Offseason Picks Up for Hornets with NBA Combine Underway

By Sam Perley, hornets.com

With Tuesday night’s official assignment of the 11th overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft to the Charlotte Hornets, the organization’s focus now shifts squarely to the NBA Combine this week in Chicago, IL.

Held at the city’s Quest Multisport facility, the NBA Combine will host nearly 70 collegiate prospects over the course of a five-day span. Players will participate in a number of evaluations and assessments including five-on-five competitions, medical examinations, face-to-face interviews and on-court athletic drills and testing. 

Despite not lucking into a top-3 pick at the NBA Draft Lottery, President of Basketball Operations and General Manager, Mitch Kupchak, is confident the Hornets will add a valuable player with their selection.

“We ended up right where we thought we’d end up at 11, statistically. We’re going to get a good player. We’ll obviously pursue all the options [with] how to use the pick, but right now, we’re going to concentrate on using the pick to pick a player,” stated Kupchak on Tuesday night.

The Hornets also hold the 55th overall selection in the NBA Draft, which stems from a trade with the Brooklyn Nets in 2015. Their own second-round pick was traded away two years ago as part of the three-team deal that brought in Courtney Lee from the Memphis Grizzlies. Charlotte will also scout players for training camp and the Greensboro Swarm roster as well. 

According to ESPN’s latest NBA Mock Draft, possible players available for the Hornets with the 11th pick include Alabama point guard Collin Sexton, Villanova small forward Mikal Bridges, Michigan State small forward Miles Bridges, Kentucky point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky small forward Kevin Knox and Miami shooting guard, Lonnie Walker IV.

Kupchak added, “I think there’s a little bit of everything [in this draft]. There’s clearly a bunch of good bigs this year, there’s a bunch of wings and there’s several good guards and a lot of the positions are interchangeable. I think that’s good for today’s game.”

At this particular stage of the process, teams can now start narrowing down their lists of potential players to select and also figure out which ones they want to bring in for workouts in the upcoming weeks as well. The NBA Combine is a fantastic opportunity to get to know these incoming rookies on a personal level, some of whom in recent years have moved up draft boards thanks to the increased visibility the event provides.  

Likewise, NBA Combine attendees can get feedback about where they stand in the eyes of league personnel. The level of interest from teams around the league is generally the deciding factor in whether or not some of these players return to the collegiate ranks, provided they have not hired an agent and still have eligibility.

“Between now and the draft is really when you do your work,” said Kupchak. “Watch a lot of video, go to a lot of workouts – they call them pro days. We’ll bring in about 40 or 50 kids to Charlotte to work them out. Hopefully most of those kids will be kids we consider at [the 11th pick].”  

All and all, the NBA Combine is largely a massive information gathering session for both prospects and teams. For all intents and purposes, it kicks off what will be a busy upcoming month for the Charlotte Hornets as they begin their preparations for the NBA Draft on Thursday, June 21.