The Charlotte Hornets had a plan heading into Thursday night’s NBA Draft, and it appears they stuck to it. Mitch Kupchak indicated they would take the best player available, planned to add depth at point guard, and hinted at selecting a draft-and-stash prospect. With the acquisitions of Miles Bridges, Devonte Graham, and Arnoldas Kulboka, all three boxes were checked.
That isn’t to say the team didn’t surprise us. The build up suggested Charlotte would take point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with the 11th pick. Technically they did, but it was part of plan to swap first round picks with the Clippers, who selected Bridges 12th overall and added in two future second round picks. Those picks were then apparently used to move up to select Graham with the 34th overall pick. After initially getting the rights to Hamidou Diallo with the 45th pick, Charlotte dealt him to the Thunder for an unknown return. Then at 55, the team selected Kulboka.
According to Kupchak, Bridges was at the top of their list of players remaining. He believes he can play and defend multiple positions, and is already ready to make an impact on defense. If the Hornets want versatility, they got just that with Bridges.
Bridges echoed said he lost 20 pounds between his freshman and sophomore season to become more explosive and be able to play multiple positions. He said returning to Michigan State was about giving himself the opportunity to learn and better understand the game. Asked about the impact he can make in his rookie season, Bridges stressed the importance of not getting ahead of himself and learning from team veterans Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams. While he has others to compete against for rotational minutes, you have to assume Bridges has a strong possibility of figuring into the rotation from the start.
Graham’s role next season is less certain, but that’s not bad thing. At worst, he’s the team’s third point guard, and he should be a nice change from MCW and Julyan Stone. The Hornets will undoubtedly assess him in summer league, and his performance, along with Malik Monk’s, may factor in on how they address the backup point guard spot in free agency. Graham’s upside isn’t as high as Bridges, but he’s a good outside shooter which is a skill the team has lacked at the backup point guard position for some time.
Kulboka has at least two years remaining on his current club contract in Germany before he could consider heading over. It’s far too early say whether he’ll ever play for the Hornets, but he certainly views himself as part of the team, jokingly indicating that he foresaw it as a kid:
Selecting a draft-and-stash player 55th overall makes sense. Most any player remaining late in the draft wouldn’t have been ready to contribute, so using it on a player that will develop professionally overseas is sensible. A lot of these guys never end up coming over, but sometimes the rights to these players can rise in value overtime. Considering he’s a 6’10 wing player, he’s an intriguing prospect at least.
So in all, the Hornets appear to have gotten the players, or at least types of players, they sought. Kupchak didn’t reveal much more about the rookies in this morning’s press conference, but was pretty definitive in the role he foresees for Kemba Walker this season and beyond:
Kupchak on Kemba: "This is a player we hope is here not just the next (couple) of years, but to end his career here."— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) June 22, 2018
Obviously circumstances can change, but it’s pretty clear the front office believes the best direction for the team is keeping Walker and moving forward with the current roster. That doesn’t rule out the possibility of a trade, just don’t expect Walker to be involved.
We’ll have more on the prospects starting later today, but for now, share your thoughts on the team’s draft night and Kupchak’s comments on Walker.