For the Hornets to look at players other than Nik Stauskas and Doug McDermott, they were going to need some help. Sacramento made things interesting picking Stauskas at No. 8 while Noah Vonleh slipped well past his projections at No. 4. So the Hornets pounced and grabbed the best available player, instead of addressing their glaring shooting need at No. 9.
And it was the right pick. Frontcourt depth is also a need, but Vonleh was projected around the No. 4-5 range most of the way leading up to the draft, and he can also shoot. The stretch four is so hot right now in the NBA, and Vonleh shot the three quite well, if not all that much, at Indiana last year. He also has massive hands, which is a good thing in basketball. He only averaged around 11 points a game on a team that didn't make the NCAA tournament so there is a bit unknown but seeing as the Hornets weren't even supposed to have a lottery pick this year, grabbing Vonleh who has a pretty high ceiling (Chris Bosh or LaMarcus Aldridge high? Yes, please!) is a nice get.
What does it mean for the remaining frontcourt players? It might mean the Hornets are preparing for life without Josh McRoberts should his price tag be too much. It could also mean they're about done with Bismack Biyombo. As much as we (and they) like Biz, time is probably not on his side at this point. This is not a done deal by any means, but he'll have to show some continued improvement. And I certainly don't think it means they're done with Cody Zeller. Vonleh was the best choice in a defined area of need, so he and Zeller will have to figure it out. Or rather, Steve Clifford and company will but stacking your front court with young players behind Al Jefferson isn't horrible.
Had they stopped there it would have been a pretty good draft, but oh no. Not the new Charlotte Hornets. This Charlotte NBA franchise revival is on maybe the best roll of its existence and it stayed hot picking up P.J. Hairston with the 26th pick (via trade with Miami for the 24th pick, Shabazz Napier). The only potential negative in this is "giving" Miami a player and position they needed/wanted pretty bad. But, the Hornets need a shooter bad, especially after passing at 9, and got theirs plus another pick in this year's draft and a future second-round pick. And if there's every a year to extend the picks, this is it.
Hairston's arrival signals some possible changes on the wing, most likely affecting Chris Douglas-Roberts first. Hairston could provide a lot of what CDR did last year with instant scoring off the bench, while adding some height to the backcourt over starter Gerald Henderson. And he'll also push Henderson I suspect. But the bottom line is the Hornets had to get a shooter in the first round and there were very few, if any, better than Hairston. A nice move, and if you can overlook the Napier maneuvering, (and you probably should because of the return) it's pretty fantastic.
A quick aside about the best part of the draft last night. The NBA and Adam Silver showed a lot of heart and class by going out of their way to show support for Baylor center Isaiah Austin who was recently diagnosed with a career ending ailment. The young man would have been drafted, so to help him fulfill at least that part of his dream Silver drafted him by the NBA, and brought him on stage with a hat, shook his hand, gave him a hug, and gave him the official treatment.
I've been nearly moved to tears many times in the last 10 years watching Charlotte drafts, but this year the NBA pushed me over the edge with that move. In all seriousness it was a great show of the type of brotherhood and family environment the league has fostered. Well done. For more on Austin and his appearance last night check out this great piece from Dan Devine at Yahoo.
The second round was seemingly reserved for flyers and trade bait as Charlotte drafted Dwight Powell at 45, then traded him to Cleveland along with Brendan Haywood, who may choose retirement at this point, and got Alonzo Gee in return. It's unclear what role, if any, Gee will have. His contract is unguaranteed, so this looks like a salary dump to get Haywood off the books. Then with the 55 pick the Miami Heat selected point guard Semaj Christon out of Xavier for Charlotte and traded him to Oklahoma City for cash considerations.
It all happened very fast and very late, meaning it was all very confusing at the time. Clearly it's much better now.
All in all that was likely the best draft night since the original Hornets were in Charlotte. When you look at the last few months, the Hornets have been in the playoffs, had their key offseason addition named to an All-NBA team, unveiled wildly popular new uniforms, brought back the honeycomb on a great new court design, and now have added two (at least) players that should help them next year and end the night with about $21.2 million in cap space (not including cap holds or unguaranteed contracts). So this is what the Hornets are going to be like? I'm in!