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Myth Buzzting the Hornets Lottery Picks

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Debunking common assumptions about who the Hornets tend to draft.

NBA: NBA Draft 2015 Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It's almost June, which means the NBA Draft is nearly here, or as I see the most wonderful time of the year NBA Draft time!!!! If you're a Charlotte Hornets fan you may not share that same enthusiasm but should you buy into the common beliefs constantly repeated about their drafting habits this time of year? Once the draft lottery was complete the takes on what the Hornets would do immediately fell back to some common thoughts, but do they hold water?

There are three well known and largely accepted beliefs around the drafting habits of the Charlotte Hornets and more specifically, Michael Jordan. Because anything the Hornets do ultimately boils down to the failing of Micheal Jordan as an executive, manufactured or not.

  • Belief 1: the Hornets always draft a player who had a good NCAA Tournament.
  • Belief 2: The Hornets always draft a big tall white guy.
  • Belief 3: The Hornets always draft players from the University of North Carolina.

It's not that these beliefs don't have some merit, or at least that they can't be traced back to some point in time, but the draft is such a one shot one kill scenario that sometimes these beliefs are taken for stone cold locks when the reality is often times different. So let's take a look, if we dare, at how exactly these statements stack up by examining their history in the draft lottery specifically in a little game of:

Charlotte Hornets MythBuzzters.

Hornets Lottery Picks 06-15

Year* Player Pick BTW (Big, Tall, and White) School NCAA Tournament Status
Year* Player Pick BTW (Big, Tall, and White) School NCAA Tournament Status
2006 Adam Morrison 3 Yes Gonzaga Hero**
2008 D.J. Augustin 9 No Texas Star
2009 Gerald Henderson 12 No Duke Played
2011 Kemba Walker 9 No UConn Hero and Champ
2012 MKG 2 No Kentucky Champ
2013 Cody Zeller 4 Yes IU Played
2014 Noah Vonleh 9 No IU No
2015 Frank Kaminsky 9 Yes Wisconsin Hero

*Note: The Hornets traded the 2007 lottery pick and acquired the rights to lottery pick Bismack Biyombo during the 2011 draft.

**Also Note: Good luck reading that list without singing, “THERE GOES MY HERO...” to yourself.

Statement 1: Year after year, Jordan and the Hornets select a hero from March Madness.

The reasoning: In the last NBA draft where they actually made a selection it kept, the Hornets passed up a supposed "Godfather Offer" from Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics. There have been varying reports on what exactly was offered, but it's generally agreed upon that several picks were in play and some of those would have certainly included picks owed to the Celtics from the Brooklyn Nets. You may have heard about this Boston/Brooklyn exchange recently as it ultimately netted (ha) the Celtics the number one overall pick in this year's draft. Bottom line was there were several picks on the table that Charlotte declined to select big man Frank Kaminsky who had, in fact, been one of the heroes of March Madness leading his Wisconsin Badgers to the doorstep of a National Championship.

Buzzted?: Since Jordan took over, the Hornets have had somewhat of a proclivity to draft players who have excelled in the NCAA ranks, and at times played deep and glowingly (free blog name up for grabs) in the NCAA Tournament. Except when they haven't. During Jordan's first year on board the team selected Adam Morrison. This...did not go well. Morrison never materialized as even a serviceable rotation player (although he did earn a ring thanks to Kobe Bryant) and certainly never lived up to being the third overall pick after being one of the heroes and darlings of March Madness. So right out of the gate, small sample size and all, this myth has a case.

Fast forward five years and the Hornets orchestrated a trade on draft night giving them two lottery picks. They used the first pick to select NCAA Champion and no doubt March Madness hero, Kemba Walker. This one is clear cut but if this pick is in any way viewed in a negative light we need to reassess how you evaluate draft picks. The second lottery pick in that draft produced Bismack Biyombo via trade, who never played during the madness of March and therefore never had a chance to be such a hero, although it's reasonable to assume he would have been more madness than hero in an alternate universe where that scenario played out.

In between those two drafts the Hornets selected Brandan Wright, D.J. Augustin and Gerald Henderson with lottery picks. While those players certainly had college success, none fit the bill as being a hero of spring college basketball. After the Walker pick the Hornets bottomed out and were rewarded with NOT getting the number one overall selection, and settled for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who had college success with a championship Kentucky team but hardly fits the bill as individual tournament hero.

The following years saw consecutive picks in the lottery of Indiana University big men in Cody Zeller in 2013 (who's team topped out in the Sweet 16) and Noah Vonleh in 2014. Vonleh slid to the Hornets and the team took a swing with the best player available mindset on what was seen as a value pick with high upside. Vonleh was later shipped out to Portland for Nicholas Batum and never materialized into much of a value, and has yet to reach his upside. Vonleh played one season at IU and never appeared in an NCAA Tournament game (for the record neither did Batum which was the ultimate result of that draft but whatevs).

