NBA - SOUTHWEST
Arena: Smoothie King Center
Coach: Willie Green
2021-2022 TEAM LEADERS
New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans Pelicans Summary
The New Orleans Pelicans were formerly the Charlotte Hornets, an expansion team that joined the NBA for the 1988-89 season and later moved to New Orleans in the 2002 offseason. When the franchise switched its name to the Pelicans, an expansion team in Charlotte worked a deal to adopt the Hornets name again and take ownership of the history of the team prior to the move.
The Pelicans are trying to get back to the postseason for the first time since the 2017-18 season, but injuries may be a factor in that quest. All-Star forward Zion Williamson broke his foot in the 2021 offseason and is expected to miss part of the 2021-22 campaign, and New Orleans is entering its first season under head coach Willie Green, who has never held an NBA head coaching job before.
New Orleans Pelicans History
Owner George Shinn moved the Charlotte Hornets to New Orleans prior to the 2002-03 season, unhappy with the situation in North Carolina regarding a new arena and having lost most of his public support in the area. The team was competitive in its first two seasons after the move, making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, though both postseason appearances ended with first-round losses.
The team switched to the Western Conference for the 2004-05 season to even out the conference memberships as the Charlotte Bobcats began to play in the Hornets’ former city. The bottom dropped out for the team, as it traded All-Star guard Baron Davis midway through the campaign and finished with just 18 wins, missing the playoffs for the first time since moving to Louisiana.
A couple of major changes happened the following season, with the Hornets having to relocate to Oklahoma City after the damage caused to the New Orleans area by Hurricane Katrina. The move lasted two seasons, with the team being temporarily known as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.
The other change was the addition of point guard Chris Paul in the 2005 NBA Draft. Paul was the No. 4 pick and earned Rookie of the Year honors in his first professional season. Byron Scott was named the team’s head coach, and an improvement of 20 games came in that first season with the two with the team.
The 2007-08 season saw the team able to move back to New Orleans, and it was a very successful campaign, with the Hornets winning their first division title and returning to the postseason. Paul and forward David West were named All-Stars, while forward Peja Stojakovic was a major contributor as well. New Orleans also won its first playoff series, defeating the Dallas Mavericks in the first round before falling to the San Antonio Spurs in the conference semifinals. Scott earned Coach of the Year honors for the season.
Another postseason berth came the following season, though it ended in a first-round loss. When the Hornets started slowly in 2009-10, the team fired Scott, a move that didn’t sit well with Paul. With Paul hurt for much of the season, the Hornets missed the playoffs.
The point guard was healthy and an All-Star again in 2010-11, leading the Hornets back to the postseason. A first-round loss came despite a great series by Paul, but it was the last games he would play for the franchise, as he was dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2011 offseason.
A pair of seasons outside of the playoffs followed, though 2012 brought the arrival of the No. 1 overall pick, forward Anthony Davis. The big man took off in his second season, averaging a double-double, and the following season, he led the newly-named Pelicans to the postseason.
New Orleans struggled the next two seasons, failing to reach the 35-win plateau, but it all came together in 2017-18, with the team improving to 48 victories and not just making the playoffs but advancing to the conference semifinals for the second time. Alvin Gentry was the team’s head coach at this time, and the Pelicans had a solid 1-2 punch on the front line with Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. Unfortunately, Cousins suffered a torn left Achilles and had to have season-ending surgery in late January.
Cousins left as a free agent in the 2018 offseason, and Davis was hampered by a finger sprain in January 2019, informing the team during that time that he wouldn’t be signing back with the team as a free agent and requesting a trade. Things were contentious the rest of the season after the team didn’t deal him at the trade deadline, though Davis got his wish in the 2019 offseason, as he went to the Los Angeles Lakers for a package that included Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart, as well as three first-round picks.
The silver lining was the Pelicans winning the 2019 NBA Draft lottery and earning the right to select Zion Williamson with the No. 1 overall pick. Williamson was hampered by injuries that limited him to just 24 games, but Ingram had a breakthrough season, earning the league’s Most Improved Player award. The team missed the postseason and are still looking for their first playoff berth with the new group of players.
