Pelicans

Top 5 Foreign-Born Players in New Orleans History

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As the NBA has grown in popularity over the years, so has the amount of foreign-born players entering the league. Last year’s (and probably this year’s) MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was born in Greece, and last year’s ROTY Luka Doncic was born in Slovenia. These are just two current-day examples on top of the countless legends like Hakeem Olajuwon, Manu Ginobili and Dirk Nowitzki.

Below is a top-five list of the best foreign-born players in New Orleans Pelicans/Hornets franchise history. The rankings are determined by stats, seasons spent with the team, accolades accomplished while on the team, and playoff success.

Honorable Mentions

Buddy Hield (Bahamian)

  • Seasons with New Orleans: 2016-2017
  • Stats: 8.6 PPG / 3 RPG / 37% 3pt
  • Game Highs: 21 points / 7 rebounds / 5 3PM
  • Games Started: 37 of 57 games
  • Playoffs Made: 0
  • Accolades: 2016-17 All-Rookie First Team, December Rookie of the Month

Buddy Hield was drafted by the Pelicans 6th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. Being a Wooden award (the NCAA award for best college basketball player) recipient, Hield was expected to make an immediate splash on the Pelicans roster alongside Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. Buddy was later traded to the Kings in February of his rookie season in exchange for All-Star DeMarcus Cousins.

Alexis Ajinça (French)

  • Seasons with New Orleans: 2013-2018
  • Stats: 6 PPG / 4.7 RPG / .7 BPG
  • Game Highs: 28 points / 15 rebounds / 5 blocks
  • Games Started: 70 of 222 games
  • Playoffs Made: 1 (2015: Lost 4-0 to Golden State)
  • Accolades: None

Alexis Ajinça was signed by the Pelicans in 2013. He signed a multi-year contract in 2015 and remained with the team until he was traded in 2018 to the Clippers for Wesley Johnson. His best game as a Pelican came against the Lakers in 2016 with 28 points and 15 rebounds.

5. Nikola Mirotić (Spanish / Montenegrin)

  • Seasons with New Orleans: 2018-2019
  • Stats: 15.7 PPG / 8.2 RPG / .8 RPG
  • Game Highs:  36 points / 16 rebounds / 5 3PM
  • Games Started: 33 of 62 games
  • Playoffs Made: 1 (2017: Won 4-0 over Portland, Lost 4-1 to Golden State)
  • Accolades: None

The Pelicans acquired Mirotić from the Bulls in February of 2018 in exchange for Tony Allen, Omer Asik, Jameer Nelson, and a 2018 first-round pick. He had a big impact in the 2018 playoffs, starting all nine games and averaged 15 PPG alongside AD. With Nikola, the Pelicans won their first playoff series in 10 years. Mirotić was later traded to the Bucks in a three-team trade, netting the Pels Stanley Johnson and a second-round pick.

4. Greivis Vásquez (Venezuelan)

  • Seasons with New Orleans: 2011-2013
  • Stats: 11.6 PPG / 7.4 APG / 3.5 RPG
  • Game Highs: 27 points / 16 assists / 5 steals
  • Games Started: 104 of 144 games
  • Playoffs Made: 0
  • Accolades: 2012 December 30th POTW, League Leader in Assists 2012-2013 (704 assists)

Vásquez joined the New Orleans Hornets in 2011 when he was exchanged for Quincy Pondexter. In his second season with the team, he led the league in total assists with 704, averaging nine per game. Vásquez paired with rookie AD in that season and the Hornets went 27-55 with the fourth-worst record in the NBA. At the end of the season, he was dealt in a three-team trade in exchange for Tyreke Evans.

3. Marco Belinelli (Italian)

  • Seasons with New Orleans: 2010-2012
  • Stats: 11 PPG / .6 SPG / 39% 3pt
  • Game Highs:  27 points / 10 rebounds / 7 3PM
  • Games Started: 124 of 146 games
  • Playoffs Made: 1 (2010 : Lost 4-2 to Los Angeles)
  • Accolades: None

Belinelli came to New Orleans in a trade with the Raptors in exchange for Julian Wright. Marco was the 18th pick in the 2007 draft and had only 3 years of experience when joining the Hornets. In his 2 seasons with the team, he made 241 three pointers at 39%. Unfortunately, his shooting did not carry over when matched against Kobe Bryant in the 2010 playoffs. He shot 36% from the field and 30% from 3. As a free agent, Belinelli joined the Chicago Bulls the following offseason.

2. Jamaal Magloire (Canadian)

  • Seasons with New Orleans: 2002-2005
  • Stats: 12 PPG / 9.5 RPG / 1.5 BPG
  • Game Highs:  27 points / 22 rebounds / 7 blocks
  • Games Started: 186 of 187 games
  • Playoffs Made: 2 (2003 : Lost 4-2 to Philadelphia) (2004 : Lost 4-3 to Miami)
  • Accolades: 2004 NBA All-Star, April 2004 POTM, 2004 April 11th POTW

Jamaal Magloire is the only player on this list to play for both the Charlotte Hornets and the New Orleans Hornets. He was selected 19th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 2000 NBA Draft and two years later, the team relocated to New Orleans. He led New Orleans to their first playoff appearance in franchise history in 2003. Magloire was an all-star in 2004, averaging 13.6 PPG and 10.3 RPG. In the 2004 All-Star game, he had a team-high 19 points for the East team. He also went back to the playoffs for a 2nd straight year with the Hornets. Jamaal was traded at the beginning of the 2005 season for Desmond Mason and a 2006 first round pick (Cedric Simmons).

1. Peja Stojaković (Serbian / Greek)

  • Seasons with New Orleans: 2006-2010
  • Stats: 14.3 PPG / 4 RPG / 40% 3pt
  • Game Highs: 42 points / 13 rebounds / 10 3PM
  • Games Started: 204 of 219 games
  • Playoffs Made: 2 (2008 : Won 4-1 over Dallas, Lost 4-3 to San Antonio) (2009 : Lost 4-1 to Denver)
  • Accolades: 1x Southwest Division Champ, 2007-2008 Leader in FT% (92%)

Peja Stojaković is without a doubt the best foreign-born player in New Orleans history. He was traded to the Hornets in 2006 for Andrew Betts. The sharpshooter made 553 three-pointers in five seasons with New Orleans at 40% shooting. Stojaković led the Hornets to their first playoffs series in three years and won the first playoff series in franchise history over the Mavericks. In the 2008 playoffs, he averaged 14 PPG on 55% three-point shooting. The Hornets then lost in the next round to Tim Duncan and the Spurs in seven games. The Hornets and Peja split when he was traded to the Raptors for David Anderson, Marcus Banks and Jarrett Jack.

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About Brian Hunter Vollman

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