The draft is a crapshoot in many ways. There’s no guarantees on anyone and it takes several years to really be able to tell who came out on top in a particular draft. There are times, however, when you look at a situation and right away know a team made the wrong decision. That became clear when reports about the Hornets turning down a monster offer from the Celtics came out. And all of this to draft Frank Kaminsky.
But back up for a second. On June 15, 2006, Michael Jordan became a minority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. With this, he also became something known as, “Managing Member of Basketball Operations” for the Bobcats. Now calling the shots in the front office, Jordan made his first move as a member of the Bobcats front office to select Adam Morrison (3rd overall), just three picks before Brandon Roy and five picks before Rudy Gay.
The Bobcats showed little improvement during the 2006-07 season, getting their win total up to 33 from 26 the year before. The following draft they netted the 8th overall pick and on draft day they sent the pick (Brandan Wright) to the Warriors for Jason Richardson. The next pick in the draft: Joakim Noah. The Bobcats also passed on Wilson Chandler and Aaron Brooks to take sharpshooting Jared Dudley with the 22nd overall pick that same draft.
Richardson played well for the Bobcats in the 2007-08 season, leading the team with 21.8 ppg. The Bobcats had the 27 year-old Richardson in one of his best seasons, and three young guys around him to fill out the team: Gerald Wallace, Emeka Okafor (both 25 at the time), and Raymond Felton (23). Despite this, the Bobcats won only 32 games that season and earned the ninth pick in the 2008 draft.
The Bobcats used their pick on D. J. Augustin, an undersized guard out of Texas. The next pick in the draft? Brook Lopez. “But they already had Emeka Okafor” you say. That did not stop them from trading their 2010 first rounder to Denver for the 20th overall pick in that same draft. At 20, the Bobcats took the 7’2’’ Frenchman Alexis Ajinca, one pick before Ryan Anderson, two before Courtney Lee, and four before Serge Ibaka (Also, Nicolas Batum went 25th and George Hill went 26th, if you needed to know).
Midway through the 2008-09 season the Bobcats sent Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley to the Suns for Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, and someone named Sean Singletary. Later that year the Bobcats brought in DeSagana Diop and Vladimir Radmanovic (giving Matt Carroll and Ryan Hollins for the former and Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown for the latter). Confusing, I know. Nonsensical even.
The Bobcats finished the 2009 season with a disappointing 35 wins and yet another trip to the lottery. In the Draft the Bobcats had the 12th overall pick and used it on Gerald Henderson (pick 17: Jrue Holiday, pick 18: Ty Lawson, pick 19: Jeff Teague). We can give Charlotte’s front office a pass here as they already had Felton and Augustin on the roster. But nevertheless, yet another lottery pick was used on a marginal NBA player.
Later that summer and just a year after signing Emeka Okafor to a 6 year - $72 million deal, the Bobcats sent the young big man to New Orleans for Tyson Chandler. Two months later, they gave up Bell and Radmanovic for Stephen Jackson. With Chandler in the middle and Jackson and Wallace on the perimeter, the Bobcats won 44 games en route to their first playoff appearance. Despite being swept in a first round series against the Magic and not having a first round pick, there was finally some hope in Charlotte.
That hope was soon lost when, in mid-July 2010, the Bobcats sent Chandler and Ajinca to the Mavericks for Eduardo Najera, Matt Carroll (remember him?), and Erick Dampier. Mid-season, the Bobcats traded Gerald Wallace to Portland for Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks, and two first rounders. Two thirds of the core group that brought the Bobcats team their only playoff appearance were gone less than a year after, and the Bobcats got no talent in return to show for it. To make matters worse, the Bobcats starting center for 50 games that season? None other than Kwame Brown, who Jordan selected first overall as a member of the Wizards front office in 2001.
