The Charlotte Hornets caught some luck at the draft lottery and jumped from the eighth pick to the third spot. Let’s take a look at previous drafts and see what history tells us about the caliber of player that might be available with the third selection. I’ve listed the 21 players drafted at No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4 between 2010 and 2016 as the sample group and labeled them as All-Stars, solid starters, contributors, or bench depth. I’ve excluded players drafted after 2016 because it often takes a couple of years to know how good they will be. Here’s how the results shook out.
All-Stars (6 of 21 - 29%)
Bradley Beal, 2012 - The two-time All-Star just keeps getting better. This season - his eighth in the NBA - Beal averaged an absurd 30.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists (without being named an All-Star!) while toiling away with the dysfunctional Washington Wizards.
Victor Oladipo, 2013 - As an All-Star in both 2018 and 2019, Oladipo became a two-way threat who plays lock-down perimeter defense while also putting up 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game.
Joel Embiid, 2014 - When healthy and engaged, Embiid can flat out dominate games. An All-Star in each of the last three seasons, the Sixers big man sports career averages of 23.9 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game.
Kristaps Prozingis, 2015 - Originally drafted by the New York Knicks in 2015, Porzingis was voted an All-Star in 2018 then missed the 2019-20 season. Now with the Dallas Mavericks, the 7-foot-3 unicorn averaged 20.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game this year.
Brandon Ingram, 2016 - After three promising seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, Ingram joined the New Orleans Pelicans this year and emerged as an All-Star with averages of 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game.
D’Angelo Russell, 2015 - The lefty guard has somehow played for four teams in five seasons and was a 2019 All-Star in a rather weak Eastern Conference. D-Russ averaged a healthy 23.1 points and 7.0 assists this year but has yet to prove himself as a franchise player to build around.
Solid Starters (5 of 21 - 24%)
Derrick Favors, 2010 - The 10-year veteran has had a solid though unspectacular NBA career with averages of 11.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. At his best he averaged over 16 points and eight rebounds in back-to-back seasons with the Utah Jazz.
Tristan Thompson, 2011 - The Canadian big man is a good defender, solid rebounder, and capable enough scorer to average a double-double in each of the last two years.
Otto Porter, 2013 - When healthy, Porter is a good wing defender who’s also capable of scoring 14 points with six rebounds per game on 40 percent from the three-point line.
Aaron Gordon, 2014 - At the beginning of each of the last three seasons many NBA experts predicted Gordon would make “the leap” and become an All-Star, but the transformation never came. Through six NBA seasons Gordon has established himself as perfectly capable of averaging 16 points, seven rebounds, and over three assists per game.
Jaylen Brown, 2016 - After averaging about 14 points per game over the last two seasons, Brown broke out in 2019-20 by averaging 20.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists for the Boston Celtics. Don’t be surprised if he’s an All-Star at some point.
Contributors (6 of 21 - 29%)
Evan Turner, 2010 - The former No. 2 pick is a versatile but offensively limited wing player who has averaged 9.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.5 assists throughout his 10-year career.
Enes Kanter, 2011 - Though his defense is suspect, Kanter is a solid scorer and rebounder coming off the bench. He’s never earned true starter’s minutes because of his D, but on a Per-36 minute basis he has averaged 19.2 points and 12.6 rebounds throughout his career.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, 2012 - Selected No. 2 overall in 2012 by the Hornets, MKG’s offensive shortcomings never justified his defensive strengths. The eight-year vet posts career averages of 8.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game.
Dion Waiters, 2012 - The shoot-first (and second, and third) journeyman has played for four teams in eight seasons, averaging 13.1 points (on just 41 percent shooting) with 2.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
Cody Zeller, 2013 - No need to go into detail. If you care enough about the Hornets to be reading this column you already know Cody is generally a capable center, but not a needle mover.
Jabari Parker, 2014 - After tearing his left ACL during his rookie season, he bounced back and in 2016-17 averaged an impressive 20.1 points, 6.2 points, and 2.8 assists through 51 games before tearing his left ACL for the second time. Since then he has become an offensive-oriented player who can drop 14 points and rebound well off the bench.
Bench Depth (4 of 21 - 19%)
Wesley Johnson, 2010 - Johnson averaged just 7.0 points and 3.2 rebounds in 22.1 minutes before his NBA career ended after nine seasons.
Derrick Williams, 2011 - The No. 2 pick never lived up to expectations. He played for six teams over seven seasons, averaging 8.9 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, before his NBA career came to an end.
Jahlil Okafor, 2015 - As a rookie in 2015-16 he averaged an impressive 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, but since then he’s drifted into a 15 minute per game role player who’s good for about eight points and four rebounds per night.
Dragan Bender, 2016 - Through four NBA seasons he’s averaged just 5.4 points and 3.9 rebounds. He was drafted by the Phoenix Suns who declined his fourth-year option. This season he was signed by the Milwaukee Bucks, then waived, then joined the Golden State Warriors on two 10-day contracts.
I like those odds! Having a nearly 30 percent chance of drafting an All-Star should give us hope. As I’ve recently written, the Hornets rebuild won’t be complete until they add an All-Star for the rest of the core to feed off, so maybe this is the year. And if they whiff on an All-Star, there’s still a 24 percent chance they land a solid starter.
If we were to narrow this group of 21 players down to try to find the “average” (i.e. the 11th best) player representing this group it would be the worst player among the five solid starters. I’m going to select Tristan Thompson for that distinct honor.
Again, I’ve done this same assessment for all three of the Hornets upcoming picks. To tie all of them together, here are the three players who represent the “average” player selected with the three picks the Hornets hold:
No. 3 - Tristan Thompson
No. 32 - Kyle Singler
No. 56 - Marcus Paige
That’s not very inspiring, frankly. The Hornets wouldn’t be appreciably better by swapping out Cody Zeller for Tristan Thompson while adding Singler to the rotation and Paige to the G League. Then again, maybe the Hornets nail all three picks and end up with the equivalents of Joel Embiid (at No. 3), Montrezl Harrell (No. 32), and E-Twan Moore (No. 56). Now that’s a team that could make some noise in the playoffs one day!