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Hornets Draft Buzz: Zach Collins vs. Jarrett Allen

Queen City Hoops readers from the past will recall our “Hornets Draft Buzz” series that includes featured draft articles pegging lottery prospects against each other, the latest draft rumors, and Coach Percy’s weekly lottery mock draft which will begin in June. If you haven’t already checked out the Coach Percy Draft Profiles page on Queen City Hoops then please be sure to do so – there are numerous lottery prospects covered already, with more profiles to come.

In our first piece of the Hornets Draft Buzz series, Brian Giesinger from ACC Sports / Sports Channel 8 and Queen City Hoops Managing Editor Spencer Percy make the cases for Zach Collins and Jarrett Allen for the Hornets in June’s draft. Brian portrays all the reasons that Charlotte should draft Allen, but stay away from Collins, while Spencer makes the opposite case.

Happy draft season! Enjoy.

Why the Hornets should draft Zach Collins?

Spencer Percy (@QCHspencer)

AP / Mark Humphrey

Before I even start making the case for Collins, let me state that I’m already tired of reading the “tall white guy” draft jokes from Hornets fans. Enough. It was funny like three years ago, but if you’re still on that train… well, just get off please. Or, at the very least, let’s try to start a new joke.

But seriously, Collins is an awesome prospect and fans should be psyched if he ends up in Charlotte with the 11th pick. I have a draft profile put together on Collins, so check that out for more info on him.

Here is an athletic seven-footer that plays with a ton of intensity on both ends of the court, has offensive skill near the basket, can stretch the floor, is an elite rebounder, and Collins has a knack for blocking shots – his 4.1 blocks per 40 min last season at Gonzaga was among the best marks in the nation. Collins doesn’t have an incredibly high ceiling as a player, but he’s a safe pick and should be someone who has a long career in the NBA due to his ability to affect so many different aspects of a game.

Collins measured at 7’0″ in shoes and a 7’1″ wingspan in last weeks draft combine. The wingspan doesn’t blow you away, but the fact that he measured as a true seven-footer is definitely a plus. Collins ability to play center on the next level is the most intriguing aspect of his potential. His frame and measurements are very similar to Cody Zeller, and the motors of these two players are comparable, but the difference comes on the offensive end – Collins projects to be a far better shooter, and offensive player overall, than Zeller. During his freshman season at Gonzaga, Collins shot 47.6% from behind the arc, but that came in just 19 totals attempts. So much of his stock will be wrapped up in his ability to shoot the long ball.

At only 19.5 years old, it’s hard not to love Collins polish as a player. He’s not an elite athlete, but he’s a solid one, and very in control of his body. His coordination is already fully intact, which is rare for a seven-foot player under the age of 20. Collins is a player that should be able to crack an NBA rotation during his rookie season, and with the Hornets having $102-million wrapped up in 9 players, drafting a player at 11 that can play right away could be vital.

Defensively, we saw the Hornets take a nosedive last season. A large part of that decline was due to the lack of depth for Charlotte in the front-court. Collins won’t be an elite shot blocker / rim-protector, but he does take pride in swatting balls that he can get to. Therein lies one of his weaknesses – he thinks he can get to more balls than he actually can. Collins has a tendency to fall for ball-fakes with his hunger to block shots. That can be reigned in, and on the next level where he won’t be able to block as many shots against elite athletes, he should have no issue learning discipline to stay upright, focusing on bothering the shot over blocking it – he already has a solid understanding of verticality. Cody Zeller is excellent at this.

The more pertinent skill for Collins defensively is his versatility to guard different positions due to great footwork. He will be a quick study with NBA pick-and-roll coverage — should have no problem hedging hard on ball-screens and could develop into the athlete that you can live with in switches against guards. Collins has great footwork and it shows up on both ends of the floor. He can already play with his back to the basket and has an array of moves offensively. Defensively, he uses his quick feet to keep the ball in front against guards and position himself effectively against bigs.

To go along with his solid footwork, Collins isn’t afraid of physical play and does an excellent job of seeking out the chest of bigger defenders to draw contact – he was an effective free-throw shooter last season at 75%. He almost prefers the physicality, and that’s a great attribute for a big man without above-average measurements. If the three-point shot offers a threat to opposing defenses in the future, then Collins projects as a fairly complete offensive player.

There are areas that Collins must improve in. Most notably, he must learn to read defenses / double teams. Collins hardly showed the ability to even know the definition of assist during one season in Spokane and turned the ball over too often (1.5 TOVPG) when defenses brought an extra defender. That said, the overall polish is hard to ignore. Collins could aid a front-court depth issue for the Hornets right away and is also a player that the team could build around as a key piece for the future. An athletic big who moves well, has a versatile skill-set offensively, and is a willing defender should be a great fit next to franchise piece Kemba Walker.

