By Mark Bergin, WRAL senior multiplatform producer
Charlotte, N.C. — The Charlotte Hornets just missed out on the opportunity to draft Victor Wembanyama, who many people consider the best basketball prospect since LeBron James in 2003.
On Tuesday night, the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA Draft Lottery for the rights to select Wembanyama with the first overall pick of the 2023 NBA Draft on June 22. The Hornets have the second pick.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is 74 and about to enter his 27th year coaching the team. It's unclear how many more seasons Popovich can continue considering he is the oldest coach in NBA history. However, he has previous experience coaching Hall of Famer big men Tim Duncan and David Robinson.
Wembanyama, 19, stands at a reported 7’5” in shoes and is listed at 230 pounds. He is considered a generational talent for handling the ball like a guard, shooting three-pointers and blocking shots.
As of Thursday morning, FanDuel lists Wembanyama at -20000 to be the first overall pick. It means someone would need to bet $20,000 to win $100 for a net payout of $20,100 net payout.
Sports gambling is legal in North Carolina, but only at tribal casinos. Next week, the North Carolina Senate is expected to consider legislation whether to legalize online sports gambling in the state. The state House has already approved the measure, which would legalize online sports gambling in North Carolina by Jan. 1, 2024.
Barring something crazy happening, Wembanyama will be on the Spurs. Start printing the Spurs jerseys once we can figure out what number he wants to wear.
How Victor Wembanyama Could Fit on the San Antonio Spurs
The bigger question now is: Which player should the Hornets take with the second pick?
First, a look at the Hornets previous draft history with the second overall pick.
Hornets draft history
Charlotte has previously selected the second overall pick in the NBA Draft three times:
- 1992: Alonzo Mourning
- 2004: Emeka Okafor
- 2012: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
While Mourning was also inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the Hornets just missed out on a generational talent in Shaquille O’Neal in 1992. The Magic selected O’Neal with the first overall pick.
In 2004, Charlotte — then the Bobcats — missed out on Dwight Howard, whom the Magic took first overall. Howard was an eight-time NBA All-Star and three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
Okafor won the 2005 NBA Rookie of the Year award, but never made an all-star team.
In 2012, Charlotte missed out on Anthony Davis, who was named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.
While Kidd-GIlchrist had a nine-year NBA career, he never developed an efficient three-point shot that is necessary in today’s league.
2023 NBA Draft Lottery
At Tuesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery, the Hornets sent center and former Duke standout Mark Williams as their representative. Williams is entering his second NBA season after the Hornets selected him with the 15th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Had the Hornets won the first pick, can you imagine Williams’ reaction knowing Charlotte would select his replacement in Wembanyama?
The Hornets had the fourth-best odds to get the top pick at 12.5% behind the Detroit Pistons (14%), the Houston Rockets (14%) and the Spurs (14%).
Who in the Hornets organization decided to send Williams as the team’s draft lottery representative knowing that winning the Wembanyama sweepstakes was a real possibility?
The Hornets have a previous history of sending a player as a representative only to select a rookie to eventually replace said player.
It happened at the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery when the Hornets had Raleigh native Devonte' Graham as their representative. The Hornets decision came after Graham finished fifth in the voting for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award during the 2019-2020 season. The Hornets got the third pick in 2020, selected guard LaMelo Ball and traded Graham to the New Orleans Pelicans in August 2021.
Ball was an all-star player in 2022, so maybe the the decision was for the best. We’ll see.
Which player should the Hornets draft with the second pick?
Here’s a look at the players the Hornets could take with second pick.
FanDuel has Henderson as the favorite to be the second pick at -160.
The G League Ignite guard is listed a 6’2” and 195 pounds.
Henderson averaged 16.5 points and 6.8 assists in 19 games for the Ignite. He’ll need to work on his three-point shooting (27.5%).
In October 2022, Henderson’s Ignite played an exhibition game against Wembanyama’s Metropolians 92 of France. It provided a glimpse of the NBA’s future.
Wembanyama had 37 points (7-for-11 on 3-pointers), five blocks and four rebounds. Henderson had 28 points, five rebounds and nine assists.
If the Hornets decide to select Henderson, they’ll need to decide if he can pair with Ball. While Ball is considered a point guard, his size at 6’7” would allow him to defend opposing teams point guards, shooting guards or small forwards.
Henderson and Ball would need to become comfortable playing off the ball. Both players are skilled playmakers with the ball in their hands.
The Hornets could also trade Ball or trade the pick.
For example, the Magic have the sixth and 11th picks in the 2023 NBA Draft.
The Magic could trade up considering the Hornets have Ball, the Trail Blazers (third pick) have Damian Lillard and the Houston Rockets (fourth pick) have Jalen Green.
Brandon Miller is coming off a freshman season at Alabama where was the SEC Player of the Year.
The 6-foot-9, 200-pound forward led the Crimson Tide in scoring (18.8 points per game and rebounding (8.2 rebounds per game).
Although Miller is not facing criminal charges, he faced scrutiny for delivering a gun to former teammate Darius Miles that was later used to kill 23-year-old mother Jamea Harris on Jan. 15.
Alabama decided not to suspend Miller.
There are reports about Hornets owner Michael Jordan considering a sale for the majority stake of the franchise. Reports indicate the new ownership group is led by in Hornets minority owner Gabe Plotkin and Atlanta Hawks minority owner Rick Schnall.
Would Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak —who started his role in April 2018 with the franchise after getting fired the year before as GM of the Los Angeles Lakers — and the Hornets new ownership want to select Miller considering what happened off the court?
Also, consider the off-the-court issues with Hornets forward Miles Bridges.
The NBA initially suspended Miles Bridges 30 games for domestic violence. He’ll miss just 10 games in which he is eligible to play since he did not sign or play during the 2022-23 season after his arrest in June 2020. The New York Times reported Bridges was accused of accused of hitting his girlfriend in front of their two children. He pleaded no contest to a felony domestic violence charge in November 2022.
Last summer, Bridges was due for a five-year, $170 million contract extension with the Hornets. Bridges is now eligible to renew his free agency.
Amen Thompson or Ausar Thompson
The 6-foot-7 twin brothers competed in the Overtime Elite, which is a professional basketball league for 16-20-year-olds in Atlanta.
Amen ranks higher than Ausar on most draft boards, but both brothers are projected to go in the top 10.
The brothers decided to forego their senior years of high school and commit to Overtime Elite.
The 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward was second for Houston in scoring (11.2 points per game) and rebounding (6.8 rebounds per game).
Walker can guard multiple positions and has a decent three-point shot (34.7%).
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