At this point, I would’ve expected for the waters to be clearer, but that’s not the case. Let’s all be clear on one thing – this should be a very interesting draft for the Charlotte Hornets later this month.
One thing that has been clear all along is that this draft is loaded with legit NBA talent. Franchise pillars, future all-stars, and prospects that are projected in the late first round that should be able to come in and help teams right away. With that said, all the hype and buzz stirs the pot in a way that yields very little transparency when considering what will happen three Thursday’s from now.
ESPN’s Chad Ford:
Multiple league sources said there are a surprising number of top picks for “sale” this year.
“I thought getting a lottery pick via trade would be virtually impossible this year,” one NBA GM told Insider. “It’s not. There are a lot of teams in the lottery right now that would prefer a proven player. A lot of owners have lost their patience with the rebuilding process.”
After pick No. 5, however, things are much more fluid. Sources say the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings, Charlotte Hornets, Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns are all open to offers.
To recap, it sounds like most front offices are beginning to give up on this idea of seven elite players in the draft and adopting the idea that the middle-to-late first round is where the real ‘bang for your buck’ lies. Makes sense.
You’ve probably heard me say something very similar to this before, but trades happen much less than we would like to believe they do. Wanting to trade a pick in the 5-14 range and acquire an extra mid-to-late first sounds dandy, but if there are truly six teams looking to move back from the 5-14 range then let’s consider it tough for everyone to make this pipe dream a reality. In fact, I’d make the argument that Charlotte needs to explore the idea of moving up. Boston and the Lakers are in a tough spot (that’s music to my ears) with the 6th and 7th selections. The elite talent is off the board, so the asking price for these two picks is theoretically capped. The Hornets are limited on assets that they can shop on the roster, but the 9th overall pick will be doing all the heavy lifting in trade talks. Gerald Henderson is the most likely second piece in a draft day trade for the Hornets, but dangling Hendo as a sweetener still very likely mimics pulling your own teeth out for other teams.
Ultimately, the dream scenario is for Charlotte to acquire a proven veteran scorer in exchange for the 9th pick and Hendo. I’ve thrown out the Aaron Afflalo / Jameer Nelson idea – it plugs in both needs (scoring wing + backup PG), and would put two veterans that can still get it done on what should already be an improved roster next season. Nelson would be expiring, and Afflalo has two years left worth approximately $15 million. The Magic may have cold feet about parting ways with their only true point-guard who has an expiring deal, but they’d be shedding salary + sticking to their asset collecting gameplan by snatching the 9th overall pick. It’s a deal that makes a ton of sense to me, and I can’t imagine a basketball universe where it hasn’t been discussed by the two front offices.
Now go ahead and take out that grain of salt. Okay, swallow it. Rest assured Orlando is asking too much for Afflalo after his surprising ’13-14 campaign.
The other fun idea is figuring out a way for Charlotte to acquire Gordon Hayward from Utah. It would be a sign-and-trade scenario due to the fact that Hayward will be a restricted free-agent this summer. How stingy would the Jazz like to be with Hayward? Well, their hands are somewhat tied unless they’d like him to walk this summer without getting any compensation in return. The optimistic side of me believes they’d take the 9th overall pick + Hendo (or something similar to that mold) in exchange for the 24 year-old 6’8 wing.
Moral of the story: Apparently, there are more teams than we once thought that want to trade out of the late lottery. This creates congestion and very well could lead to most teams having to stand pat with their pick. It’s time for the Hornets to look into moving in the other direction – forward in the lottery. The target – Celtics and Lakers. Two thoughts – Julius Randle or Marcus Smart.
Hornets Draft Prospects Update:
Marcus Smart: After the episode where Marcus shoved a fan at Texas Tech last season his stock was always bound to take a hit. It did, and now the honeymoon stage between Smart and scouts is rekindled. The intangibles that this kid possesses is undeniable. Strength, hard worker, very high motor, and an improving shooter. Smart can become a true leader on a team in the NBA + a player that an offense could potentially run through. He could go as high as Orlando at #4, but if Charlotte was able to manufacture a way to move up then Smart would be in play.