Why the Hornets should stay away from Jarrett Allen?

Brian Giesinger (@bgeis_bird)

There’s no doubt that Allen is an intriguing prospect with the ability to be an elite rim-protector in the league one day. The 7’5.25″ wingspan is impressive and those kind of players are really hard to come across. Allen might be the only one of his kind regarded this highly in the 2017 draft, so it’s going to be interesting to see where he lands.

As an overall player, Allen is extremely raw at this stage. He doesn’t have a great feel for the game yet and is still learning to control his overall agility and length. Once Allen’s coordination catches up to his physical tools and overall athletic ability, we would be talking about a scary player, but he’s far from that at the moment. The franchise that drafts Allen must posses patience, because he’s got plenty of developing ahead of him.

A less than impressive block rate (1.9 blocks per 40) for his length, non-existent offensive polish (3.2 TOV per 40 min) and struggles to consistently score from basically everywhere on the floor make him a clear stay away for me. Not to mention that Allen is rail thin for his frame, but I do have to give him some credit by weighing in at 233 lbs. at the combine – 8 lbs. better than what he was his freshman year at Texas. We’ll assume this is the healthy kind of weight gain.

This is not a project that Charlotte should be inheriting right now. Again, the Hornets are already capped out with 9 players and need bodies that can contribute minutes. Allen would be a player that very likely needs time in the D-League and I’m just not sure that’s in this teams best interest at the present time.

Not to say that Allen doesn’t have a future in the NBA, because he could very well develop into a starting center in this league. I know it’s the convenient Texas big man comparison, but when you watch Allen move, he does resemble Myles Turner.

By the time draft night arrives it’s feeling like Allen will end up sliding into the middle of the first-round, so the Hornets shouldn’t feel the need to risk buyers remorse.

Why the Hornets should draft Jarrett Allen?

Spencer Percy

Just look at this dude’s afro. Man, that’s glorious. I arrest my case.

Okay, so, Spencer will probably get pissed if I don’t actually add some analysis in this space. Alas, here we go.

The case for Jarrett Allen most likely starts with the stuff you simply can’t teach. As expected, Allen was one of measurement stars at last week’s draft combine. Allen checked in at 6-9 without shoes, which is shorter than he was listed, but with the event’s fourth widest wingspan: 7’5.25″.

It’s been years since the Hornets had a long-armed shot blocker patrolling the frontline of its defense. Allen is raw, and he had issues in pick-and-roll coverages — at times losing sight of his man after not staying level with him. With that length, though, he can recover, close gaps, and deter shots at the rim.

Charlotte isn’t bereft of athletic bigs — Cody Zeller, a master screen-setter, and Miles Plumlee (let’s not talk about the contract, shall we?) can both get up and down the floor. Not counting the Christian Wood experiment, Allen would give the Hornets their first freaky big man athlete since Biz left town.

The last two seasons, Charlotte has finished outside of the top 10 in the NBA in blocks; in Steve Clifford’s first two seasons, the Hornets finished No. 8 and No. 7, respectively.

Even more problematic, though: According to the league’s tracking data, Charlotte’s field goals defended at the rim percentage has declined in each of the last three seasons. In 2013-14, opponents shot just 51.6 percent against the Hornets at the rim — No. 10 in the NBA. This season, that number jumped to 54.1 percent — near the bottom third of the league.

That may not seem like that much, but for a team that operates on thin margins, that’s a lot over the course of an 82-game season.

According to KenPom, Allen blocked five percent of opponents’ two-point field goals while on the floor during his freshman season at Texas. Allen rejected 2.8 shots per 100 possessions, and got feistier as the season progressed. His block rate improved to 5.3 percent in Big 12 play; Allen also posted three strong defensive performances against Kansas and Baylor — both teams had future NBA talent along their frontlines.

On isolation possessions, opponents shot just 24.1 percent and scored 0.53 points per possession, which ranked No. 32 in Division I this season, according to Synergy Sports. He needs to work on his post and pick-and-roll defense, but with Clifford’s guidance that’d be a distinct possibility.

It’s important to remember that he just turned 19, too. I like that Allen improved during the season despite Texas struggles; he’s a high-upside prospect, so this is the progression curve we want to see. The Longhorns looked bad this season, which doesn’t exactly bode well for the Shaka Smart hype train, and it would’ve been really easy for a young, talented player to check out, knowing an NBA career awaits on the horizon. But Allen kept battling and improving.

