Charlotte Hornets

Hornets: Vonleh arrival won’t impact McRoberts, Zeller

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comJune 27, 2014 

The Charlotte Hornets used top-10 picks in the past two drafts to select power forwards Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh.

Does that mean the Hornets no longer need Josh McRoberts, who’ll be a free agent in July? Absolutely not, general manager Rich Cho and coach Steve Clifford said.

Clifford immediately contacted McRoberts and Zeller after the Hornets chose Vonleh ninth overall.

“When we drafted Noah, the first thing I did was clap, and then I texted (McRoberts and Zeller) that this doesn’t affect their status, their playing time,” Clifford said Friday. “Josh is the starter, coming off a great year. We need him back. I made sure he understood that.”

A veteran point guard: Cho said he saw three areas of need this off-season – more shooting, a backup point guard and more depth inside. The 6-foot-10 Vonleh adds depth among the big men, and former North Carolina shooting guard P.J. Hairston is the 3-point threat.

That leaves backup point for free-agency. Cho said that was always the plan: “When we looked at the free-agent class, point guard was one of the deepest spots, so we feel like we’ll get a good backup point guard in free-agency.”

Cap space: The Hornets will have an additional $2 million in space under the salary cap in July, thanks to one of three trades they agreed to as part of the draft.

The Hornets will trade the player they chose with the 45th overall pick, Stanford power forward Dwight Powell, to the Cleveland Cavaliers, along with center Brendan Haywood. They will get back Alonzo Gee, whose $3.2 million salary is not guaranteed for next season.

So once the Hornets cut Gee, they will have exchanged a second-round pick for eliminating the $2 million Haywood would have counted against their 2014-15 salary cap.

This trade can’t become official until after the salary-cap year changes in July, so neither team can publicly discuss details.

In other draft-night trades:

The Hornets sent the draft rights to Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier (chosen 24th) to the Miami Heat in return for the 26th pick, the 55th pick and Miami’s second-round pick in 2019. Then they traded that 55th pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for an undisclosed amount of cash.

NBA teams can start negotiating with free agents July 1. Players can’t start signing until July10.

Massive hands: Vonleh’s hands are among the biggest you’ll ever see. Hairston heard about this and placed his palm against Vonleh’s for comparison; Vonleh’s fingers dwarfed Hairston’s.

According to Vonleh, when he stretches his fingers fully apart, the distance from thumb to pinky is 12 inches.

Rick Bonnell: (704) 358-5129; Twitter@rick_bonnell

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