CHARLOTTE, N.C. — We are about to discover how position-less basketball works for the Charlotte Hornets.
Three point guards playing at once? The idea doesn't turn off Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak, as he envisions integrating No. 3 overall draft pick LaMelo Ball into the rotation.
"You might look out on the court next (season) and see five players under 6-7 at the same time," Kupchak said. "There are no set rules about who will play and who won't play and how big the players have to be for what positions they play."
Translation: It's not automatic that Devonte Graham or Terry Rozier has to sit in order to find minutes for rookie Ball. Kupchak said Ball is tall enough (he's listed around 6-foot-7) that coach James Borrego could play Ball some in a point-forward type of role, at least initially.
Kupchak said continuously over the past month that he would select the best talent with the No. 3 pick, with no concern about who was already on Charlotte's roster. After shooting guard Anthony Edwards and center James Wiseman went with picks 1 and 2, Kupchak did exactly that by selecting Ball, an over-sized point guard with a gift for passing, but a flawed jump shot.
You can argue that Graham and Rozier were two of the Hornets' best three players last season, along with forward P.J. Washington. Kupchak made it clear that neither Graham nor Rozier should feel threatened by Ball's presence.
"Devonte and Terry, I'm sure they will welcome him as a teammate. But they want to play and they're going to compete," Kupchak said. "LaMelo is not going to be given minutes because he was drafted No. 3. ... Whatever he gets, he will earn."
I have no doubt Borrego will see it the same way: While Borrego will nurture Ball's development, he won't gift Ball minutes out of obligation. Borrego made a point of saying last preseason that he doesn't consider a player's salary or contract or where he was drafted to be a coach's problem.
Ball said he's all-in on what Kupchak described — position-less basketball, the point-forward concept, earning his minutes.
"Definitely the point forward, I feel like it could work," Ball said. "This is definitely position-less basketball now. You can just get it and go."
That phrase — "get it and go" — is potentially important. Borrego wants to speed this team's pace. Ball's size and skill set can facilitate that. Borrego wants to play a flowing, up-tempo style where "Who brings the ball up? Everybody brings the ball up."
"None of us know (yet) how this thing will look," Borrego said of fitting the pieces together. "Once we get them in the gym, we're going to figure it out together. There is no map ... But we've just added an extreme talent. We'll figure it out from here."
Ball is the guy who can grab a rebound, turn and throw a one-handed pass over the top of transition defense for a dunk. Or to handle through traffic to find teammates at the rim. It's notable that Ball mentioned Hornets forwards Washington and Miles Bridges for their running and leaping abilities.
"Those are some high fliers," Ball said, "who can get up and go."
Had the Hornets ended up with Edwards or Wiseman, the fit would have been simpler; the Hornets obviously need help at center and haven't really figured out a long-term solution at shooting guard.
But Ball has talent, and the Hornets still need a star. Borrego is by nature experimental in a mix-and-match players sort of way.
Making this work starts with Ball's buy-in, and he sounded genuinely intrigued and excited.
"I love transition. I love that the team will be in transition," Ball said. "It's going to be fun this year."
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