It's fair to say that we're all pretty bored with this season and, actually, pretty interested in the Hornets' upcoming draft selections. This will be the team's first lottery pick in a couple of years and after the implosion of the Hornets franchise which has seen them trade future assets (Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton) to maintain the status quo, trade superstar Chris Paul and let David West walk in free agency when the status quo was unattainable and then see a complete overhaul over that span of the coaching staff, ownership and front office, it's safe to say that pressure is on Dell Demps to achieve some success with his two selections in this season's pending NBA Draft. Entering a very pivotal point in franchise history, the team needs to respond accordingly with a solid pick that can pay immediate dividends here. Since the Hornets have a short history, I'm able to go back and look at every one of their lottery picks. And since I have nothing to do at the moment, now seems as good a time as any to start it. So let me begin the Charlotte/New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets' history with lottery picks.
1988: Rex Chapman, SG, University of Kentucky, 8th overall (220 Games, 175 Starts, 16.2 PPG, 2.9 APG, 2.8 RPG, 78.8 FT Pctg., 32.0 3PT FG Pctg., 42.3 FG Pctg.) - The first player ever signed in Hornets history, Rex Chapman was the franchise's first draft pick before their expansion 1988-89 NBA Season. Chapman was immensely popular right away, as he was a fantastic shooter and was actually a pretty solid dunker coming out of college. The Hornets didn't achieve much success while Chapman was here, but he did participate in two Slam Dunk Contests and finished tied for 2nd in the 1990 contest. Chapman would start to suffer from injuries in his third year with the Hornets, and the team quickly traded him during the 1991-92 season to the Washington Bullets for Tom Hammonds.
1989: J.R. Reid, PF, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 5th Overall (325 Games, 187 Starts, 9.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.1 APG, 70.6 FT Pctg., 46.3 FG Pctg.) - Coming off the first season in franchise history, the Hornets obtained the 5th overall pick and selected a North Carolina player (making the Charlotte fans happy) to man down the center position. Although undersized for center, Reid played pretty well for the Hornets before they moved him to a more natural power forward position in his second season. After his second season, the Hornets moved Reid to the bench for Larry Johnson. After Johnson's great rookie season, Reid was eventually traded during the 1992-93 season to the San Antonio Spurs for Sidney Green, a 1993 1st Rounder and a 1996 2nd Rounder. Reid would eventually resign with the Hornets in 1997 and was a pivotal bench player for a Hornets team that made the conference semifinals in 1998 before being traded midway through the 1998-99 season with Glen Rice and B.J. Armstrong to the Los Angeles Lakers for Eddie Jones and Elden Campbell.
1990: Kendall Gill, SG, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 5th Overall (266 Games, 218 Starts, 15.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.5 SPG, 77.2 FT Pctg., 27.1 3PT FG Pctg., 45.9 FG Pctg.) - Gill was taken out of the University of Illinois in 1990 and immediately stepped in as the Hornets starting shooting guard. Participating in the Slam Dunk Contest his rookie season, Gill was a very effective scorer and efficient starter for the Hornets. He was still on the team when they made the conference semifinals in 1993 but was eventually traded to the Seattle Supersonics for Eddie Johnson & Dana Barros. He would be traded back to the Hornets for Hersey Hawkins and David Wingate in a brief stint in 1995-96. He was then traded, again, this time with Khalid Reeves to the New Jersey Nets for Kenny Anderson and Gerald Glass.
