CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte Hornets drafted two centers in the first round of the NBA draft — trading one and keeping the other.
The Hornets selected Memphis center Jalen Duren with the 13th overall pick before trading the pick to the New York Knicks. The Hornets then used the 15th pick on Duke's 7-foot-2 center Mark Williams, who they hope will become a big man who can fix some of the team’s biggest woes in the middle.
The Hornets will receive a future first-round draft pick and four second-round draft picks in the Duren trade.
The 242-pound Williams has a 7-foot-6 wingspan and is known for his shot-blocking ability. He gives the Hornets the rim protector and big man they have coveted for years.
Williams averaged 7.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks over only 15.3 minutes per game as a freshman for the Blue Devils. He stepped that up as a sophomore averaging 11.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks over 23.5 minutes per game while earning ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors and helping the Blue Devils to the Final Four.
“It’s an area that we need help and we hope he continues to develop at a rapid pace. He made great strides his first two years at Duke,” Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak said. “He gives us great size with rim protection and rebound the ball. He has a great length and he is a great kid who should get better.”
Charlotte was one of the league’s worst defensive teams overall last year, finishing 22nd in the league while allowing 48.1 points per game in the paint. Opponents scored 15 points per game off second-chance opportunities, the most allowed in the league.
Kupchak said with three rookies on the roster last year that it didn’t make sense to draft two players in the first round.
“We didn't feel using both picks was prudent,” Kupchak said.
The 6-foot-11, 250-pound Duren would have made sense for the Hornets, too. He averaged 12 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks over 25.3 minutes per game, and anchored one of the better defensive units in the country.
The Hornets finished 43-39 last season, failing to qualify for the playoffs for the sixth straight season after suffering a 29-point loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the play-in tournament.
That led to the decision to fire head coach James Borrego.
Charlotte entered the NBA draft without a head coach in place, leaving general manager Mitch Kupchak to handle all draft day decisions.
Golden State assistant Kenny Atkinson had agreed to a four-year contract to become the team's next head coach, but backed out of the deal after the Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics to win the NBA championship. That forced Hornets owner Michael Jordan to reopen the team's coaching search, which is ongoing.
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