Hornets strike it rich, plus more lottery observations
When the NBA Draft lottery balls came bouncing down in 2007, then-Seattle assistant general manager Rich Cho was standing next to then-Portland general manager Kevin Pritchard inside the Madison Square Garden room where the fates of two franchises were being determined.
The Blazers were given the No. 1 overall pick, and would ultimately make the ill-fated decision to take center Greg Oden out of Ohio State. The Sonics would wind up being elated with their runner-up status, selecting Texas' Kevin Durant and thereby starting the league's most impressive rebuilding effort of this era.
But Cho, who is now heading Charlotte's massive rebuild as the team's general manager, won't look back on Wednesday night with any sort of fondness. This was not the year to come in second place, not with Kentucky forward Anthony Davis sitting there as the one player widely seen as a franchise centerpiece, future All-Star and immediate impact player.
Yet that's what happened in New York, where the Bobcats -- who endured a miserable season that went down as the worst, percentage-wise, in the history of the NBA and resulted in the top odds to land the top pick (25 percent) -- were given the No. 2 pick and the New Orleans Hornets leapfrogged three teams and won the rights to add Davis in the June 28 draft despite having just a 13.7 percent chance to do so. And while projecting the careers of draft prospects is almost always a fool's errand, you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone in NBA circles who isn't convinced the Hornets are the runaway winners of this latest lottery.
Conspiracy theories aside (the team is still technically owned by the NBA, although it's being bought by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, and thus the selection sparked all the predictable chatter about the lottery being rigged), the Hornets are now fast-tracked for their turnaround just five and a half months after the Chris Paul trade with the Clippers left them reaching for relevancy (and, of course, sparked similar conspiracy theory chatter after the NBA vetoed Paul's trade to the Lakers). Coach Monty Williams is a fantastic young coach who will be a worthy fit with Davis. Restricted free agent shooting guard Eric Gordon, who has said he wants to re-sign but was certainly watching to see what the offseason would bring for the Hornets roster, now has one large (Davis is 6-foot-10 and 220 pounds) and talented reason to return. New Orleans landed Gordon in the Paul deal, and has the No. 10 pick in this draft as a result of that trade as well.
Some other observations on the lottery and what it means ...
• That noise you heard from the New York stage was newbie Golden State general manager Bob Myers breathing a huge sigh of relief when the Warriors were given the No. 7 pick. In the first year under coach Mark Jackson, they had come up with a new form of tanking to protect their pick that would have gone to Utah if it wasn't in the top seven.
After trading their leading scorer (Monta Ellis) to Milwaukee for injured center Andrew Bogut in mid-March, they had a built-in excuse to take a nosedive and took it even further by going deep into their bench late in the season as part of a 7-22 finish. Even if the Warriors wind up trading the pick, it was a huge part of their aggressive plan to improve under owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber and the sort of asset they simply couldn't afford to lose. That was also the case with Brooklyn, but ...
• That other sound you heard was Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov cursing the basketball gods when he should have been yelling at himself. When Nets general manager Billy King proposed a deal to acquire small forward Gerald Wallace in March in exchange for a package that included the team's first-round pick (top 3 protected), someone should have asked the question of whether or not the 29-year-old -- whose nickname ("Crash") likely means he has 35 years of mileage on his legs -- was truly the sort of player who could inspire point guard/free-agent-to-be Deron Williams to stick around.
King has said that he plans on signing Wallace to a long-term deal when he becomes a free agent this summer, but the pick would have come in handy when he continued shopping for other talent to put around Williams. And for what it's worth, I'm not convinced that it's Dwight Howard-or-bust when it comes to the Nets' chances. There are other moves that can be made to appease him, but those moves just got a little harder.
• Portland, meanwhile, just became an even better destination for some new general manager.
• Sacramento stayed in its No. 5 slot and remains the league leader in consecutive appearances in the lottery (six). Not the kind of record anyone should shoot for. As for what the Kings do with the pick, I'd be surprised if they reach for either of the
• I'll have a Mock Draft coming out Thursday, but here's a possible preview/projection, courtesy of a front-office man whose team is in the top five. New Orleans takes Davis, followed by Charlotte taking Kansas forward Thomas Robinson, Washington taking Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cleveland taking North Carolina small forward Harrison Barnes and Sacramento taking Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal.