5 Worst New Orleans Hornets Draft Picks of All Time

Dave Leonardis@@FrontPageDaveContributor IIIMarch 22, 2013

5 Worst New Orleans Hornets Draft Picks of All Time

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    The New Orleans Hornets haven't been impervious to the draft-day pitfalls that have plagued every team. While the franchise doesn't have any Greg Oden-esque massive busts on their record, they have had a few misses during their 25-year history.

    The Hornets' overall success rate with their draft picks is surprisingly high for a team with limited postseason success. It all started in 1988, when the then-Charlotte Hornets used the No. 8 pick on Kentucky swingman Rex Chapman. Chapman was a serviceable guard for a few years before moving on to a more prolific career elsewhere.

    After Chapman, the team had some big hits with guys like Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, Baron Davis and Chris Paul. All were franchise cornerstones for the Hornets at one point, and all eventually left for greener pastures while still in the midst of their prime.

    Those guys represent the highlights of the Hornets' draft history. Today, we take a look at some of the low-lights by listing the five worst Hornets draft picks of all time.

    There were a few stipulations to this list. First, while the title reads "worst New Orleans Hornets draft picks of all time," this group isn't exclusive to picks during the team's stint in the Big Easy. In fact, a majority of the five were selected while the team was in Charlotte.

    Second, the player had to actually play some games for the team. For example, Cole Aldrich was drafted by the Hornets with the No. 11 pick in 2010. He was then shipped to the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he was unproductive before being sent to Houston in the James Harden trade. For that reason, he didn't make the cut for this flawed five.

    Third, the picks had to be made in the first round. Second-round picks that emerge into viable pro basketball players are few and far between. Thus, a player with limited expectations can't be faulted for not developing into superstars.

    Finally, the major criterion for making this list is a combination of lack of production and whom the team could have drafted instead. An example of the latter would be Charlotte drafting J.R. Reid (who didn't make the list) with the No. 5 pick of the 1989 NBA Draft instead of someone like Tim Hardaway or Shawn Kemp.

    This year's rookies were also left off, as it is too early to put them among the worst draft picks ever. There might not be a bunch of names that jump out at you, but here are the five worst Hornets draft picks of all time.

5. Tony Delk, No. 16 Overall, 1996

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    The Charlotte Hornets had two of the first 15 picks in one of the greatest drafts in recent memory (1996). With the No. 13 overall pick, they drafted a talented guard out of Lower Merion High School named Kobe Bryant. Bryant was then quickly shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers for center Vlade Divac.

    With their next pick (No. 16 overall), the Hornets drafted a scoring point guard out of Kentucky named Tony Delk. Delk played four years for the Wildcats, averaging around 17 points per game each of his past three seasons.

    Delk was the final piece from the blockbuster trade that sent Alonzo Mourning to the Miami Heat. When he got to Charlotte, all of the 6'1", 190-pound guard's scoring acumen seemed to have gone out of the window.

    Delk averaged 5.4 points and 1.6 assists in 61 games for the Hornets during his rookie year. He played a little over 14 minutes per game and shot a respectable 46 percent from the field. He was not the offensive weapon that the team had hoped he would be.

    Three games into his second season in Charlotte, the former Final Four Most Outstanding Player was dealt to Golden State, along with Muggsy Bogues, for veteran point guard B.J. Armstrong. The Warriors would be the second of eight teams Delk would go on to play for during his 10-year career.

    As if trading away "The Black Mamba" wasn't egregious enough, Delk was taken ahead of a couple of future All-Stars in Jermaine O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

    Delk would go on to have a decent season with the Phoenix Suns in 2000-01, averaging 12.3 points per game. However, he never made the impact the Hornets had hoped he would.

4. Julian Wright, No. 13 Overall, 2007

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    Julian Wright was an athletic small forward that played significant minutes for the Kansas Jayhawks. Despite logging 27 minutes per game and averaging just 12 points per night, Wright thought it would be a good idea to declare for the NBA draft after his sophomore season.

    Clearly, he could have used another season or two in Lawrence.

    The New Orleans Hornets used the No. 13 overall pick on Wright in 2007. The thought process could have been that Wright's athleticism would complement the playmaking ability of point guard Chris Paul. In three seasons with the Hornets, Wright never averaged more than four points per game.

    The main reason for Wright's difficulty in the pros was his lack of shooting touch. He's a career 26-percent shooter from behind the arc. That includes the 2008-09 season, when he shot a mind-boggling nine percent from three-point range.

    New Orleans decided it had seen enough of Wright in 2010-11 and traded him to Toronto for Marco Belinelli. Belinelli would wind up being a serviceable guard and deadly shooter off the bench for the Hornets. Wright, meanwhile, averaged 3.6 points per game in his lone season with the Raptors.

    The 2007 draft had its share of busts, from Greg Oden to Yi Jianlian to Acie Law. Still, the Hornets could have had their pick of guys like Nick Young, Wilson Chandler or Arron Afflalo at No. 13. Instead, they swung and missed on a Kansas small forward with the dreaded "upside."

