Does it make more sense for the Charlotte Hornets to sign forward Arnoldas Kulboka to the roster for next season or continue monitoring him in Europe?
Kulboka is the 6-foot-9 Lithuanian the Hornets selected 55th overall in the 2018 NBA draft. The idea then was to have the 21-year-old continue playing in Europe, with the Hornets retaining his draft rights, and decide each summer if it makes sense to sign him.
Kulboka, who played professionally in Germany last season, is part of the Hornets’ summer league team, as he was last year. He played well off the bench in the Hornets’ first game, totaling eight points and six rebounds in 14 minutes. He didn’t play the second game, as the Hornets platoon a 16-man roster.
Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak says Kulboka clearly has NBA skill (particularly 3-point range for a player of his size). But Kulboka needs to gain weight and strength and needs more playing time, something he didn’t get consistently last season with Brose Bamberg in Germany.
“Right now I’m just thinking about a place where I can get some playing time because I’m too young just to sit on the bench,” as he did mostly behind veterans last season, Kulboka said Monday morning.
“Being around veterans is cool, but I need playing time. That’s the main goal for next season.”
And that’s the rub. Professional coaches in Europe aren’t obligated to play Kulboka because that serves the Hornets’ purposes, the way Joe Wolf, who coaches the Hornets’ G-League affiliate, is. At some point, the Hornets will have to become more hands-on in developing Kulboka to get return on drafting him.
Kulboka probably isn’t yet worth the Hornets using one of their 15 regular roster spots for next season. But he could be worth using a two-way contract, which would have him playing mostly for Wolf with the Greensboro Swarm.
Is Kulboka receptive to that? He declined to speculate: “Right now I’m just playing my game and looking at what’s going to happen, and the coaches will tell me what to do.”
Cody Martin’s place
He had only one assist over those two games.
One of the attractions in drafting Martin, a 6-6 guard out of Nevada, is his ball handling and playmaking. The Hornets have played point guard Devonte Graham off the ball a lot in Las Vegas to give Martin experience with the ball initiating offense.
Martin is a willing passer, but he’s not seeing a lot of plays to make so far.
The Hornets have a decision before training camp in September whether to sign a veteran third option at point guard behind Terry Rozier and Graham, or whether to put Martin in that role.