CHARLOTTE, N.C. — General manager Mitch Kupchak said the Charlotte Hornets likely will use the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft on one of two players, but he also didn’t totally rule out trading down.
Kupchak didn’t identify the two players, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier this week that the Hornets are down to Alabama forward Brandon Miller and G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson, both of whom were in Charlotte for a private workout Monday.
“I anticipate that we would take the pick at 2, but I’m not going to rule out the possibility that we wouldn’t trade the pick,” Kupchak said Wednesday at a pre-draft news conference. “It’s a very coveted pick in our league right now. You would be surprised at some of the phone calls and players that I believe would be available.
“So up until the last minute, we are going listen, but at this moment I do expect to take the pick at 2.”
Miller is believed to be the better fit for the Hornets’ roster because Henderson plays the same position as LaMelo Ball, the No. 3 overall selection in 2020. Kupchak said however that the Hornets, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2016, aren’t focused on fit.
“I don’t think we’re at the stage where we’re good enough to focus on fit,” he said. “Next year, knock on wood, we’re healthy, we might be getting close where we could look a little bit more to fit.
“But right now, it’s about adding the best player that we could possibly add to the team. … We’re going to take the player that we feel is best for this organization going forward.”
Kupchak said he didn’t gain a lot more insight getting a second look at Miller and Henderson on Monday, when outgoing owner Michael Jordan also was present.
“I’ve been looking at these players the whole year,” he said. “The second time around, they were much more familiar with what we were going to do and they gave us their very best in these workouts.
“In these one-on-zero workouts, there’s a lot of pressure, and then when Michael walks in, there’s even more pressure. For me, I was comfortable with where I was a week ago, but it’s always good to get a second look if you can.”
Kupchak would not speak about a specific player when asked whether the Hornets perceived any character issues with Miller, who in January brought Alabama teammate Darius Miles a handgun that was used to kill a woman in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, according to police.
A police officer testified that Miles texted Miller asking him to bring Miles’ gun in the early-morning hours of Jan. 15, the day of the shooting. Miller was not charged with any crime, and the university has described him as a cooperating witness.
“Certainly, at the 2 pick, you’re going to have a lot of intel that you’ve done,” Kupchak said. “Whoever we take at No. 2, we’re going to be very comfortable with anything that might not be isolated to the basketball court.”
Kupchak didn’t get into specifics of potential trade partners, but the Hornets have been linked to interest in New Orleans Pelicans star power forward Zion Williamson, the top pick of the 2019 draft whose NBA career has been marred by injuries and missed playing time.
Kupchak also clarified he doesn’t anticipate a trade at No. 2 happening while Charlotte is on the clock.
“The No. 2 pick will be made,” he said. “There’ll be no activity — nothing’s going to happen an hour or 15 minutes before the draft. I don’t see that.”
Hornets down to choice between two players with No. 2 pick, GM says