When he gets quality interior post position — close to the basket — Allen can be a rather effective scorer — his length just takes over. He shot 53.5 percent on post-ups this season, according to Synergy.

At the combine, Allen weighted 233.6 pounds — slightly heavier than Zach Collins, Harry Giles, and Justin Patton. But when he was pushed off the block at Texas, he found some trouble. Allen turned the ball over on 25.8 percent of his post-up possessions, per Synergy. There were 15 players in the Big 12 that recorded at least 40 post-ups in 2016-17 — that turnover rate is easily the worst.

Texas had issues when Allen was a passer out of the post, too: The Horns scored fewer than 0.7 points per possession when Allen passed out of a post-up — shooting just 27.8 percent. This comes with a serious caveat, though: Texas was a disastrous shooting team, especially from long range (29.2 3P%, No. 345 in Division 1). Allen at times had to operate in an airplane bathroom when it came to post spacing — not exactly ideal for a guy learning the game.

A big reason why Allen scored 15.6 points on 57.1 percent shooting over Texas’ final 18 games: his ability to screen and roll. As a roll man, Allen scored 1.09 points per possession on 56 percent shooting. His jump shot is a work in progress, to say the least, but Allen even flashed the ability to catch on short rolls and stick 15-footers.

He has the look and build of a player that could cause havoc at the rim in a spread pick-and-roll system, which fits the build with what Charlotte wants from its central bigs. We all know just how important Kemba Walker pick-and-rolls are to this offense.

Plus, Zeller’s health is up-and-down; I know his extension kicks in this season, but he hasn’t played in more than 73 games since his rookie year. Frank Kaminsky can, and probably should, get some minutes at the 5, but Allen would provide some insurance here.

Why should the Hornets stay away from Zach Collins?

Brian Giesinger

First off, let me preface this by saying that I’m a big fan of Zach Collins. Spencer laid out a great case for him — his upside is tremendous. He measured well at the combine, and his advanced number are seriously some of the best, nationally.

If Charlotte ends up with the No. 11 pick, and if ZC is available and their choice, then we should all take a victory lap of happiness around the block. Break the bubbly. Other than Roy Williams, Charles Barkley and your cranky old uncle, who doesn’t want a big than can protect the rim and rip threes on the other end? However, there are some concerns, and no, I’m not referring to the variety of jokes that’d fly if the Hornets selected another…stretchier big.

Another possible red flag with Collins: competition level. Gonzaga plays in the West Coast Conference, which rated as the 11th strongest conference in Division I, per KenPom. Collins played in 39 games this season, but just 13 of them came against “Tier A” teams — teams rated in the top 50 of KenPom’s efficiency standings. In those 13 games, Collins’s numbers dipped:

55.4 2P%, 22.8% DREB rate, 63.4% FT rate, and an offensive rating of just 102.5 points per 100 possessions

Those are all still strong numbers, but there’s certainly a decline from his gaudy WCC statistics. And there lies the problem — you aren’t going up against 6-8 centers in the NBA. And if you are, his name is Draymond Green and you’ve already turned the ball over before finishing this sentence. Plus, Collins came off the bench for Gonzaga, which means portions of his minutes came against opposing reserves.

He also committed more fouls against stronger competition, too. Collins averaged 8.2 fouls per 40 minutes against top 50 foes — including some bad over-the-back fouls against UNC.

Take this with a grain of salt, but Gonzaga doesn’t exactly have the best track record of putting players into the NBA under Mark Few, although Kelly Olynyk and Domantas Sabonis are good to evolving rotation players for playoff teams.

The NCAA Tournament was a mostly strong showing for Collins, but he had issues on offense against West Virginia, Xavier and North Carolina (4 turnovers, 0 assists). He was a beast in the other Final Four game against South Carolina, though.

At the combine, Collins didn’t participate in the shuttle run, vertical leap or sprinting portions of the event, which won’t quell any concerns folks have over his ability to chase faster players (if he’s playing the 4) around the perimeter or guard in space on pick-and-rolls. He measured great at the combine, though, which will help boost his case.

Collins was surrounded with great teammates at Gonzaga, but he wasn’t much of a passer as a freshman, either. He assisted on just 4.5 percent of his teammates’ made field goals while on the court. In total, he recorded just 16 assists this season in 673 minutes of action. Even the black hole that is Hassan Whiteside thinks that’s not so great.

All of this said, I’m picking a nit here; Collins looks like a stud.