Hornets take James Bouknight in NBA draft's first round

Jonathan M. Alexander, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Basketball

The Charlotte Hornets selected James Bouknight in the first round of the NBA draft Thursday night, giving them something they’ve badly needed — more talent.

After the Hornets lost 15 of their final 20 games in the 2020-21 season, falling from fourth place in the East to ninth, it became clear to general manager Mitch Kupchak, that to make the playoffs, they needed to continue to add talent and not draft based on position.

Thursday was the first step in that direction, taking the 6-5, 190-pound shooting guard out of UConn. Bouknight was expected by most draft experts to go higher. Bouknight averaged 18.7 points per game and 5.7 rebounds, while shooting 44.7% from the floor last season for the Huskies.

The Hornets entered the draft with a void at center. Veterans Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller are both free agents and neither has provided the dominance in the post the Hornets need to compete in the Eastern Conference. But Kupchak said last week that the draft wasn’t deep with centers, so they wouldn’t chase one. He said they’d instead take who they felt was the best available player.

And that’s what they did, applying the same strategy they used last season by picking LaMelo Ball third overall despite already having two point guards with starting experience — Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham. Once Ball became a mainstay in the starting lineup, Rozier became Charlotte’s true shooting guard while Graham came off the bench. Ball was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year.


The Hornets finished 33-39 during the 2020-21 season.

Before the draft, the Hornets acquired the 37th pick in the draft and former Duke center Mason Plumlee from the Detroit Pistons for the Hornets’ 57th pick. The Hornets also have the 56th pick in the draft.

Plumlee, who is 6-foot-11, 254 pounds, averaged 10.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists last season. He immediately addresses the Hornets’ biggest need.

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