We'll be addressing one simple question in this post: Who do you think the Charlotte Hornets should draft in the first round? I also asked for a backup option at each pick, in the event their first option isn't available.
I've been trying to make up my mind on this for a while now, and I'm probably still likely to change it again by the time this is posted. I'm far from sold on this, but I think the safest bet is to go for Gary Harris, the two-way guard from Michigan State. Harris' shooting isn't close to Doug McDermott's or Nik Stauskas, but he should improve from his collegiate numbers. He'd probably be an improvement over Gerald Henderson's shooting, at least. He's also got a decent slashing game to get to the rim, but his all-around offense isn't very versatile. What makes him attractive to the Hornets is his shooting, sure, but also his defense. With good defensive instincts and tenacity, Harris can fit into a suffocating defense immediately.
My backup at the nine is Doug McDermott. He's not solely a jump shooter, but he should be the best one to come out of this draft. He also boasts some pretty good offensive footwork and a nice fade-away jumper. He's not the biggest risk either, and should bring firecracker offense off the bench. Nik Stauskas isn't far behind, but his defensive issues are a big problem for me. I also wonder if No. 9 is too far to reach for Adriean Payne. He intrigues me a lot, but I think it might be too far to take a risk that big.
At No. 24, I really like P.J. Hairston. Hairston's of course going to raise the "JORDAN DRAFTS UNC PLAYERS" alert, but he's really talented. He brings immediate shooting offense, and though I've already drafted a shooting guard at No. 9, I like Hairston as the spark off the bench as a sixth man. He's strong and physical with the ability to finish at the rim, and he's gotten some good competition under his belt in the D-League. He's not a great playmaker with the ball in his hands, but he has some great physical tools.
I'd go for point guard here, but I think the Hornets might want to opt for a veteran in free agency, like maybe Kirk Hinrich. So I think perhaps the move might be for Mitch McGary, who is rumored to have gotten a promise from Charlotte. McGary's back problems are concerning, and might pooh-pooh this pick, but he's athletic, energetic and a strong rebounder with good hands. Should the Hornets re-sign Josh McRoberts, McGary could be a great offensive option off the bench as he develops.
No. 9 - Nik Stauskas: I feel like the biggest need the Hornets have to fill is perimeter shooting, and Stauskas has the best skill set to do that. Many believe he's the best shooter in the draft, and he's shown some pretty good athleticism in workouts. There isn't much belief that he can create on his own which does hurt the Hornets since they ran a lot of sets with Kemba Walker off ball last season. That said, Stauskas can do what Chris Douglas-Roberts did last season, with more future upside.
No. 24 - Adreian Payne, the super athletic power forward out of Michigan State is another player deemed to be ready as soon as he enters the NBA. Payne can jump out of the gym, as seen by some of his dunk contest dunks last year, but he also has a solid shooting touch. The Hornets offense requires a stretch forward and Payne can fill that role for them. However, he might not be available here. Mock drafts have been going all over the place with Payne. He's been as high as top 15 and as low as the mid 20's. There's a little bit of concern since there's no consistency on where he'll be drafted, but his skill set can't be passed up if he's available at 24.
It makes sense the Hornets seem to be down to Doug McDermott and Nik Stauskas at nine because they can both score.
At 6'6" Stauskas would add height in the backcourt as the Hornets look to get bigger across the board. He would also bring some flexibility if he can earn any minutes at all at the point as the Hornets are in need of someone to spell Kemba Walker. Bringing Stauskas off the bench to start wouldn't be horrible, and it would allow him some time to adjust while getting solid minutes behind Gerald Henderson. Stauskas is not as athletic as Henderson, but isn't a slouch and is a better shooter. Their D would probably be a wash (but is a knock against him) which says more about Henderson than it does Stauskas. :(
McDermott brings an elite scoring ability and immediate impact on the offensive end. He's a much more efficient scorer than the often ill-compared Adam Morrison, and projects to be a contributor right away. He can post up, as well as hit from anywhere inside the gym. McDermott has very high basketball IQ and would be able to space the floor for Walker and Al Jefferson. He feels like the safer pick, where Stauskas perhaps has the higher ceiling. After debating these two for the better part of the last month I lean ever so slightly to McDermott. He's just a flat out scorer and he does if from everywhere. He's strong enough to not get pushed around, and his inefficiency on D can hopefully be masked by Steve Clifford's system and letting other guys (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) take the other teams more athletic players. Stauskas would be a fine pick and my second choice at that spot.
In the 24 spot I would select P.J. Hairston for more shooting. Shooting is the best. The Hornets are in desperate need of scoring, and I don't think there's anything wrong with adding two players in the first round who specialize in just that. Hairston and McDermott are both NBA ready now, something Clifford and the organization are looking for in potential additions. Hairston has a good NBA body, is strong enough to get in the paint and can finish. His ball handling needs to improve but he can absolutely fill it up from NBA range as he did in the D-League hitting almost three three-pointers a game. At 6'5" he also adds a little height to the backcourt. If either Shabazz Napier or Tyler Ennis falls to 24 that would be a fine pick as well to give Walker some help but they will likely be gone. Scorer T.J Warren would be good here as would K.J McDaniels so my choice in order would be P.J., T.J. and then K.J.
