In today's matchup, we have Noah Vonleh and Gary Harris battling for your vote.
Evan (Noah Vonleh): I can't think of any better prospect to put alongside Al Jefferson than Vonleh. They seem like a perfect match for each other on the court.
When I think of one pro comparison for Vonleh, and this is a stretch with their current positions and defensive capabilities, Kawhi Leonard immediately pops in my mind. Not only are they both freaks athletically (massive hands and enormous wingspans for their height), but also on the court as well. I can easily see Vonleh developing on the defensive end (1.4 steals and 2.0 blocks per 40 minutes) and wrecking havoc with his 7-foot-4 wingspan and near foot-long hands. Also, with only being 18 years old, I can bet on him growing more and developing into his body.
With his possible pairing alongside Jefferson, Vonleh could be a floor-stretcher. As he showed at Indiana, he can hit the three-point and mid-range shot. That could be a major weapon in Charlotte's arsenal when they're both on the court. If you have a big man floating on the perimeter with Vonleh, you leave Jefferson one-on-one in the post, where he will feast all night. Also, Vonleh can bang down-low in the post, if need be, and was effective doing that, too.
What translates the best from college to the pros? Rebounding, and Vonleh provides that. His rebound total, per 40 minutes, of 14.9 was the best in this draft class. So, you can easily see Vonleh being a 15 points and 10 rebounds kind of guy, if he's thrust into the starting lineup early on. He can create second-chance opportunities on the boards, too, with averaging 4.2 per 40 minutes. Now we know one thing: Vonleh will be a great fit next to Jefferson not only on offense, but snagging down the rebounds as well.
So, if you're looking for a long-time partner in the post alongside Jefferson who can stretch the floor and take some burden of the rebounds, then you've found him in Vonleh. He is far and away the best fit for Charlotte, and would be an instant-impact player, who could become a star in this type of system Steve Clifford runs.
James (Gary Harris): Noah Vonleh has all the tools to be a great player. He has length, athletiticsm, skill -- he really has it all -- but he still only averaged 11 points per game last year. I put this down to age, Vonleh is one of the youngest players in the draft both in terms of age (18) and basketball development. Vonleh is by no means the finished product. It is hard to project what kind of NBA player he will be, as he is simply so far away from reaching his potential. How do we know if he will develop at all?
Ekpe Udoh is somewhat a similar player to Vonleh. It's not exact, but it's about as good a comparison as you can get, physically. He was a much more complete player than Vonleh coming out of Baylor but has struggled to really make an impact since joining the league. So what is my point in all this? The Hornets are in a stage of winning now. They want players who are going to come in and help get them wins now, not later. Enter Gary Harris.
Harris is one of the most NBA-ready prospects in the draft. He already defends at the NBA level, has quick hands, and is fantastic and staying in front of his man not allowing dribble penetration. He also has NBA range on his jump shot, along with the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket, especially in transition. Harris has also been working hard on his ballhandling, hoping to be able to initiate the offense a little more than he did at Michigan State. Clifford actually said recently after his workout that he thinks Harris is a little better handling the ball than Nik Stauskas. This certainly took me by surprise, but this again just reinforces how great a prospect Harris is. Clifford was also impressed by Harris's competitiveness and high basketball IQ on the defensive end. He actually felt that Harris' lack of size was somewhat offset by this.
With Cody Zeller picked last year and Cho making comments that make it appear very likely we re-sign Josh McRoberts, the power forward spot looks pretty locked up. If we did draft Vonleh, it is unlikely McRoberts would come back. Heading into a season with Zeller and Vonleh as our main two power forwards would be extremely risky, especially when you get into post-season play.
We all know how much Clifford values ball movement. Harris is an above average position for his position (2.3 apg) where as Vonleh is an exceptionally poor one (0.6 assists per game). Clifford like to use the power forwards, whether it be Zeller or McRoberts to feed the ball to Al down in the post -- Vonleh had 16 games this year without an assist. A lot of the time, he either shot the ball or just passed it back to the guard who wouldn't be in a position to score.
Overall, Harris would come in right now and fit a need on the roster. He would increase the spacing around Al and be able to defend both guard positions. He would seemingly fit into the teams ethos of tough hard-nosed defense and high competitiveness.
Vonleh could eventually develop a better understanding of the game and increase his passing ability, but that is an unknown. I don't think Cho can afford to take another prospect who "might" become something. It is time to take the talent that can come and contribute now.