The Bobcats fell back into the lottery and selected Kemba Walker ninth overall in 2011. Two picks before Klay Thompson and six picks before Kawhi Leonard. They selected Tobias Harris 19th overall with a first rounder from the Wallace deal, but immediately sent him along with Stephen Jackson to Milwaukee in a three team deal that netted the Bobcats a washed-up Corey Maggette and the 7th overall pick: Bismack Biyombo.
Now with Jackson gone, the Bobcats were in full-rebuild mode and the 2011 lockout could not have shortened the season enough. The Bobcats posted the worst winning percentage in NBA history (.106), going 7-59. To make matters worse, they lost the Anthony Davis lottery because the NBA owned the Hornets and fixed the lottery Patrick Ewing style. Wait, wait, never mind. I mean they lost cause that’s the beauty of the lottery. At number two, the Bobcats took Michael-Kidd Gilchrist. I won’t delve too deep into the shortcomings of MKG (he of 0 three point attempts in 2015), but know this: Players taken in the top 10 after MKG included Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, and Andre Drummond.
The 2012-13 season was not kind to the Bobcats either. They won just 21 games and earned the fourth pick in the draft. They selected (power forward) Cody Zeller. The next three picks, you ask? Alex Len, Nerlens Noel, and Ben McLemore. While the 2013 draft was notoriously weak, their pick raised some eyebrows at the time, and 2 years later it does not look much better.
In the summer of 2013, the Bobcats signed Al Jefferson, teamed him up with Kemba Walker and made the playoffs. They got swept in the first round by the Heat, but again there was hope in Charlotte. A 2012 trade with Detroit had given the Bobcats a lottery pick in the 2014 draft where they selected (power forward) Noah Vonleh at no. 9. The same Noah Vonleh who they dumped for Nic Batum (If you remember, they passed on Batum for Alexis Ajinca) just a few days ago.
Yet at the time of the pick, things were looking up in Charlotte. The team had fresh branding, with a new court, new uniforms, and their classic name: the Hornets. An offseason signing of Lance Stephenson brought even more hype. But the team again faltered under big expectations and slipped into the lottery once again.
The Hornets were trigger happy leading up to this year’s draft with trades involving Batum, Stephenson, and whatever Luke Ridnour is. This brings us (finally, I know) to the 2015 NBA draft. The Hornets were sitting at nine with one name in mind: Frank Kaminsky.
The Celtics called up the Hornets and offered them what they (Celtics) thought to be a Godfather offer. A package with up to six picks including four first rounders for the ninth overall pick. Four first round picks! Not one, not two, not three… But the Hornets turned Ainge down and drafted Frank Kaminsky. Their third straight top 10 pick and their third straight big man. Despite having a glaring need on the wing and many believing Justise to be the top wing in the draft, the Hornets passed on Winslow for Kaminsky.
With the pace and space, three point shooting, and rim protecting NBA we live in today, the Hornets are building around an aging, back-to-the-basket center who can’t protect the rim (Sorry, Al) and a point guard who shot 30.4% from three this season (Kemba Walker). Maybe Kaminsky will help space the floor, but they won’t be able to guard anyone. All said, I still understand the Hornets’ decision to not go with Justise. They might’ve had MKG flashbacks, and worried about further floor spacing issues if Winslow’s shot does not develop further. However, there is no excuse for them rejecting the boatload of picks Boston offered. Even if Kaminsky is ‘their guy,’ a well-managed team wouldn’t give away value for a specific player, especially if their track record of player evaluation is so spotty as Charlotte’s.
The Hornets are undoubtedly one of the most incompetently run organizations across all sports. While their front office makes some bad trades, the real issue is their inability to draft value, or talent. For all his accomplishments as a player, Michael Jordan is a bad guy to have running your team. We need to stop making excuses because of his success on the court. Being the decision-maker and being on the court are two different animals and to think that players and coaches can make that transition seamlessly is preposterous. I mean just ask Phil Jackson. After Charlotte’s decade long run of misery, they need to start pointing fingers at the right man. Only then can continued progress actually come about.