The Hornets agreed to sell their pick for undisclosed financial considerations to the New York Knicks on Thursday night. Because the trade was not yet official when New Orleans’ 45th overall pick came up, the Hornets selected 6-foot-10 Kentucky forward Josh Harrellson for the Knicks.
“We had a number of guys on the board that we thought could help us, and when those guys were not available anymore, we decided to trade the pick” for cash, Demps said. “There will be other avenues for us to improve the team.”
Demps had mentioned before the draft that the Hornets were considering the option of selling their lone pick and focusing on building their team through free agency. Demps said there were five players in particular that the Hornets were looking to draft, if available, but he declined to identify them.
“With our roster the way it was now, we wanted to continue having flexibility,” Demps said. “We do have roster sports available, but we didn’t want to pick someone just to be picking.
“The money we did acquire will be used strictly to make the team better,” Demps added.
New Orleans traded away their 2011 first-round pick at the beginning of last season, when they acquired guard Jerryd Bayless from Portland. New Orleans later traded Bayless to Toronto as part of a deal that brought in Jarrett Jack.
Portland later traded that pick — the 19th overall — to Charlotte, who used it to draft 6-8 Tennessee forward Tobias Harris. Charlotte then dealt Harris to Milwaukee in a three-team deal that also involved Sacramento.
Demps had said before the draft that it would be tough for the Hornets to trade back into the first round, which turned out to be the case.
“We didn’t get real close on that,” he said. “We tried some different avenues, but we came up short.”
New Orleans currently has only five players under contract: Chris Paul, Jack, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Quincy Pondexter. They’ll have two more if David West and Aaron Gray exercise player options at the end of the month, while Marco Belinelli and Jason Smith, both restricted free agents, also could return.
Even if all those players return, the Hornets would have anywhere from three to six roster spots open as they try to improve upon a season in which they made the playoffs and lost a first-round series to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.
The Hornets did not host any draft prospects at their facility, choosing instead to travel to watch the workouts of players projected for the middle of the second round, because, as Demps explained, most draft prospects won’t work out for teams that don’t pick until the middle of the second round.
Demps took scouting trips to Europe, looking at players in Spain, Turkey and Croatia. He also attended workouts all across the country.
In addition to trades or possibly signing more established free agents, the Hornets also will look to round out their roster with young pros from European leagues or the NBA Development League.
Hornets coaches hosted a minicamp for 14 young pros including former LSU standout Tasmin Mitchell, who spent last season in the NBDL after attending training camp with the Cleveland Cavaliers.