It’s now been three years since the Charlotte Hornets ushered in their 2018 NBA Draft class. Now seems like a good time to take a step back in time to re-grade the draft. The 2018 class featured three players in 12th overall pick Miles Bridges, 34th pick, Devonte’ Graham, and 55th overall pick Arnoldas Kulboka.
For those who don’t remember, Bridges wasn’t the original draft selection. The Hornets took now Oklahoma City Thunder star, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, with the 11th overall pick and flipped him to the LA Clippers for Bridges who was selected right afterward, as well as two second-round picks.
Charlotte loves what Bridges brings to the team and he’s become a fan favorite due to his vicious dunks. However, if you do feel some type of way about Gilgeous-Alexander not being a Hornet, no one can blame you.
Gilgeous-Alexander has already defined himself as the leader and go-to scorer on the Thunder roster, while Charlotte is still waiting for Bridges to truly establish himself as a key scorer for the Hornets.
During the 2020-21 season, Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 23.7 points, 5.9 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game, while Bridges posted a stat line of 12.7 points, 2.2 assists, and 6.0 rebounds per game.
It doesn’t take much to realize which player has been more productive, but context is important here as the Thunder were one of the league’s worst teams which forced Gilgeous-Alexander to carry a lot of the load. This isn’t to take away from his talent, but there is some inflation. Meanwhile, Bridges was on a Hornets team who was fighting for a playoff spot and had to play the role of Robin to guys like Gordon Hayward, LaMelo Ball, and Terry Rozier.
The bright spot for Bridges is that as a starter last season he jumped up to 18.6 points, 2.8 assists, and 6.7 rebounds per game. Significantly closing the gap on Gilgeous-Alexander. There’s a high chance that Bridges is a starter this upcoming season, so it will be interesting to see if he can take advantage of that opportunity.
The Hornets traded up in this draft sending two future second-round picks to the Atlanta Hawks to obtain the draft rights of Graham with the 34th pick. While he is no longer a member of the Hornets, Charlotte can feel like this pick was a massive success.
When Kemba Walker departed Charlotte in the Summer of 2018, it was Graham who stepped up to lead the team in scoring, averaging 18.2 points per game. For a second-round pick, this was massive, and it was thought Graham may be the point guard of the future for Charlotte.
Unfortunately, his stat line took a dip last season going down to 14.8 points per game. The addition of Ball and the emergence of Rozier pushed Graham further down the depth chart, but he still remained a key part of the Hornets rotation.
Charlotte decided not to extend Graham this offseason and instead capitalized off of his success by trading him to New Orleans for a first-round pick and Wesley Iwundu. Flipping a former second-round pick into a first-rounder surely has the front office excited.
While Bridges and Graham established themselves as key members of the Hornets core, Charlotte is still trying to see just what they have in Kulboka. Drafted and stashed overseas to progress his development, Kulboka has yet to see NBA game time. It looks as if that will likely change this upcoming season, as Charlotte signed him to a two-way deal this summer.
While Kulboka is mostly an unknown, what Charlotte does know is that he can really shoot the basketball. His overall stats aren’t the flashiest, averaging 9.2 points and 4.0 rebounds for the Spanish side, Bilbao last season. However, he did shoot 42.5% from three on 4.6 attempts per game.
If Kulboka can replicate that shooting form for the Hornets he can prove to be very useful for the young squad who requires some elite perimeter shooting from their forwards.
When looking back at this draft, Hornets fans can be pleased that they were able to bring in Bridges. He’s one of the most exciting players in the league which is something Charlotte hasn’t had in quite some time. Graham as well had a great stint in Charlotte and brought excitement back to Charlotte for a stint in 2018.
However, there still may be some regret in not keeping Gilgeous-Alexander, and the unknown of Kulboka after three years isn’t something to be too proud of. For those two factors, Charlotte gets a solid B for its effort in 2018.
If Bridges turns the corner and can establish himself as a starter this season, and Charlotte can grab any sort of production out of Kulboka, the grade for this draft next season could jump into the A range.