Tom Sorensen

For Hornets to reach Mitch Kupchak’s expectations, he’ll have to do something special

Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak says selling second-round picks might help the accounting department but not the basketball team.
Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak says selling second-round picks might help the accounting department but not the basketball team. AP

Mitch Kupchak, the first-year general manager of the Charlotte Hornets, sounds as if he likes the talent of his team. He says new coach James Borrego does, too.

“If the season started today, I think we’d be OK,” Kupchak says.

He expects last season’s draft choices, Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon, to improve. Remember how good Monk was in his season at Kentucky?

Says Kupchak: “This team can perform better than it performed last season.”

Kupchak cites the 21 games head coach Steve Clifford missed last season for reasons of health.

I thought the Hornets stopped listening to Clifford last season. That happens. The hustle and defense that had characterized his teams was inconsistent. But Clifford also is one of the best coaches that Charlotte (all teams, not merely the Hornets) has ever had.

I don’t see the talent Kupchak does, not as the Hornets are constructed. I’d like to. But there are obstacles, and one of them is reality.

The most effective way to alter that reality is the draft. On Thursday, the Hornets select 11th.

Kupchak doesn’t expect one of the draft’s premiere big men to fall to 11. So that means the Hornets will select …

If I were dreaming, I’d love to see the best of the Bridges, Villanova’s Mikal Bridges, fall to 11.

If not, I grab Alabama point guard Collin Sexton. If he’s gone, I take Kentucky point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

If he’s gone ... they can’t all be gone.

Who will make the call? Kupchak is asked if he will.

“Yes,” he says. “Sure.

“Well ... with the exception of one person.

“Obviously that’s the owner.”

Kupchak wears a jacket with the Hornets’ logo on the right and Jordan’s Jumpman logo on the left.

So, yeah, we all know whom Kupchak works for.

But whoever made the call on first-round picks Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh and Frank Kaminsky needs not to make another.

At No. 11, you know who’s going to be available?

A steal. It’s time the Hornets find one.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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