You’re in your second semester of AP Basketball History, you love really good teams, and you love lists. With precious little drama left in the NBA’s 2015 offseason, why don’t we hit the barroom and/or barbershop, pour ourselves a frosty mug of Barbicide, and get to arguin’ over each franchise’s most formidable starting five-man lineup.
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Because we don’t like making tough decisions, the lineups will reflect the All-NBA line of thinking. There will be no differentiation between separate forward and guard positions, and the squads will be chosen after careful consideration of individual merits only – we don’t really care if your team’s top shooting guard and point guard don’t get along.
These rankings will roll out based on when each franchise began its NBA life. We continue with the Charlotte Hornets, who are still trying to convince us that teal looks good.
First, an explainer.
We are going by the NBA’s rules, here. We’re pretending that the New Orleans Hornets never existed, and only including players from both the 1988-2002 run, and the term that began when the NBA gave Charlotte an expansion team in 2004.
Initially we were going to try a different approach, but because the Charlotte Bobcats’ history is so ruddy awful and because the Charlotte Hornets are technically “the Charlotte Hornets” again, we’re going to pretend like the New Orleans Pelicans were an expansion team that started up business in 2002, and that the Charlotte basketball team isn’t at all an expansion team that started its own journey in 2004 (even though it totally is).
All these years later, and George Shinn is still making life needlessly complicated for everyone.
C: Alonzo Mourning. In the days before max contracts, Mourning chafed at the understanding that the small market Hornets would never be able to pay him as much as (or, if we’re honest, “more than”) fellow star Larry Johnson, so he initiated a trade in the weeks before the final year of his contract with the Hornets. That unhappy ending can’t take away from what Mourning accomplished in just three years with the team, averaging over 21 points and 10 rebounds with three blocks while helping send the Hornets into the second round of the playoffs with a game-winning jumper in Game 5 of the team’s first ever playoff series against Boston.
F: Glen Rice. Rice was the consolation prize in the deal that sent Mourning to Miami, and a pretty good one at that. In the modern era teams wouldn’t send a ready-made All-Star in return for a player who was clearly going to turn into a free agent, so the Hornets did well to stay competitive behind Rice’s touch. A workhorse scorer and three-time All-Star with the team, Rice led the NBA with a 47 percent three-point percentage in 1996-97 (on a shorter line, but still …) while averaging nearly 27 points per game that season.
F: Gerald Wallace. Crash elbowed his way into this list by acting as the sort of expansion draft pick everyone hopes for. A second-contract sorta guy who couldn’t crack a veteran rotation, still raw enough to develop on the expansion team’s dime but still young enough to be a crucial member of the team when it finally breaks through to the playoffs. The Best Charlotte Bobcat Ever averaged 16.4 points and 7.5 rebounds in six and a half seasons with the team alongside a combined three blocks/rebounds before being traded in a salary-saving move for two picks (Tobias Harris and Shabazz Napier) that the team would never see. It was a very Bobcat way of ending things.
G: Dell Curry. The sharpshooter played over 700 games with Charlotte but started just under a season’s worth of contests with the team. Despite playing just 25 minutes a contest, he still remains the franchise’s all-time leading scorer and a Charlotte legend. Curry managed 14 points per contest in that limited time while hitting on 40 percent of his shots from behind the arc.
G: Muggsy Bogues. This isn’t a courtesy pick, or a legacy nod. Bogues averaged 8.8 points and 8.8 assists with the Hornets, alongside 1.7 steals in 31 minutes a game. He’s doubled up the second place Raymond Felton as the team’s all-time assists leader, and he managed to do his work while racking up an astounding 4.88 assist-to-turnover ratio.
In his prime and before his back injury, Larry Johnson was more of a force than Wallace, and he ranks just 32 points behind him and 81 rebounds ahead of him in Charlotte’s all-time ranks despite playing nearly a season’s worth fewer games, but longevity and all-around play count here. If you’d like to switch out LJ for Crash, go ahead – this was a late decision.
David Wesley was also a solid hybrid guard that kept a rookie named Baron Davis out of the starting slot during Baron’s initial campaign, and he merited consideration. Davis eventually blossomed into an All-Star in his final year with the Hornets, but his too-brief run fell short in comparison to Curry and Bogues.
Emeka Okafor was a solid force on both ends with the Bobcats, but his work over five years just couldn’t elbow its way past Alonzo’s work over three. Vlade Divac was exactly what the Hornets needed in 1996 (maybe not in exchange for Kobe Bryant, but let’s not dwell on that), but he only stayed with the team for two seasons.
Similarly, swingmen Jamal Mashburn and Eddie Jones (traded for each other in 2000) both enjoyed very good stints with the team, but in the endless turnover between the squad’s varying eras they just didn’t stick enough to outlast the mainstays like Bogues, Curry, and to a lesser extent Rice.. The same goes for Kemba Walker and, get ready to shudder, Raymond Felton.
Anthony Mason played just three seasons with the team, but he was a double-double machine that often saw the ball run through his hands at point forward. Mase averaged 4.8 assists per game in his time with Charlotte. Meanwhile, Kendall Gill spent four strong seasons with the team during two different stints, and the two-way shooting guard just missed the cut behind Bogues.
That’s our five. Who are you going with?
Previous entries: Golden State. Boston. New York. Detroit. Sacramento. Los Angeles Lakers. Atlanta. Philadelphia. Washington. Chicago. Houston. Seattle/Oklahoma City. Phoenix. Milwaukee. Los Angeles Clippers. Cleveland. Portland. Utah. Brooklyn. Indiana. San Antonio. Denver. Dallas.
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