Hornets take PF Vonleh with 9th pick in NBA Draft

by: STEVE REED, AP Sports Writer Updated:

Indiana's Noah Vonleh, right, poses for a photo with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being selected ninth overall by the Charlotte Hornets during the 2014 NBA draft, Thursday, June 26, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)h; The Charlotte Hornets are becoming a pipeline to the NBA for Hoosiers.

For the second straight year the Hornets used a lottery pick on an Indiana player, taking power forward Noah Vonleh with the ninth overall pick Thursday night in the NBA draft.

Last year the team selected Indiana power forward Cody Zeller with the No. 4 pick.

The 6-foot-10 Vonleh gives the team some added height and a potential replacement in case the team is unable to re-sign Josh McRoberts, who opted out of his contract earlier this month.

Second-year coach Steve Clifford emphasized size as a big need for the Hornets this offseason and Vonleh, with his 7-foot-4 wing span and 9-foot standing reach, brings just that to the table.

The 18-year-old Vonleh averaged 11.3 points and nine rebounds and was the Big Ten freshman of the year last season. He spent only one season at Indiana, but led the Big Ten in rebounds and was eighth in the conference in blocked shots.

He's expected to compete for playing time with last year's starter McRoberts — should he be re-signed — and Zeller.

Since 2006, Charlotte has had eight lottery picks but none of them have turned into All-Stars.

Charlotte, a young team considered on the rise, is hoping for more production from its latest lottery pick to take the next step in the NBA playoffs after getting swept in the first round last year by the Miami Heat.

The Hornets have wasted a lot of picks in recent years on players who've failed to reach their potential like Bismack Biyombo or simply turned out to be flops such as Adam Morrison.

Charlotte reached the postseason for the first time since 2010 largely behind the play of center Al Jefferson, and was clearly in need of an outside shooter. However, the team struggled to find a complement to Jefferson on the outside, where opponents outscored Charlotte by 447 points on 3-pointers, which amounts to 5.4 points per game.

But 6-foot-7 shooting guard Nik Stauskas from Michigan went one spot before the Hornets' pick and the team passed on Doug McDermott, a 45 percent 3-pointer shooter in college, at No. 9 in favor of Vonleh.

Charlotte still has two picks remaining in the draft — the 24th and 45th overall.