Hornets take PF Vonleh; get SG Hairston in trade

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - 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 Hornets added shooting guard P.J. Hairston later in the first round after a trade with the Miami Heat.

The Hornets drafted Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier with the 24th pick and traded him to Miami. In return, general manager Rich Cho said the Hornets received the 26th pick (Hairston), the 55th pick and a second-round pick in 2019 and cash from the Heat.

Cho said he never expected Vonleh to drop to the ninth spot. Neither did the 6-foot-10 Vonleh, who never worked out for the Hornets.

“It was a little bit of a shock, but I’m glad they saw something in me,” Vonleh said.

Vonleh gives the Hornets 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.

“We had Noah rated a lot higher, but for whatever reason he slipped down to nine,” Cho said. “We were ecstatic when he was there. He’s a skilled big man who can play inside and out.”

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.

“I think I can help with my rebounding right away,” Vonleh said. “That is something that will definitely translate. I think I’m versatile - I can be a stretch forward, make jumpers, hit the threes. I play pretty well in the pick-and-roll. I can play pretty hard and do whatever it takes to win.”

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

They hope that changes with Vonleh, who was projected in the top five in some NBA mock drafts.

Vonleh appears to have some range. He connected on 49 percent (16 of 33) 3-point attempts last season at Indiana. He said he’s hoping for more opportunities to show off his long-range shooting at the NBA level.

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