Hornets outsmarted themselves by passing on top-end C Donovan Clingan in NBA Draft

The Hornets may have made a huge error.
2024 NBA Draft - Round One
2024 NBA Draft - Round One / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

The Charlotte Hornets are no stranger to causing some shock with their picks early in the NBA Draft, as their (since validated) decision to take Brandon Miller No. 2 overall over Scoot Henderson was regarded as a bit unusual. Charlotte was back to their surprising ways early in 2024, passing on a player many believe could be an All-Star talent

Rather than selecting UConn center Donovan Clingan, widely regarded as the best big man on the board and a two-time champion in college, the Hornets decided to zig when everyone thought they would zag by taking French power forward Tidjane Salaun.

Clingan did not last long after the Hornets decided to pass, falling to the Portland Trail Blazers at No. 7 overall. Salaun has merit as a prospect, but this whole situation seems like Charlotte trying to reinvent the wheel and outsmart themselves.

Picking the 7-2 defense goliath who won two championships back-to-back? Nope! A raw 19-year-old forward is more Jeff Peterson's speed. This draft got off to a rocky start for Charlotte.

Hornets overthink things by passing on Donovan Clingan in NBA Draft

While Mark Williams has done a lot of good things on both ends when he's been healthy, it's hard to envision a center rotation dominated by him and Nick Richards truly moving the needle in the Eastern Conference. Clingan, who averaged 13.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks last season, looked to be one of the safer prospects in this class.

Salaun has oodles of potential, as he still has yet to turn 19 years old, but it may be years before he nails down a starting role and performs at an above-average clip. With years of battle scars in the NCAA Tournament and a more intriguing defensive profile, Clingan was the safer bet for a team that needed someone to raise the floor.

While any team that has Miller and LaMelo Ball at the tip of the spear will need to play fast, Charlotte's inability to protect the rim as a team has been one of the main reasons they've bounced around the lottery in recent years. In terms of impact in the next two years, Clingan was the clear top choice.

With Salaun likely to marinate on the bench as he adjusts to the speed of the NBA, Clingan will head off to Portland. For Charlotte's sake, they need to recapture some of that Miller magic and show the rest of the NBA their controversial selection was foresight rather than incompetence.