The Pelicans are in an interesting position for fielding an all-time starting lineup. Because they moved to New Orleans from Charlotte in 2002, I have to make a decision on whether or not to include players from the Charlotte years. Since the actual Charlotte Hornets are back, I’ll keep this as a New Orleans team as a tribute to the city where I went to college. Also, as a tax for how much better the Jazz name fits for New Orleans than Utah, this all-time starting five will also include the New Orleans Jazz. Now that we’ve set the parameters, let’s begin.
PG – Chris Paul
Sorry Baron Davis, but this one was easy. While Chris Paul often lacked support in New Orleans, he played some of his best basketball for New Orleans. Even if it never translated into deep playoff runs, Paul’s performance for the Hornets between 2007 and 2011 were stellar both offensively and defensively, with him racking up points, assists and steals in droves (His 2008-09 season was simply incredible). There’s no one else who even comes close.
SG – Pete Maravich
Believe it or not, this one was tough. I do fall into the group of people who believe that modern NBA players are generally better than older players. There are a number of reasons: more scouting reaching more players, better nutrition, and improved training and medicine. Among all of the advances to the sport, it’s hard not to lean towards newer players who’ve had those advantages. However there are some older players who have a special talent that translates better to the modern game than it did in their own time.
Maravich’s jump shot is exactly such a talent. Maravich took a total of 15 three-pointers in his career, as it was only introduced in his final season. He made 10 of them. I don’t think this rate would hold up on a larger sample size, but Maravich could drop 20 percentage points and still be a great three-point shooter. He’d make a perfect floor-spacing shooting guard for this team.
SF – Jamal Mashburn
I chose Mashburn over Peja Stojakovic because I wanted another player who could create his own shot in case defenses focused on Chris Paul. I also felt more comfortable with him covering the other all-time small forwards, and he was a more all-around player than Peja.
PF – Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis already put up an all-time level season last year, and now it’s time to see if he can hang with the big boys. His PER last season was good for 11th in league history, and the only three players to have better PER seasons than his were LeBron, Wilt and Jordan. PER isn’t the end-all, be-all of player analysis, but Davis’s season last year is in pretty good company, and the only Pelican/Hornet who’s had a season as good as Davis last year is Paul.
C – Tyson Chandler
Chandler is our defensive anchor in the middle, and the team needs him to hold down the paint with Davis if they want to be competitive with other all-time teams. The perimeter defense of Maravich and Mashburn likely won’t be up to par in such a high-caliber league, and Chandler will be frequently called on to help on drives to the basket. On offense, he’ll do much of the same of what he did with Paul: finish on dishes and lob passes, and not a whole lot else. If he fills this role adequately, he’ll do a lot to bring the pieces of this team together and help make them more competitive.