How about this matchup, readers? Two guys I am very high on, Noah Vonleh and Nik Stauskas, battle for a chance to be put in the At The Hive 9th Pick Tournament finals. I'm certainly excited about this one.
For today's writers, I have Ben Swanson, At The Hive's big boss, and James Plowright of TheLotteryMafia.com. Ben wrote about Vonleh, while James chose Stauskas.
Ben (Noah Vonleh): It seems highly unlikely that Indiana's Noah Vonleh will still be in the green room by the time the Hornets' get on the clock at No. 9. With solid athleticism, soft touch around the rim and strong defensive instincts, Vonleh's got a lot to build around when he comes into the league that has more than a few of the top teams intrigued and some thinking he can become similar to Chris Bosh.
With a good jump shot in his offensive skill set, it looks like Vonleh could fit well with the Hornets, who now have a hole to fill since Josh McRoberts opted out. He has the reputation as a very coachable hard working talent, which definitely works with Clifford's views and system.
Vonleh's strong rebounding ability and tenacity fighting for position in the post would give the Hornets a great player to clean the glass on either side of the floor, an option they haven't been able to have in their starting lineup other than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. His rebounding, coupled with terrific size and length should make him a good defensive addition from the get-go, especially if tutored by Clifford.
However, consistent contribution on offense will probably need some seasoning in years to come. Though he could have the jump shot, don't expect Vonleh to be a Josh McRoberts type player - his assist numbers are far below average, even for his size and position. He also didn't have the offensive instincts and assertiveness to be a dependable top option on offense, though he has good touch with either hand. His jump shot should help as a safety release but it'll take time for him to extend his shooting to the NBA three-point line and become dependable on the block. The good news is he'll be 19 years old when the season starts.
However, because it seems that it might take a bit of time for him to develop into the player many think he can become, this seems like it might not be a likely pick for Charlotte, who seem to be looking for an experienced player who can contribute immediately. Still, talent is talent and Vonleh might offer too much for them to pass up.
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.
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.