Based on the results of Tuesday night’s annual NBA draft lottery, the Charlotte Hornets’ first-round pick could end up any one of six spots: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 11th, 12th or 13th.
By far, the most likely result for the Hornets, from the process in Chicago (7:30 p.m. ESPN), is picking 11th (a 90.74 percent probability). But they have some small chance of moving up into one of the top 3 picks. They also could slip back to 12th or 13th, if one or two non-playoff teams with records better than the Hornets’ 36-46 jump into the top 3.
The lottery has been kind to the Hornets (top-3 picks to select Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning and Baron Davis) and cruel, too (they dropped from No. 1 to No. 2 in 2012, costing them superstar-to-be Anthony Davis).
We don’t know the draft order, but we do know who’ll be available in the June 21 draft. We also know new Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak’s general philosophy on drafting (unless the grade between two players is very close, go with talent over need).
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So if you’re the Hornets, picking in any one of these six spots, what should you do?
No. 1 (Hornets have a 0.80% chance)
DeAndre Ayton, Arizona center-forward: Ayton is one of those big men you draft regardless of who else is on your roster (think Davis, Shaquille O’Neal or Patrick Ewing). Doesn’t matter even that a future Hall of Famer in Dwight Howard is here, or that Cody Zeller backs up Howard.
There is nothing mechanical about how Ayton moves or plays. His ballhandling in traffic is stunning. He made 34 percent of his college 3-pointers (although 35 attempts are nothing like a large sample). Ayton’s body is already filled out to an NBA level. The NCAA loss to Buffalo suggested Ayton has work to do when guards rake at the ball or try denying him possession, but that wouldn’t change your thinking about drafting him No. 1.
No. 2 (0.95% chance)
Luka Doncic, Slovenian guard-forward: Doncic’s size (6-8) and wide skill set suggest he’ll be a scorer-playmaker the way Hedo Turkoglu was at his best with the Orlando Magic. He’ll be enough of a facilitator to take some burden off a scoring point guard (Kemba Walker, for instance) and still put up significant statistics as a scorer.
He doesn’t have great lateral quickness, so defense against shooting guards and small forwards at the NBA level will be a challenge. But in the short run, he’d be to offense what Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is to defense for the Hornets at the small forward position.
No. 3 (1.15% chance)
Marvin Bagley, Duke power forward-center: Bagley is 6-11 and strong in a way one-and-done college big men often aren’t. He has a jump shot (40 percent from the college 3-point line, although on only 58 attempts), but more importantly he can bully opponents in the lane. His ability to score in the post won’t diminish much against NBA talent, whether in the offense or via offensive rebounds.
The only question about drafting Bagley would be what Kupchak thinks of Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson: Same position and size, but a little more fluid athletically; more a finesse player.
No. 11 (90.74% chance)
Mikal Bridges, Villanova small forward: This might be a best-case scenario; he could be gone several spots before the 11th pick, in part because he’s illustrative of the direction the NBA is headed: Greater value on so-called “two-way players” who aren’t a compromise of offense over defense or vice versa.
Bridges’ 44 percent shooting from the college 3-point line in the Wildcats’ national championship run sure would be useful to a Hornets team in which Kidd-Gilchrist attempted only 36 3s in his first six NBA seasons.
No. 12 (6.28% chance)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky point guard: He wasn’t a starter initially last season, but he was probably John Calipari’s best overall player at season’s conclusion. His 7-foot wingspan is of huge value defensively. His fluidity off the dribble makes him a constant threat to get into the lane, either to score layups or draw second defenders.
His size would allow him to defend shooting guards, which could make him a good pairing with 6-3 combo guard Malik Monk off the Hornets’ bench.
No. 13 (0.08% chance)
Kevin Knox, Kentucky forward: Calipari needed Knox as his primary scorer. He averaged 15.6 points on 44.5 percent from the field, which is solid enough, but the coaches pushed him to be more passionate and dominant, and that wasn’t always there. He’s physically imposing driving to the basket in transition, but he needs to be more conscious of teammates, in terms of the attention he draws from defenses.