Hornets 2019 NBA Draft Rumors: Charlotte Looking to Trade Up from No. 12 Pick

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJune 13, 2019

Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak speaks to the media during a news conference for the NBA basketball team in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, April 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Chuck Burton/Associated Press

The Charlotte Hornets are looking to move up the 2019 draft board from their current spot at No. 12, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.

Bonnell stated that "it will be tough assembling the trade capital to make that happen in the next week," but that general manager Mitch Kupchak was still working the phones. The draft takes place on Thursday, June 20.

The Hornets face a critical offseason after finishing a disappointing 39-43. Star point guard Kemba Walker is a free agent, and he's eligible for a supermax deal from the Hornets that would net him $221.3 million over five years.

The question is whether Walker stays in Charlotte, which has been in NBA purgatory for the better part of the past decade.

Of note, Charlotte frequently drafts in the back half of the lottery because of its below-average (but not abysmal) win-loss records: From 2007 to 2018, the franchise used 10 first-round picks between the No. 8 and No. 12 range. That number will be 11 if the Hornets don't move over No. 8 this season.

Kupchak told reporters in an end-of-season press conference that they would "do everything that we can to bring [Walker] back" to Charlotte.

For his part, Walker said in his own postseason presser that he wants to return to the Hornets. However, he also left the door open for another stint elsewhere, per Rod Boone of The Athletic:

Rod Boone @rodboone

Kemba said nothing has changed in regards to Charlotte being the place he wants to play https://t.co/jCGDeKCIHZ

Rod Boone @rodboone

Asked Kemba what's most important to him as he makes his decision. Is it winning, money, happiness? https://t.co/Uix0DWPvfx

"This is where I want to be; that hasn't changed at all," Walker said (h/t NBA.com). "I want to win. Like I said yesterday, that's something that I'm going to have to really sit down and think about with my family, with my agent, with the people closest to me in my life that will help me make that decision."

If Walker's stated desire is to win, then the Hornets' best bet is to do everything in their power to move up from No. 12.

The draft looks like it has three top prospects a cut above the rest in Duke's Zion Williams and RJ Barrett as well as Murray State's Ja Morant, but there's plenty of talent available in the lottery section of the draft.

The Hornets' issue is that some of the draft's most coveted players likely won't fall to No. 12. Wings like Virginia's De'Andre Hunter, Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver and Duke's Cam Reddish could help a team looking for improvement there, but they likely won't slide below No. 8 (that's the floor for Culver and Reddish right now in mock drafts aggregated by HoopsHype).

However, it isn't uncommon for future superstar talent to fall past No. 10, with examples including Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Perhaps Charlotte catches lightning in a bottle if it can't move up, but the Hornets are better off positioning themselves for a better prospect inside the top 10.