By Jonathan Lee
August 21, 2020
The Charlotte Hornets bucked the odds moving up from No. 8,– past the drama-building commercial break– landing at the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery.
The lottery gods finally shined a light on the Queen City. The Hornets, who were represented (virtually, of course) by Devonte’ Graham, were able to slide into the top three, cutting the line in front of teams like the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers.
So what now? The roster has a mix of young and talented players on relatively low-cost rookie deals with a few high-dollar contracts mercifully coming to an end inside of a year or two. General manager Mitch Kupchak has hit so far on his latest first-round acquisitions with Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington, while recent second-rounders Caleb Martin and Jalen McDaniels have developed nicely under coach James Borrego.
The Minnesota Timberwolves won the lottery, and have a few cornerstones (max players) in Karl-Anthony Towns and DeAngelo Russell. They should be looking to support the duo with a guard, and will have their choice between LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards. At two, the Golden State Warriors are a wild card team. They finished with the worst record in the league, due to the unfortunate injuries to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson along with the departure of Kevin Durant. They could go in a number of ways, one being a trade, which would obviously affect Charlotte at No. 3.
Here’s a look at the top prospects that could be available for the Hornets:
Obi Toppin, Forward, Dayton
Toppin won almost every college Player of the Year award after the 2019-20 averaging 20 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. But it’s his high level of efficiency and athleticism that has captured the imagination of teams looking to grab Toppin early. It could be a monumental mistake for the Hornets to pass on Toppin, who looks to be the most NBA ready prospect in this year’s class.
James Wiseman, Center, Memphis
The Tennessee product showcased an impressive skill set in his brief career with Memphis before being ruled ineligible due to recruiting infractions committed by his coach Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway. Wiseman measures in at 7’1” and comparisons range from the most common Chris Bosh to the more outlandish David Robinson. Many scouts look at Wiseman at this year’s one “can’t-miss” prospect.
LaMelo Ball, PG, Illawarra Hawks
If you know basketball, you know the Ball family. LaMelo, much like his brother (Lonzo), has good size and length as a point guard at 6’7” and could still be growing. Ball projects as a point guard, with the ability to slide into a shooting guard role, but his biggest drawback seems to be his lack of defensive effort. While that could turn off some defensive-minded coaching staffs and GM’s, his offensive play-making potential might be too good to pass up.
Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State
If the Hornets feel they are set at the forward positions with Miles Bridges, Cody Zeller, and P.J. Washington, they could address the guard spot by landing the dynamic Haliburton out of Iowa State.
While Haliburton measures at 6’5”, he has a thin frame. Head coach James Borrego could team Haliburton with Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier to form a nice three-man backcourt rotation. Haliburton had a solid freshman season, building on that by averaging 15.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game in his sophomore campaign before suffering a wrist injury. Haliburton has the speed, court vision, and decision making GM’s are looking for in today’s college players.
Onyeka Okongwu, Forward/Center, USC
Okongwu is flying up draft boards as quickly as he gets off the floor for a rebound. Standing at 6’9″, Okongwu averaged 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game at Southern Cal. Okongwu could fill a big void with bigs like Bismack Biyombo and Willy Hernangomez hitting the free-agent market.
Anthony Edwards, Guard, Georgia
Edwards is most likely bound for a top-two selection, but if he should be there at three, the Hornets would be getting a player many draft analysts have projected as the first overall pick. Edwards is 6’5” and built well for a guard his size, but recently, more red flags seem to be popping up. He wasn’t able to elevate his Bulldogs to any real success in the SEC playing against top-tier competition, and also lacked defensive intensity.
Deni Avdija, Guard/Forward, Maccabi Tel Aviv
The 19-year-old Avdjia was a back-up forward for EuroLeague power Maccabi Tel-Aviv in Israel last season, but he’s a fast-rising talent. As the son of Yugoslavian professional basketball player Zufer Avdija, and with good size (6’9”) at the wing position, he’s a valued commodity in today’s NBA. Avdjia would take a few years to develop, but could potentially be a nice piece alongside Bridges and Washington moving forward.
Killian Hayes, Guard, Ratiopharm Ulm
The French national has good size at 6’5” and he wouldn’t be a “draft and stash” type pick. The versatile left-handed guard is a crafty scorer and has solid court vision for his age. If he can reduce his turnovers and continue to develop his off-hand, Hayes has the potential to be a top-notch player in the league.
The Hornets have drafted No. 3 on two previous occasions. In 1996 they took Baron Davis, who went on to become a two-time All-Star, and in 2006, the team drafted Adam Morrison from Gonzaga. That pick didn’t work out too well.
This year, like most events, the NBA Draft date has been rescheduled. Normally taking place in June, this year’s draft will take place on October 16.
While we can all agree that 2020 has been a disastrous year, with the Hornets moving up in the draft for the first time since 1999, things could be looking up in Buzz City.