The Hornets draft miss that continues to haunt franchise (and will for years)

The Hornets are haunted by making the wrong draft choice in 2020.
Charlotte Hornets, LaMelo Ball
Charlotte Hornets, LaMelo Ball / Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Charlotte Hornets have not made the playoff since 2016 and their last postseason series win came in 2002. It has been a rough go for the franchise in recent years. They have young talent after an eight-year playoff drought, but it has not been enough. LaMelo Ball is starting to pop up in trade rumors, and the Hornets may still be years away from making a postseason run.

The 2020 NBA Draft was thrown off by the pandemic. It did not happen until November and there was limited travel to see the prospects. The entire process was a mess, but it was clear that Anthony Edwards would be the top selection. Golden State was deciding between James Wiseman and Ball at two. The Warriors took the center and quickly regretted it, but Ball has been limited to 184 games over four seasons or just 46 per year. The Hornets were happy to take him, but things have changed.

He was not the right choice for Charlotte, despite being an All-Star and still only 22 years old. It was the player who dipped to the late lottery, despite being projected as a top-five selection, who has everyone regretting passing on him.

Taking LaMelo Ball over Tyrese Haliburton should haunt the Hornets

Haliburton pushed through an injury to play 69 games this season. It helped the two-time All-Star guard get more money in his next contract and secure third-team All-NBA honors, but he was not done. Haliburton lifted the Pacers to the conference finals as he has become one of the best playmakers in the world.

The 24-year-old is gearing up for the Olympics this summer and has the early edge of being the best player in this draft class. He leads with a 14.0 value over replacement player (VORP) and nobody has produced more win shares. Haliburton makes his teammates better and still has plenty of room to grow.

Both young guards struggle on the defensive end, but Haliburton runs a top-two offense in the NBA. The Hornets have had a negative net rating with Ball on the floor in three of his four seasons. Ball’s best offensive rating was 114.0 in 2022, but Haliburton had a 121.2 mark this season.

The wins, playmaking, and making his team better are everything the Hornets want from Ball. Tyrese Haliburton already has it at 24 with room to grow. He figures to be one of the best playmakers in the NBA for the next decade, and Charlotte may trade LaMelo and move in a different direction.

It may seem like a small miss, but these moves are the ones that keep teams in the lottery for a decade straight. Stars win in the NBA, and Charlotte Hornets had a chance to grab one in the 2020 NBA Draft.

They may have if LaMelo Ball can stay healthy and reach his potential, but give Haliburton the edge in winning games for years to come. Fans certainly wonder how he would have blossomed on the Charlotte Hornets. Sadly, they will never get to find out.