Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak on moving up in 2019 NBA Draft
Thursday’s NBA draft will be full of trades. That seems inevitable in a draft lacking in depth that is a prelude to a bumper free-agent class.
Will the Charlotte Hornets be one of those teams dealing? General manager Mitch Kupchak confirmed Friday he’s explored what it would take to move up from the Hornets’ current No. 12 slot in the first round. That would require some serious trade capital.
What would it take to move up and is it worth it? That leads this pre-draft edition of Hornets mailbag:
Q. Do you think a package of Malik Monk, a future first-round pick, and the Hornets’ two second-round picks this year would be enough to move up to No. 4 (which the New Orleans Pelicans are reportedly receptive to dealing)?
A. I do not. I think you’d have to package the 12th pick with either a future first-round pick or last year’s first-rounder, forward Miles Bridges, to move up to No. 4.
Even in a weak draft, there is a huge difference between drafting fourth and 12th. I don’t think the Hornets’ two seconds (Nos. 36 and 52) have great trade value. Monk was a lottery pick, but that was two years ago. He’s now a player on the fringe of the Hornets’ rotation.
Future first-round picks are prime trade capital because they serve as currency; you’re not acquiring a player, you get to choose a player. That also makes them easily traded again.
If No. 12 and a future first sounds too expensive to move up to No. 4, I understand that view. But I can’t picture the Pelicans (who will acquire that pick from the Los Angeles Lakers) settling for much less.
Q. Why don’t the Hornets trade down to dump a contract?
A. I assume the Hornets would consider giving up the 12th pick if another team would take on a problematic veteran contract, particularly if re-signing Kemba Walker would push the Hornets above the luxury-tax threshold.
However, your question presumes there is another NBA team out there willing to give up a lot of salary-cap room in return for the 12th pick. I’m not so confident a team would, for instance, absorb Bismack Biyombo’s $17 million salary for next season without sending any salary back to the Hornets, in return for the 12th pick.
Maybe if a team strikes out in free agency, it would later be interested in absorbing payroll in return for a young player off the Hornets’ roster. But right now, before free agency begins, I don’t know if that deal exists.
Q. It seems like Kemba’s free-agency decision will come down to his loyalty and love for Charlotte versus his desire to possibly win a championship. Which one wins out?
A. I do think Charlotte has become home for Walker and he’d like to turn around the Hornets. But I think those sentimental factors aren’t central to this decision.
If Walker re-signs, rather than moves on, it will be about how much more money the Hornets can offer: As much as $81 million if the Hornets do the five-year, $221 million deal Walker is eligible for under the supermax provision.
Q. Do you think the Hornets will know with enough certainty what Kemba’s plans are before the draft to determine if they should look at a point guard vs. another need position?
A. I doubt they would, considering Walker said last week he expects to meet with other teams before making a final decision. That couldn’t happen before free-agency opens June 30.
I don’t think that much impacts the Hornets’ draft approach. As Kupchak acknowledged, this isn’t a particularly deep point-guard group. They are more likely to use the No. 12 pick on a wing player or big man.
Q. Is it normal for a general manager to be so candid about trying to move up in the draft?
A. I don’t think Kupchak confirming he was exploring trading up, which the Observer reported two days earlier, was giving away some company secret. He didn’t say what he’d do to move up or who he’d contacted. He just said he’d looked into it.