It feels weird to be on the receiving end of a lucky ping-pong ball bounce. The original Hornets had their fair share -- jumping to third overall in 1999 from 13th on a 0.73 percent chance, and top-2 picks in 1991 and 1992 -- but 10 years of Bobcats lottery history weren't particularly kind to them. So of course it only feels like some kind of poetic justice for the Hornets to get some luck on their first day with the name back in town.
It might not have been 0.73 percent, but the Hornets' chances at getting the ninth pick were 16.78 percent. To put it a bit differently, the Pistons had an 82.41 percent chance at keeping their pick, which had top-8 protection.
The pick came in the Ben Gordon trade, which was lauded as a coup for the Hornets (née Bobcats). The Bobcats traded a shorter contract in Corey Maggette for the first round pick and Gordon, who had another season at $12 million on his contract. The Bobcats didn't mind filling their cap floor in a rebuilding season with Gordon's contract to get a pick with healthy protections (top-14 in 2013, top-8 in 2014, top-1 in 2015, unprotected afterward). The Pistons were happy to get rid of an unhappy Gordon, but they set themselves up. By cutting a year off in guaranteed money in opening up cap space in the next offseason, they had to spend to bring in talent or face a sunk cost in losing a draft pick for absolutely nothing. They did, hoping to get out of the lottery and still landed back in the bottom of the East, right at the line where they could keep their pick at 8th in the lottery order before the ping-pong balls went in the Hornets' favor.
I think it's fair to say the Hornets received a considerable windfall in getting the pick this season as I don't think it could reasonably be more valuable. The pick would of course be more valuable if the Pistons were to stumble next season, leading to a higher pick, but I wouldn't count on that. Purely hypothetically speaking, had the Pistons retained their pick this year, they'd have another lottery pick, a new great coach in Stan Van Gundy with his leadership in the front office too, and still a good deal of talent on their roster, even if it is a bit of a mess. I tend to think they wouldn't have been as bad as they were this season, and who knows if next year's draft would be as deep and talented as this upcoming one.
Rich Cho's trading savvy came up big with this move. But draft picks are only as valuable as the player they draft with them so the value will ultimately hinge upon how they use the pick, not to mention their other first round pick at No. 24.
The prospects projected for the Hornets include Gary Harris, Doug McDermott and Dario Saric. The Hornets' needs start with perimeter scoring from the wing and these projections see the Bobcats addressing that weakness.
Charlotte could also look to deal the pick, which could make for some very enticing opportunities, I'm sure. They could package their picks or make some moves in conjunction with their cap space to capitalize on their flexibility in a big way. Such flexibility with a good base is fun territory for a team to be in.
With an exciting future on the horizon, the first day in the new Charlotte Hornets era kicked off with a bit of luck that could make waves to add onto their foundation if they continue to make smart decisions.