That moment might have come Thursday night for the New Orleans Hornets when they selected Anthony Davis with the first pick and Austin Rivers with the tenth. Arguably, that moment might have been a month ago when the Hornets won the NBA Lottery for the right to make Kentucky's 6-10 Davis the first player chosen. But they also had the No. 10 pick and to get a point guard who also can shoot, as they did by taking Rivers, is a rabbit's foot wrapped in a four-leaf clover.
The Davis pick was a no-brainer, as virtually every NBA personnel genius saw him as the rare player who can lead a team into the rare air of championships for years to come. The Rivers pick was not as automatic, because there was legitimate sentiment for the Hornets to pick a center such as North Carolina's Tyler Zeller. Current Center Chris Kaman is an unrestricted free agent who is not expected to come back to New Orleans, but the woods are full of teams that picked a player for need and not for the long-term benefit. I believe the Rivers pick transcends expediency and proves that the Hornets' brass is building a solid platform for the future.
You can find detractors for every player after Davis, but Rivers gives the team a mature point who is not fazed by the NBA since he grew up watching his father Doc Rivers as a player and now Celtics head coach. Rivers' only downside is said to be that he is arrogant, moody and too emotional on the court. However, his father countered that argument after the selection by saying his son is competitive. When he looks moody on the court, he is angry at himself, which reflects his competitive fire. That is a good thing, especially during a long NBA season.
All the above does not mean the Hornets have a pat hand for the coming season, or even the next. They have a lot of holes and currently no true center under contract. The full worth of their rebuilding process will be played out over the next two or three years. A great model to replicate regarding draft success is the Oklahoma City Thunder. Their big leap forward was the 2007 NBA draft when they picked Kevin Durant, but they had to follow it with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka in 2008 and James Harden in 2009.
Time will tell if June 28, 2012 goes down into Hornets history as the first night of a bright future. But the team should feel comfortable that on Thursday night they picked two big building blocks.
by Jim Miller, former Executive VP for the New Orleans Saints
Jim Miller's new book, "Where the Water Kept Rising," is now available in local bookstores and at his website: www.JWMillerSports.com