The NBA Draft is upon us. In Charlotte, that can mean some frightening things. But, if you combine the histories of the two professional basketball teams that have called Charlotte home, it may not be as bad as it looks. On May 20th, The Hornets announced that all records from 1988-2002 would be returning to Charlotte along with the name. That means, Charlotte can again claim some of the drafts that put the Hornets on the map.
1991 – #1 – Larry Johnson - UNLV
It’s hard not to love Larry “LJ” Johnson. He was the #1 pick, Rookie of the Year, and came up with one of the greatest alter egos ever, Grandmama. He played five seasons in Charlotte, was an All-Star twice, made the All-NBA Second Team and was also on the USA FIBA World Championship in 1994. He was on two playoff teams in his five seasons.
1992 – #2 – Alonzo Mourning – Georgetown
Obviously, he was the second best player in his class behind Shaquille O’Neal. But, Zo was a great player and a future hall-of-famer when it’s all said and done. In Charlotte, he was a two-time All-Star, FIBA World Champion in 1994 and was on two playoff teams. In 1995, Zo was traded to the Miami Heat for Glen Rice and some other pieces. This was Charlotte’s first encounter with a player demanding a trade for more money.
1999 – #3 – Baron Davis – UCLA
This was one of the biggest surprises and the last time that Charlotte has jumped spaces in the lottery. The Hornets had the 13th worst record in the NBA but jumped all the way to the #3 pick through the Draft Lottery. Baron Davis was picked and he took off running. He played for 3 playoff teams in Charlotte and was an All-Star in 2002. He also had some pretty memorable highlight reels while in the Queen City.
2011 – #9 – Kemba Walker – UCONN
It’s hard to argue against the starting point guard on a playoff team that averages 17.7PPG and 6 APG. He’s improved each of his three seasons. So far, it looks like he’s a cornerstone of this team. He might be the head recruiter for this team after pulling in Al Jefferson last summer.
2004 – #2 – Emeka Okafor – UCONN
At the time, Charlotte fans were disappointed on missing out on Dwight Howard. That may still be the case, but Okafor put a pretty good career together in Charlotte. He beat Howard for the Rookie of the Year in 04’-05’. He was a very good defender and a great rebounder. Okafor never had the offensive game that Charlotte could count on but was a contributor his entire time in Charlotte.
2005 – #13 – Sean May – UNC
There were high hopes for May coming out of UNC. The Tar Heels were coming off of a National Championship in which May was the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. He never played more than 35 games in a season for Charlotte. Charlotte did not make him a contract offer in the summer of 2009, and he moved on to Sacramento. He lasted only a year there before moving overseas and playing for multiple different clubs.
2006 – #3 – Adam Morrison – Gonzaga
Charlotte fans to this day claim Morrison was the worst pick in Charlotte professional sports history. A lot of fans forget he had a decent rookie year, averaging almost 12 PPG off the bench. Morrison tore his ACL in the preseason of his second season. By the time he was back, Coach Larry Brown didn’t have much room for him, and he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vladimir Radmanovic.
2011 – #7 – Bismack Biymobo – Congo
Technically, the Sacramento Kings drafted Biyombo. But, the Kings were picking on orders from the Charlotte Bobcats after a 3-way draft day trade involving Sacramento, Milwaukee, and Charlotte. Biyombo showed a lot of promise at the 2011 Nike Hoops Summit. He hasn’t shown the same athleticism that got him drafted that high despite multiple opportunities.
2009 – #20 – Alexis Ajinca – France
Ajinca was a supposed to be the steal of the 2009 Draft. Brown was very high on Ajinca and had to have him. Brown, like he does with most rookies, quickly became tired of waiting on him to develop and banished him to the NBDL. Ajinca didn’t last long in Charlotte. In 2010, he was included in as a throw-in to the Dallas Mavericks for Erick Dampier’s expiring contract.
1989 – #5 – J.R. Reid – UNC
The Hornets had high hopes for Reid who never reached his potential. He averaged 11 PPG in his 3 seasons in Charlotte. He started almost every game in his first two seasons, but once the Hornets drafted Larry Johnson, Reid did not have a spot. Reid was traded early in the 1992-93 season to the San Antonio Spurs. Tim Hardaway and Shawn Kemp were players still left on the board when Reid was drafted in 1989.
Not included here are the 2012 and 2013 drafts where the Bobcats selected Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller. It is a little early to make a judgement on them. Also not included was the 1996 draft when the Hornets selected Kobe Bryant. We all know what happened after that. It is obvious that the Hornets have had better lottery selections than the Bobcats. Hopefully with the recent name and brand change, they’ll bring that lottery luck back to Charlotte.