The Charlotte Hornets were one of the three winners in the NBA Draft Lottery, jumping from the sixth spot, based solely on record, to the right to make the third overall pick.
It will be the seventh time in the franchise’s split history in Charlotte that the team has made one of the top three picks in the draft, and the results have been mixed.
Among the success stories were 1991, when the first overall pick brought the team Larry Johnson, and the following year, when Charlotte took Alonzo Mourning second overall.
In 1999, Charlotte took Baron Davis third overall, and in 2004, the then-Bobcats selected Emeka Okafor second.
That quartet combined for five All-Star games and two Rookie of the Year awards while in Charlotte.
The last two lottery picks, however, haven’t been quite as solid. Adam Morrison, chosen third overall in 2006 — with JJ Redick, Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry and Rajon Rondo all available — played just 122 games in three injury-plagued seasons with Charlotte.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, picked second overall in 2012 ahead of Damian Lillard and Draymond Green, averaged double figures just twice in seven-plus years with the franchise, and once was in a season when he was limited to seven games due to injury.
The Hornets will be looking to get back to the lottery success of the late 20th century this time around, as they pick after Minnesota and Golden State. Here’s a look at the top candidates to be on the board when Charlotte goes on the clock.
Anthony Edwards, Georgia: The one-and-done shooting guard is the least likely to fall to the Hornets. Most mocks have him going first overall, although CBSSports.com’s latest projections have him going to Charlotte third overall. He averaged 19.1 points and 5.2 rebounds for the Dawgs, but he struggled with his shot. His first step and “mature, NBA body” have garnered praise from scouts.
James Wiseman, Memphis: The center didn’t get much of an opportunity to show his skills at the collegiate level, battling eligibility issues and eventually leaving the team in December. The 7-foot-1 man in the middle is likely to go second in the draft, but several mocks have him dropping to Charlotte. Despite his size, he’s not a throwback paint player. He has quick feet and athleticism, and he is dangerous in transition.
LaMelo Ball, Australian professional league: Buckle up, Charlotte. There’s a good chance that the latest member of the Ball family is still available when the Hornets are ready to pick. Will Michael Jordan pull the trigger on the promising point guard who comes with plenty of family baggage? Any team that takes Ball also gets his father, LaVar, who is outspoken, to say the least. Among other things, he boasted that he would “kill” Jordan in a one-on-one game, which alone might be enough reason for MJ to bring the Ball circus to Charlotte.
While he hasn’t been seen much, having left high school to play pro ball overseas, Ball the player may make it worth the trouble of Ball the sideline dad. He’s a 6-foot-6 point guard who can make plays and is deadly from deep.
Obi Toppin, Dayton: The power forward is a strong inside player who led the nation in dunks for Dayton. He’s also a stretch four who hit 39% of his threes last season. The biggest downside is that he’s already 22, which is getting up there in NBA Draft years. But he would fit in well on Charlotte’s roster and be a solid building block. He wouldn’t be the sexy pick for the Hornets, but he might end up being the right one.
The field: While the draft may not be “wide open,” there are certainly some promising players that could jump into the top three depending on their performances in workouts and on Charlotte’s internal scouting.
It’s a deep draft for point guards. If the Hornets bypass Ball, or he’s taken in the top two, they could go with France’s Killian Hayes or Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton. Hayes likely has the higher ceiling, but at age 19, it could take a while for him to develop. Both are accurate from three.
Deni Avdija, a small forward from Israel, is the top international player in the draft. Also 19, he’s got plenty of potential but also room to grow.
Auburn forward Isaac Okoro and USC center Onyeka Okongwu are both solid players, although likely not potential home-run picks.