Our NBA Tuesday miniseries takes on a weird franchise this week: the New Orleans Pelicans. This team started out in 2002 when the original Charlotte Hornets moved to Louisiana—but did so in expansion fashion, leaving the team history behind in North Carolina. So, the Pelicans we treat as they are: an expansion team that has been named the New Orleans Hornets (2002-2005, 2007-2013), the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets (2005-2007), and the Pelicans.

After Hurricane Katrina, the team needed to split its time in Oklahoma for logistical reasons. This, of course, laid the foundation for the Seattle SuperSonics to eventually move. Either way, this New Orleans organization has 9 playoff appearances in 21 seasons, without ever winning much. The team has one division title (2008), and it has never reached the Western Conference Finals. In fact, seven playoff berths resulted in first-round series defeats. It’s a rough history.

No. 5: 2008-09 New Orleans Hornets

With a 49-33 record, the Hornets finished fourth in the Southwest Division and made the playoffs on the strength of No. 5 defense. However, the offense was a pedestrian 26th out of 30 teams, resulting in an overall No. 13 ranking in the SRS. In a top-heavy Western Conference, no losing team won more than two games in the first round, and the Hornets fell victim to the Denver Nuggets in five games. After dropping the first two on the road, New Orleans only won Game 3.

Point guard Chris Paul (18.3 WS) was dynamic in leading this team, as befitting his overall career profile that is very underrated by alleged experts. Only one other player on the roster, power forward David West (7.8 WS), even topped 4.6 Win Shares, so this was a one-dimensional roster, for sure. The Hornets lost those first two postseason games in Denver by a combined 44 points, but the home win by two points in Game 3 was the closest game in the series by far. Strange.

No. 4: 2017-18 New Orleans Pelicans

A 48-34 record earned this team second place in the Southwest Division; the Pelicans were No. 3 on offense but just No. 29 on defense. That quirky combo contributed to a No. 12 finish in the SRS overall. In the first round of the postseason, though, New Orleans was able to sweep the Portland Trail Blazers. The celebration was short lived, however, as the defending and eventual champion Golden State Warriors took out the Pelicans in five games during the second round.

Twenty three players suited up for New Orleans during this regular season, led by power forward Anthony Davis (13.7 WS) and PG Jrue Holiday (7.1). Overall, 11 guys notched at least 1.0 WS, but that’s not a lot of depth when you break it down. In sweeping the Blazers, the Pels outscored them by 9.0 ppg, and only Game 1 in Portland was really a “close” one. However, the Warriors only dropped Game 3 on the road in eliminating New Orleans from playoff advancement.

No. 3: 2002-03 New Orleans Hornets

The “first” team in franchise history posted a 47-35 record to grab third in the Central Division. The Hornets were just 19th in offense (out of 29 teams), but they were No. 5 on defense. Overall, the team was 14th in the SRS, though, which is not very good. Yet New Orleans was able to push the Philadelphia 76ers to six games in the first round before succumbing. The Hornets won Game 3 at home and Game 5 on the road before dropping Game 6 at home by 4 points.

This was an aging roster with a three-headed monster atop the pile of bodies: PF P.J. Brown (10.2 WS), small forward Jamal Mashburn (9.0), and shooting guard David Wesley (7.0). The 76ers only outscored the Hornets by 1.7 ppg, so this matchup was actually pretty competitive. Five of the six games were decided by single-digit margins, as only New Orleans’ Game 3 win was a “blowout” in the double digits. But 76ers star Allen Iverson scored 34.8 ppg to dominate.

No. 2: 2022-23 New Orleans Pelicans

With just a 42-40 record, this team didn’t quality for the postseason, as it lost the season finale to drop into the play-in tournament—promptly losing its first game at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder and getting eliminated. The Pelicans were second in the Southwest Division, though, with the No. 15 offense and the No. 9 offense. That combined to produce the No. 11 overall ranking in the SRS. Thus, there was some underperformance here on the court, obviously. Darn shame!

Thirteen players on this team posted between 1.3 and 7.6 WS—so there was no truly dominant player on the roster. That hurts in must-win games, of course. SF Trey Murphy (7.6) and C Jonas Valančiūnas (5.8) were the top dogs, however. In the season finale on the road against Minnesota, the Pelicans shot just 3-for-21 from downtown in a 5-point loss, and against OKC at home, New Orleans committed 11 turnovers and 23 fouls in another 5-point loss. Tough times, for sure.

No. 1: 2007-08 New Orleans Hornets

These Hornets set the franchise record for wins (56) as they romped to the Southwest Division title. The No. 9 offense and the No. 5 defense combined to produce a Top 5 finish in the SRS rankings. In the first round of the playoffs, New Orleans needed just five games to finish off the Dallas Mavericks, and then the Hornets had to face the San Antonio Spurs, the defending champs. New Orleans pushed San Antonio to seven games before losing by nine points on its home court.

Four guys led the way here, prominently: Paul (17.8 WS), center Tyson Chandler (10.0), West (8.4), and SG Peja Stojaković (8.1) formed a pretty great core for this roster. Yet there was not much depth behind the quartet. The Hornets outscored the Mavs by 8.8 ppg, so that was a comfy margin. The Spurs were the champs, though, and the two teams were evenly matched (both scored 92.1 ppg in the full series). Home teams won each time out—until Game 7, unfortunately.