Sometimes teams walk away from the NBA Draft and it feels like they just added another guy to the mix. Then there are the drafts where it feels like a team is beginning to put together the championship formula.
Thursday night felt very much like the latter for the New Orleans Hornets franchise.
The Hornets selected Kentucky star Anthony Davis with the no. 1 overall pick in Thursday night’s Draft and added Duke guard Austin Rivers with the 10th pick in the first round.
“We’re very excited to bring Anthony (Davis) and Austin (Rivers) to New Orleans,” said Hornets General Manager Dell Demps. “And the great thing is, they both want to be here.”
There was no doubt about Davis being selected with the first pick, but some were a bit surprised by Rivers selection with the no. 10 pick. Demps was not one of those people.
“This is who we wanted (at number 10). We were impressed by him during his workout and we’re excited to bring Austin to New Orleans,” Demps said. “I have known Austin and his family for a long time. He is a stand-up young man and brings the type of character and talent we are looking to add to this team.”
Rivers averaged 15.5 points per game during his only season at Duke University and was named third-team All America.
Rivers, son of current Boston Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers, added, “I love the city and I love the people there. As far as the team, I think they have great pieces. I really do feel like I can help this team get better and it is going to be a great fit.”
But the biggest addition to the Hornets from Thursday’s Draft was, unquestionably, Davis. He is regarded as last year’s top college player, by a wide margin, and Demps believes his addition will lead to a bright future for the Hornets franchise.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Anthony to the Hornets family,” Demps said. “We have added an incredibly talented, athletic big man with great length who is also a proven winner. I’m getting to know him, he’s also a high-character kid and someone I look forward to helping develop further.”
Davis averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game during his only collegiate season at the University of Kentucky. He also won six of the seven major National Player of the Year awards en route to a National Championship.
But before we can start talking about any type of move toward title contention with this team, Demps understands that the Hornets must make one more very important move this summer.
“I want to make sure that (restricted free agent) Eric Gordon is going to be the leader of our team next year. We’re hoping that the young guys will follow his lead,” Demps said.
The Hornets announced right before Thursday night’s Draft that they offered Gordon a qualifying offer, making him a restricted free agent. Gordon has the ability to field offers from other teams, but the Hornets have the right to match any offer given to him.
“We put this qualifying offer out to him today and we intend to sign him this summer,” Demps said.
Going forward with a young nucleus built around Davis, Rivers and Gordon will have many people speculating that the Hornets are the next up-and-coming title contenders in the NBA.
Demps wants the team to understand that they still have a very long road ahead of them.
“We don’t want to put too much pressure on a young guy, we want to manage expectations,” Demps said. “It would really help if (people) understand that (Davis and Rivers) are 19 and they’re going to take their bumps and bruises.”
Demps may want to manage expectations but there is no doubt what a draft like this one does for the prospects of a franchise.
The beginning pieces of a championship puzzle are being put together in New Orleans. The only question is if these players can live up to the hype and Demps can find the other pieces to complete the puzzle.
The Hornets also selected Kentucky swingman Darius Miller with the 46th pick in the second round. Miller averaged 9.9 points per game and was a teammate of Davis on the National Champion Kentucky team.