The Hornets have done a nice job drafting pieces to fit onto their roster in the past five years but have struggled to find the franchise player teams need to make that jump out of the lottery. Charlotte’s had 11 picks since 2011 — seven in the first round and four in the second. Among those seven first round picks, five came within the top ten, and two in the top five.
The Hornets seem to be a pretty decent team this year, surviving the loss of swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the key signing of Nicolas Batum last summer. How have they whiffed so badly on potential within the lottery? Could this be the year the Hornets — with all that lottery talent — finally make the playoffs?
In 2011, Charlotte had two first round picks and one second rounder. At ninth overall, the Hornets took Kemba Walker, hoping he’d be their point guard of the future after winning a National Championship the previous April. Walker has been a pretty good player, but doesn’t looking like the starting point guard on a top team and could be better served as a sixth man off the bench.
The Hornets traded away their 19th overall pick in February 2011 as part of the shipping off of forward Gerald Wallace and only got back Dante Cunningham, Joel Przybilla and Sean Marks in a cap-dumping deal. Their lone second-round pick, 39th overall, was used on Jeremy Tyler — who they promptly traded to Golden State for cash considerations.
The next year, the Hornets had their highest selection during this five-year span, selecting Kidd-Gilchrist at the second overall pick. Kidd-Gilchrist was a project, having everything you want in an NBA swingman except a broken jump shot. He’s developed it a bit since entering the league but remains a below average shooter in this pace-and-space era of the NBA. But, he has played a big part in what Charlotte does defensively, which is why he inked a 4-year, $52-million contract this past August.
Jeff Taylor was their second round pick at 31st overall. He has been a nice depth piece for the Hornets — another defensive-minded wing who struggles to create anything offensively. After Kidd-Gilchrist recently tore his labrum and dislocated his shoulder in a preseason game, leaving him out all season, Taylor has had an opportunity to show some growth, but he’s still a non-factor on the offensive side of the floor.
In Charlotte’s 2013 draft, they had another top five pick, taking big man Cody Zeller at 4th overall. Zeller is skilled offensively, but lacks the size, length and bulk of a typical NBA big man, so he’s struggled defensively at times. But Zeller’s activity level allows him to be effective on the offensive end, where he has a nice touch around the basket. The Hornets traded away their second rounder for Byron Mullens in December 2011, so that’s rather disappointing.
Taking on Ben Gordon’s contract in June 2012 gave the newly named Hornets another first-round selection, and they selected big man Noah Vonleh, whom they promptly traded to the Blazers this past June — along with Gerald Henderson — for swingman Nicolas Batum. Charlotte traded away its 16th pick when taking on forward Tyrus Thomas from the Bulls in February 2010.
The Hornets turned traded the No. 24 they got from Gerald Wallace deal in February 2011 into P.J. Hairston (26) overall and Semaj Christon (55) a 2019 second-round draft choice and cash considerations. Big man Dwight Powell was their lone second-round pick at 45th overall but was traded weeks later to Cleveland. This draft was another disappointment for owner Michael Jordan and Charlotte.
Charlotte turned down Boston’s six picks to select big man Frank Kaminsky, who should have a role in this league for years to come with his versatile skill set. The Hornets also traded their second round pick, 39th overall swingman Juan Vaulet, to Brooklyn. We’ll see how Kaminsky develops in his career, so it’s hard to judge the Hornets on this pick until further down the line.
It’s safe to say the Hornets have made some questionable decisions throughout the years. Michael Jordan made a statement by taking Kaminsky among trade offers to move into the top ten this past year. Hopefully, the Kaminsky selection is the beginning of Charlotte turning the corner through the draft, but it’s hard to say the Hornets have done even an adequate job the past five years when considering where the selections have been and the other trades made.