Based on the list of picks it can't be argued that the current triumvirate of Jordan, GM Rich Cho, and head coach Steve Clifford especially prefer players who have experience over those who don't. As it turns out, this current incarnation of the Hornets front office takes just as many chances on players who have little to no NCAA Tournament success as they do those who have excelled. The prevailing belief is certainly amplified by the recent Kaminsky pick and MAYBE the Morrison pick, if people still recall that. (Sadly they always do.)

Verdict: Meh. Kinda Buzzted. The notion that the Hornets and Jordan draft ONLY players who have had March Madness success is easily defeated, even though at times they have chosen to go with a player in that mold when other more attractive options have been presented. Recency bias plays a part in this, and The Godfather offer is a heavy burden (read: You'll never stop hearing about it) and let's face it, they'd rather have guys with experience, which likely means you'll never stop hearing about it. Sorry. But if true, the player likely to be selected: Zach Collins, Gonzaga.

Statement 2: The Hornets always draft big tall white guys (listed at No. 2 but really the favorite belief of all of them).

The reasoning: This belief stems from the two most recent draft lottery picks still on the roster, Zeller and Kaminksy. They are, in fact, big, and tall, and white. This fact is irrefutable and cannot be disputed. However, this is not the only fuel for this white (sorry) hot fire. The current roster does not help matters. Last year's Hornets front court featured, at one time or another, Zeller, Kaminsky, Mike Tobey (white), Spencer Hawes (white) and Miles Plumlee (white). All big, all tall, all white. So you can see how this reality bleeds into draft analysis...it does look like a thing! (In recent years the Hornets have also employed Josh McRoberts and Tyler Hansbrough...ok I see how this has merit).

Buzzted?: Unfortunately for the defenders of this belief, draft lottery history debunks it as soon as you go back further than the Zeller pick. There have been no other big tall white guys selected by the Charlotte Hornets in the draft lottery. If you want to make the argument that the Hornets have a type and this is it, well then you have several big tall white legs to stand on. But as far as the lottery goes, and the draft for that matter (other big guys drafted have been Brandan Wright, Vonleh, Alexis Ajinca, Derrick Brown, Ryan Hollins and Biyombo) this theory doesn't stand up.

Verdict: Buzzted. For sure after those two. But if true, the player most likely to be selected: Zach Collins, Gonzaga (Uh-oh).

Statement Three: The Hornets always draft players from the University of North Carolina.

The reasoning: The Hornets play in Charlotte, which is in North Carolina. Also, fun fact, Michael Jordan PLAYED at the University of North Carolina! No, seriously. Pretty crazy right? Also, the Hornets have had more players from North Carolina on their roster during this regime than any other college. Also, the team infamously selected two Tar Heels in Raymond Felton and Sean May with lottery picks in the 2005 NBA Draft JUST prior to MJ's entrance. Mmmkay, I see where this came from.

Buzzted?: This one is 100% busted and it's pretty easy to disprove. Under Michael Jordan, the Hornets have draft a grand total of ZERO players from the University of North Carolina. None. Zip. Zilch. What's that you say? The Hornets drafted P.J. Hairston? No, they did not. The Hornets acquired the rights to Hairston in a draft night deal with the Miami Heat, sending the soon-to-be LeBron James-less Miami ball club the rights to Shabazz Napier. It should be noted that Napier was James' favorite player in the draft. It should also be noted that Napier has played for three teams in three seasons and averaged about 10 minutes per game last year in 50ish appearances for Portland. I suppose it should also also be noted that Hairston does not currently play in the NBA and was most recently heard from along the North Carolina coast.

But wait, didn't we already discuss that the Hornets drafted Brandan Wright? Yes, we did. But his rights were shipped off in another draft night deal to Golden State in exchange for Jason Richardson. So unless you want to amend this belief to the Hornets have twice had draft night transactions involving players from the University of North Carolina, this one is Buzzted. In fact the Hornets passed on opportunities to select Harrison Barnes and Brice Johnson in drafts. They both went to North Carolina.

Verdict: Just said it, Buzzted. But, if true the player most likely to be selected: Justin Jackson, University of North Carolina (Kinda goes without saying, but there is another Justin Jackson from Maryland in the draft at the time of this writing).

So you see, the Charlotte Hornets...excuse me...the Charlotte Hornets owned by Michael Jordan do have some proclivities. But when discussing their habits of drafting in the lottery portion of the NBA Draft, stay away from saying they always draft big, tall, white guys who were heroes during March Madness and most of the time went to North Carolina. You might get a laugh and you'll certainly feel justified but you'll be more wrong than right.