It wasn’t until 1988 that the Charlotte Hornets was established as an NBA squad. Since it’s inception, the Hornets have not been one of the more successful teams in the league, with this team going only as far as the second round in the playoffs on four separate occasions — as of writing, at least.
As such, the Hornets has been a lottery team for more than a few seasons, and this has resulted in a number of outstanding draft picks. Today we’ve rounded out the five best draft picks in the history of this franchise.
5. Kendall Gill
Fifth overall in 1990 NBA Draft
6-foot-5 swingman Kendall Gill had an amazing senior year with Illinois, which led to fifth overall selection in 1990 by the Hornets. Gill was relatively impressive in his debut campaign, but it wasn’t until his sophomore year that he emerged as a premier scorer in the league. In just his second year in the league, Gill put up 20.5 points per contest. He also averaged 5.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.9 steals, which speaks volumes of his all-around game.
After four seasons with the Hornets, Gill made his way to the Seattle SuperSonics as the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal that sent Dana Barros, Eddie Johnson, and a future first-rounder to Charlotte.
4. Baron Davis
Third overall in 1999 NBA Draft
In his prime, Baron Davis was one of the best point guards in the entire league. Unfortunately for the Hornets, the 6-foot-3 guard had some of the best years of his career after parting ways with the Hornets — a trend that will continue as we go through this list today.
Davis spent the first six years of his career with the Hornets, and was part of the team when they moved from Charlotte to New Orleans in 2002. Davis was named to the All-Star team twice in his career, and both of which was while he was with the Hornets.
At that point in time, New Orleans was not in a position to keep their stars, and Davis was no exception. The team traded him to the Golden State Warriors in 2005 for Speedy Claxton and Dale Davis.
3. Alonzo Mourning
Second overall in 1992 NBA Draft
After a tremendous career in Georgetown (shout out to the recently departed former legendary Hoyas head coach John Thompson — rest in peace, legend), the Heat selected 6-foot-10 big man Alnozo Mourning in 1992 with their second overall pick. He could have easily been the first pick in any other draft, except that a guy named Shaquille O’Neal happened to be in the same draft class.
The only downside in Mourning’s Hornets career is that it was short-lived. He spent just three years with the team, averaging 21.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 3.2 blocks per contest. The prized big man was named to the All-Star squad in consecutive years in his final two seasons with the Hornets, before being traded to the Miami Heat in 1995. Charlotte received quite a haul in exchange for Mourning, which came in the form of Matt Geiger, Khalid Reeves, the great Glen Rice, and a first-round pick.
2. Larry Johnson
First overall in 1991 NBA Draft
Selected as the first overall pick in ’92, Johnson had an instant impact on the NBA. He won Rookie of the Year honors, and was an All-Star in Year 2. He was also named to the All-NBA squad as a sophomore, making him one of the top power forwards in the league.
Much like Mourning and Davis, though, Johnson was ultimately destined for an early departure from the Hornets. Charlotte traded him to the New York Knicks in 1995, where Johnson would continue to terrorize the league with his unique combination of size and skill.
Johnson parted ways with the Hornets after five season, with averages of 19.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists.
1. Kemba Walker
Ninth overall in 2011 NBA Draft
Depending on where you’re sitting, you could easily argue a case for Kemba Walker being the best Hornet of all time, thereby guaranteeing his spot at the very top of this franchise’s top draft picks in history.
The fact that he fell all the way to ninth in the draft made him an absolute steal for the Hornets, which adds even more value to this particular pick. For what it’s worth, guys likes Derrick Williams, Enes Kanter, Jon Vesely, Bismack Biyombo, and Brandon Knight were all selected before Walker in 2011.
Walker spent eight memorable seasons with the Hornets, during which he set more than a few franchise records. To date, Walker is the Hornets all-time leader in minutes played (20,607), field goals made (4,164), three-pointers made (1,283), and points (12,009). He called time on his Hornets career in 2019, opting to sign with the Boston Celtics on a sign-and-trade deal.