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Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak: Research critical before NBA draft
With three picks, Charlotte's studying hard
Published Wednesday, June 19, 2019 11:06 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Mitch Kupchak's first draft as Hornets general manager in 2018 harvested young talent in point guard Devonte Graham, who earned extended playing time last season as an understudy to Kemba Walker.

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Later NBA Draft picks require more research.

The Charlotte Hornets are set to pick at 12, 36 and 52 Thursday night. General manager Mitch Kupchak, a stickler for studying potential NBA prospects, noted that they brought in nearly 100 players for pre-draft workouts due to their position, pending trades.

“At 12, 36 and 52, you really have to bring in a lot of players, because you kind of cover everybody,” Kupchak said. “If you’re drafting 12th, then there are probably 20-25 players you bring in. If you’re drafting 36th, then maybe there are 40 or 50, but when you’re drafting 12, 36 and 52, it’s a lot. You cover a lot of ground. We brought in a lot.”

Kupchak sees wing depth as a strength in the draft.

“After three or maybe four point guards, there’s not a whole lot to choose from,” Kupchak said. “There are a lot of wings. In today’s NBA game, there’s not a great concentration on big men. The game has changed just a little bit, but I think there are a couple of big men who can play in the way the game is played today, but I think there are a lot of wings out there, and I think that would be the position where it’s most strong right now.”

Charlotte, which went 39-43 under first-year head coach James Borrego last season, did not hesitate to work in rookie guard Devonte Graham and forward Miles Bridges, or second-year swingman Dwayne Bacon and guard Malik Monk.

This is Kupchak’s second draft with the Hornets since replacing Rich Cho in 2018. Charlotte traded for Bridges, who was drafted 12th overall by the Clippers, and acquired Graham from Atlanta and Lithuanian forward Arnoldas Kulboka last year. In addition to Bridges, the Hornets gained two second round picks: Cleveland’s in 2020 and the Clippers’ in 2021. Graham cost Charlotte second-round draft picks in 2019 and 2023. Neither participated in Charlotte’s pre-draft workouts.

“I’m hopeful, when it comes time to draft, it’ll be a clear cut decision, and just take the best player,” Kupchak said.

The Hornets must contend with the potential departure of three-time All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, who is a free agent at the end of his four-year $48 million contract. Walker is eligible for a supermax contract after earning a spot on the All-NBA third team. However, Walker has always been a Hornet, and stated on June 14 that he would take less to remain one.

“It’s consistent with his position all along, that he would love to be back here in Charlotte,” Kupchak said. “I don’t know if his representative approved those comments, to be honest with you. I guess we’ll find out.”

Walker’s teammate, forward Nic Batum, has the richest contract in Charlotte professional sports history in 2016 with a five-year $120 million contract. Another forward, Marvin Williams, is exercising his player option, which is $15 million next season. Guard Jeremy Lamb is also a free agent.

“We have a couple of free agents who we aren’t going to know about until the free agent period begins,” Kupchak said. “So it’s hard to say what our needs are.”


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