Well, At The Hive readers, this is the matchup you've been waiting for. Aaron Gordon, who barely squeaked by T.J. Warren in round one, faces what seems like everyone's favorite prospect here on the site, Nik Stauskas. Who will win this matchup?
For today's persuasive arguments, I took Aaron Gordon, while James Plowright of TheLotteryMafia.com took Stauskas. Read along, and don't forget to vote at the poll below the article!
Evan (Aaron Gordon): Want some athleticism and a lockdown defender? Enter in Gordon, who could come in and play significant minutes right away for the Hornets.
When Gordon was on the floor for Arizona this season, they only allowed 88.6 points per 100 possessions. That is highly impressive, and it was far and away the best for any big man in this draft class. Just imagine adding in another athletic, versatile wing who specializes in defense alongside Michael Kidd-Gilchrist -- that alone makes me want to see this pick happen.
From an analytics point of view, Gordon isn't that spectacular (50.3 TS% and 51.6 eFG%), but when critiquing his game, you have to go and focus from a film study-like approach. The numbers won't tell the entire story on Gordon, and how impressive he truly is.
Offensively, as we mentioned, he struggles. But when he gets close to the rim, he's one of the most unstoppable prospects. According to hoop-math, he finished 72.9 percent of his shots at the rim -- that is higher than both Julius Randle and Noah Vonleh.
So, it looks like we have a beast in transition when he has the ball in hands. Just take a look at his lane agility times from the NBA Combine (10.81 seconds). That is faster than both Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, so watch out when he has the ball coming down the court. If Steve Clifford lets him get ball in fast-break situations, it could be a major weapon for the Hornets' offense they haven't had in awhile.
Gordon is nowhere close to being a finished product, body-wise, either. At only 220 pounds and likely playing a lot of power forward, he will need to get his weight up to at least 240, in my opinion. He truly could be a more athletic and taller version of what Charlotte already has on their roster: Kidd-Gilchrist. And I don't think it's a bad idea to put those two next to each other for long stretches, as I previously mentioned.
The passing ability for Gordon is off the charts, too. He knows when players are going to cut to the rim, and he feeds them on time. Also, he's a unique enough ball handler to where he can create for himself off pick-and-roll. Rarely, if ever, do you see a guy his size be able to do such a thing.
Gordon's foul rate of only 2.4 per 40 minutes is spectacular. For a big man as aggressive on the defensive end as he is, that means he knows the proper techniques. Safe to say we shouldn't see him in much foul trouble on the next level, which is a major plus for any team drafting him on Thursday.
As I said about Noah Vonleh before in my argument for him against Gary Harris, rebounds translate to the NBA from college. For Gordon, it will for him, too, as he averaged over 10 of them per 40 minutes. If the rebounds translate for Gordon, we could be looking at one special, unique player for a big man. It would be very hard for Clifford to take him off the court.
The versatility and athleticism from Gordon speaks for itself. I don't see how Charlotte passes on a talent like his if he's on the board at No. 9.
James (Nik Stauskas): This is my number one guy for Charlotte -- he has been even before we got the ninth overall pick. I was already exploring the trade machine trying to put together packages to get us a lottery pick, but then the lottery gods looked favorably on this historically struggling franchise.
Stauskas addresses Charlotte's every major need. He has size, shooting, ball handling, high basketball IQ and good court vision. I see Stauskas projecting to be a similar player in terms of impact and style as Klay Thompson or Gordon Hayward. I understand those are some of the best two guards in the league. I don't make that comparison lightly. Stauskas has an air of arrogance about him that some may find that worrying, but personally I love it.
It became more and more apparent as the 2013-2014 season went on that Gerald Henderson is simply not a good fit for this roster. Henderson is a consummate professional, a great teammate and leader -- and can bring good defensive energy to the floor -- but he has some worrying holes in his game. Henderson is still yet to shoot above 35 percent from three. His percentages haven't been awful, but he has taken just one three per game during his career. Opposing defenses consistently play off him and dare him to shoot from deep. Henderson's inability to create for himself and others puts a lot of the ballhandling responsibilities on Kemba Walker and Josh McRoberts. When watching the San Antonio Spurs in this year's finals, you could see their players were very comfortable creating for each other, and driving and kicking to the open man. A side effect of Henderson's lack of ball handling skills is Kemba doesn't get to play off the ball as much as he would like to. Kemba isn't a pure point guard and still thrives playing off the ball, like he did a lot under Mike Dunlap -- where he had arguably his most successful season as a pro. If the Hornets did draft Stauskas, I would expect Henderson to start for most of the year, but I would then see Stauskas overtaking Henderson at some point, whether via an injury or at the start of the 2015-16 training camp. Either way, this would enable Charlotte to move Henderson for another asset or move him to a sixth man role, which many Charlotte fans, including myself, would fit Henderson's skill set better than a starting role.
So where does Stauskas fit into all this? Stauskas is arguably the best range shooter in the draft, though some would argue Doug McDermott is, but I feel Stauskas' ability to shoot from deep, off the dribble, at a high percentage gives him the edge.
Despite all the reports we are hearing about Jeff Taylor's return in training camp, there is no way we can rely on him being our major three-point threat at the two guard position next season. He shot just 27 percent before his injury this year (although I would have expected that to increase). As Clifford says, "Your spacing is your shooting." Stauskas would immediately help with that and be a nice compliment next to Kidd-Gilchrist. Out of the pick-and-roll, Stauskas also has excellent vision. I know I am in the minority, but I see his decision making and vision to be better than the likes of Tyler Ennis and Marcus Smart.
Gordon and Stauskas are very different players. Both have their roles, but I believe with Kidd-Gilchrist already on the roster, this may not be the best landing spot for Gordon. I would see them being able to spend very little time on the floor together. This would mean both would have to have reduced roles. Gordon's upside is undeniable. If he ever does improve his shooting to an above-average NBA level, he will likely be an All-Star. There are simply not many players in the league with his mixture of size, athleticism, ball handling, basketball IQ, high character and defense. However, like we have seen with Kidd-Gilchrist, improving a shot is no easy thing, especially if it has iffy mechanics like Gordon's does.
The Hornets who appear to be in a "win now" mode, so they may be better suited to someone like Stauskas, who can come in and have a positive impact right away without having to fill massive holes in his game.
Zach Lowe recently said on a podcast that a lot of front office people around the league feel Charlotte could be that one team who could have had a taste of winning and try to rush their rebuild. This could be done by overpaying a free agent, or deciding to pass on the best talent in the draft for someone who can make more of an immediate impact. If this is the case, then Stauskas makes a lot more sense here than Gordon.