CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak is exploring ways to trade up from the team's current No. 12 spot in the first round of Thursday's NBA draft.
Confirming an Observer report from Wednesday, Kupchak said he's contacted teams picking before the Hornets' first-round selection. Though it would be expensive as far as trade capital to make such a deal, it demonstrates Kupchak's urgency to improve the roster as All-Star Kemba Walker hits free agency next month.
"We're talking to a lot of teams. We would like to move up," Kupchak said in his pre-draft media availability Friday. "Historically, if you look at what it costs to move up four slots or two slots or five slots, a lot of times it's an expensive" transaction.
If the Hornets don't move up or trade the pick for a veteran or salary-cap relief, it's likely they would stay at No. 12: "I don't anticipate us trying to move back," Kupchak said.
In addition to No. 12, the Hornets hold two second-round picks -- Nos. 36 and 52 -- in the 60-player process.
Thursday's draft, while important in a vacuum, is a prelude to a free-agency period of great consequence. The Hornets want to re-sign Walker, who was named third-team All-NBA, and the price to do so -- as much as $221 million over five years -- could push the Hornets into the NBA luxury tax for the first time in franchise history.
Owner Michael Jordan in the past has expressed resistance to pay tax -- which would add millions to player costs -- for a team not in championship contention. In addition to Walker, the Hornets have another significant unrestricted free agent, shooting guard Jeremy Lamb.
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