The New Orleans Pelicans are one of the newer franchises in the NBA. New Orleans debuted as the Hornets in the 2002 season but became the Pelicans in 2012.
In the Pelicans short history, they have had some great draft picks. However, they have also whiffed on some of their picks, and, with their short franchise history, they haven't selected ten star-caliber players.
With that said, here are the ten best Pelicans drafted picks in franchise history.
10. Brandon Bass
Brandon Bass was a solid role player throughout his NBA career. New Orleans took Bass with the 33rd overall pick in the 2005 draft. Bass only spent two seasons with the team before bouncing around between the Dallas Mavericks, Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Clippers.
The six-foot-eight forward and center averaged 8.7 points and 4.5 rebounds during his career. Bass was known for being a great defender, and that's how he made his impact in the league. He was also a solid mid-range scorer, but the main part of his game was his defense.
Although Bass only played two seasons after being drafted by New Orleans, he was a quality role player around the league and one of their top ten draft picks.
9. Herb Jones
Herb Jones is one of the more recent draft picks, as New Orleans selected him in the 2021 draft with the 35th overall pick. While Jones is young and only two seasons into his career, he is one of their top draft picks.
Jones has averaged 9.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in his two seasons. He has shot 46.9 percent from the field and 33.5 percent from three. Jones earned All-Rookie Second Team Honors in the 2021-22 season.
He is an elite defensive forward and has been solid on offense. Jones has become a crucial part of the Pelicans core. He signed a four-year $54 million deal with New Orleans in the offseason to keep him on the team long-term. Jones has the potential to grow as an offensive player even more, and with a new deal, he could move up the list if he develops more.
8. Marcus Thornton
Marcus Thornton is another second-round pick that the Pelicans hit on. Thornton was taken with the 43rd pick in the 2009 NBA draft and had a solid NBA career. He only played two seasons with New Orleans before journeying around the NBA with the Sacramento Kings, Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, and Washington Wizards.
Thornton had a great rookie season with the Pelicans, earning All-Rookie Second-Team Honors. He averaged 14.5 points and 2.9 rebounds while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and 37.4 percent from three in his rookie campaign.
Thornton was a good scorer and shooter throughout his career. His best seasons came with the Sacramento Kings. In the 2010-11 season, New Orleans traded Thornton to Sacramento, and he went on to average 21.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.7 steals in the 27 games to finish the season with the Kings. He was able to be somewhat efficient in that bigger role, shooting 45 percent from the floor and 36.1 percent from downtown.
Although Thornton only spent two seasons with the Pelicans, he was a solid NBA role player and had a few seasons as a high-quality scorer.
7. Darren Collison
The Pelicans took Darren Collison with the 21st overall pick in the 2009 draft. Collison came into the league and was an instant contributor, earning All-Rookie First-Team Honors. He is another player who spent a short amount of time with New Orleans, as he was traded following his rookie season.
Collison averaged 12.4 points, 5.7 assists, and a steal per game during his rookie campaign. He shot 47.7 percent from the field and 40 percent from behind the arc. Collison became a quality point guard in the NBA as a solid playmaker, efficient scorer, and good defender.
In addition to New Orleans, he spent time with the Indiana Pacers, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings, and three games with the Los Angeles Lakers. Collison was a great role-playing point guard throughout his career. While his time in New Orleans was brief, he went on to make an impact across the league.
6. Buddy Hield
The Pelicans took Buddy Hield with the 6th overall pick in the 2016 draft. Hield only played half of a season with New Orleans before being the centerpiece of a trade for Demarcus Cousins with the Sacramento Kings. He earned All-Rookie First-Team Honors with his quality rookie season.
Hield has gone on to be one of the best three-point shooters in the league. Hield has averaged 16.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in his career while shooting 43.4 percent and 40.2 percent from three.
He has made the second-most three-pointers since he came into the NBA in 2016, only trailing Stephen Curry. Hield won the three-point contest in the 2020 season. He ranks 29th in All-Time three-pointers made with only seven seasons played in the league. He will continue to climb the ranks as his career progresses.
Although Hield only played a half-season with the Pelicans, he has become one of the best shooters in the league and has made an impact for the Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers.
