It seems as if every fall more than a few fanbases go through their coulda/woulda/shoulda phase with regards to their most recent draft. Unfortunately, the Hornets are one of them with their selection of Frank Kaminsky over Justise Winslow, and reportedly refusing Boston's offer of a handful of picks to move up. For Kaminsky, this fairly or unfairly raised expectations for his rookie season. The team and others clamoring about how NBA-ready he was at the age of 22 certainly didn't diminish those expectations.
Certainly Winslow playing more efficiently and outperforming Kaminsky in many major categories doesn't help. Still, not every player develops at the same rate, and rookies often start slow and progress as the season wears on. Although Kaminsky is 22 years old, he's still inexperienced at being a professional basketball player. This is why it's risky to label a player NBA-ready because you really don't know that until the games tip-off.
Framing the Kaminsky pick
At the time of the pick, the Hornets had just retooled their roster. Shortly before the draft, the team traded for Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lamb in separate trades. With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Troy Daniels, and P.J. Hairston already in tow, there was suddenly no room to add another wing player to the roster. Buying low on Batum was far from a bad room, and Lamb has played well enough to earn a sizable extension from the team.
In short, the team decided its direction for the roster with these moves. By creating a logjam on the perimeter, the Hornets somewhat showed their hand as far as their draft intentions. Saying, "Boy, I sure wish we had Winslow now" with Kidd-Gilchrist out for the season is easy to say. If they knew they weren't going to have Kidd-Gilchrist, that may have changed their thought process. Or maybe Michael Jordan had already been fitted for his "Frank the Tank" sport coat and could exchange it.
What about trading for Spencer Hawes, wise guy?
This is a fair point. Hawes seems to duplicate Kaminsky's playing style in a few ways, and was coming off what was arguably his worst season of his career.
In all reality, the Hornets may not have had a choice, knowing that Lance Stephenson had to go, and perhaps even that a Batum could be on the horizon (the Stephenson and Batum trades occurred nine days apart). If Portland wasn't willing to take a flier on Stephenson, they probably felt that they had to move him to put themselves in a better position to get Batum.
Now, I'm not saying these trades are related for sure, and while I don't want to speculate too much, it does make some sense that they could be related.
Faulting the decision to partially blow up the roster -- or the way they went about it -- makes more sense than saying they should have just taken Winslow, because it isn't that simple in this case. Now, Hawes has been fine, and probably already given the Hornets more than Stephenson did all last year, but having two seven-foot centers with similar skill sets seems peculiar. Especially since the team went out of their way to get him. But the team may find themselves with an out for Hawes, and free up more opportunity for Kaminsky down the stretch.
Every Organization is Different
If you think of the best development teams, the Heat have to be on that short list, no? This sounds odd for a team that relies primarily on trades and free agency to build its teams. There's nothing wrong with going about it that way as long as it works, but the Heat also draft and develop pretty well. Then there's Michael Beasley, who is probably going to win a few MVP awards in China before it's all said and done.
Pat Riley drafted Dwyane Wade 12 years ago, and more recently made Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers serviceable NBA players. They also picked Hassan Whiteside off of the salvage pile and have put him into a position to become a max player. On top of all of that, the Heat have established a certain culture that pre-dates the Big Three era.
Charlotte on the other hand hasn't shown that same patience lately. The players with the most talent usually shine through, like with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Charlotte was patient for a number of years with players like Gerald Henderson and Bismack Biyombo, but they could never get them to that next level. And in other cases, like Noah Vonleh, they flat-out haven't seemed to have the time to see their development through. Yes, the team may have thought they'd have it easier with Kaminsky, but it's an entirely different situation.
This is similar to what's talked about with the Timberwolves and Steph Curry. Curry probably would have been pretty good in Minnesota, but would he be what he is now? Most likely not. Not only did the 2008 Timberwolves not have many NBA players on the team, they were poorly coached, and running an offense that took the ball out of their point guard's hands.
In Miami, Winslow has Wade, Chris Bosh, and Luol Deng around him. Aside from Gerald Green, there's really no one else to threaten his minutes. With the Hornets, Al Jefferson is going to get the lion's share of the center minutes, and Hawes a decent amount of the backup minutes playing as well as he has. Playing Hawes next to Kaminsky is redundant, but Green can play shooting guard in Miami next to Winslow if it comes down to it.
Kaminsky needs to see the court
Playing 11.5 minutes per game as of Thursday, Kaminsky is going to need minutes, and that's not a lot of playing time. Certainly not much time at all for a player to adjust to the NBA game. By the same token, when Winslow is playing some 24 minutes per night, his numbers are naturally going to look better.
If there is any source of real comfort to be had, it's that Kaminsky is competitive when you prorate their numbers per 36 minutes. By virtue of showing to be a strong three-point shooter, Kaminsky averages more points per 36. Winslow still tops Kaminsky's 5.5 rebounds per 36 to Winslow's 6.7 rebounds, but Kaminsky dishes an extra 1.2 assists per 36 over Winslow.
Clearly the Hornets are high on Kaminsky or else they wouldn't have fallen all over themselves to draft him. If he is that important to them, he needs to play. Whether that's in the NBA or in the D-League, it doesn't really matter. The efficieny will probably come, but there are already a few encouraging signs over the first few games.
Winslow may very well turn out to be the better player, but that doesn't mean that Kaminsky won't be a good player. Some players just wind up being better than others. Since the Hornets logged up their perimeter positions before the draft, it didn't seem that there was room for Winslow. Even after, adding Aaron Harrison and Jeremy Lin to the backcourt as they eventually did made their roster even more concrete.
In the end, the Hornets did what they thought was best based on the roster they had created at the time, and made their choice. While it's certainly too early to know how either Winslow or Kaminsky will pan out, it's likely the same way with the moves that the team made leading up to the pick. Especially if Lamb continues to play as he has, the Hornets may have found their perimeter guy already.
But at this point all we can judge is the point is process since it's too early to render a verdict on the result.