Orleans Pelicans (then Hornets) had two selections in the first round in the 2006 NBA Draft. The previous year they selected their franchise point guard, Chris Paul. Let’s see how they did in an attempt to build around their newfound cornerstone.
The 2005-06 New Orleans Pelicans finished with a 38-44 record, a significant upgrade to their 18-64 record a season prior. Chris Paul took home Rookie of the Year honors, and the team appeared back on the right track to the postseason. For their play that season, they landed the 12th overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. A trade with the Milwaukee Bucks netted them the 15th overall pick, as well.
Let’s start with this, the 2006 NBA Draft sucked. No need to be subtle here. There have been multiple draft classes over the past twenty years where possessing two top 15 picks in the first round would have been incredible, this just wasn’t one of them. However, there were a few late round gems: Rajon Rondo (21st overall), Kyle Lowry (24th overall, and Paul Millsap (47th overall). It’s just that the Pelicans did not select any of these players, quite the opposite of them actually.
With the 12th overall pick, they selected Hilton Armstrong out of the University of Connecticut. Armstrong played four years of college ball and started just 1 game in his sophomore and junior seasons combined. That may have been a red flag. But he did average 9.7 rebounds, 6.6 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks in his senior year. Still, those numbers don’t exactly jump out at you, do they?
Perhaps his contribution could not be measured in just the box score alone. Or his career averages in New Orleans of 3.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 0.5 blocks tell you all you need to know. They kinda do, don’t they? This selection wasn’t exactly David West at 18th overall back in 2003.
Maybe the 15th overall pick would be their saving grace. With this selection, they chose Cedric Simmons out of Michael Jordan‘s alma mater, the University of North Carolina. Putting those two in the same sentence just won me $20. Simmons, just like Armstrong, played center in college. That’s a weird draft strategy, or maybe New Orleans was trying to recreate the ’86 Rockets twin towers, Sampson and Olajuwon.
Armstrong played 209 games with New Orleans, Simmons played 43 before being traded. There’s not a lot of substance here, both picks bombed. Their second round selection, Marcus Vinicius, played in just 26 contests (starting in zero) before exiting the NBA. Tough follow up year to the Chris Paul selection.