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NBA Draft aids Charlotte's frontcourt, shooting

June 27, 2014

(O-N-E photo illustration by Cody Dalton)

The Charlotte Hornets used Thursday’s NBA Draft to solidying their backcourt and added one of best shooters in this year’s rookie class.

After he dropped surprisingly out of the top five, forward Noah Vonleh went No. 9 to the Hornets.

General manager Rich Cho was surprised when Vonleh fell in the team’s lap.

“We had Noah rated a lot higher,” Cho said. “For whatever reason, he slipped down to nine. We were exstatic when he was there, and we selected him. He is a very skilled big man. He can play inside. He can play outside. What we wanted to get in this Draft was some frontcourt depth. We are happy to have Noah.”

Vonleh said he was expecting to land in the top 10 somwhere.

“I heard anywhere from range three to nine,” Vonleh said. “I was just happy and blessed to finally be able to say I made my dream come true of being drafted to the NBA. I was happy regardless of where I went.”

After drafting UConn standout Shabazz Napier with the 24th pick of the Draft, Cho traded the pick to the Miami Heat, who in return gave Charlotte the 26th pick, 55th pick and cash considerations.

With that No. 55 selection, the Hornets received former UNC standout P.J. Hairston, who spent last year in the NBA’s D-League. Hairston is the first D-League talent to be drafted to the NBA.

“P.J. is one of the best shooters in the Draft,” Cho said. “We've followed him for a long time and done a lot of background on him. He had a great year in the D-League in Texas. He is a guy that really fills a need for us. One of the other things we wanted to come away with in the Draft was shooting. He provides that for us in a big way.”

Hairston left the University of North Carolina’s basketball program after being suspended for the first 10 games of the season. The school decided Dec. 20, 2013 not to seek his reinstatement to the program, and he ultimately ended up playing for the Texas Legends starting on Jan. 14.

He averaged 21.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game for the Legends.

Hairston said being drafted to the NBA gives him a fresh start and his D-League experience gives him an advantage.

“I’ve put it all behind me,” said the 6-6, 230-pound Hairston. “I had a chance to start over in the D-League. That kind of put me three months ahead of everyone else. I was able to get used to the professional lifestyle and just to be able to see how it is to be on your own. I think I’ve matured a lot. I fully regret that happened, of course. I feel my future is what is important now. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

With two second-round picks, Charlotte used both of those selections to clear cap space.

The Hornets drafted Stanford’s Dwight Powell at No. 45 overall before trading him and center Brendan Haywood to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Alonzo Gee, whose salary next season is unguaranteed. The trade will become official in July.

With the 55th pick, the Hornets received Xavier point guard Semaj Christon, who was shipped to Oklahoma City for cash considerations.

Both moves clear more than $2 million in salary cap for the Bobcats, who now have approximately $15 million to spend this offseason.

Cho could not go into discuss either move.

Despite drafting a power forward with their first pick in the past two NBA Drafts, Cho is still planning on bringing back free agent power forward Josh McRoberts.

“Josh is still a big part of our team,” Cho said. “Our intent is we want to keep him on the team.”

Cho said the team also plans to address its need for a back up point guard via free agency, as well as additional shooting and scoring needs.

“When we looked at the free agent class, back up point guard is one of the deepest spots,” Cho said. “We feel like we’ll get a good back up point guard in free agency.”

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