Hornets select Williams, trade Duren in NBA draft

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, said a person familiar with the deal.

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.

It was a big night for the Charlotte area outside of the Hornet’s pick.

Concord-native Wendell Moore, Jr. was the 26th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft and was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves Thursday night.

The Hornets will receive a future first-round draft pick and four second-round draft picks in the Duren trade, said the person, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday night because the trade had not been confirmed by the league.

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.

Return to this story for the latest developments.

Hornets entering NBA draft with two 1st round picks, no coach

The next generation of players will be welcomed into the NBA when the Orlando Magic begin the 2022 NBA draft Thursday night at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

In Buzz City, the Charlotte Hornets are looking for a fresh start with two first-round picks in this year’s draft -- and no head coach in place to help facilitate those decisions.

That means the Hornets must try to get its roster to the next level -- into the playoffs.

The Hornets have the 13th and 15th picks in the first round. General manager Mitch Kupchak is expected to make final decisions with input from owner Michael Jordan. The team also has the 45th overall selection.

“It is unusual not to have a head coach in place for the draft,” ESPN draft analyst Jay Bilas said in a conference call. “You certainly like to keep in mind what your head coach wants to do and how (the player) likes to play. But it’s certainly not the be all and end all because most coaches have input, but they don’t make those decisions”

Kenny Atkinson, an assistant with the Golden State Warriors, was announced as the team’s new head coach until he accepted the job during the Warriors’ championship run in the NBA Finals.

ESPN broke the news over the weekend that he was staying with Golden State. Hornets fans were expecting an introductory press conference this week, but instead, the team was left scrambling to find a replacement ahead of Thursday night’s draft.

It is unclear if the Hornets will choose from individuals they’ve already interviewed, including 16-year veteran NBA coach Mike D’Antoni, or open the search to other candidates.

The team made progress last season winning 43 games with All-Star LaMelo Ball at point guard.

Charlotte has some potential trade prospects — including Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier and P.J. Washington — that could potentially be part of a draft-night deal.

One question facing the Hornets is how much they want to change their roster without a coach in place.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

(Watch past coverage in the video below: Hornets are firing head coach James Borrego, sources tell ESPN)