Hornets draft Mark Williams at No. 15, trade away No. 13 pick to Detroit

Charlotte’s selection of the Duke big man will give the team a needed paint threat

Mark Williams, right, is congratulated by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being selected by the Charlotte Hornets in Thursday's NBA Draft in New York. (John Minchillo / AP Photo)

CHARLOTTE — The Hornets’ new center has arrived.

With the 15th overall pick in Thursday’s 2022 NBA Draft, Charlotte selected Duke big man Mark Williams, instantly adding a 7-foot target who can protect the rim, block shots and add a skill set in the paint that Charlotte has lacked for a while.

“The guys on the team play together, work hard and have fun. … I think I fit really well with them, just with the way I play,” Williams told said following his selection. “I think all the things I bring to the table will be really helpful. They won’t regret it.”

While Williams is the Hornets’ big prize of the draft, he wasn’t the first player selected by the team in the draft. Memphis Tigers center Jalen Duren was picked by Charlotte at No. 13 but almost instantly traded to Detroit in a scenario that gave the Hornets a future conditional first-round pick and four future second-round picks. 

Charlotte received Denver’s 2023 first-round pick, the Knicks’ 2023 and 2024 second-round picks, Utah’s 2023 second-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick from either Dallas or Miami (whichever is higher).

However, Charlotte general manager Mitch Kupchak wasn’t done with trades for the night. 

The 2023 Knicks second-round pick was soon shipped out as the Hornets used it to move up from No. 45 to No. 40 to acquire Nebraska guard Bryce McGowens from Minnesota.

Kupchak was asked by reporters if the move that traded away Duren — a highly sought-after player who many draft experts valued even higher than Williams — generated enough value in return considering that New York received three protected first-round picks for a No. 11 while Minnesota received a No. 22 and No. 29 in exchange for a No. 19 pick. 

“We didn’t feel using both picks was prudent,” he said, adding that Williams was the team’s top prospect going into the draft. “GMs always say that we got the guy we had ranked No. 1, and we did. Of the three bigs, he was the guy we had No. 1, so it remains to be seen how lucky we really got.”

Williams, 20, played two years at Duke and averaged 11.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game in his sophomore season, earning the 2022 ACC Defensive Player of the Year award.

“He has a lot of work in getting stronger, and I don’t have any doubt that he’ll work hard and get in the weight room,” Kupchak said of his new center. “He’s a good rebounder, I wouldn’t say that he’s gonna be our rebound monster right now, but I think if he gets stronger, I think he can become an excellent rebounder.”