5. J.R. Smith
New Orleans took J.R. Smith with the 18th pick in the 2004 draft. Smith is another player on this list who only spent two seasons with NOLA. However, Smith had a very successful NBA career, playing for the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, and Cleveland Cavaliers, and six games with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Smith averaged 12.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and one steal during his 16-year career. Smith's career statistical season came in the 2012-13 season with the New York Knicks, where he averaged a career-high 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds.
However, Smith's most impactful season came in 2015-16 with the Cavaliers, as he helped LeBron James and Kyrie Irving come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals to win a championship.
His career accomplishments include two NBA titles and a Sixth-Man of the Year award. Smith didn't spend a ton of time with New Orleans but was impactful for many teams during his long career.
4. David West
David West was the 18th overall pick by New Orleans in the 2003 draft. West had a long fifteen-year career and spent eight seasons with the Pelicans. Unlike many players on this list, West had his prime while with New Orleans.
West's best season came in the 2008-09 season, averaging 21 points and 8.5 rebounds, shooting 47.2 percent. West was a solid defender in his career, but his strength was as an offensive focal point. He was a good player for New Orleans before moving on to the Indiana Pacers. With the Pacers, West was a solid contributor and helped Paul George on a few playoff runs.
In the final two years of his career, West adjusted to becoming a role player for the Golden State Warriors with championship aspirations. He was rewarded as he played his role and was able to win back-to-back championships with the Warriors before retiring.
He earned two All-Star appearances in his career with New Orleans and had a great NBA career.
The Pelicans took Zion Williamson with the first overall pick in the 2019 draft. Williamson has been phenomenal when he has been on the court. However, Williamson has struggled to stay healthy.
Williamson has averaged 25.8 points, seven rebounds, and 3.6 assists in his career, shooting 60.5 percent and 34.3 percent from downtown. He is a dominant forward who can score at will in the paint. He is very athletic and tough for opposing defenses to stop. Williamson has spent his entire career thus far with New Orleans and has earned All-Rookie First-Team Honors and two All-Star appearances.
The knock on Williamson is his struggle to stay on the court. He has the talent to be one of the best players in the NBA and could move up higher on the All-Time Pelicans list if he can stay healthy.
New Orleans took Anthony Davis with the first overall pick in the 2012 draft. Davis is another very accomplished NBA player that the Pelicans drafted. Davis earned All-Rookie First-Team Honors, putting up solid numbers before breaking out the following season. He spent his first seven seasons with the Pelicans before being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Davis's career accolades include being an eight-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA, four-time All-Defensive, and a three-time Blocks Champ. He also won an All-Star Game MVP in the 2016-17 season, was a member of the NBA 75th Anniversary Team, and won a championship with the Lakers in 2020.
Davis has averaged 24 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.3 blocks in his 11-year career. He has shot 51.9 percent from the field and 30 percent from three.
Davis was the franchise player for New Orleans and played at a high level, but they didn't have enough around him to compete for a title. This led to his trade request, which was granted. While some Pelicans fans hate Davis for asking out, he is still their second-best draft pick in franchise history. Davis is one of the best bigs ever, and if he can stay healthy, he will continue to add to his resume.
1. Chris Paul
New Orleans selected Chris Paul with the fourth overall pick in the 2005 draft. Paul is one of the greatest point guards in league history and spent his first six seasons in NOLA. He earned All-Rookie First-Team Honors with his excellent rookie season and won Rookie of the Year. He averaged 16.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 7.8 assists, and 2.2 steals during his rookie campaign.
Paul has had a storied career with so many accolades. He is a 12-time All-Star, 11-time All-NBA, nine-time All-Defensive, six-time Steals Champ, and five-time Assists Champ. Paul was also the 2012-13 All-Star Game MVP and a member of the NBA 75th Anniversary Team, which included the top 75 players of all time. A championship is the only thing missing on Paul's Hall of Fame resume. He will look to accomplish that in his new role with the Golden State Warriors.
Whether or not Paul wins a championship, he is New Orleans' best draft pick ever.
The Pelicans don't have ten All-Stars in their draft history like more storied franchises. However, they have drafted some Hall of Fame players in their brief history. New Orleans will look to add more great draft picks throughout the years to come.