Wednesday, 06 June 2012 11:53

Anthony Davis Can Thread Needle For New Orleans Hornets

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jim-millerI have known a guy for 46 years who has more insight than anybody else in America into the Hornets' ability to draft a franchise player with the first pick in the June 28 NBA draft. And I will bet a dollar to a box of rocks that most of you have never heard of him. His name is Mike Pratt, and right now my Kentucky readers are starting to see where this is headed. Pratt is the color man on University of Kentucky radio broadcasts, and has been courtside for every college basketball game that potential Hornets pick Anthony Davis has played. Back in the day, Pratt was a member of Adolph Rupp's last great Kentucky team, along with Dan Issel and Mike Casey, so he has ample cred among the squeaky sneaker set.

What makes Pratt unique to this discussion is that in 1991, he was a scout for the Charlotte Hornets and was heavily involved the only other time the franchise had the overall No. 1 pick. The ultimate selection that year was UNLV's Larry Johnson, and as Pratt tells it, that decision was nearly as obvious as this year's choice of the 6-10 Davis appears to be for the Hornets. "Larry Johnson was a shooter, which is what we needed," Pratt said from his home in Louisville. "He didn't come in and turn us around immediately, but you want a player who can move the needle, and he could do that."
Johnson finished his rookie season as advertised, with a 19.2 scoring average and selection as NBA Rookie of the Year. But the addition of Johnson only helped the team pick up five more wins than the year before, finishing at 31-51. It was the following year and one more key draft pick that moved the needle into the plus column. With the No. 2 overall pick in the 1992 draft, the Hornets picked Georgetown C Alonzo Mourning, right after Orlando selected LSU's Shaquille O'Neal. That was the pick that moved the Hornets into respectability, and Pratt sees some positive parallels for the 2012 Hornets.
"Mourning could board and block shots, but Georgetown did not run the offense through him," Pratt said. "Kentucky did not run the offense through Anthony Davis, either, but he could influence the game with his rebounding and blocked shots. His best game of the season might have been the national championship game when he was 1 of 10 from the floor. The rest of the things he did, with his anticipation and lateral quickness, were what made the difference. He is very talented."
So Pratt would not have any reservations about the 2012 Hornets using the No. 1 overall pick on Anthony Davis? "He is the kind of player who comes along every ten years," Pratt said. "But (like Larry Johnson) he can't win games by himself. If the Hornets give him some help, keep Chris Kaman in the middle and Eric Gordon outside, he will continue to move the needle. He is a special player and a really good kid. His parents are very nice people, and his twin sister, who is only 5-foot-6, is at UK. They are very close, and he spent a lot of time in her dorm room just to have some privacy."
If the Hornets make Anthony Davis the first overall pick, he can forget about privacy in a city that celebrates its rogues and embraces its heroes. But having a private life is not what the NBA is all about. It's about moving the needle, and Mike Pratt believes Anthony Davis will do that for the Hornets.

by Jim Miller, former Exec. VP for New Orleans Saints

(Photo above, Jim Miller)
His new book, "Where the Water Kept Rising," is now available in local bookstores and on his website:

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