    For that, Wright finds himself on this list.

3. Hilton Armstrong, No. 12 Overall, 2006

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    Hilton Armstrong was the classic lanky big man who excelled at being athletic and blocking shots. At 235 pounds, he didn't really have the bulk to be a viable NBA center.

    Of course, that didn't stop the Hornets from using the first of their two draft picks on the Connecticut big man. Armstrong played four years for the Huskies. He finished his tenure with a strong senior year that saw him average three blocks per night.

    Offensively, he was a work in progress. He never scored more than nine points per game at UConn. His rebounding numbers left a lot to be desired as well, as his best output in college was 6.6 boards per game.

    The selection of Armstrong was particularly odd because the Hornets already had a guy on the roster with a similar skill set in Tyson Chandler. Considering Chandler was a mere 24 years old at the time, there wasn't much of a need to draft his replacement.

    If the team wanted to look ahead to draft an heir apparent for a future departing star, perhaps the Hornets could have selected a Kentucky point guard named Rajon Rondo to eventually replace Chris Paul. Granted, nobody could have foreseen the Hornets ever getting rid of CP3, but Rondo as his potential substitute is a nice "What if?"

    After three seasons with the Hornets, Armstrong was sent to Sacramento for cash and a 2016 second-round pick. He managed to block 105 shots combined in three years. In his best season with the team, he averaged 4.8 points and 2.8 rebounds.

    Somehow, Armstrong lasted two more seasons in the NBA, but not before landing on three more teams.

    In addition to Rondo, the Hornets could have also had defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha or Ronnie Brewer instead of Armstrong. Neither of those two have been extremely productive, but they would have been better options than the route New Orleans took.

2. Cedric Simmons, No. 15 Overall, 2006

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    To his credit, Cedric Simmons looked the part of an NBA power forward. The former NC State alum had good size and a strong body at 6'9", 235 pounds. He averaged nearly 12 points and six boards per game in his second and final season with the Wolfpack.

    Simmons was the latter of the Hornets' two 2006 draft picks. He's ahead of his fellow classmate, Hilton Armstrong, on this list because he somehow managed to be less productive. Armstrong also lasted two seasons longer with the Hornets than Simmons did.

    Simmons averaged 2.9 points and 2.5 rebounds in his lone season with the Hornets. A year after selecting him with No. 15 overall pick, he was sent to Cleveland in exchange for former Hornets guard David Wesley.

    In Cleveland, he struggled to get playing time. He logged nearly 10 minutes per game for the Cavs before he was inevitably a part of a three-team trade that would net the team Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West.

    Those 10 minutes a night he shared a uniform with LeBron James must have seemed like an eternity for Simmons, because he barely played in stints with the Bulls and Kings. By 2009, he was out of the league.

    As with Armstrong, you can knock the Hornets for this pick because it wasn't Rajon Rondo. Sure, the team had Chris Paul on the roster, but couldn't they have used Rondo as a backup? They turned Simmons into Wesley anyway (albeit for only a month), so wouldn't they have been better served just selecting Rondo?

    It's a question that is easy to ask seven years later. It's hard to project if Rondo would have been the same superstar in New Orleans that he is now in Boston. However, we do know that the selection of Simmons was a terrible decision for the Hornets.

    Further rubbing salt in the team's awful 2006 draft class, the Hornets used a second-round pick on Brazilian forward Marcus Vinicius. Four picks later, the Utah Jazz drafted a power forward out of Louisiana Tech named Paul Millsap.

    Needless to say, this was a draft the Hornets and their fans would like to forget.

1. Kirk Haston, No. 16 Overall, 2001

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    Kirk Haston's lack of NBA success could be attributed to a lack of opportunity. After all, the kid proved during his three-year stint at Indiana that he has some talent. He finished his Hoosiers career averaging 14.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

    After the Hornets used the No. 16 overall pick on Haston in 2001, he played in a combined 27 games in two seasons and never managed more than five minutes per game. That might make his position at the top of this list a little unfair.

    Still, it has to say something about your career if you couldn't wrestle away playing time from the likes of Robert "Tractor" Traylor and Matt Bullard, right? Those two men were the main backup forwards for Charlotte during the 2001-02 season. They averaged a combined six points and three rebounds per game.

    The next season, Haston was struggling to find playing time behind Jerome Moiso. Those two seasons with the Hornets were the sum of Haston's career. After scoring 19 points per game in his final season with the Hoosiers, Haston averaged 1.2 points per game during his entire NBA stint.

    If those numbers aren't enough to make you cringe, you should also remember that the Hornets selected Haston over Michigan State big man Zach Randolph (selected three picks later by Portland). Guys like Gerald Wallace, Tony Parker and Gilbert Arenas would all be taken after Haston.

    It goes without saying that all of them would have been more intriguing options in the spot at the end of the bench that Haston was commandeering.