Scott Fowler

June 25, 2014

Charlotte Hornets’ best NBA draft option at No. 9 is trading down

Unless a player such as Dante Exum from Australia takes one of those weird NBA draft-day falls and reaches them at No. 9, the Charlotte Hornets should trade that pick to the highest bidder.

In a loaded NBA draft, the picks you own have even more value. Other teams fall in love with available players and, as the clock ticks, are more willing to part with their own assets for the thrill of the unknown.

So here’s what I think the Charlotte Hornets should do. Unless a player such as Dante Exum from Australia takes one of those weird draft-day falls and reaches them at No. 9, I would like the Hornets to trade that pick to the highest bidder.

The Hornets’ recent record on lottery picks is spotty, and that’s putting it kindly. Out of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo, Cody Zeller and Kemba Walker, they have one star (Walker), one defensive specialist who does start but didn’t play most of the time in the fourth quarter last season (MKG), one total offensive liability (Biyombo) and one guy who may become pretty good but must get stronger (Zeller).

The Hornets hold picks No. 9, 24 and 45 in this draft. I feel more comfortable with them trading away at least one of those, likely the first one. Orlando swingman Arron Afflalo is a tempting target and a worthy one, although several other teams are interested.

But there will be plenty of options. This is an enormous draft for the career of Hornets general manager Rich Cho, recently handed the personnel keys by owner Michael Jordan after previously sharing the ride with Rod Higgins. Cho must choose – or trade – wisely Thursday.

Here are a few players I hope the Hornets ultimately do – and don’t – consider Thursday:

Do consider

1. Exum. Although the explosive scorer has played a lot of point guard for Australia’s national teams, I think he can be a shooting guard in the NBA. I remember interviewing Cecil Exum, who was a reserve on the 1982 North Carolina championship team, about five years back. He mentioned that he had a son who “plays a little basketball.” Does he ever.

2. T.J. Warren. The best guess is that he will go somewhere between the Hornets’ picks at No. 9 and No. 24, but maybe he will last until 24, or maybe a trade will allow the Hornets to pick him. I love the way the former N.C. State star attacks the basket.

3. P.J. Hairston. At No. 24, Hairston would be a great pick. The former Tar Heel is a natural shooter in an NBA body, and I think the time in the D-League has helped with his maturity issues.

Don’t consider

1. Doug McDermott. An incredible college scorer, but I just don’t know how big the upside is for the former Creighton star. I see McDermott more as a 3-point shooting specialist, which will keep him in the league a long time (he’s much better than Adam Morrison). But his defensive liabilities will be an issue.

2. Gary Harris. I’d rather the Hornets pick Rodney Hood, Hairston, Nik Stauskas or James Young if they are going for a pure shooter.

Overall, I think the Hornets’ best move is likely going to be a trade with that No. 9 pick. Getting Kevin Love in a trade is likely a fantasy, but should be explored. Afflalo would be a great acquisition.

Thursday will be one of the most important nights in the Hornets’ history. They better get it right.

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