Has Chris Paul replaced Anthony Davis as greatest player for New Orleans Pelicans? | Marcase
As the NBA playoffs continue, the teams with true championship mettle begin to emerge.
The same thing holds true for the title of greatest New Orleans Pelican in franchise history.
The current NBA franchise in New Orleans moved to the city in time for the 2002-03 season. Basketball fans in the city, Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast were blessed as the Hornets team that moved from Charlotte was filled with talent, notably Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn. It also had who I still consider the best coach the team has had since moving to New Orleans – Paul Silas, who was surprisingly fired after that first year despite finishing 47-35.
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Tim Floyd replaced Silas and lasted one year as the team finished 41-41.
Silas and Floyd are the only two coaches in New Orleans’ modern history without a losing record.
Byron Scott replaced Floyd and lasted five seasons before being fired nine games into the 2009-10 season.
However, Scott did guide the franchise to its best season, 2007-08, when the Hornets finished second in the Western Conference at 56-26. They coasted to a first-round series win over Dallas before losing in seven games in the Western semifinals to San Antonio.
The undisputed leader of that team was Chris Paul, who is reminding everyone in this year’s playoffs how great he remains as a player and leader.
In the process, Paul makes more than a compelling case as the greatest player in New Orleans’ franchise history, reclaiming the mantle from Anthony Davis.
It is easy to forget just how good Paul was for the Hornets, and what the team accomplished with him. Heck, it is rather easy to forget he even called New Orleans home, but he did for the first six seasons of his career, although the first two came while the franchise played in Oklahoma City following Hurricane Katrina.
Maybe that is why Paul would likely finish no better than third or fourth if you were to poll fans who follow the Pelicans about the greatest players in team history.
Davis, despite how he exited, would finish No. 1. David West, who holds the franchise record for seasons (8), games played (530), games started (438) and minutes (17,160) would likely be second. Jrue Holiday, who was traded last offseason to Milwaukee, might even finish ahead of Paul.
But it is hard to argue with what Paul accomplished with the Hornets/Pelicans, and what he continues to accomplish.
No matter who wins the other Western Conference semifinal between the top-seeded Jazz and Clippers, the Paul-led Suns might be the favorites in the West.
Whereas Davis has had a checkered career when it comes to injuries in the regular season – he has never played every game in a season in his seven years as a pro, Paul’s maladies turn up in the playoffs. During the 2018 Western Conference finals, thanks in large part to Paul’s play, the Rockets led Golden State 3-2, but Paul injured his hamstring late in the Game 5 win. Without Paul in Games 6 and 7, the Warriors won both en route to sweeping Cleveland in the NBA Finals.
Paul, in his first year with Phoenix, where he is helping mentor budding super star Devin Booker, has been stellar – and injury free thus far. In closing out Denver on Sunday, Paul scored 37 points to go with seven assists, and Booker added 34 points and 11 rebounds. In his second year as Phoenix’s coach is Monty Williams, who was fired after five seasons with the Pelicans, where he coached Davis for the first three years of AD’s career.
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Should this finally be the year Paul advances to the NBA Finals, New Orleans basketball fans would do well to reassess the impact he made on the franchise. Look at what it accomplished with Paul and look at how it has floundered since he was traded to the Clippers.
When you do that, and look at where Paul resides in the franchise record book for points (third), games played (third), assists (first), steals (first), minutes played (third), one could make the case the greatest Pelican/Hornet is CP3 and not AD.
John Marcase is a former assistant managing editor and sports editor of The Town Talk. He writes a weekly column.