Noah Vonleh: It’s very unlikely that Vonleh is on the board, no matter where the Hornets end up picking. Out of the three best PF’s in this class (Gordon, Randle, Vonleh) it appears that he has got the highest ceiling because of his versatility offensively – can stretch the floor all the way to the three-point line + has a good tough and footwork on the block.
Julius Randle: An absolute bull. Randle definitely has the most NBA ready body out of himself, Gordon, and Vonleh. It’s hard to imagine him not being able to get to the foul line at a very high rate in the league and gobbling up rebounds. Apparently Randle has not made himself available for private or public workouts so far, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that although he has very transparent strengths, his weaknesses are clear as well. Like, can the guy even dribble the basketball with his left hand? I don’t love the idea of him next to Jefferson, but if Charlotte moves up, or Randle somehow falls, it’s going to be hard justifying passing on a talent like this.
Aaron Gordon: Ah, the curious case of Aaron Gordon. Freak athlete who will likely be able to guard 2-5 in the league. Offensively, he’s limited – very inconsistent shot and is sloppy when putting the ball on the floor. Gordon is an energy player and a guy that you expect to learn how to stuff the stat sheet. I’d imagine that the most appealing aspect of his game is the defensive versatility. Gordon is probably the most vulnerable to fall past #10 out of the players that are projected top-10 currently.
Dario Saric: Talent wise, every front office should be discussing Saric after the top-4. That being said, it seems as if Saric and his camp are handling this coming overseas for next season situation very poorly. His father is adamant about Dario staying in Europe for at least another season, but now there are reports of him coming over if he’s drafted by the Celtics or Lakers. Um, I think you guys are a little big for your britches here. In the end, Saric is probably going to slide into the middle of the first round.
Gary Harris: The clearest limitation is that Harris is a tweener. Maybe too short to play SG in the league, but can he play PG in pinches? That’s what Harris attempted to show scouts in the L.A. workout that got rave reviews. In saying that, he also hasn’t been able to workout for specific teams a ton because of his groin issue. In the end, I’d be surprised if he’s a top-10 pick.
Doug McDermott: It’s a battle between McDermott and Stauskas for best pure shooter in this draft. His stock is all over the place, but it sounds like most agree that McDermott can come into the league and be a scoring presence off the bench right away. That being said, is he best suited for a contender/playoff team later in the first round? I think so. Not a limited upside because of his high basketball IQ and underrated versatility with the ball, but his age is without question going to bother lottery teams.
Nik Stauskas: I still stand by my opinion that Stauskas is the pick for the Hornets at 9. His offensive versatility combined with his age is unprecedented among the wings in this class, which ultimately sells me on Nik. Regardless of where the Hornets end up picking, I believe Stauskas is the first wing drafted out of himself, Harris, and McDermott.
Zach Lavine: In his workout for the Lakers on Wednesday Lavine recorded a vertical leap of 46″ – yes, you read that correctly. Lavine has a ceiling that quite possibly no other prospect in this draft has. Nice shooting stroke, great size, freak athleticism, but he’s still improving his IQ and learning to play the game. The guy could guard 1-3 in the league and likely be able to play PG & SG. Very much in play for the Hornets if they pick at 9.
James Young: Charlotte has not had Young in for a workout yet, but it seems to be bound to happen. Young is one of the youngest players in this draft and fits all the intangibles that the Hornets need on their roster: floor spacing, shooting, and defensive potential. Another guy who is very much alive for the Hornets if they pick at 9.
Rodney Hood: I’d still argue that he’s alive for teams in the late lottery, but his range exist all the way into the late first round. Lefty with a sweet shooting stroke. Needs to improve his motor on both ends of the floor. If Hood fell to 24 it’s certainly realistic is picture a scenario where he’s wearing a Hornets jersey next season.
P.J. Hairston: There wasn’t a ton of buzz that came out of Charlotte after Hairston’s workout on Wednesday and the questions are still very much alive about his motor/work ethic. There seems to be a consensus that All that being said, I just can’t imagine him getting past the Hornets at 24 if he’s still on the board.