The 2015 NBA Draft had some pretty big names, many of whom are now household names. The Charlotte Hornets missed out on a few of those that evening, so let’s fix that.
The Charlotte Hornets and the NBA Draft. Sometimes the two are like oil and water, especially over the last decade. That seems to be changing, though, as GM Mitch Kupchak has done a great job analyzing and drafting talent in his three years in Charlotte.
Still, that doesn’t erase years of dreadful draft-night decisions on behalf of the Hornets and there are plenty from which to choose. The 2015 iteration wasn’t the worst one for Charlotte, by any stretch, but in a draft that featured many prominent members of teams all vying for playoff success, it’s easy to look back and see it could have been more favorable.
So, without further ado, let’s right the ship and see if we can make a team that actually made the playoffs even better. Let’s start with the first round, where the Charlotte Hornets had a very familiar pick.
The Charlotte Hornets picked 9th in the 2015 NBA draft and while their selection would be a significant part of the team going forward, they could have done better.
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The 9th overall pick:
With the 9th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Hornets selected Frank Kaminsky out of the University of Wisconsin. Frank would play four seasons in Charlotte and did so fairly well, averaging nearly 10 points a game. He wasn’t spectacular, but he could get the job done and was a solid rotational guy for them.
As many Hornets fans know, though, he wasn’t exactly worthy of the 9th pick in the draft, especially given who was taken after him. So, we’re going to pick someone else as plenty of players taken after him would go on to have better careers.
There are quite a few names out there, but one I’m going one with is Devin Booker, out of Kentucky. Now, the thing about this pick is that Booker primarily plays the two-guard spot and the Hornets had five guys on that year’s squad who could play that role.
I’m not worried about that because Nicolas Batum, who played the bulk of minutes at the shooting guard position, can ease back into his role at small forward, replacing the revolving door of players that played at that spot during that season.
P.J. Hairston (Yes, P.J. Hairston) had the fifth-most games started that season, so Booker, now an All-Star, would be taking his place in the starting lineup. Devin scored 14 points a contest during his rookie campaign and made the All-Rookie team. Hairston scored just 6 points a game that season. That’s an easy decision if there ever was one.
Who knows how Devin Booker would have progressed on this team, but on the Phoenix Suns, he has averaged 22 points for his career, while shooting 45% from the field and nearly 36% from behind the arc. I would say that beats out Frank Kaminsky, who is now his teammate in Phoenix, oddly enough. Onto the next pick.
The 39th overall pick:
This one’s going to be a little weird. Charlotte originally drafted Juan Pablo Vaulet with the 39th overall pick. They then traded his rights to the Brooklyn Nets for two second-round picks, one for the 2018 draft and one for the 2019 draft. Vaulet was just one of many players taken in the second round of that draft to never play in the league.
The 2018 pick would be used to select Arnoldas Kulboka in the second round of the 2018 draft, but he also hasn’t seen any time in the league.
That 2019 pick was used in a trade involving Hairston to acquire Courtney Lee during the 2015-2016 season. Lee was a large factor in helping the Hornets make the playoffs that year, as he would start 28 games for them.
With Booker thriving as a starter, the Hornets still make the trade, as Hairston was not happy with his situation and Lee’s sharpshooting off the bench helps the team make the playoffs.
So, with nearly every player taken after Charlotte’s second pick either now playing overseas or making a go of it in the G-League, the only real change the team makes is in the first round.
But, what a change it was. If everything panned how it has in reality, Kemba Walker gets a running mate that makes them arguably the best backcourt duo in the Eastern Conference. Perhaps with that tandem, the team finally makes consecutive playoff appearances again. Maybe they’re even a top-four team in the East.
Then, they could decide to keep them together and we still have Kemba in a Charlotte uniform. It truly is amazing how just one pick can make a team into a winner or can keep them in mediocrity. For much of the last decade, it seemed the Hornets did the latter, rather than the former.
If the last few drafts are anything to go by, this could all be turning around, and while fans continue waiting to cheer on our guys once again, we could be seeing the makings of something magical. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed.