Thursday night was the first draft for the rebranded Charlotte Hornets and an exciting one for the team. With the ninth pick, the Hornets took Indiana power forward Noah Vonleh.
Few saw Vonleh as a realistic option for the team; he was predicted to go as high as the fourth pick. Analysts thought the Hornets would select Doug McDermott from Creighton University instead. Vonleh was an unexpected, but much-appreciated surprise. After the announcement Hornets guard Kemba Walker tweeted "Welcome to Charlotte @NoahVonleh I love that pick!"
Vonleh stands at 6'10" and 240 pounds with a 7'4" wingspan and hands measuring 11.75 inches in width, the largest of the draft.
NBA analyst Skip Bayless tweeted "Way to go, MJ. Charlotte keeps getting better. Every time I watched Noah Vonleh play, I saw NBA. Long, smooth, skilled. Steal at 9."
Vonleh's game lends itself well to the Hornets' system. He has the body to battle down low alongside Big Al Jefferson and the ability to move and shoot from range, which will help stretch defenses.
Another twist occurred when the Hornets chose to trade point guard Shabazz Napier, out of UCONN to the Miami Heat. Napier led the Huskies to a National Championship this past season with incredible clutch performances throughout the NCAA tournament.
Hornets fans seemed to be excited by a reunion between the UCONN guards in Napier and Walker, who each led UCONN to national titles. But the reunion would not be.
The Heat management are currently making moves to satisfy their stars and keep their team intact. They keyed in on Napier, determined to pickup the UCONN point guard. The move to trade Napier for PJ Hairston, the former Tar Heel, many say, had to do with LeBron James dubbing Napier as his "favorite player in the draft."
Along with Hairston, Charlotte got the 55th pick and a future second round pick.
Hairston was a standout sharpshooter at UNC Chapel Hill but was removed from the team before last season because of high-profile NCAA violations, including allegedly using rental cars tied to a convicted felon.
While distractions off court are still a question, one thing is for sure: Hairston can score. In his sophomore season at UNC, Hairston led the team in points per game with 14.6 and improved his numbers after this season in the NBA development league with the Texas Legends, scoring 21.8 ppg.
Hairston's effective outside shooting will provide the Hornets with some much-needed firepower on offense. The familiar face to Carolina hoops fans will surely lead to increased jersey sales.
In the second round, the Hornets picked up Dwight Powell and Semaj Christon. It appears that Powell will be traded to Cleveland for Alonzo Gee and Christon will be traded to Oklahoma City for cash. These trades will likely be finalized in July.
Hornets came out of the draft with an enormous upside, drafting players fans can get behind.