Fix the NBA Draft, Charlotte Hornets fans deserve better

Steve Clifford, Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Steve Clifford, Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /
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It isn’t supposed to be like this. When a fan watches their team, they shouldn’t have mixed feelings every time something good happens. Every point should make them rejoice, not be bittersweet. Every unexpected win should exhilarate, not confuse. Every surge in the standings should fill them with joy, not dread.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for the dregs of the NBA. And with the likely top two draft picks (Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson) set to become contributors to their new teams immediately, the race to the bottom has never been more pronounced.

Hornets fans know the pain of this illogical fan mental gymnastics all too well. On the last day in January, Charlotte traveled to Milwaukee to play the Bucks. The game was competitive, particularly in the first half. LaMelo Ball’s 14 points, six rebounds, and eight assists showed how truly great the young star is. Ball had his usual contributions from deep (he’s averaging 35.8% on over 10 three-point attempts a game) and displayed his gorgeous passing ability with an in-and-out dribble/bounce pass to a waiting PJ Washington for the assist.

It was easy to root for him, as he grabbed a defensive rebound in the waning seconds of the first half and sprinted into the frontcourt to deliver a pass to the spot Jalen McDaniel would occupy on the break before hoisting his own three-pointer. A Hornets fan could be forgiven for enjoying the moment only to be crestfallen as the halftime score was all tied at 64.

It shouldn’t be this way. Here were the Hornets, 15-36, on the road against a championship-caliber team, and they were holding their own. Their star player was in fine form, and the rest of the team chipping in—four different players were in double figures halfway through the contest.

Despite having every reason to hang their collective head, this team was battling for each other and Head Coach Steve Clifford. Such a valiant effort should feel their fanbase with glee and hope for the future. Instead, it sent them running to their electronic devices to see what the unlikely win would do to their chances of getting the number 1 pick (they currently have the fourth-fewest wins and would likely get the fourth pick in the draft).

The Hornets have been unlucky in the NBA Draft

Such a revelation would frighten even the bravest of souls. Getting the fourth pick this season would be like getting the second pick in 1992 and missing out on Shaquille O’Neal. Or second in 2004 and narrowly missing out on Dwight Howard. Or second in 2014 and getting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist instead of Anthony Davis. Hornets fans have been burned before, and losing out on the top of this draft would be the latest (and perhaps worst) version of an NBA consolation prize.

So how can the NBA address this growing phenomenon?