What should Charlotte Hornets do with sixth pick in NBA Draft? There’s only one answer

It’s a little over a month away.

Can you feel the anticipation building, gathering steam with such force that you can’t stop thinking about it and wish the days flew by until then?

No, we’re not talking about the official start of summer, when the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere arrives, triggering backyard barbecues and trips to Lake Norman. This is regarding the event that usually has intrigue and signals the true commencement of month-long flurry of activity that sets social media and the airwaves ablaze.

Yes, the good old NBA Draft.

That’s now the collective focus for a majority of the league, except for the four teams still alive in the chase for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, and the three searching for a new head coach with former Charlotte Hornets coach and current New Orleans lead assistant James Borrego among the choices.

But for these Hornets, once the ping-pong balls were done flying around the hopper inside a closed ballroom in Chicago earlier this month, the focus shifted toward the NBA’s annual draft on June 26-27.

“Yeah, disappointed but I also think it’s a good draft to have the sixth pick,” Hornets co-owner Rick Schnall told The Observer in the aftermath. “So, I think we are going to be fine. We just talked to our guys and we are excited about having the sixth pick. Disappointing, but we are confident we are going to find a good player.”

The Hornets’ due course of direction then probably became all the more apparent— or perhaps it should have.

Only one option makes the most sense: trade the pick to the highest bidder.

For those who are just catching up or don’t really have much emotionally invested in this year’s draft, the Cliff Notes version takes all of about five seconds to thumb through: There’s a general consensus that this is among the worst collection of talent in the draft in decades.

Even the players hear the noise, which is growing to a crescendo.

“It definitely bothers me, for sure,” G League Ignite product Ron Holland said when asked by the Observer about the chatter during the NBA Draft Combine. “I feel like if you put us against any other draft class, we just don’t have a standout unicorn or anybody like that. But I feel like we all can be very good role players someday, I feel like some of us can be All-Stars. I feel like we are a regular draft class.

“When I hear we are a pretty bad draft class, I really try not to pay attention to it but also it burns my blood. So, I’m sure it pushes not only me, but it pushes me to go and prove everybody wrong.”

Maybe Holland and the others hovering among the lottery-pick range will do just that. But the thought alone of this class lacking many standouts should be enough to spur the Hornets into action and make something happen to expedite their roster reconstruction.

The Hornets’ brain trust must find a way to accelerate their path without jeopardizing the future in the process. Bringing in another young player, who could either be a teenager or very early twentysomething, to add to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in eight seasons representing — the NBA’s longest postseason drought — doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Whether it’s Kentucky’s Reed Sheppard, Hickory native and fellow Kentucky product Rob Dillingham or Connecticut’s Donovan Clingman and Stephon Castle … whoever.

No matter who they select in the first round, that player is going to need time to develop and blossom into a trusty rotation piece to pair alongside LaMelo Ball and Brandon Miller in the clutch when the spotlight shines brightest. And considering all the changes they’re making throughout Hornets Sports & Entertainment — including ongoing arena renovations and an increase in ticket prices — the organization has to put a winning and marketable group together.

Keeping their yearly lottery-drafting tradition and incorporating from such a ho-hum class will do little to excite the fan base and push the team’s agenda forward beyond a snail’s pace. The Hornets need to use the sixth pick as an asset, dangling it to the general manager masses like a carrot as part of a greater package to reel in someone who’s at least slightly more established and can come in and help them immediately.

Not in a year or two. But now.

Holding onto the pick and selecting a potential project will do little to benefit the Hornets and could set whatever timeline they have to compete for a postseason spot in the Southeast Division back. It’s why they shouldn’t have any second thoughts or questions about moving their first-round selection.