1991: Larry Johnson, PF, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 1st Overall (377 Games, 372 Starts, 19.6 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 4.1 APG, 77.1 FT Pctg., 34.7 3PT FG Pctg., 49.6 FG Pctg.) - When drafted in 1991, Larry Johnson immediately become the star for a Charlotte Hornets team that seemed to be lacking one. A prodigy at UNLV, Johnson immediately stepped up in his rookie season, winning the Rookie of the Year award and leading the Hornets in scoring and rebounding. Eventually, Grandmama would become a pivotal player for some mildy successful Hornets teams in the early 90s before suffering a major back injury in his third season. While recovering from the back injury, Johnson developed a long range shot but his rebounding and low post play suffered and he was eventually traded to the New York Knicks for Anthony Mason and Brad Lohaus in the 1996 offseason. Johnson, however, is probably best known for signing his twelve year, 84 million dollar contract while with the Hornets (the largest deal in NBA history at the time), which led to heated contract talks with Alonzo Mourning that would eventually result in Mourning being traded and the team breaking up its nucleus.
1992: Alonzo Mourning, C, Georgetown University, 2nd Overall (215 Games, 214 Starts, 21.3 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 3.2 BPG, 1.3 APG, 76.8 FT Pctg., 51.2 FG Pctg.) - Lucking into this position, the Hornets actually had to overcome long odds to obtain the 2nd overall selection in the 1992 draft. After consensus number one Shaquille O'Neal was drafted by Orlando, the Hornets took Alonzo Mourning and took off. Immediately in Mourning's rookie season, the Hornets made their first postseason appearance in franchise history and made it to the conference finals on a terrific moment in Hornets history during the 1993 playoffs, where Mourning hit a fall-away 20 footer to upset the historic Boston Celtics and advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. However, after seeing the deal that Johnson got, Mourning demanded that much money and was eventually shipped, with LeRon Ellis and Pete Myers to the Miami Heat for Glen Rice, Matt Geiger and Khalid Reeves. A polarizing figure in Hornets history, I appreciate the moments Mourning gave the team but don't have many fond memories of him as a person with Charlotte.
1994: Traded 11th pick to the Seattle Supersonics - The Hornets had the 11th pick in the draft in 1994, but traded it to the Seattle Supersonics in the original Kendall Gill trade. The Supersonics used this choice to select Carlos Rogers.
1996: Kobe Bryant, SG, Lower Merion High School, 13th Overall (Never played with Hornets) - Yes, for all who don't know, Kobe was originally drafted by the Hornets. In what will, unfortunately, be referred to as a blunder for the Hornets, the move actually wasn't really at the fault of the Hornets. They were merely a team in the middle. The New Jersey Nets actually wanted Kobe Bryant 8th overall but Kobe's agent told New Jersey that he did not want to play there, so they instead passed and drafted Kerry Kittles. The Lakers would then call the Hornets, who were drafting 13th, and asked them to draft Kobe Bryant, and in return they would give the Hornets all star center Vlade Divac. The Hornets happily obliged and Divac gave them two solid seasons while Kobe went on to win four championships with the Lakers. While this selection may look really bad, it's really to no fault of the Hornets (unless you want to blame the scouting department, in which case there's 12 teams in front of the Hornets who deserve similar blame) that they were the ones that drafted and traded Kobe. But it does look bad.
1999: Baron Davis, PG, University of California, Los Angeles, 3rd Overall (381 Games, 290 Starts, 15.3 PPG, 6.7 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.9 SPG, 65.7 FT Pctg., 32.7 3PT FG Pctg., 41.0 FG Pctg.) - Although facing slim odds (1.3% actually) to land a top 3 pick, the Hornets were able to obtain the 3rd overall selection in 1999 and used that pick on UCLA point guard Baron Davis. After bringing Davis along slowly, he began to show promise for the Hornets in his second season and, by the third season, had joined Jamal Mashburn as the faces of the Hornets franchise. Originally a fantastic slasher and finisher around the basket, Davis eventually developed a three point shot that made him almost impossible to guard. After signing his contract extension the same offseason that the Hornets relocated to New Orleans, though, Davis started suffering injuries that would plague his next two and a half seasons with the Hornets. After butting heads with head coach Byron Scott, being accused of faking injuries and demanding a trade during the 2004 offseason, Davis was eventually traded during the 04-05 season to the Golden State Warriors for Speedy Claxton and Dale Davis in a pure salary dump.
