With Lance Stephenson gone and Spencer Hawes in the fold and Al Jefferson exercising his player option, the picture for the Hornets is beginning to take shape. The next major piece comes a week from Thursday at the NBA Draft. Sitting at the 9th pick, Charlotte is in an interesting position. Based on the majority of mock drafts and the information floating around, they seem to be on the outside looking in when considering the team’s needs. However, there are plenty of options available. Operating under the assumption that the top 8 go chalk (in some order: Towns, Okafor, Porzingis, Russell, Mudiay, Cauley-Stein, Winslow, Hezonja) and a trade up is unavailable, there are 2 ways to go in my mind.
1. Stay Put
Missing out on the top 8 hurts, but that doesn’t mean the Hornets can’t get a good player. There’s a glut in the front court, but if Cho genuinely believes someone like Myles Turner will be the best player in 5 years then he should do it. That being said, if you’re following the tier system and there’s a wing on the board in the same tier as a player like Turner, need comes into play. And Charlotte needs shooting. Desperately. Given that need, the field generally narrows to 3 players: Stanley Johnson, Devin Booker, and Kelly Oubre.
Booker is the chic pick at 9. It’s generally accepted to be a bit of a reach but not so much that it’s not worth considering. Johnson is a defensive wrecking ball who might be a decent shooter. The consensus on him seems to be that he has the highest floor of these 3 players, but the lowest ceiling. And then there’s Oubre.
Oubre has a bit of an unorthodox shot, turning his body to the side and letting his outside shoulder dip while taking a pretty significant jump forward. He hit 36% of his 3’s in college and shot a mediocre 72% from the free throw line. Shooting is considered one of his strengths but I’m not so sure. It’s far from a disaster, but he’s not elite. But he’s quick, he’s athletic, and he’s long. The draft history is full of guys whose resumes were long on physical attributes and short on actual skills. That being said, barring a major reach for a guy I’ll get to in a minute, I’d make Oubre the selection.
Oubre is my guy at 9 because of his potential and defensive versatility. Thibodeau style defense has run the league since the Celtics won the championship in 2009. Steve Clifford has turned Charlotte into an elite defensive team with limited pieces by abiding by those same principles. But the next evolution in NBA defense can be witnessed in Golden State and Milwaukee. Long, quick, interchangeable parts that can mix, match, switch, and chase all around the court. Oubre has the quicks and length that Johnson and Booker are missing. He’ll be able to stay in front of guys, force turnovers, and get the team out in transition. A team desperate for buckets could use some fast break points. He may become a solid outside shooter. He might just be the next Gerald Green. But if I’m stuck at 9, wishing Mario Hezonja had somehow fallen to me, I’m swinging for the fences. I’m not necessarily feeling good about it. It may be the move that ends my tenure as GM. But I’m going to try anyway.
2. Trade Back
I love trading back in this draft. I love the middle of the first round. Charlotte has a clear need with the poor shooting on the wings. They’re also nowhere near being “a piece away.” And when you’re in the position Charlotte is in, neither tanking nor being a championship contender, you concentrate on gathering assets one way or another. And if you can get the guy you like while picking up something else, you do it. And I love RJ Hunter. The first time I saw Hunter play reminded me of the first time I saw Gordon Hayward play in college. Not that they have the same game or anything, but both of them just had that “it” factor. I’m a stats guy. I don’t really get wrapped up in ethereal analysis that can’t be quantified. But the draft is a crapshoot in general. And I know Hunter is going to be an elite shooter. He’s got good length. He’s a solid playmaker out of the pick and roll. He’s not going to isolate and get a bucket but he can help make the offense hum.
I would honestly be tempted to go ahead and take Hunter at 9. But most would consider it a reach, so I’m looking to take advantage of that fact and try to get my guy along with something else. The easiest move is to send the 9th pick to Boston in exchange for 16 and 28. Adding 2 rookies is getting to the point of being too young when you’re trying to make the playoffs, so unless there’s an international player worth stashing Cho would probably look at packaging pick 28 with Barnes or Marvin Williams to get a bit piece or just clear some cap space and, more importantly, roster space to get more minutes for Vonleh. Sam Hinkie might pay $7 million to get a late first rounder. Throw in the 39th pick if need be.
Boston isn’t the only option. In particular, if Willey Cauley-Stein drops to 9, Indiana could be interested in moving up. Maybe OKC wants to make sure they get Cameron Payne. Being just outside a tier of talent is disappointing. Mario Hezonja would be perfect. But trading down while staying in your talent tier can maximize the value of that position. And it doesn’t have to be RJ Hunter. If he’s not your guy, Booker could easily still be there a little later. Or Oubre. Or Stanley Johnson.
A GM’s responsibility is to manage assets, whether that be players, cap space, or draft picks. My contention is that, barring a better player dropping, the most value to be gained from the pick is getting the talent you want plus something else by trading back. Perhaps it’s getting too cute. Often times the best thing to do if you like a player is to take that player. But I’ll take that gamble in this draft. And I’m grabbing RJ Hunter, who is destined to fail due to my borderline obsession with his game.
POLL : What Should Hornets Do on Draft Day?
- Pick Devin Booker (21%, 18 Votes)
- Pick Willie Cauley-Stein (29%, 25 Votes)
- Pick Myles Turner (1%, 1 Votes)
- Trade Up (19%, 16 Votes)
- Trade Down (17%, 15 Votes)
- Trade for a Veteran (13%, 11 Votes)
Total Voters: 86