I love good basketball, which is why I especially appreciate a high caliber of talent when I’m watching the sport. This has contributed to my inability to enjoy watching the Charlotte Hornets and the Bobcats before the name change. It’s why I prefer watching teams like Golden State, San Antonio and others. When I go to Hornets’ games it’s usually to watch other teams and when NBA stars come to the Queen City.
However, I still want to believe there’s hope for Charlotte. This has been my home since February of 2015, and I’ve lived in North Carolina since 2002. I want to get behind the team, but I’m afraid it’s going to keep letting me down. It’s like trust. For example, when we sit down in a chair we expect it to hold our wait and support us, so we can relax. We don’t expect it to collapse, which is why we’re surprised when it does.
The Hornets are like that chair that surprises us when it collapses, because the expectation is for them to usually be a playoff caliber team. But they usually come crashing down or start hot before falling out of the race as the season progresses.
Players and coaches definitely have responsibility, because it’s the coaches’ job to put the players in position to succeed and players need to make plays. At the same time, it’s the job of the general manager to build and the front office staff to build a team through making good draft picks, trades, contract negotiations and free agent acquisitions.
This is why I put the bulk of the responsibility and blame on general manager (GM) Rich Cho, who joined the franchise in 2011-12. Hornets’ owner Michael Jordan also is culpable. It ultimately all falls on Jordan, because Cho answers to him. The GM is empowered by the owner to make personnel decisions that impact the makeup of the roster, which affects how the team is able to operate on the floor.
Charlotte has been making bad draft day decisions and personnel choices long before Cho was hired as the franchise’s GM to replace Rod Higgins, who was promoted to president of basketball operations, a he stepped down from in 2014. Higgins, who became Charlotte’s GM in 2007 was preceded by Bernie Bickerstaff.
Here’s a rundown of Charlotte’s first round draft history since 2004 when the Bobcats joined the Association as an expansion team all the way through the name change of the franchise and the 2016 draft.
2004 NBA Draft
Charlotte selected Connecticut power forward Emeka Okafor No. 2 overall. The Bobcats passed on Ben Gordon, Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala, Al Jefferson, Josh Smith, J.R. Smith and Tony Allen.
2005 NBA Draft
Charlotte selected North Carolina duo Raymond Felton No. 5 overall and Sean May No. 13 overall. The Bobcats passed on Charlie Villanueva, Channing Frye, Gerald Green, Jarrett Jack and David Lee.
2006 NBA Draft
Charlotte selected Gonzaga wing Adam Morrison No. 3 overall. The Bobcats passed on Tyrus Thomas, Randy Foye, Rudy Gay, J.J. Redick, Thabo Sefolosha and Rajon Rondo.
2007 NBA Draft
Charlotte selected North Carolina power forward Brandan Wright No. 8 overall, then traded him to Golden State for Jason Richardson and the draft rights for Jermareo Davidson. The Bobcats also drafted Jared Dudley No. 23 overall, but passed on Joakim Noah, Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young, Rodney Stuckey, Nick Young, Marco Belinelli, Wilson Chandler, Aaron Brooks Arron Afflalo and Tiago Splitter.
2008 NBA Draft
Charlotte selected Texas point guard D.J. Augustin No. 9 overall and French center Alexis Ajinca No. 20 overall. The Bobcats passed on Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez, Marreese Speights, Roy Hibbert, JaVale McGee, Courtney Lee, Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum and George Hill.
2009 NBA Draft
Charlotte selected Duke shooting guard Gerald Henderson No. 12 overall, but passed on James Johnson, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson.
2010 NBA Draft
No first round pick.
2011 NBA Draft
Charlotte selected Connecticut point guard Kemba Walker No. 9 overall. The Bobcats passed on Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Reggie Jackson and Jimmy Butler.
2012 NBA Draft
Charlotte selected Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist No. 2 overall. The Bobcats passed on Bradley Beal, Dion Waiters, Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond and John Henson.
2013 NBA Draft
Charlotte selected Indiana power forward Cody Zeller No. 4 overall. The Bobcats passed on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, C.J. McCollum, Kelly Olynyk, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Dennis Schroeder, Mason Plumlee and Rudy Gobert.
2014 NBA Draft
Charlotte selected Indiana power forward Noah Vonleh No. 9 overall and Miami drafted Texas Legends wing and former North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston for the Hornets. Charlotte passed on Elfrid Payton, Doug McDermott, Zach LaVine, T.J. Warren and Rodney Hood.
2015 NBA Draft
The Hornets selected Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky No. 9 overall. Charlotte passed on Justise Winslow, Myles Turner and Devin Booker.
2016 NBA Draft
Charlotte selected Syracuse guard Malachi Richardson No. 22 overall, but traded him to the Sacramento Kings for wing Marco Belinelli.
2017 NBA Draft Preview …
We’re less than five hours from the start of the NBA Draft, and will know what Charlotte has done to hopefully enhance the makeup of its team in its quest to return to the playoffs with the goal of one day competing for a world championship. Some of us might be elated with what the Hornets decision makers decide to do, while others be beating their heads against the wall in a show of disgust by Charlotte’s choice. The Hornets have the opportunity to improve the franchise or continue its history of poor draft day decisions.
