We're approaching the end of 2010 and you know what that means, a new year of hope for Hornets fans, a new year's resolution for Trevor Ariza to hit a higher percentage of his jumps hots and, also, a closing of the chapter for the first decade of the new millennium. And what a millennium it was. In the last ten years we saw the invention of iPods, the crescent city connection, and everything in between. And when a decade passes, what else is more fun to commemorate than to create top ten lists? So here, today, I'll bring you the top ten Hornets of the last ten years. Now, this list isn't going to be full of star studded names, what franchise can really afford ten superstar players in one decade, but it will have recognizable names that some of us fans may have forgotten. So without further adieu, I bring to you the ten greatest Hornets of the last ten years*.
* For the record, the statistics will not be exclusive to the past ten years but will be exclusive to the player's performance during years spent with the Hornets.
Honorable Mention: Robert "Tractor" Traylor (2001-2004: 201 Games, 4.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 60.0 FT Pctg., 46.3 FG Pctg.) - Okay, as the author I'm allowed to do whatever I want on this list. The Tractor was one of my guilty pleasures as a Hornets fan. He was a poor man's Glen Davis before Glen Davis was a rich man. The Tractor mainly rode the bench for the Hornets his three years with the team, but he was always a fun player to watch and, although I don't have much justification, I'd like to honorably mention one of my favorite forgotten Hornets: The Tractor.
10. Darren Collison (2009-2010: 76 Games, 12.4 PPG, 5.7 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.0 SPG.)
Marcus Thornton (2009-Present: 92 Games, 13.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.4 APG.) - One of Jeff Bower's greatest moves during his tenure with the Hornets, the selections of both Collison and Thornton will link them together; at least for the current future. In a year marred by injuries, inconsistency, poor coaching and what Monty Williams must see as the worst defensive performance of his life, Collison and Thornton were the only bright spots during last season's otherwise very difficult year. Collison stepped in as a first round rookie and supplanted Chris Paul during CP3's injury in ways that almost gave people the idea that Paul was expendable. Instead, once Paul was healthy, Collison was traded during the offseason to acquire Trevor Ariza. In Thornton's case, he was a 2nd round pick who the Hornets traded with Miami to acquire his rights. During last year he found a way onto the NBA All-Rookie Second Team, set a franchise record for most points scored in a quarter and, supposedly, solidified the shooting guard position for the Hornets. This year hasn't been as promising for Thornton, and time will tell whether he can recapture last season's form, but their performance last season deserves them mention on the top ten list.
9. David Wesley (1997-2004: 522 Games, 14.7 PPG, 4.7 APG, 2.6 RPG, 1.5 SPG) - The shooting guard position that Thornton supposedly solidified was left open a few years ago by the departure of David Wesley, an undrafted player who the Hornets acquired in free agency in 1997. Wesley was a terrific shooter known for his toughness and his ability to hit clutch shots for the Hornets. After the team selected Baron Davis, Wesley moved from the point guard position to the shooting guard position, where he played for the remainder of his years with the Hornets. Wesley stayed with the team until 2004, when the team's horrible start and tough injury problems prompted a fire sale which resulted in Wesley's being traded to Houston.
8. Jamaal Magloire (2000-2005: 343 Games, 9.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.2 BPG) - The Big Cat, drafted by the Hornets in 2000, is one of the few Hornets to represent the team in the All Star Game dudring this past decade. Making the Eastern Conference All Star Team in 2004 as a center, Magloire played five seasons with the Hornets without missing a game, until that dreaded 2004/2005 season where he missed 59. Magloire, known for his stellar defensive performances while with the team, held down the center position until he was traded in the 2005 offseason to Milwaukee.
7. Peja Stojakovic (2006-2010: 219 Games, 14.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.3 APG) - A familiar face for recent Hornets fans, Peja was a prized target for the Hornets in the 2006 free agency period. On the day that teams could contact players, Hornets GM Jeff Bower and coach Byron Scott were waiting to sign Peja and eventually did to a 5 year contract. While Peja's 69 games missed in his first year with the team were a telling sign, Peja eventually became a key contributor for the recent period of success for the Hornets team. Probably most famous for his Peja heads and his terrific, terrific 2008 season with the team, Peja's jump shot and his success with it were both a thing of beauty. Peja was recently traded in the last year of his contract to Toronto last month.
