CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Charlotte Hornets aren’t sure who they’re going to be able to re-sign in free agency, making it difficult for owner Michael Jordan’s team to know who they’re going to select with the 22nd pick in next week’s NBA draft.
“With eight free agents, I don’t know what is going to happen,” general manager Rich Cho said Friday. “So we’re just going to try to add depth (in the draft) to the team and try to get guys that can play in our rotation. It’s a hard question to answer (what we need most) because we have so many free agents and we don’t know how it’s going to play out.”
So the Hornets are keeping an open mind when it comes to the pick.
“We are looking at a number of options – moving up, moving back and moving out of the draft altogether,” Cho said.
Four Hornets starters from last season are set to become free agents in July – Nicolas Batum, Courtney Lee, Al Jefferson and Marvin Williams. Top reserve Jeremy Lin will also hit the free agent market after opting out of his contract.
Cho said that uncertainty makes it difficult for the Hornets to zero in on addressing one particular need in the draft.
The Hornets could certainly use a rim protector, something they’ve missed since the departure of Bismack Biyombo to Toronto last year, but it’s unclear if such a player will still be around so late in the first round.
What they truly need is a difference maker, but those rarely fall to No. 22.
The only positions that are currently set for next season are point guard with Kemba Walker and small forward with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who missed most of the 2015-16 season following two shoulder injuries but is on the mend.
Cho said this year’s draft is deep at wing and with big men, but lacks quality point guards.
The Hornets have had a top 10 draft pick in each of the past five seasons, making this year a little more difficult after a successful season a year ago in which they finished tied for the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Cho has been balancing draft preparation with laying out “abut 80 different potential scenarios” in free agency. Unlike the NFL, the NBA draft happens before free agency begins.
Cho is expecting a hectic free agency period.
He reiterated that re-signing Batum – who is expected to command more than $20 million per season – is the team’s top priority in free agency, which begins July 1.