Surprise! The Charlotte Hornets selected Noah Vonleh with their ninth pick, leaving the often-mocked Doug McDermott on the board.
Charlotte’s always been one to lean away from the consensus pick, though in this case the way the draft broke forced their hand. Not many expected Vonleh to still be available at this point, and his long-term potential trumped the team’s immediate needs. McDermott would have helped the team’s shooting from Day 1, but a prospect like Vonleh is the kind of high-upside player that could push the Hornets to another level.
Which is not to say that he can’t help in the short term. Though he’s raw, the one-and-done Vonleh could be an ideal complement to Al Jefferson — his long wingspan lets him contest post players and block shots, and he’s shown the ability to step out and hit long-range jumpers. He shot 48% from three in college, though that came on only 33 attempts. Still, all indications are that he can be a consistent jump-shooter from mid-range, a role that Cody Zeller somewhat awkwardly filled last year.
That’s probably the biggest issue with this pick, if there is one. McRoberts was a nearly perfect fit with Charlotte last year, and all indications were that they’d try to re-sign him to a new deal. With Vonleh and Zeller at power forward, that could mean McRoberts has been squeezed out. It’s not the end of the world, as McRoberts was limited in a number of ways, but moving forward with two shaky young players would be a step back in 2014-15. One option would be to move Zeller to center, where his athleticism would let him take bigger players off the dribble, and let Vonleh play backup to a re-signed McRoberts.
It’ll be interesting to see how that shakes out. Meanwhile, they still need shooting, and we’ll see how the rest of the night goes. Charlotte still has another first round pick at 24 and a second-rounder at 45. We’ll have more on this pick and other shortly.