9: Doug McDermott
There are a few things I like about McDermott here. One, he has positional versatility at the forward spots. Now, I know what you're thinking, "Derek, you idot. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist plays there!" And Kidd-Gilchrist does play the small forward, but if the Hornets hope to improve and they need depth. That brings me to my next point: he can score. In short, he gives the Hornets depth as a scorer and doesn't duplicate the skillset of the incumbent starter.
Alternate: I'm assuming someone like Julius Randle or Aaron Gordon doesn't slide down here to make this interesting. Nic Stauskas could make a nice rotation player with his shooting ability since that's one skill that seems to depreciate very little from college to the pros.
24: PJ Hairston
In my piece about a month ago, I was pretty high on Hairston here. He's still young, and has experience against a higher level of competition in the D-League. Given his experience, skills and physical tools, this could be a good get in the late first round.
Alternate: I'm not too picky here since you're not exactly mining for a franchise player and there are several guys who could help here. With that said, Jordan Adams or Kyle Anderson would be fine with me here.
9: If all went correctly, my top choice for the Hornets at number 9 would be Aaron Gordon, the young power forward from Arizona. I think his potential on both ends would be too high to pass up, and his defensive ability would fit perfectly into Steve Clifford's system. Gordon is an athletic specimen, very quick both in the half-court and in transition, having an above-the-rim offensive style, and he plays up to his size- and yes, could probably add a few pounds to his 6'9", 225-pound frame without losing a step. Better yet, he can guard both larger perimeter players and post 4s, giving him some positional versatility in addition to his already terrific defensive instincts. He's also a high-IQ type of player, and is a better passer than you would expect at his position. He's not quite Josh McRoberts in that regard, but the ball movement wouldn't suffer with Gordon in the starting lineup. I also think he is a terrific fit for this team, being a great complement to Al Jefferson in the frontcourt, while playing in a very similar style to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's high-motor intensity. There are really two issues with him, in my mind, and they both revolve around his offensive game. He doesn't have a post game at this point (really, at all), and doesn't have a consistent jumper. His shot's not the worst thing in the world, as he did shoot .356 from three this season, and his form doesn't look too bad, so perhaps this is something that could be fixed with time. It's worth remembering that Gordon is also one of the youngest players in this year's draft class, and won't turn 19 years old until midway through September. Barring a surprise pick, Gordon should be an option for the Sacramento Kings at #8, and if they decide to go elsewhere, I'd really hope the Hornets choose Gordon.
My backup choice at this slot is Doug McDermott. His ceiling isn't much higher than his floor, sure, but you'd know exactly what you'd be getting with him. The Hornets desperately need three-point shooters, and McDermott might be the very best option in that regard in this draft class. He's not purely a three-point shooter, of course; he makes terrific off-ball cuts and can score at the rim as long as he's not playing a post game. He's also an adequate rebounder. His game is definitely one-sided, yes, but he's tremendous at that one side. And, let's face it, the Hornets have room for an all-offense, no-defense player. (I wouldn't be disappointed with Nik Stauskas, either, for the record.)
24: At the 24th pick (again, if he is available), I want the Hornets to take Jordan Adams from UCLA. First things first: they could really use a shooting guard; I'm just not sure how much longer Gerald Henderson stays in Charlotte. Adams already has the body of an NBA player, and is very strong for his 6'5" frame, able to finish through all types of contact. He already has very good scoring ability, particularly in the post, even if his outside tough needs to be worked on a bit. That being said, he's very efficient, has terrific instincts (both on and off the ball), and can score from all areas of the floor in a variety of ways; as you'd expect, he's very, very good in transition. He can use this strength in more areas than one, too; he picks up a lot of fouls and is a terrific rebounder for his position, without having to make all-or-nothing runs toward the glass. It helps that he's pretty young too, turning 20 years old in July. Defensively, while he does have a tendency to pick up fouls or make undisciplined mistakes, he is still an absolute ballhawk, getting a high amount of steals both through cutting off the passing lanes and by a well-timed poke at the ball off a dribble. He's not without his weaknesses, as he's not a terribly athletic player and isn't explosive, so he might struggle at the rim in the NBA, and might not be able to consistently create his own shot. He still isn't a great jump shooter, but he does have the instincts to know how to keep scoring, and has the basketball IQ necessary to understand his in-game limitations. He's also not a great passer, but his 2.3 assists per game last season isn't much lower than Henderson's 2.6 average. There are risks with any pick late in the first round, but Adams seems like he has the most guaranteed production of the likely available options.
My backup choice at this slot is Bogdan Bogdanovic. I'm going a little off-board here, as I don't think he's projected to be taken in the late first round, but I'm very impressed by his well-rounded offensive game, and his perimeter shooting coupled with his athletic ability would be a good fit in Charlotte. I like his ability to finish at the rim, I think he's a quality passer, and his size (6'6", 200 pounds, 6'11" wingspan), is very solid for a 2-guard. The drawbacks with Bogdanovic are his age (he'll be 22 to start the season, so he might not have much room for growth), and his propensity for turnovers. That being said, I think the rewards almost definitely outweigh the risks with Bogdanovic. I don't think he'd be available at #45, when the Hornets have their third pick, and I believe they definitely need to take a guard in the first round. I completely believe Bogdanovic would be a great pick, and a potential steal if he's still on the board in the second round.