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Building the Greatest Hornets Team of All Time

Published: September 16, 2010

ESPN has put up a fun little tool that allows you to build the Greatest Hornets Team of all time.  Therefore, it’s time for me to make my picks and then defend them here.

First, I decided I needed to apply rules.  I settled on three completely arbitrary ones:

  1. I’m building a team, not just a pack of rampant scorers.  There has to be some balance.
  2. I’m not putting Grandmama and Alonzo Mourning on the same team.  Oil and Water, they were.  Not going to have this team ripped apart.
  3. I’m only considering what the player did as a Hornet.  Peja’s amazing years in Sacramento?  LJ’s injury years in New York?  I don’t care.

That decided, I took each of the players offered up by ESPN as the choices, and added in some advanced stats for each to help me (and you) make decisions.

We’ll start at the 1, since that’s the first number and stuff.

Point Guard
Player True Shooting % Assist Rate Steal Rate Turnover Rate
Muggsy Bogues 50.6 40.3 2.7 17.5
Baron Davis 50.2 38.2 2.8 14.3
Chris Paul 57.0 46.8 3.4 13.2

Apologies to the delightful Muggsy and that git Baron, but this one is easy.  Chris Paul in a landslide.

In 22 years, the Hornets have really managed to put together quite a crew of Point Guards.  In fact, other than the three years David Wesley served as the starting point guard between Bogues’ departure and Baron’s sophomore season, this has always been a position of strength for the team.

Still, even if CP3 departs in the next two years, he’ll have put up one of the most amazing runs in NBA history.  Bogues may have a lot more longevity, and Davis may have had a lot more bad hammies and “injuries”, but neither of them can match the impact CP3 has had with the Hornets.

Shooting Guard
Player True Shooting % Assist Rate Steal Rate Turnover Rate
Rex Chapman 48.2 14.8 1.5 9.0
Dell Curry 53.7 15.2 2.0 10.1
Kendall Gill 50.1 20.0 2.4 13.9
David Wesley 52.2 24.3 2.2 14.1

While point guard is a position of strength, the shooting guard spot has always been a gaping wound in the Hornets’ lineup.  All four of these contenders had awful flaws to go with their strengths.  Only Eddie Jones ever made this spot a strength, but he only lasted two seasons, and for this exercise, you need at least three, so we’re left with this less than perfect crew.

Kendall Gill was the best defender and athlete of the bunch, but he couldn’t shoot to save his life.  Rex Chapman was inefficient as hell.  Dell Curry only started 60 games over a dozen seasons because the only thing he could do was shoot threes and defend poorly.  The Hornets tried to replace David Wesley every year, but never found a player who unseat the rather average, undersized guard.

In the end, I have to make a choice, and it boils down to Wesley or Curry.  On this team, with Paul running the point, I have to go with the amazing shooter.  Dell Curry is the choice, by a hair.  Let’s hope Thornton heals this wound in years to come.

Small Forward
Player True Shooting % Rebound Rate Assist Rate Turnover Rate
Jamal Mashburn 50.2 9.2 23.2 11.5
Johnny Newman 56.8 5.2 11.1 12.6
Glen Rice 58.9 6.5 10.2 9.7
Peja Stojakovic 55.2 7.3 6.0 6.9

Peja has been old and injured a lot as a Hornet, so we can discard him fairly easily.  Newman was an solid scorer who put up numbers on a really bad team, but did nothing else well, so he can also go out the door.  That leaves this decision between Mashburn and Glen Rice, and for me, it’s not Glen Rice in a slam dunk, like I think it will be for many of you. 

Neither player were Hornets for a long time.  Rice had three years, and Mashburn had four, though two were marred by injury.  Both players had their Career season as a Hornet.   The decision comes down to a classic dilemna:  Versatility or specialty?

  • Jamal Mashburn was good at a lot of things.  He could score, rebound and pass.   He was, however, a very inefficient scorer who had to have the ball in his hands to be effective.
  • Glen Rice could score and shoot the damn lights out.  Passing and rebounding weren’t just optional, they were accidental for him.

So who did I go with?  In the end, I can’t ignore Glen Rice’s insane ’96-’97 season as a shooter. (60.5 TS%!!!)  You put a shooter this skilled next to Chris Paul, and Hornets fans would have repeated scoregasms.  Besides, Paul will cover for him as a rebounder and passer.

Power Forward
Player TS % Rebound Rate Assist Rate Block Rate Turnover Rate
PJ Brown 52.2 15.8 8.2 2.3 12.2
Anthony Mason 57.1 14.9 19.4 0.6 14.3
David West 54.2 13.3 10.7 2.0 10.4
Larry Johnson 56.2 14.2 16.3 0.9 11.8
Player TS % Rebound Rate Assist Rate Block Rate Turnover Rate
Alonzo Mourning 58.9 15.9 6.1 5.7 14.8
Elden Campbell 50.3 14.3 9.1 4.1 11.8
Tyson Chandler 61.1 19.2 4.1 3.4 17.1
Jamaal Magloire 54.3 17.2 5.2 3.3 16.8

This is where my simple rules come most into play.  To me, Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning are the best at their individual positions.  However, after the way things went down with Mourning being unable to get past Johnson’s contract or alpha dog role, I am not going to put them on the same team again.  So which to choose?  That’s hard.   To me, they are equivalent as far as impact on the team.  So my decision ends up boiling down to who I’d have to pair LJ or Mourning with if I left the other guy out.

To start off, let’s discard the non-contenders:

  • Elden Campbell is out.  He was skilled, but he was slow and soft.  Sorry big guy.
  • Jamaal Magloire is out.  He had a vicious mean streak and rebounded well, but he made Elden Campbell look fleet of foot.  I’m not saddling CP3 with him.
  • Anthony Mason is out.  His numbers are great, but he was so bad defensively, I can’t take him.

That leaves us with the following pairings:
PJ Brown and Alonzo Mourning – As much as I love PJ Brown, I can’t go with this one.  They were actually paired in Miami, and did some damage in the playoffs, but neither shot that well outside of the post or could pass at all.

David West and Alonzo Mourning – This is intriguing.  West can pass a little, and Mourning would be perfect for limiting West’s defensive deficiencies.  However, the pair would struggle with the boards and with Rice already not contributing there, that could be a problem.  This pairing’s greatest benefit is scoring punch – but with CP3, Curry and Rice, I’m not sure that’s a need.

Larry Johnson and Tyson Chandler – In the end, this is the one I went with.  I’m still convinced that Tyson Chandler was the Hornets 2nd best player three seasons ago.  He is the best rebounder to ever wear a Hornets jersey, and his post defense was stellar.  He’s also the most efficient scorer (yes, I know on few attempts) that the Hornets have ever had.  You team him with Larry Johnson, and this front line will lead the league in dunks, primal screams, fast break points, and athleticism.  It is also good to remember that LJ could stroke it, displaying a very nice mid-range shot, and could even knock down threes.  This pairing has everything you’d want – good defense, (though not much shot blocking) good rebounding, vicious finishers on the pick and roll with Paul, LJ’s passing . . .  and the idea of a five man fast break with Paul in the middle, LJ and Chandler running to the basket, and Curry and Glen Rice running to the three point line?  Wow.

So my lineup:

PG: Chris Paul
SG: Dell Curry
SF: Glen Rice
PF: Larry Johnson
C: Tyson Chandler

What is your lineup?  Click over to ESPN’s tool, and let us know in the comments!

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