Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hornets trading pick

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -The Hornets have agreed to send their first-round draft pick, the 27th overall, to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for cash that could help New Orleans add a key free agent to a rising young squad.The deal awaits league approval and may not become official until Thursday's draft has begun, according to a person who works in the NBA and is familiar with the transaction. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the deal hadn't been formally announced.The Trail Blazers already have the 13th overall selection and adding the 27th pick would give them five draft picks overall, including three in the second round. The Trail Blazers also have yet to see action from Greg Oden, last year's top overall pick in the draft, because of knee surgery that sidelined him for all of his rookie season.Hornets general manager Jeff Bower declined to confirm a trade, saying nothing is official until the league approves it. However, he talked about how the Hornets' could benefit in free agency by taking cash for their only pick in this year's NBA draft.The Hornets fell one victory short of the Western Conference finals this past season, losing in seven games to the San Antonio Spurs in the second round. Bower said it is rare for a rookie selected in the bottom fifth of the draft's opening round to be a difference-maker on a team looking to contend for a championship."That type of production normally comes two or three years down the road," Bower said.The Hornets' rebuilding years are behind them, however, and head coach Byron Scott has only two seasons on his current contract.With a starting lineup that includes All-Stars Chris Paul and David West, along with perimeter sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic and 7-foot-1 center Tyson Chandler, the goal is to contend for a title next season. Conventional wisdom points to free agency as the fastest way to make the Hornets, who won a franchise-record 56 games in the regular season, a better playoff team."We have to make the judgment as to where we can get the quickest help," Bower said. "So we're looking at, really, from a draft pick at 27 or maybe we're better served looking at other avenues."With no incoming rookies, the Hornets would add money that would otherwise have been spent on draft choices into their pot for free agency - in addition to cash received from another team in a trade, which could be as high as $3 million under league rules, Bower said.As of Wednesday, the Hornets did not have a second-round choice in the draft. It was traded to Houston last season as part of a deal that sent Bobby Jackson to the Rockets in exchange for Bonzi Wells and Mike James. Houston later dealt that pick, the 56th overall, to Seattle.Wells will become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

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