This week’s acquisition of Dwight Howard via a trade that sent forward Miles Plumlee, Belinelli and the 41st pick to Atlanta for the former All-Star center and the 31st pick meets Charlotte’s need for a true inside presence, rim protector, rebounder and shot-blocker. Hornets’ coach Steve Clifford believes Howard is still an All-Star talent.
Charlotte still has needs to meet and a perimeter scorer, who is a reliable outside shooter that can alleviate pressure from Walker is arguably the most visible need. The NBA Draft Lottery didn’t do much to help the Hornets, because the probability that most of the elite small forwards, wings, shooting guards and combo guards will be taken by the time it’s their turn to make a pick at No. 11 is great.
However, that doesn’t mean they can’t improve their perimeter scoring during tonight’s draft. The best case scenario for Charlotte is for Kentucky shooting guard Malik Monk to fall to the Hornets. It’s unlikely for the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Arkansas native, who will likely go between No. 6 and No. 10, to fall, but it’s possible. The Hornets’ brass would be foolish to pass on the dynamic scorer, who can light it up from behind the arc and get to the rim.
Another possibility, though unlikely as well, is for N.C. State point guard Dennis Smith to fall to the Hornets. His draft projection is similar to Monk’s. Smith, an explosive, physical, powerful, high-rising, 6-foot-2 and 195-pound product of Fayetteville, N.C. can score from anywhere and create for others. He could play behind Walker as he develops or could be paired with the veteran All-Star in the Hornets’ backcourt depending on how well he can contribute as a rookie.
Belgium native Frank Ntilikina, a 6-foot-5, 190-pound point guard, who played in France, could possibly fall to Charlotte, too. He would provide backcourt depth and length at point guard, but Ntilikina will likely go in the top 10, too.
If the Hornets aren’t able to land one of those three, especially Monk, then Duke’s Luke Kennard might be their best option. The 6-foot-6, 195-pound sharpshooting two guard, who arguably should have been ACC Player of the Year instead of North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, might be an even better shooter than Monk. His athleticism has been questioned by some, but the prospect from Ohio makes up for that with his lethal shooting from three-point range, ball-handling, passing and high basketball IQ. He has a knack for getting open, moving without the ball and finding his shot.
Everyone, from front office management to fans alike, should be more than pleased if Charlotte ends up with Kennard.
Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell is another option for the Hornets. The 6-foot-2 and 210-pound combo guard is touted by many as one of the best athletes in the draft. He can score, handle the ball, distribute and defend, but the concern surrounding him is how he’ll match up with bigger perimeter oriented players that have a significant size advantage and can shoot over him.
The 11th pick might be too early to use on Jackson, a 6-foot-8, 200-pound wing from UNC. However, people know what they’re getting in Jackson, who is a smart, disciplined player with a deft midrange game and outside shot. He can score at a high level, runs the floor, passes well and uses his length to frustrate opponents on the defensive end.
It would be unnecessary and fail to meet the need for a wing that adds perimeter scoring, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Hornets select another post player and a white 7-footer at that. Draft scuttlebutt surrounding Charlotte is the Hornets might pick Gonzaga center Zach Collins or Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen, a talented stretch four from Finland. Neither would be a bad choice, but it would add to the same type of personnel Charlotte already has in Howard, Zeller, Kaminsky, Marvin Williams and others.
Again, to draft one of them or another big man would likely fail to meet the Hornets’ need for a small forward, wing, shooting guard or combo guard that provides a legitimate scoring threat from the perimeter to support Walker. However, the possibility of drafting Duke combo guard Frank Jackson, if he’s still available at the start of the second round, would be a major steal for the Hornets. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Utah native is a talented floor general, who also can play off the ball, and proved himself as a dynamic scorer for the Blue Devils with his ability to drive the ball, attack the rim and shoot from outside.
Some other possibilities would be for Charlotte to trade up or down or its pick away to get a quality NBA veteran starter or proven up-and-coming talent.
For example, New York Knicks’ president Phil Jackson has made it clear he’s open to trade Kristaps Porzingis. Charlotte is an unlikely destination for the multitalented 7-foot-3 stretch four, but Jackson has clearly expressed his displeasure and frustration with Porzingis ever since the forward from Latvia skipped his exit meeting after New York’s season ended. It would take a big-time offer from Charlotte to land him, making the trade unlikely but not impossible for the Hornets.
It also has been reported that San Antonio is shopping forward LaMarcus Aldridge to get a lottery pick. The Spurs also might be open to trading veteran wing Danny Green, who is a consistent outside shooter and capable scorer when he’s hot.
Another possibility would be to trade down to the Los Angeles Lakers for their picks at No. 27 and No. 28. It would give the Hornets another first round pick, but the caliber of talent among perimeter players appears to take a dip after those who are projected to go in the lottery. So, the decision to trade down would have to come with something more for it to seriously benefit Charlotte in a positive way. However, Terrance Ferguson, a native of Flower Mound, Texas, who played professionally in Australia might be available, while Duke’s Jackson, Oklahoma State point guard Jawuan Evans, Kansas State’s Wesley Iwundu and Colorado’s Derrick White might be left on the board.
This draft arrives with much potential to help Charlotte move in the right direction as a franchise, but it also comes with the chance for the Hornets remain an average team that continues in their trajectory toward the purgatory of mediocrity and possibly a more permanent abyss of insignificance.