Charlotte Hornets: Steve Clifford wanted Donovan Mitchell

Former Charlotte Hornets’ head coach Steve Clifford reportedly wanted the team to draft Donovan Mitchell over Malik Monk.

In a recent podcast with Zach Lowe and Jonathan Givony, they reported on how Steve Clifford wanted the Charlotte Hornets to select Donovan Mitchell in the 2017 NBA Draft. The team instead decided to draft Malik Monk with the No. 11 pick while Mitchell went 13th overall to the Utah Jazz.

Givony said that “Clifford was on the table in the war room saying we need to draft Donovan Mitchell and he was overruled on that and they took Malik Monk instead.” Lowe backed up that claiming saying that “Cliff was 100% trying to get them to take Donovan Mitchell.”

Just before the 2017 NBA Draft, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post reported that Donovan was ticketed to the Hornets at No. 11. Mitchell even said that he thought he caught Charlotte’s eye and would be drafted by the Queen City team.  (CharlotteObserver.com)

To be fair to Rich Cho and Michael Jordan, who likely overruled Steve Clifford, not many expected Malik Monk to fall out of the top-10. When he was still on the board as the Hornets were on the clock, they felt like they couldn’t pass on such a talented prospect.

This report explains, in part, why Monk didn’t receive consistent playing time under Steve Clifford. He only made 63 appearances for Charlotte and had only 16 games of 20+ minutes. Malik was a healthy scratch in 19 games. It was pretty clear that Clifford didn’t trust him to lead the second-unit as Michael Carter-Williams got minutes over the first-year guard.

It’s safe to say that Donovan would’ve received ample playing time under Clifford as he was the former Hornets’ coach’s first choice in the draft and was probably a better fit for his system.

Looking at Mitchell and Monk, Donovan had the far better rookie campaign averaging 20.5 points per game, 3.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals. Compare that to Malik who only put up 6.7 PPG, 1.4 assists and 1.0 rebounds. Mitchell finished second in Rookie of the Year voting behind only Ben Simmons, was named to the All-Rookie First Team and won four Rookie of the Month awards.

There’s an argument to be had that if Charlotte would’ve listened to Steve and drafted Mitchell that the team possibly would’ve made the playoffs and Clifford would’ve kept his job. Now, with Mitch Kupchak at the helm and James Borrego as the Hornets’ new head coach, they seem committed to developing Malik Monk and getting him enough minutes to grow his game going forward.