Time to buckle up, At The Hive readers. What a matchup we have, and it's only the quarterfinals! Julius Randle and Marcus Smart battle for your vote to move on and face Doug McDermott (likely) in the semifinals.
As always, I'm joined by James Plowright of TheLotteryMafia.com to discuss these prospects. And, as I said before, we will both be picking a prospect to pitch to you readers about who fits the Hornets better.
Enjoy, and don't forget to vote and let your voice be heard in the comments section!
James (Julius Randle): With all the speculation about Julius Randle's foot injury, it is seeming increasingly likely he might be available at nine, something, which only a few weeks ago, appeared to be a pipe dream. With Josh McRoberts recently opting out of his contract, the Hornets only have one power forward on the roster next year in Cody Zeller. Randle has long been considered to be a top-5 talent ever since he left high school last year. The fact that the Hornets may have a chance to draft him -- when only a month ago they only had the 24th pick -- is pretty incredible and shows how unpredictable the draft is.
Again, I have gone into Randle's fit with the current roster and looked at his strengths and weaknesses in the previous round, this piece will look more at how Randle would fit into the team. Some might say (including me) that Randle isn't a particularly great fit for the roster, but I point to three main arguments for drafting him if available.
1.) Big Al won't be around forever
I know Al Jefferson only just got here, but we have to be realistic that he looks to be a short term star. We can't build a franchise around a 29-year-old; It is simply bad business. I am not saying he won't be able to perform at a somewhat decent level in his early or mid-thirties, but Rich Cho can't bet on that.
Right now, Jefferson and Randle may not exactly compliment each other. Both like to stay in the paint and score inside. However, lets face it: if Al wasn't already in Charlotte this would be a no-brainer.
What if Charlotte took Randle at nine and had him come off the bench and primarily play while Al is off the floor? That way they would not get in each others way, and it would also allow Clifford to better manage Jefferson's minutes. Having an efficient low-post scorer in the game for all 48 minutes would instantly make our offense better. If, in the next two years, Randle did improve his jump shot, then he could play with Big Al.
2.) Value is Value
If Randle was available at nine, there would likely be a number of teams calling Cho to see if he had any interest in trading him.
It has been widely reported that the Hornets are open to moving their pick. If Randle was there, they might be offered a deal that is simply too good to refuse. Randle may be able to net them a talent worth more than the ninth pick before the draft. Cho may simply feel the potential pay off of Randle is too great, despite not having him in for a workout or thinking he is a good fit for the roster.
3.) "The Unknown"
While at Kentucky, Randle was forced to exclusively play in the paint. Some may argue that was coach John Calipari's doing, or some say that is just what Randle's skill set suited. So, after watching Randle taking seldom jump shots and stay exclusively in the paint, it is something of an unknown if he would be able to adjust playing next to Jefferson. It doesn't appear likely, but it is not out the realm of possibility for him to successfully tailor his game to Clifford's system.
My final point is, sometimes good players just fit together. Though not always, players who have reasonably high basketball IQ's generally find a way to be effective within the system. Sometimes everything on paper should tell you, "This isn't going to work," but then it does -- Randle and Jefferson are so talented that it is entirely possible they figure it out.
Evan (Marcus Smart): Looking for a deadly backcourt that can create havoc? You've found the answer here with Marcus Smart. Also, another factor, which I love, is how well he grades out in multiple analytics categories.
One thing that is a positive for Smart -- and one which would be a major asset to the Hornets' offense -- is how often he attacks and gets to the basket. A high volume of his shots from last season came from inside the paint, and he hit 67 percent of them. That's an impressive number for a guard, I must say. This shows, with time, he could create major mismatches down in the post on guards, where he could feast for easy shots off of post-ups with his thick frame.
Sure, he's not consistent outside of the paint, but you can never go wrong with having aggressive ball handlers who can attack the rim at any time he pleases.
Another weapon in Smart's arsenal is his lockdown defense. From an individualized standpoint, Smart's adjusted defensive rating was an 88.9 -- that equals out to be the best guard in the draft, by far, on defense. Pair him with Steve Clifford's defensive system, and I think we have the makings of an All-NBA defensive player.
Can you imagine when Smart and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are on the floor together? Oh my, that spells trouble for whoever plays on the perimeter that night against the Hornets.
Smart's steal percentage -- which is at 5 percent -- also comes out as another positive. Steal percentage is one of the advanced stats that many believe translate to the NBA, and Smart up near the top of this year's draft crop.
From a fit standpoint, I believe sliding him into the starting rotation at shooting guard would be the right move. Him and Walker would cause havoc on offense, while he and Kidd-Gilchrist do the same on defense. We have a player that Charlotte has been looking for to produce on both ends, and he's right here for the taking. Personally, I have Smart rated higher than most on my big board, due to how much I am into the analytics side of things, but he backs it up with his sky-high potential as a possible award winner on offense and defense.
So, overall, it looks like we have the prototypical three tool player here with Smart. He has the analytics to back his numbers up, is an aggressive scorer (which Charlotte desperately needs to find another one of), and is a tenacious defender on the perimeter.
Sure, my argument for Smart might not be close in length to James', but I don't believe I have to touch on much to convince you, the readers, on why Smart should be moving on to the semifinals. At The Hive readers, this is a simple vote: move Marcus Smart on to face Doug McDermott in an epic clash to move on to the finals.