2021-22 Key Stats
The Pelicans begin the 2021-22 season under the eighth head coach in franchise history, Willie Green, who has plenty of experience with runs to the NBA Finals, having been an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns, who have four of the last five Western Conference titles.
New Orleans is hoping to get Zion Williamson back on the court after he missed the final few games of the 2020-21 season, then broke his foot in the offseason. The team is also plugging in some new pieces, as guard Devonte’ Graham has joined the Pelicans to try to replace the outgoing Lonzo Ball.
Championships Won by the New Orleans Pelicans
There have not been a lot of championships in the brief history of the New Orleans franchise, with the team winning just two playoff series in its first 19 years of existence. The Hornets do have a division championship during that time, winning the Southwest Division crown in 2007-08.
That same season brought a Coach of the Year honor for head coach Bryon Scott, the only one won by a Hornets coach. Two years prior to that, Chris Paul had the only Rookie of the Year award in franchise history.
Brandon Ingram won an individual award for the team in 20019-20, when he was named the league’s Most Improved Player.
Important Team Events
A pair of high draft picks were solid selections for the Hornets, but their subsequent trades from the team changed the team’s fortunes as well.
Chris Paul was the No. 4 pick of the 2005 NBA Draft, and he made an immediate impact on the then-Hornets, winning Rookie of the Year honors and leading the team to its first postseason series win just two years later. Paul was a perennial All-Star, but the fear that he would leave the team as a free agent without any compensation found the team trading him away in the 2011 offseason.
New Orleans hit the lottery in 2012, earning the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft and getting the chance to select Anthony Davis out of Kentucky. Davis helped the team to its second postseason series win in 2018, but he decided he wanted to move on and was traded in the summer of 2019. Although the team got a number of players from the Los Angeles Lakers in the deal, the Pelicans haven’t reached the postseason since.
The hope of the postseason was renewed by New Orleans winning the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft in 2019, as the team got the coveted prize of Zion Williamson. Unfortunately, entering the 2021-22 campaign, Williamson has played just 85 games in two seasons and is expected to miss part of his third season as well.
A point guard is one of the most important things to have in the NBA, and for six seasons, New Orleans had one of the best in the game in Chris Paul. Drafted No. 4 in 2005, Paul was the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in his initial professional season and is still the Pelicans’ all-time leader in assists, steals, and triple-doubles. Paul was a three-time All-NBA selection and played in four All-Star Games in his time in New Orleans.
Anthony Davis was the top pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, and he lived up to the hype in his seven seasons in a New Orleans uniform, finishing as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer and averaging 23.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game for his career with the team. Davis earned All-NBA and All-Defensive nods in three seasons with New Orleans and was named to the All-Star Game in his last six seasons with the team.
Byron Scott became the New Orleans head coach prior to the 2004-05 season and helped guide the team through the difficult time of relocation to Oklahoma City for two years. After three seasons outside of the playoffs, Scott was at the helm as the Pelicans won their first postseason series in 2008, earning Coach of the Year honors, and then got the team back to the playoffs again in 2009. After five-plus seasons with the team, Scott was the all-time leader in regular-season and playoff victories for the franchise.
Alvin Gentry spent five seasons as the head coach of the Pelicans, making the playoffs just once, but that postseason trip was memorable. New Orleans won a playoff series for just the second time, advancing to face the Golden State Warriors in the conference semifinals in 2018 before falling to the eventual NBA champs. Gentry is second on the franchise’s all-time list of coaching victories.
Frequently Asked Questions
Anthony Davis scored 11,059 points in his seven seasons with the Pelicans, the most in franchise history.
Chris Paul won the NBA Rookie of the Year award in 2005-06, the only player in franchise history to do so
The Pelicans have never won an NBA title, with the conference semifinal round being the farthest the team has advanced in the postseason, doing so in 2008 and 2018.
Byron Scott won 203 regular-season games as the coach of the Pelicans, the most in franchise history.
The Pelicans have picked No. 1 in the NBA Draft twice, taking Anthony Davis (2012) and Zion Williamson (2019).