With the Hornets set to take on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday night, it feels like a perfect time to open up a long-since-healed wound and revisit what turned out to be a disastrous draft day trade back in 2018.
Charlotte held the 11th overall pick in the NBA draft, while the Los Angeles Clippers sat at 12th overall. Mitch Kupchak had just taken over as GM and President of Basketball Operations in Charlotte and looked to make a bit of a splash in his first offseason.
He knew that the Clippers were actively targeting a point guard, and figured he could use that knowledge as leverage. So he essentially swapped picks with LA, moving down one spot, from 11th to 12th, and adding two future second-round picks.
On the surface, that seems like a pretty good piece of business; the Hornets would be able to select the player they wanted anyway and pick up some future lottery picks in the process.
Narrator: It was not a good piece of business
The issue, of course, is the players who ended up being selected and traded for each other. The Hornets took Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the point guard from Kentucky at 11, and swapped him to the Clippers for the 12th pick, and current Hornet, Miles Bridges from Michigan State.
Bridges has been a solid player for the Hornets, and in a vacuum that would be a pretty solid value for the 12th overall pick in the draft. Unfortunately, SGA has turned into a legitimate MVP candidate and one of the best overall players in the world.
Hindsight is obviously 20/20, and there is no way to know if the Hornets would have even drafted Gilgeous-Alexander themselves, had they not made the trade. But still, the fact that he was technically selected by the team, walked up to that stage and shook Commissioner Adam Silver’s hand while donning a brand new Charlotte Hornets hat and a big smile, will forever haunt Hornets fans’ dreams.
Now in his sixth season in the NBA, SGA is averaging over 31 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists, while leading the Thunder to a 33-15 record as the team’s lone All-Star. He also currently sits at 2nd in the latest NBA MVP Ladder, trailing only Nikola Jokic.
We’ll never know just how he would have fit in Charlotte, or if he would ever have ascended to these heights. But it’s abundantly clear that he is a generational talent and one that the Hornets willingly gave away to add a couple of future second-round picks.
It’s agonizing to think of where this franchise would be right now if they had simply held onto the pick and drafted SGA. Alas, this is the life of a Hornets fan.