Hornets add two-way versatility to roster in the draft with Miles Bridges; land Devonte Graham in Round 2

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The Charlotte Hornets entered the 2018 NBA Draft needing to hit on a first round pick. Years of draft frustration have created a vacuum of young talent on the roster. Currently, only two previous first round picks remain on their rookie-scale deals: 2015’s Frank Kaminsky (yawn) and 2017’s Malik Monk.

For a franchise that’s already capped out, and needed to swallow Timofey Mozgov’s contract in a trade with Dwight Howard earlier this week (which freed up some short-term cap relief), that’s not exactly cutting it. They desperately need young talent — enter Miles Bridges, a two-way forward (6-foot-6 with a near 6-foot-10 wingspan) with the ability to defend multiple spots on the floor (1-4/5 switch-ability).

(Quick note: Prior to the draft, I did a big breakdown of Miles Bridges for Queen City Hoopswhich you can check out here.)

The Pick

With Duke’s Wendell Carter off the board at No. 7 to Chicago, and Collin Sexton to the Cavs at No. 8, Charlotte’s two potential pipe-dream picks vanished quickly. Simultaneously, former prep prodigy Michael Porter Jr. was in the midst of sliding down the draft board — due to concerns with his back.

The Hornets could’ve chanced it on Porter — a potential top-five pick, falling to a team in dire need of plus-talent — but that would’ve been risky. Those concerns seem to have been felt by Charlotte, too. Hopefully, this doesn’t turn into another draft-day regret for Charlotte.

Instead, the Hornets chose Kentucky combo guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — a wiry pick-and-roll menace (52 FG%, one point per possession). Not long after that pick came in, though, it was announced that Charlotte would ship SGA to the Los Angeles Clippers, and move back a pick.

(For the record: Woj was in rare form on Thursday night, too.)

From there, with the 12th pick, the Hornets drafted Miles Bridges out of Michigan State. This was fairly shrewd maneuvering from Charlotte’s front office, which got the guy they wanted, and added a few picks.

Quick Stats on Miles Bridges: Offense

  1. In 2017-18, 29 percent of Bridges’ possessions were spot-ups, according to Synergy Sports. Over his two seasons with Michigan State, Bridges recorded 294 total spot-possessions. On those looks, the lefty shot 108-of-259 (41.7 FG%) on said attempts, and scored 301 total points — 1.02 per spot-up possession.

Charlotte needs shooting, badly, too; the 2018 Hornets ranked 24th in the NBA in catch-and-shoot 3PA (18.5 per game) and 21st in effective shooting (52.5 eFG%). Well, Bridges helps here: over 41 percent of his career field goal attempts came from beyond the arc: 127-of-339 (37.5 3P%). Bridges has some improved shot-creation abilities, especially on drives to the hoop, but most of the triples he hit were off the catch — 99 of his 127 three-pointers (78 percent) were assisted. He’ll need to hit those if he wants to set-up his power game — beating closeouts on the weak side of the floor.

Bridges has multiple dimensions to his offensive game as well. As a sophomore, a third of his field goal attempts, including post-ups, came at the basket.

On non-post-up attempts, Bridges shot 64.6 percent and scored 1.34 points per possession, per Synergy. (In two seasons of college ball, Bridges shot 62.8 perfect on non-post-up field goal attempts: 130-of-207.)

The lefty worked out of the pick-and-roll some this season, too — shooting over 52 percent from the floor as a pick-and-roll ball handler.

Bridges is a top-10 talent that the Hornets get on a slight discount at No. 12; that’s a pretty decent output for this franchise. He’s marginally cheaper at 12 than 11, and Charlotte picked up two second round picks.

Other Draft Night Activity

Later in the night, the Hornets trade up to the 34th overall pick via Atlanta. Charlotte sent the Hawks two future second round picks — 2019, 2023 — in return. With that pick, Charlotte selected former Kansas point guard and Big 12 POY Devonte Graham.

Graham, of course, is a native of North Carolina, who played a good chunk of his prep career at Broughton High School in Raleigh.

Since the departure of Jeremy Lin in 2016 free agency, the Hornets have had a big issue finding a suitable backup point guard for Kemba Walker. In each of the last two seasons, Charlotte has barely managed to score above one point per possession with Kemba on the floor. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, the Hornets are -357 points in 2,447 minutes with Walker on the bench. (Ouch, my body.)

After the Dwight Howard trade, Charlotte caved out enough salary that it could now use the full non-taxpayer mid-level exception, which starts around $8.6 million. Theoretically, the Hornets could use all or some of that to sign a veteran point guard in free agency, too.

Regardless, the hometown kid, Graham, will return to the Tar Heel State and be in the mix for minutes at guard, which is neat. (I imagine that he will spent time with the Swarm in Greensboro as well.)

At pick 45, Charlotte selected Kentucky wing Hamidou Diallo, an intriguing and explosive athlete. However, he was quickly shipped to OKC, likely for cash — continuing an annual draft tradition with Charlotte, as my guy Spencer Percy notes.

But wait, there’s more: some guy I’ve never heard of!

In the final moments of the draft, near the back end of the second round the Hornets drafted Lithuanian national Arnoldas Kulboka, who plays pro ball in Italy. This looks like a draft-and-stash pick for Charlotte; Kulboka is just 20-years-old.

Earlier this year, he measured with a wingspan north of 6-foot-11, and scored 0.93 points per possession (50.8 eFG%), per Synergy, in the Italian Serie A league.

Other Draft Content

For the second straight year, the Buzz Beat crew — Spencer, Richie Randall and myself — huddled up for a draft night #BuzzCast. We came on around the sixth pick, I believe, and stayed until the middle of the first round. Gave this video a look, and check out all of the amazing production work Richie did in putting this together.

There are plenty more draft thoughts in here, including our reactions to the Miles Bridges pick.