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Draft Preview: What should the Hornets do tonight?

On the eve of the NBA Draft and on the heels of one of the biggest trades in franchise history, the future is as murky as ever.

2015 WNBA Finals - Game Five Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Whats the deal with the photo for this post? I don't know. The assignment was to write about what the Hornets should do on draft night. I was thinking, “We need shooting. Lots and lots of shooting,” so I think I searched for “Predator,” hoping to find a picture of big beef sweaty dude screaming while unloading a Gattling gun in a jungle. But the only result was this dude, losing his mind and shirt with Minnesota Lynx fandom at a random WNBA game. He made me smile. Then I forgot how I got to that picture. Then I remembered, but realized that absolutely nothing in that picture had anything remotely to do with the word “Predator.” Then I was again extremely confused how I got there in the first place, but it made me feel sort of...good? And THAT is a pretty decent summary of how the Charlotte Hornet’s offseason has gone so far.

We made it. The draft is upon us. Today, all of the speculation, murmurs, leaks and gossip will mercifully come to an end. The dust will settle, the sun will emerge from the clouds, and by Friday morning we’ll be able to put all the madness of this ridiculously topsy-turvy week behind u--- *gets hit with metal folding chair by Adam Silver*


Look, I had a plan for this article. I really did. I had an outline and some good notes. I had what I thought was a coherent, interesting angle on what the Hornets should during the draft.

Now those notes are nothing more than an inert constellation of tightly crumpled broken dreams — missed TrashketBalls scattered about the periphery of my office wastebasket like a physical, irony-dunked reminder of the free throw stylings of Dwight Howard, the same ones that will presumably torment Hornet’s loyalists over the course of the 2017-18 season and beyond.

Where did this trade come from? Which team reached out first? Over the last few days, I had texted at least four different friends some variation of the phrase, “This is the craziest offseason I’ve ever seen. Literally anything is in play.” That was prior to the draft Tuesday night.

There are approximately 8.5 billion NBA trade rumors flying around right now, involving an inconceivable swath of players… and you know what, man? NOT ONE OF THEM INVOLVED DWIGHT HOWARD.

This isn’t the space to discuss that trade, but the bylaws of NBA fandom stipulate that if the Human Gypsy Curse that is Dwight Howard should befell your piteous team, a take of hotness must be issued forth.

Alas, to use a phrase that has always and will always be welcome: “that’s enough Dwight Howard talk.”

The range of impact this trade could have on the Hornet’s draft is pretty wide. The second round pick swap with Atlanta moves the Hornets up from 41 to 31, essentially giving them another first round pick.

This presents a lot of different options here, and frankly, the way this offseason has been going, I’m not sure I have the energy to do a deep dive on all of the possible guys who may be available at the end of the first round and how they would fit into the system.

By the time this article is published, the Hornets will likely have traded Super Hugo and a protected 2nd rounder to the NBA Vault of Forgotten Crap for the rights to Rufus Lynx’s Sunglasses, James Harden will have traded his beard for a propeller beanie cap, and the terrestrial earth as we know it will be a scorched and barren hellscape.

So, what should the Hornets do?

I’ll be as blunt as possible here: the Hornets should come out of this draft with Malik Monk, period. They won’t, but that is 100 percent what they should do. This was my feeling prior to Tuesday’s trade, but in a way, the move makes it even more necessary. We need buckets. Lots and lots of buckets.

I love this team, and I love Coach Cliff and his defensive system, and as much as I hate to admit it, across the board I feel like the front office makes more good decisions than bad. But they bungled it last year. That was shortsighted, poor roster construction, injuries or not. I feel really strongly about this. If the team doesn’t add some serious scoring punch to this roster, Cho gotta go ya’ll.

The roster as presently constructed is a throwback. A Well coached, play-within-the-system, defensive minded team with only one go-to scoring option in 2017 might as well be a Microsoft Zune.

Speaking of lack of scoring, a detail that was somehow lost in the margins of yesterday’s trade was the inclusion of Marco Belinelli. Look, I’m not gonna light a candle for the dude while “Tears in Heaven” plays on repeat or anything, but in case you missed it, he was pretty much the Hornets entire bench offense last year.

“Really? Marco Belinelli?”

Really. I watched damn near every single Hornets game last season, and I swear to you I’m not using hyperbole when I say that Belinelli was to the second unit what Kemba was to the first. That’s red flag number one. Red flag number two is that he’s not even on the team anymore.

The Hornets biggest weakness just got bigger. This is more than just a small problem. Belinelli is a spot up shooter who moonlighted as a creator last season out of necessity. An enduring memory from the ‘16-17 season will be Belly curling off of high picks, catching the ball beyond the ark and then taking a wild, NBA Jam “Hang in the air drifting across the key until the player almost hits the ground then release at the last moment” style 3-pointer. I;m sure he’ll miss it just as much as we will. Long live “Swaggy B” era Belinelli.

Another troubling aspect of the deal: I feel like the league finally, collectively beat the “give me the ball!” out of Dwight. Plopping him into an environment almost entirely bereft of any scoring options goes beyond enabling. That's like picking up a dude from rehab and dropping him off at a Doing-Cocaine-Festival. (I am the king of analogies.)

I feel like the 11th+31st might be enough to move up a slot or two into the top 10 of this draft. I could be wrong. But if Monk or Dennis Smith Jr. are sitting there at 9 or 10, you gotta throw everything at getting a potential number one scoring option.

So that’s my opinion. Yes, we need depth, and knowing the Hornets, I think that’s the way they go. Play it safe. Prudent.

Covering the draft requires digging deep on players, watching tons of video, analyzing statistics and reading scouting reports for hours on end. The vast majority of my research process is just sending random bursts of several, wildly unconnected questions to my buddy Doug Branson of the Locked On Hornets pod, who actually does real research. I was chatting with him about the draft. I wanted to talk Malik Monk. I was excited, I had hope. He simply typed something along the lines of “It looks like its going to be Luke Kennard.”

I didn’t ask any follow ups, or how he came to that conclusion. I didn’t have to. I knew it in my heart the minute I read it. I always want the Hornets to be something they’re not. I want them roll up on a Triumph — they found a ‘13 Nissan Altima in Cayenne Red at an APR so low “its like CarMax is paying THEM!” The Hornets settle down with someone they “make a good team with,” instead of going head over heals chasing passionate, exciting, dangerously volatile love. That’s who they are. I’m tired of fighting it. I’m leaning in to this. Lets go out and settle with Kennard and his weird, “white Clyde Drexler” hair. This is us! This is Charlotte! This is in no way a reverse jinx!