Part III: The Draft
Yes, my friends, it is that time of year again. The time in which desperate Queen City hoops fans project their hopes and dreams upon a young man who is legally unable to purchase a beer. The 2015 Draft marks the tenth Lottery in the past eleven Charlotte NBA seasons. None of which has yet to produce a single All-Star selection for the franchise. Yikes.
Not all is doom and gloom however. For the first time in ages, the Hornets actually have a few decent prospects and quality veterans on the roster to build around. The immediate expectations for this year’s Lottery pick will be measured and in line with the team’s win-now philosophy.
The Rules of the Game:
- I’m assuming the Hornets neither trade up nor trade down, so will ignore the Draft’s consensus Top 7 Players (Karl Towns, Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell, Kristaps Porzingis, Emmanuel Mudiay, Justise Winslow and Mario Hezonja) and any of the other late round prospects the team has worked out or have been linked to (Jerian Grant, R.J. Hunter, Sam Dekker)
- I’m assuming the Hornets will keep the pick. For the first time in the Rich Cho Era, the team has made it clear that they will entertain trade offers for their draft selection. Al Jefferson is in his prime and Kemba Walker is entering his. Bringing in a young-ish vet to complement those two makes sense.
IMPROMPTU FAKE TRADE TANGENT
My favorite trade idea: Sending
Lance Stephenson Marvin Williams (later, Lance!) and the 9 Pick to Portland for Nic Batum. After losing Josh McRoberts last summer the team desperately needs another halfcourt connector and Batum fits the bill. Nic’s averaged 4.9 assists per game in his past three seasons and adds another three point threat (36% career 3PT average) to the mix.
Having a connector like a Batum (or a McRoberts, Boris Diaw or Gordon Hayward) takes the playmaking onus off of Walker’s shoulders and allows Kemba to function as a scorer. Batum is both young enough (26) and experienced enough (seven NBA seasons) to contribute now and grow with the team into the future.
Slotting Nic into the SF slot and moving MKG to the other wing slot (ala Tony Allen in Memphis) gives the Hornets a tremendously long and athletic wing combo that could make up for Kemba and Al’s defensive short-comings. Add in the Cody Zeller/Noah Vonleh stretch four platoon at PF and this could be a VERY good team in the East next season.
THE 2015 HORNETS DRAFT PROSPECTS
If the Hornets do indeed stand pat at nine, they’ll have plenty of options to consider.
Willie Cauley-Stein, C | Kentucky
WHAT TO LIKE: NBA-ready defensive anchor armed with the shot-blocking, rebounding and post defense skills to contribute right away. Super mobile big man who runs the court like a wing. Potentially excellent in transition. Unlike some offensively limited centers *COUGH*BIZ*COUGH*, WCS projects as a nice rim diver and scorer off the pick and roll.
WHAT NOT TO LIKE: Outside of dunks and putbacks, there are no real expectations for Stein’s offensive game. To paraphrase the great philosopher John Fox, “he is what he is”.
UPSIDE COMP: Tyson Chandler
DOWNSIDE COMP: Sam Dalembert
HOW HE FITS: Of all of the players profiled in this post, Cauley-Stein is the least likely to be available when Charlotte picks at nine. He’s a can’t-miss defensive anchor who may still have a little offensive upside left. The Hornets can take him, wave goodbye to Biyombo in free-agency and have a rotation-ready backup center on a cheap four year contract who could potentially start if Big Al leaves in free agency next summer.
Stanley Johnson, SF | Arizona
WHAT TO LIKE: At 6’5”, 245 pounds, Stanley Johnson is a bonafide “hoss-cat”(©Jim Ross Productions). Outside of Paul Pierce, Ron Artest and Lebron James, I can’t remember a wing player with a lower body like SJ’s. You can absolutely see Johnson punishing wings with backdowns and drives to the hoop. His jumpshot looks good and is improving. He is tenacious on defense and regularly blows up passing lanes with his quickness.
WHAT NOT TO LIKE: That large base makes Johnson a very gravity-challenged player. You never see him going strong over the top. Despite being 6’5” plus, he relies on floaters and fadeaways down low. He’s going to get his shot blocked a lot. Stanley’s entire career is going to be dependent on his jumper – which, at the moment – is firmly “decent”. If he can be a knockdown shooter, Johnson could be a version of Pierce. If he doesn’t, he may be out of the league in five years.
UPSIDE COMP: Ron Artest, (mini) Paul Pierce
DOWNSIDE COMP: Ryan Gomes, post-back surgery Larry Johnson
HOW HE FITS: SJ, unfortunately, doesn’t project into a such a dominating player that he’s worth ignoring all of the team’s needs over. His defense is good enough to put him in Steve Clifford’s rotation immediately but a lack of distance shooting could shrink the court even more for the league’s worst three point shooting team. The offseason goal for the Hornets should be to create more space, not less. SJ could actually struggle more with the Hornets roster than with others.
