Charlotte is looking for a power forward alongside Al Jefferson to make a deep run into the playoffs. Look no further than this matchup to possibly ease those concerns. I have to say, Noah Vonleh versus Jusuf Nurkic is a great matchup.
Again, I have James Plowright of TheLotteryMafia.com joining me for today's conversation of these two prospects.
Here's our chat on Vonleh and Nurkic below:
Evan: What's your thoughts on Noah Vonleh? Like Adreian Payne, he can stretch the floor and be a major mismatch.
Also, as we know, he can be a beast down low. How do you think he'd fit alongside Al Jefferson, and Charlotte's overall system?
James: Vonleh is by no means the shooter that Payne is. Yes, he shot 48.5 percent from three this year, but that was only with 1.1 attempts per game. This doesn't mean he won't eventually be the shooter Payne is. At just 18 years old Vonleh is the second youngest player in the draft. The fact that he has a shooting touch makes him very attractive to NBA teams and a lot more dynamic than most people with his measurements.
I wouldn't describe Vonleh as a "beast" down low just yet. He has all the tools to overpower guys with a combination of size and length, but right now he is a little too "nice." However, a few run-ins against Steven Adams in summer league will soon teach him that he has to increase his physicality to have success as a big in the NBA.
Payne was a great fit next to Al, Vonleh is the only other big guy in the draft who fits better, in my opinion.
The ideal partner for Big Al would be someone who is mobile and long; who can stay with big men out on the perimeter, but also battle in the paint to block some shots. You really want someone who has a really good feel defensively of what they are doing so they can help hide Al's lack of athleticism and mobility in the pick and roll.
Vonleh stands at 6'10", with a huge wingspan of 7'4", just two inches shorter than Bismack Biyombo's. Like previously mentioned: Vonleh's outside shooting, should he continue to progress, also would help space the floor. Even if he only stuck to taking 15-18 ft jump shots (like the ones Cody clanked all last year) he would help the team's offense.
The real downside to Vonleh is his lack of natural "feel" for the game on the offensive end. He has good skills, but doesn't always see the entire court. He had 16 games this season without a single assist. We all know that in coach Clifford's offense you must be a willing passer; those are two things he loves about Cody and McRoberts.
Do you think that would be a real worry? I know it only seems like a small part of the game, but we have all seen how Biz's lack of "feel" has withheld him from reaching his potential.
Evan: As we saw at the combine, Vonleh's numbers were insane.
His hands -- almost a foot long -- are the new fad of sorts with NBA teams, I believe. Like Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo, do you think Vonleh is the next versatile disruptor on defense? At only 18, could you see him being able to stretch the floor on defense sometimes guarding from small forwards to centers?
James: Well big hands help, but they are no means a sure thing to get you drafted.
Take Greg Smith for example. From memory he has the biggest hands on the Draft Express database but went undrafted in 2011. He did go onto have a decent run in Houston though until his knee injury this year, so maybe you're onto something, big hands equals success!
I wouldn't put Vonleh in the mold of Giannis or Leonard; I see him more as a much bigger, better defensively Paul Millsap. Vonleh, actually has a similar ability to put the ball on the floor and blow past slower big men. I would also say there is some Aldridge/Gibson in his game. Truth be told, there is no great comparison because Vonleh's combination of youth/skill/size is so very rare even in today's NBA. Another name thrown around by some is not so glamorous, that's Ekpe Udoh. He was thought of in the same way as Vonleh but has really struggled since entering the league to make an impact.
The way the league is going, small forwards are getting smaller and smaller. I think him guarding small forwards for long stretches is a big thing to ask. However, if you were to get in the playoffs and say, had Kevin Durant, Lebron James or Paul George up against him, you could make a good case for him to guard those guys.
The new "Power Small Forward" position is so tough to guard, but Vonleh would be one guy who could match up with those guys physically. He really does have a high ceiling on both ends of the court.
One big thing holding Vonleh back is his understanding of the game, the only way this will improve is by working hard studying film and being allowed to play through his mistakes, hence why "fit" is so important in the NBA draft.
Evan: Do you believe Vonleh fits Steve Clifford's gritty defensive system?
James: Gritty is not a term that comes to mind when thinking of Vonleh, but I think he just needs the right kind of guys around him to influence him correctly.
Being able to work under coach Ewing (assuming he's still around) should do him the world of good. Also playing with Big Al, MKG and Kemba, he will have some great role models to follow.
I have a feeling, if you don't grind and work hard in the Charlotte locker room, you might as well not bother suiting up. The likes of Ben Gordon never seemed to get on board with this and now he is gone.
Vonleh's defensive potential would be great for Charlotte. Their power forward position right now isn't exactly blessed with toughness and shot blocking. Vonleh would certainly fill a need. However, are you then accepting that McRoberts will go elsewhere this off-season and a mixture of Zeller/Vonleh is your power forward combination going forward?
