Hornets won’t pass over talent to get a shooter in NBA draft

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) General manager Rich Cho said while the Charlotte Hornets need a perimeter shooter, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee they’ll take one with the ninth pick in next week’s NBA draft.

The Hornets plan to draft the best player available, regardless of whether that is a point guard, power forward or center.

”We’re going to address the shooting this summer, but it could be through the draft, free agency or a trade,” Cho said during a press conference on Thursday.

Charlotte has been looking for a solution to its poor outside shooting for several years.

They added Lance Stephenson last summer in hopes that he might help. Instead, he shot just 17.1 percent from beyond the arc, the worst single-season percentage in NBA history.

As the team, the Hornets finished last in the league in 3-point field goal percentage at 31.8 percent.

Cho would like to see that number in the high 30s.

Gerald Henderson is currently penciled as the starting shooting guard, but he’s only a 30.9 percent career shooter from beyond the arc. Point guard Kemba Walker shoots 31.8 percent from deep range and small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has only attempted 18 3-point shots in his three seasons with the team.

Power forward Marvin Williams and backup point guard Mo Williams are the team’s most consistent 3-point shooters.

If the Hornets decide to address their shooting at No. 9, they have some options. Kentucky’s Devin Booker and Arizona’s Stanley Johnson are considered quality outside shooters and could be around.

Cho wouldn’t rule out the possibility of trading up or back, adding that he’s already had trade discussions with several teams.

The GM said ”he’d love to move up” but added that a lot of scenarios are in play.

Should the Hornets pass on a shooting guard in the draft, they don’t have enough salary cap space to bring in a big-name free agent this offseason after signing Al Jefferson two years ago and Stephenson last summer to big contracts. But they would have the middle-level exception to sign a player for about a $5.5 million first-season salary, which Cho thinks could help them land a quality role player.

Cho also discussed for the first time the future of Jefferson, who exercised his option on the third and final year of his contract and will return next season to make a team-high $13.5 million next season.

He indicated the Hornets need to see more results from ”Big Al,” who acknowledged after the season he needed to drop some weight to keep some weight off his knees and ankles.

”This is a big year for Al and for us,” Cho said. ”It depends on how Al comes back. If he plays great like he did two years ago, then it’s a different situation than if he plays like he did this past year. Part of it depends on Al and how well he plays what direction we go. Al was genuinely disappointed in last year, and I know he’ll make a concerted effort to get in shape this offseason.”