Devin Booker, SG | Kentucky
WHAT TO LIKE: Smart and unselfish, Booker is one of, if not THE best shooter in this Draft. At 18 years old, he’s also the youngest player in the 2015 class. Booker shot 41% from three and 52% overall in his single season at Kentucky, which fits an obvious on-court need for Charlotte. The thought of Booker working off screens to bust double teams and zones likely brings tears of joy to Steve Clifford’s eyes and it’s no wonder Clifford took special interest in Booker during Devin’s workout with the team last week.
WHAT NOT TO LIKE: If the Hornets are going to build around Kemba Walker as their point guard, they’ll need a strong defensive SG to pair with him. Booker’s ability to stay in front of collegiate players is already in question. Holding his own versus NBA stars will be Booker’s ultimate test. Unfortunately, it won’t be his only one. Devin’s ability to attack and finish off the dribble are still very much works in progress and his inability as a rebounder already sticks out on the tape like a sore thumb.
UPSIDE COMP: Klay Thompson, JJ Redick
DOWNSIDE COMP: Austin Daye, Reggie Bullock
HOW HE FITS: Booker won’t start right away but within one or two seasons, he could be a key piece in the MKG/Vonleh/Cody/Kemba future Hornets core – IF he can improve enough defensively to stay on the floor.
Kelly Oubre, SF | Kansas
WHAT TO LIKE: Squint and he’s the best wing prospect in the Draft. Oubre is the perfect combination of length (7’2” wingspan), frame, athleticism and upside. His shooting form is unorthodox but still good enough to nail 37% of his collegiate threes. Defensively, Oubre has the physical tools to be nightmare matchup for opposing wings.
WHAT NOT TO LIKE: Every aspect of Oubre’s game screams “potential” for a reason – he’s not even close to being ready and there are no guarantees he will be. Any team drafting Oubre will need to develop him over a couple of seasons – refining his jumpshot and reiterating fundamentals of the game.
UPSIDE COMP: Paul George
DOWNSIDE COMP: Jeremy Lamb
HOW HE FITS: If any NBA team has experience developing uber-raw projects, it’s Charlotte. Rich Cho loves guys with Oubre’s upside and, if developed patiently and properly, Kelly could be a star wing. The question is whether the organization is at a point where they want to undertake yet another one of these projects.
Cameron Payne, PG | Murray State
WHAT TO LIKE: Pick and roll maestro and a clutch scorer who really pushes the pace. Gets teammates involved in a big way. Good size (6’2”, 6’7” wingspan) and frame for the position.
WHAT NOT TO LIKE: Projects as a poor defender and an iffy finisher around the rim – a BIG no-no for modern NBA point guards.
UPSIDE COMP: Jamaal Crawford, Jeff Teague(lite)
DOWNSIDE COMP: Darren Collison
HOW HE FITS: I like Payne a lot. The question is really how big of an upgrade is Payne over Kemba Walker? Should the team be figuring out a way to get the most out of their $48m man and current starter OR already be looking to go in another direction?
The Bobcats had this terrible habit of drafting a Lottery point guard just at the moment their current one seemed to figuring things out. Raymond Felton had D.J. Augustin in his rearview mirror. Augustin had Kemba. Since the franchise has struggled with consistency over the past decade, I’m betting (hoping) the Hornets will pass on Payne and instead use the pick as an asset to help Walker succeed.
Myles Turner, C | Texas
WHAT TO LIKE: Turner brings big-time rim protection (2.6 blocks per game as a freshmen), is a solid rebounder with good fundamentals, has NBA 3PT range and is a very good free throw shooter for his position (84%).
WHAT NOT TO LIKE: Myles’s post game is very basic. He does have a nice little Kevin Garnett style flash into the post and turnaround but nothing close to resembling a Big Al-type game. Gets tunnel vision and rarely passes. Has questionable lower body strength that will hamper Turner’s ability to dominate the boards in the pros like he did at Texas. Suffers from something called a “glut deficiency” that is the cause for his unorthodox gait. According to DraftExpress, doctors have said this deficiency can be corrected over time. Overall, Turner is offensively raw outside of a jumper. As we’ve seen with wings like Klay Thompson, a standout jumper – especially at the five position – can buy a player both time and leeway.
UPSIDE COMP: Channing Frye, Pero Antic, Serge Ibaka
DOWNSIDE COMP: any number of failed Euro bigs, skinny bigs and project bigs
HOW HE FITS: This is where it gets fun. Let’s say the Hornets are one hundred percent committed to building around MKG and Kemba Walker longterm. In many ways, Turner posesses the exact skillset you’d want to balance out both of their weaknesses. Myles clears the paint on the offensive end for drives and post-ups and offers the team a much needed spot up shooting presence on the perimeter. On the defensive side, Turner projects as a top tier rim protector who could make bigger point guards think twice once passing Kemba. There are some question marks, sure, but I really like the fit – IF he works out. Myles is a MAJOR gamble but that’s never stopped Rich Cho before.