This was the first time Mitch Kupchak represented the Charlotte Hornets at the draft lottery. He has every hope this also is his final appearance at the NBA’s annual festivity.
The Hornets didn’t jump into the top 3. They’ll pick No. 11 in the June 21 draft, the spot commensurate with their 36-46 finish in the league’s overall standings.
Kupchak said he was more worried about dropping to the 12th or 13th spot than leaping into one of those fancied top 3 selections. That was justified: The odds gave the Hornets less than a 3 percent chance of a leap and roughly a 7 percent chance at a slip.
“We didn’t move back — that’s a good thing — we’re where we thought we would be,” Kupchak said. “This is the first lottery, and I hope, the last lottery, that I ever attend.
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“We’re going to get a good player. We’ll obviously pursue all the options how to use the pick. But right now, we’re going to concentrate on using the pick to pick a player.”
Only the top three picks are determined by the weighted lottery: The Phoenix Suns will pick first, followed by the Sacramento Kings, then Atlanta Hawks.
Who could be there at No. 11? Some possibilities: small forwards Mikal Bridges (Villanova), Miles Bridges (Michigan State) and Kevin Knox (Kentucky); point guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky) or Collin Sexton (Alabama).
Kupchak said in April his drafting philosophy was to go with talent over need unless two players were so close in grade that there was little or no discernible difference between players.
The Hornets seemingly have a need for depth at point guard behind All-Star Kemba Walker, who has one season left on his contract. Their backup from last season, Michael Carter-Williams, is an unrestricted free agent who will be coming off shoulder surgery. He played well defensively but struggled offensively.
Rookie Malik Monk was a part-time point guard under then-coach Steve Clifford. Monk played well in the final handful of games but had little impact before that.
Kupchak hired former San Antonio Spurs assistant James Borrego as Clifford’s replacement. Borrego said at his introductory news conference that he wants to play at a faster pace offensively than the Hornets did last season, with the goal of attacking the basket more in the first eight seconds of a possession.
The Hornets’ starter at small forward, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, is a strong defender, but lacks 3-point shooting range. It’s unclear if Kidd-Gilchrist will have as big a role under Borrego.
The Hornets’ player-payroll won’t have much room this summer under the NBA’s luxury-tax threshold, so the first-round pick figures to be Kupchak’s best chance to improve the roster.