6. Tyson Chandler (2006-2009: 197 Games, 10.2 PPG, 11.3 PPG, 1.4 BPG) - Tyson Chandler is probably one of the most beloved players in Hornets history; certainly in recent history. Acquired via trade in the 2006 offseason, Chandler immediately became the team's starting center and developed an impressive rapport with point guard Chris Paul. Armed with incredible athleticism, terrific shot blocking and great man defense at the center position, Chandler's unique assets and subsequent spike in production after playing with Paul finally allowed him to live up to his lofty draft selection in 2001. Nagging injuries resulted in a difficult 2009 season for Chandler and his injuries all but helped speed up the decline for the Hornets that season. In an embarrassing move for the team, the Hornets tried to trade Chandler to Oklahoma City for expiring contracts during that 2009 season, only to see Oklahoma City back out because of Chandler's physical. He was eventually traded that following offseason to the Charlotte Bobcats.
5. P.J. Brown (2000-2006: 475 Games, 9.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.7 APG) - A Louisiana native who the Hornets acquired via trade in 2000, P.J. immediately became one of the more public figures for the team in 2002 when the Hornets relocated to New Orleans. A quiet, tough figure who was a solid player in his own right, P.J. could be counted on for solid defense, consistent production and for his health. P.J. was the only Hornet to play in all 82 games during that aforementioned 2004/2005 season. Eventually traded to Chicago in the Tyson Chandler trade, P.J.'s time with the Hornets included a Citizenship Award from the league in 2005.
4. Jamal Mashburn (2000-2004: 217 Games, 21.0 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.0 SPG) - Mr. Wayne Keller's personal favorite all-time Hornet, Monster Mash was always a talented athlete whose ultimate effectiveness was always halted by constant injury problems. Therefore, it seems fitting that his years with the Hornets were plagued by the same issues. When he was healthy, Mash was a point forward for the team and was very successful in that role, serving as the team's closer in many late game situations. In fact, Mashburn's best year as a pro, and ironically the only year in which he played all 82 games, was the Hornets first year in New Orleans. Mashburn missed playoff games in 2003 due to injury, missed all but 19 games due to injury in 2004, and didn't play at all in 2005 before being traded to Philadelphia. Mashburn never played again after that 19 game stint in 2004 but his years with the Hornets land him at the number four spot on our countdown.
3. Baron Davis (1999-2005: 381 Games, 15.3 PPG, 6.7 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.9 SPG) - One of the few polarizing figures in New Orleans Hornets land (joining J.R. Smith and Jim Jackson), Baron Davis was the number three overall pick in the 1999 NBA draft by the Hornets. After being brought along slowly by then coach Paul Silas, Davis appeared in the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest and subsequently exploded onto the scene in his third year with the Hornets. The team signed Davis to a huge contract extension the year the team was relocated to New Orleans. After signing the extension, Davis, who had played all 82 games the first three years of his career, suffered recurring back and knee problems that caused him to miss a majority of his stint in New Orleans. After publically demanding a trade in 2004 and then clashing with new Coach Byron Scott in 2005, Davis was benched and then eventually traded to Golden State. However, Davis was hugely productive (although not entirely efficient) during his stint with the Hornets and he's still annoying fans for, eventually, the Warriors and the Clippers since his stay with the Hornets.
2. David West (2003-Present: 487 Games, 16.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.9 APG) - The currently longest tenured Hornet, West was the franchise's first round draft selection in the famed 2003 NBA Draft. The only Hornet to be with the team when the franchise was still in the Eastern Conference, West actually blew up during the Hornets two year stint in Oklahoma City and continued that production with two consecutive all star game appearances once the team returned to New Orleans for the 2008 season. Armed with a deadly mid range game and a desire to succeed at all times, West immediately became the recipient of many pick and roll passes from CP3 and became the Hornets closer in late game situations. His future with the team is currently in doubt, but West is one of the few current Hornets that make the top ten list.
1. Chris Paul (2005-Present: 373 Games, 19.1 PPG, 10.0 APG, 4.7 RPG, 2.4 SPG) - One of the other current players on the countdown, it should come as no surprise that Paul tops the list of the top ten Hornets of the last ten years. Paul's selection came following that horrible 2005 season and came shortly before the team was forced to relocate to Oklahoma City for two seasons following Hurricane Katrina. Paul subsequently exploded onto the scene and immediately gave Hornets fans reasons for hope. Paul won the 2006 Rookie of the Year Award, won an Olympic Gold Medal in 2008, was runner up to the NBA MVP award that same year, set an NBA record for most consecutive games with a steal and has become one of the most recognizable figures in the game. Paul is easily the greatest Hornet to ever play for the team and his importance both to the Hornets and to the city of New Orleans should never be understated. Paul's recently become a controversial figure since last year after missing a majority of the 2010 season due to injury, publically criticizing the team for firing Byron Scott, and reportedly requesting a trade this past offseason. However, Paul's past, current and future success with the Hornets should never be understated and that's why he tops the list of the top ten Hornets of the last decade.