Examining the Hornets’ Pre-Draft Process


Each summer front offices are busy doing their research on draft prospects, deciding on who to pursue in free agency and exploring any and all trade scenarios. As the summer progresses, insiders and beat writers may release small morsels of information regarding what their respective team may be thinking headed into the different parts of the offseason. Many times though the information will either be too vague to really draw much from or just ends up not being the truth for one reason or another. Fans love to hear about their teams but it can be frustrating at times when receiving misinformation.

Fortunately, sometimes coaches and front office executives will give fans a glimpse of exactly what they are thinking when making decisions in the offseason. These “hints” can either be intentional quotes or actions taken that may be more telling than what has actually been said. Here are some of those glimpses that top Hornets decision makers have provided.

Draft Prospects Brought in for Second Workouts

It is important to not read into pre-draft workouts too much but it is an integral part of the process. During workouts, team decision makers are able to observe and critique players while putting them through specific drills to get a better feel for how the prospect would fit the team if selected. Charlotte brought in a slew of players in light of owning a wide range of picks in the upcoming draft. There were a few players, though, that the Hornets brought in for more than one workout. P.J. Hairston, Rodney Hood, K.J. McDaniels and Scottie Wilbekin all got a second look from Hornets executives and coaches.

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Rodney Hood’s first workout was cut short after having some stomach issues, so being called back for a second workout was probably so the Hornets could get a full look at his skill set. As for K.J. McDaniels, he mentioned that he had been scheduled for many workouts that also included Hood. Teams may have been using him to see how Hood does against the type of defense that McDaniels provides. Scottie Wilbekin may be an option for Charlotte with the 45th pick. The team brought him in twice, maybe to get another look at him against different competition.

P.J. Hairston is the most intriguing second workout invitee. His second workout was supposed to match him against Duke rival Rodney Hood but it was the same workout that Hood experienced nausea. Either way, Hairston definitely showed well in both workouts, displaying his propensity to make shots from anywhere on the floor. Obviously the Hornets have some interest in Hairston and may be willing to make the moves necessary to grab him in the draft.

“We’ve been getting a ton of calls, and we’re making a ton of calls” – GM Rich Cho

Because of the three picks and the cap flexibility the Hornets have, Rich Cho has a lot options heading into Thursday’s draft. Cho states that the team has been fielding calls to move up, move down or trade for other assets if they choose. Hairston could be a target for whom the Hornets may move down from 9 or up from 24. His projected range is right in between the Hornets’ two first round picks. Obviously, all general managers are testing the waters to see what their picks could return, but for Hornets fans it is an encouraging quote to hear. In year’s past, Charlotte has either been too cap strapped or did not own enough assets to make any significant moves during the draft. The same can not be said for this year.

“In an ideal world you want a shooter who can also really defend. But in the real world, there’s not a lot of that.” – GM Rich Cho

As Cho says, there are not many players who can both defend and put the ball in the basket. Shooting is the Hornets biggest need, but defense is Coach Clifford’s calling card. It would go a long way in building a playoff contender if the Hornets were able to address both needs with one player. This would allow Big Al to have room to move in the paint and give Kemba a running mate in the frontcourt, all the while not sacrificing on the defensive end.

“Size is always good and shooting is always good. You can’t have too much of either.” – HC Steve Clifford

It’s no secret that head coach Steve Clifford puts a premium on size and length. As a defensive minded coach, size matters when it comes to guarding in the NBA. It matters on the offensive end too. “At the end of the day, (the NBA) is still a matchup league.” Clifford says. “It’s different from college, which is more five-man basketball. In the playoffs, you’re going to go at matchups. You’ve got to have guys (big enough to) get their own shots and guys to make it hard on those guys.” Coach Clifford has also made it clear that over time he seeks to make Charlotte a bigger, longer team.

Clifford believes in putting together a team that can win now. Rich Cho believes in piecing together a roster that will be set up for success in the future. The two ideas do not have to be mutually exclusive.

“I think you always want guys who have performed vs. guys who have potential.” – HC Steve Clifford

The Hornets are coming off of a surprising season for most, making the playoffs and showing promise for the future. In Coach Clifford’s mind, the best way to sustain success is to add players who have experience, especially when your franchise cornerstone is nearing the end of his prime. “Guys who have performed” can mean one of two things: a player with NBA experience or a prospect who has proven his skill set.

“The last thing you want to do is sacrifice long-term flexibility for short-term gain.” – GM Rich Cho

This quote comes in direct junction with the last one. Clifford believes in putting together a team that can win now. Rich Cho believes in piecing together a roster that will be set up for success in the future. The two ideas do not have to be mutually exclusive. “The general manager and the coach should be on the same page. Not necessarily the same sentence, but the same page,” Rich Cho believes. Both Cho and Coach Clifford believe that they work well together and have a healthy “weight and balance” relationship when it comes to making decisions this offseason. There are players in the draft who offer both NBA ready skill sets and the tools to improve for the future. Also, there are veterans that are available, either through trade or free agency, who can provide immediate help without putting future cap situations in jeopardy. The Hornets can add roster depth and quality players without sacrificing flexibility, mostly thanks to the fact that they have set themselves up so nicely from previous years.


Putting all the pieces together, there a few players who fit the bill for what the Hornets seem to want to do. As for proven commodities, there might not be another in this draft like Doug McDermott. Doug is considered by most as “what you see is what you get,” but what you get is a three time All-American, the leading scorer in the nation in 2014 and a player who ranks 5th all-time in NCAA Division 1 scoring. Gary Harris, a two guard from Michigan State, provides the defense and perimeter shooting that Rich Cho referenced, but does not meet the length standards that Clifford seeks. Harris measured a small 6’4” at the NBA combine. A dead eye from three, Nik Stauskas also provides ball handling skills from the shooting guard position, but has questions to answer on the defensive end. Stauskas did display surprising athleticism at the combine and has great height for an NBA two guard, measuring in at 6’6”.

Ultimately the decisions made on Thursday night will be a concerted effort between the front office and coaching staff. The Hornets seem to be looking to add perimeter shooting, length, and experience. Thanks to Rich Cho’s planning and preparedness in the past, the Hornets are set to significantly upgrade a roster that set a starting point for Charlotte basketball success.

Quotes derived from charlotteobserver.com