2005: Chris Paul, PG, Wake Forest University, 4th Overall (425 Games, 425 Starts, 18.7 PPG, 9.9 APG, 4.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 85.3 FT Pctg., 35.9 3PT FG Pctg., 47.1 FG Pctg.) - One interesting thing to note here; in 2005, the Hornets and the Charlotte Bobcats finished with identical 18-64 records and the teams had a coin flip at an owner's meeting before the draft lottery. In case neither team picked up a top 3 draft selection, the coin flip determined which team would select ahead of the other. At the time, both teams had a 50% chance they'd get a top 3 pick, but the Bucks, Hawks and Jazz grabbed the top three picks, respectively, giving the Hornets the 4th overall selection ahead of the Bobcats. The Hornets would take North Carolina native Chris Paul and the Bobcats would take Raymond Felton. Things couldn't have worked out better for the Hornets. Paul stepped in and won the 2006 Rookie of the Year award and by his third season in the league, led the Hornets to the first division championship in franchise history and finished 2nd in MVP voting that season to Kobe Bryant. No longer the team's franchise centerpiece, the Hornets never quite figured out the formula as to how to build a successful team around Paul and are looking to start over as a result of that this offseason.
2006: Hilton Armstrong, C, University of Connecticut, 12th Overall (209 Games, 37 Starts, 3.6 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 60.5 FT Pctg., 51.3 FG Pctg.) - A solid prospect out of UConn, Armstrong was one of five Huskies drafted in the first round in 2006 and became the Hornets second big man off the bench in his rookie season. Armstrong showed flashes his rookie season (including leading the Hornets to a victory in Detroit in a game where three Hornets starters were injured) and was expected to build on that in 2008. He never did and in 2009, when given 21 starts in place of the injured Tyson Chandler, Armstrong still looked passive and lost out on the court. He was eventually traded to the Sacramento Kings for a 2016 2nd Round Draft Pick in a salary dump in 2010 where he was then traded to the Houston Rockets who eventually released him.
2007: Julian Wright, SF, University of Kansas, 13th Overall (179 Games, 34 Starts, 4.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 61.0 FT Pctg., 27.5 3PT FG Pctg., 50.0 FG Pctg.) - In need of a big man, the Hornets went against their need and drafted the best player available in Julian Wright at the 13th selection. A high flyer who can play tough man to man defense and finish around the basket, Wright developed a little bit of a jump shot his rookie season and was a key contributor off the bench for that successful 2008 squad. After the team signed James Posey (yikes), Wright's progress halted last season in what was considered a major disappointment. Going into the 2009/2010 season, after a great showing in the Summer League, Wright eventually was named the Hornets starter for the opening game at small forward but only lasted seven games before being benched in favor of original starter Peja Stojakovic. Another Hilton Armstrong case of wasted potential for a great talent, the Hornets eventually stopped waiting for Julian Wright and traded him to the Toronto Raptors for Marco Belinelli.
2010: Cole Aldrich, C, University of Kansas, 11th Overall (Never played with Hornets) - In one of Jeff Bower's last moves as General Manager, the Hornets returned to the lottery following Chris Paul's meniscus tear and drafted Cole Aldrich; only to trade him and Morris Peterson to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the draft rights to both Craig Brackins and Quincy Pondexter. Aldrich has yet to make any significant impact in Oklahoma City while the Hornets were able to turn Brackins into Jason Smith and Willie Green before turning Pondexter into Greivis Vasquez.
All in all, I was actually kind of surprised at some of the really good players the Hornets have drafted with their lottery selections. However, some swings and misses with Wright and Armstrong (following the selection of Chris Paul) were one of many contributions to the failed attempts to build around Paul in New Orleans. With the franchise now entirely entrenched in New Orleans for the next decade, these two upcoming selections for the Hornets are as crucial as any selection has been at any point for the franchise.