The Charlotte Hornets were the NBA’s worst 3-point shooting team last season at 31.8 percent and second-worst overall shooting team at 42 percent.
The players the Hornets interviewed at the Draft Combine reflect a team in search of better shooting. They met with Duke’s Justise Winslow, Arizona’s Stanley Johnson and Kentucky’s Devin Booker, who each shot 37 percent or better from the college 3-point line last season.
Booker, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard, shot 41 percent from 3 in his only college season. He says he’s aware of the Hornets’ needs and is “definitely” the best long-range shooter in this draft.
“Every team needs shooters, but Charlotte would be a great fit for me,” Booker said. “They already have a (Kentucky) alum in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and I’m close with him. I’d love to play in Charlotte.”
The question with Booker is whether he’s a good enough athlete to be more than a shooting specialist. He participated in the physical testing at the Draft Combine specifically to challenge the perception he will struggle to defend at the NBA level.
“I proved what I needed to prove – that I have the agility and quickness, that I’m not just a shooter.” Booker said.
Who does he model himself after?
“A lot of people say Klay Thompson and I like that,” Booker said of the Golden State shooting guard. “I study a lot of 2-guards – not only looking for new ways to score but because I’ll have to defend those players. I’m looking at what their tendencies are.”
A free spirit: The Hornets also interviewed Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein, a 7-foot forward-center, Cauley-Stein drew a crowd at the media availability because of his off-beat sense of humor.
“(Teams) keep asking me, ‘Why did you dye your hair blond? Why do you have so many tattoos?” Cauley-Stein observed.
Why did he dye his hair?
“I’m young and dumb,” Cauley-Stein joked. “It was cool … for 30 minutes. But you live and you learn. There are things you have to live with for the rest of your life, but you can always say, ‘I was young.’”
Cauley-Stein spent three seasons at Kentucky, averaging eight points on 57 percent shooting from the field. He believes he can help an NBA team immediately on defense. The offense, he says, could take another two or three years.
“I want to be that player you can throw that ball to,” he said, “and make magic happen.”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell