Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte Hornets GM Rich Cho: Need won’t trump talent in NBA draft

Charlotte Hornets general manager Rich Cho strongly believes in a best-player-available approach to the draft. He says he’d primoritize an area of need only if two candidates were “neck-and-neck,” in talent appraisal.
Charlotte Hornets general manager Rich Cho strongly believes in a best-player-available approach to the draft. He says he’d primoritize an area of need only if two candidates were “neck-and-neck,” in talent appraisal. AP

Much as the Charlotte Hornets need 3-point shooting, general manager Rich Cho wouldn’t pass over a superior player purely to address that flaw.

“We’re going to take the best player available,” Cho said regarding the No. 9 overall pick in the June 25 NBA draft. “We’re going to address the shooting this summer, but it could be through the draft, free agency or a trade.”

The potential candidates for the ninth pick include some good long-range shooters, including Kentucky’s Devin Booker and Arizona’s Stanley Johnson. But Cho said two players would have to be “neck-and-neck” on the Hornets’ draft board for him to sway primarily in the direction of filling a need.

The Hornets were last in the NBA in 3-point percentage last season at 31.8 percent. But the NBA offseason schedule works in the team’s favor should they not draft a shooter, with free agency to follow in July. The Hornets don’t have big room under the salary cap this summer, as they did the previous two offseasons, but they would have the middle-level exception to sign a player for about a $5.5 million first-season salary.

Cho said that mid-level slot is sufficient to acquire a solid rotation player this summer.

So far the Hornets have held eight workouts involving about 45 prospects. They’ll audition Texas center Myles Turner on Friday in a solo workout. Among those who have yet to visit the Hornets: Arizona’s Johnson and Wisconsin center-power forward Frank Kaminsky.

Cho said there will be enough good choices at No. 9 that the Hornets might select any of the five positions.

“Right where we’re picking I think positions across the board are deep,” Cho said. “There are some good point guards, it’s deep at the wing spot and with the bigs.”

There’s also the possibility the Hornets trade the ninth pick (they also choose 39th overall in the second round).

“We’ve been talking to a lot of teams about moving up, moving backward, moving the pick altogether,” Cho said. “A lot of things are in play.”

What’s the likelihood of moving up in the lottery?

“It depends on what we’d have to give up, but I’d love to move up,” Cho said.

Cho addressed a variety of other topics in his predraft media availability:

Team needs

“We definitely want to address shooting. At some point we want to get a third point guard. We don’t have a ton of (roster) spots left. We have 11 players under contract, and we’ve got some free agents, the ninth pick and the 39th pick. We’ve got our mid-level (exception) and our biannual, too, so there are a lot of things that can happen.”

Al Jefferson’s future

“This is a big year for Al and for us (in the final year of his contract). It depends on how Al comes back. If he plays great like he did two years ago, then it’s a different situation than if he plays like he did this past year. Part of it depends on Al and how well he plays what direction we go.

“Al was genuinely disappointed in last year, and I know he’ll make a concerted effort to get in shape this offseason.”

Season-ending injuries

“Cody (Zeller) is coming along well (recovering from surgery). He has a lot more range of motion in his right shoulder. He should be able to shoot in a couple of weeks and unrestricted in his physical activities by the end of July.

“MKG (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist), his ankle has come along well. He’s on the court doing some dribbling and light shooting. He should be able to do some cutting next month and full-speed by the end of next month.”

Gerald Henderson’s return

“Gerald did a really good job for us last year, and we’re happy to have him back. I thought he handled last year really well, from being out of the rotation and coming back to be a starter and being a good player for us.”

Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell

Related stories from Charlotte Observer

  Comments