NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Only a malfunctioning phone will cause Hornets general manager Dell Demps to use the full five minutes he’ll get to make 6-foot-11 Kentucky star Anthony Davis the first overall pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft.
“We’ve done our due diligence,” Demps said, smiling as if to acknowledge how obvious the choice has been from the moment his club won the draft lottery a month ago.
The real intrigue in the Hornets’ draft surrounds their 10th overall choice, which resulted from the deal that sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers shortly before last season.
The Hornets could use another big body to bolster their inside play behind Davis, particularly on the heels of last week’s trade that sent center Emeka Okafor to Washington. But Demps and Hornets coach Monty Williams suggested that their options remain open to pursue some of the players they need through trades or free agency, leaving them free to take the player they view as the most talented — regardless of position — when the 10th pick comes up.
“You trade Emeka, you feel like you need a big,” Williams said. “But if the best player available is not a big, that doesn’t mean we didn’t have a good draft. We may be able to fill a need in free agency.”
New Orleans headed into the draft with three picks in all, including a second round pick, the 46th overall. The team worked out a total of 27 players at its suburban headquarters. The first 16 were players projected to be taken somewhere around No. 10. The last 11, who worked out on Wednesday, are more likely to be taken in the second round.
“We don’t think in one draft you can fill all your needs and get everything you want,” Demps said. “We’re not trying to hit a grand slam. We want to just hopefully draft three players tomorrow and keep moving forward and building the team for the future for sustained success.”
Many of the players the Hornets worked out for the 10th pick were either front-court players or guards. They included Duke guard Austin Rivers, North Carolina guard Kendall Marshall, Tar Heels center Tyler Zeller and Kentucky power forward Terrence Jones. There were also a couple European prospects mixed in, such as swing player Evan Fournier of France and guard Nihad Djedovic, a Bosnian who has played in Italy.
LSU 7-footer Justin Hamilton was among those who worked out with projected second-round picks.
Demps also said he has been fielding trade offers for the 10th pick, although he didn’t sound very impressed by them.
“Everybody’s talking to everybody right now,” Demps said. “I got offered a couple bridges, swamps, but right now I think we’ll keep 10.”
Odds are that the Hornets won’t trade the pick unless they can get a young but proven player who not only fits into their defense-oriented system, but also has more than a year or two left on his contract. Having finished 21-45 last season, the Hornets are not among those teams who might be one player away from challenging for a title, and would not likely risk a top 10 pick on a player with only one year left on his current contract.
“We’re not shopping,” Demps said. “We’re expecting to select picks one, 10 and 46.”
Williams sees a couple of different ways to build a contender. He believes an abundance of size can help, pointing to how the Los Angeles Lakers won titles with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Yet Williams also sees the need for the Hornets to have more back court or wing players who can create their own shot.
Currently the Hornets expect to have one such player on the roster next season in Eric Gordon, who is a restricted free agent. Other guards under contract are Jarrett Jack and Greivis Vasquez.
“You can’t have enough guards,” Williams said. “We’re trying to find guys who can create their own shot at the end of games. ... Guards are the guys who can do that.
“Obviously we’d love to have some guards with some size who can finish at the basket. That’s a premium in the NBA, having guards and wings who can create their own shot, find other guys, get to the free throw line, because that helps you set your defense.”