That looks great on paper, especially in the long term, but for a team trying to win now it is dangerously inexperienced.
The real question is would the Hornets be better off selecting Jusuf Nurkic and keeping him over in Europe for another year? This would give them more flexibility this offseason by increasing their cap space, depending what their plan is. It could be enough to allow Charlotte to make a run at Loul Deng or Gordon Hayward, if only we could be inside the head of Rich Cho.
Evan: On the topic of Jusuf Nurkic, he's a metrics monster over in Europe's Adriatic League right now (a PER of over 40 right now, which is pure insanity).
Do you think his game could make the transition into the NBA? If he can get his fouls down, I believe he could be a big mismatch in the post.
I am a fan. How about you?
James: Well here is the thing, right now Nurkic's job is to go out there and just cause havoc. He doesn't play big minutes so he doesn't have to think about defending without fouling. I am sure if Joel Embiid and Vonleh were told, "You only have 15mpg to make an impact, don't let anyone even get near the paint," their stats would also be boosted.
He has all the tools to be a good NBA player; the big knock on him is his lack of athleticism.
In Europe he has been able to bully most people. He is fresh off the bench, absolutely huge and is able to intimidate people. This won't happen in the NBA.
His soft touch helps him finish around the basket against length. Nurkic has some nice little floaters and hooks, which enable him to stop getting the ball blocked.
One big worry for Nurkic is his attitude and weight. I have little doubt that if he attend the combine his stock would have taken a hit with his body fat percentage and poor athletic testing results. Even though I don't really agree with these "tests", I much prefer to go off what I see. I think some NBA teams would have been scared off by his below par scores.
I am still unsure really what to make of Nurkic overall. It is so hard to know with these European players.
A big question teams have is does he have the work ethic and attitude to succeed in the NBA? I am not so sure; I certainly wouldn't take him at No. 9 if I was the Hornets.
In fact, I like Kristaps Porzingis a lot more than Nurkic, he would fit better with the current roster, I believe. However, he is two-plus years away from being ready for the NBA, and I imagine the Hornets roster would look very different by the time he came over.
Evan: I've been thinking this over -- if the Hornets took Nurkic -- that they would stash him until 2016 and then bring him to Charlotte. Coincidentally, that is when Al's contract runs out.
Personally, I feel Nurkic will be a stud, with some NBA coaching helping him along the way.
His per-40 minute numbers are 28.2 points and 13.7 rebounds per game. Also, throw in his 5.98 (!!) win shares and you have the recipe for a possible Hornets selection on draft night.
For me, I'm a big metrics/analytics guy, and Nurkic fits that billing.
I feel taking him not only to save money for a few years until 2016, and then him coming over and bringing a seasoned offensive game for a center over to the United States.
Nurkic is underrated, but I wouldn't be mad with him going at No. 9 here.
James: It is so hard to know with these European prospects. Agents release whatever info they want to get their player drafted higher, but at times the truth can be very different from what is reported. So it is certainly possible Nurkic could come over in 2016, but look at the Bulls and Mirotic right now. Fans are desperate for him to come over but it is still unclear what is going to happen.
Those are some pretty impressive numbers, no doubt, but there are not many players who make it in the NBA as a star who don't work hard.
Right now I feel Nurkic makes a living off his talent. Also, it is hard to know his personality; adjusting to an entire new culture can undermine someone's skill level no matter how good they are. The only people who can get a feel of this are front offices, that is if the agent will let them meet their player.
It sounds like your a little higher on him than me.
I certainly see his potential don't get me wrong. If it was last year, for example, I would have been happy taking him at No. 4 instead of Zeller. However, in this particular draft I think there are a number of other prospects who have every chance to have as much impact in the league as Nurkic, the likes of Gary Harris, Nik Stauskas and Aaron Gordon.
If I were to go international, I would put Dario Saric ahead of him, and for me that's a no brainer.
Evan: Nurkic's skill set is a little raw right now, but like I said, with a little seasoning he could wreck havoc for 10-15 minutes a game right off the bat.
I want to see Nurkic in some pre-draft workout settings, which I don't think he'll be doing, but I've heard he might be coming over to the NBA right after the draft. With Saric, there is definitely more uncertainty.
A lot of readers will likely vote Vonleh in a runaway, but it should be closer. Nurkic fits a need for Charlotte not only now, but in the future, too.
James: Readers will vote for Vonleh for a number of reasons. 1) His measurements, 2) Not an international player, and 3) The unknown.
It is very hard for people to want to select someone when 99 percent of people reading this post will have seen one scouting video on Draft Express, and that's it. (Ed. Hey, that's all I've seen of Nurkic, too! - Ben)
The unknown is scary, but like we all know, what one GM may see as a risk, another will see as a fantastic opportunity.
Evan: I agree, James, and again thanks for joining me today!