The Charlotte Hornets chose Wisconsin center-power forward Frank Kaminsky with the No. 9 overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.
In doing so, the Hornets chose to pass over freshman Duke star Justise Winslow, who unexpectedly slid out of the top six picks. They also passed over Kentucky’s Devin Booker, generally considered this draft’s best outside shooter.
Kaminsky, a 7-footer at 242 pounds, played all four seasons at Wisconsin, helping the Badgers advance to the Final Four. As a senior, he averaged 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds.
“I decided to stay in college to play on a really, really good team,” Kaminsky said of using all four years of college eligibility. “I got to play in the national championship game. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
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Kaminsky made reference to Charlotte’s NBA franchise a year ago in a blog explaining why he wasn’t turning pro. Kaminsky mentioned poor crowds the then-Bobcats drew, using the term “flat-out boring.” He expressed regret during a media conference call Thursday for his choice of words.
“That was a different me,” Kaminsky said. “Some things I’d like to take back. I wasn’t taking shots at anyone.”
So he doesn’t think Charlotte is boring?
“No, no. I definitely don’t,” Kaminsky said.
Kaminsky said he was aware of the Hornets’ interest in drafting him and how that picked up with Wednesday’s trade that brought wing scorer Nicolas Batum from Portland to Charlotte.
“Yeah. I was out to dinner with my agent and family” when that deal was announced, Kaminsky said. “Charlotte had some interest, and it picked up steam. I’m very happy. It feels like a good fit.”
Kaminsky grew up idolizing Hornets owner Michael Jordan from when Jordan starred for the Chicago Bulls. Kaminsky grew up in Chicago and had relatives who worked for the Bulls. He met Jordan briefly as a teenager.
“It’s unbelievable. He was one of my idols,” Kaminsky said. “I had his posters. I still do. I really, really idolized him.”
This was the third consecutive draft the Hornets used a top-10 pick on a player who primarily will play power forward. Two years ago, the franchise chose Cody Zeller. A year ago, the Hornets selected Noah Vonleh, whom they traded Wednesday to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Kaminsky is skilled offensively with both a low-post scoring game and 37 percent accuracy outside the college 3-point line. He comparatively struggles as a defender.
Winslow ended up being selected 10th by the Miami Heat. Booker went 13th to the Phoenix Suns.
With the 39th pick, the Hornets selected small forward Juan Vaulet of Argentina. Vaulet was traded to the Brooklyn Nets for two future second-round picks in 2018 and 2019, according to the Associated Press.
The draft started as expected with the Minnesota Timberwolves selecting Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns. Then the Los Angeles Lakers passed over Duke center Jahlil Okafor, once presumed to be the No. 1 pick, to draft Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell.
Despite already having used recent lottery picks on big men Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid, the Philadelphia 76ers used the No. 3 overall pick on Okafor.
The next handful of picks: Kristaps Porzingis to the New York Knicks, Mario Hezonja to the Orlando Magic, Willie Cauley-Stein to the Sacramento Kings and Stanley Johnson to the Detroit Pistons.
That set up what seemed so unlikely weeks ago – that Winslow became available at the Hornets’ No. 9 spot.
Draft night was preceded by two busy days of trading by the Hornets, who now have made four deals since the end of a disappointing 33-49 season, missing the playoffs.
On June 15 the dealing started when the Hornets sent shooting guard Lance Stephenson to the Los Angeles Clippers, getting back big man Spencer Hawes and shooting guard Matt Barnes. There was widespread speculation at the time of the trade that the Hornets would either deal Barnes or waive him.
Then, Wednesday night the Hornets completed a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers, sending veteran shooting guard Gerald Henderson and Vonleh west. The Hornets got back 6-8 Nicolas Batum, whom the team intends to start at shooting guard alongside small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Other projected starters would be point guard Kemba Walker, center Al Jefferson and, probably, power forward Cody Zeller.
Improving the 3-point shooting was a priority for Hornets general manager Rich Cho this offseason. Batum has averaged a solid 36 percent shooting from 3 for his seven-season NBA career, although last season was his worst at 32.4 percent.
Henderson was the longest-tenured Hornet before this deal, having spent all six of his NBA seasons in Charlotte. The then-Bobcats drafted Henderson 12th overall in 2009. The Hornets chose Vonleh ninth overall in the 2014 draft. Although he played little last season, Vonleh was expected to have an expanded role next season.
Thursday morning, Cho completed two trades, with the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder, to end up with shooting guard Jeremy Lamb. First Cho traded Barnes to the Grizzlies for the unguaranteed contract of point guard Luke Ridnour. Then Cho traded Ridnour to the Thunder, along with a contingent 2016 second-round pick, to acquire Lamb.
Lamb (6-5 and 180 pounds) averaged seven points and 1.9 rebounds over 148 games with the Thunder, making eight starts.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell