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Charlotte Hornets NBA Draft preview: Trey Lyles

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It's time to look at the other big man out of Kentucky, Trey Lyles.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

With so much talent coming out of Kentucky on a yearly basis, it can be easy to overlook a draft prospect or two. This year, Trey Lyles is being overlooked as Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, and Willie Cauley-Stein all dominate draft boards.

Despite this, Lyles should still be feeling pretty good about himself. His name is in the middle of draft boards, and he is expected to be drafted in the first round and possibly even to a the lottery teams. As a big man, he's not as coveted as Cauley-Stein, but his skill set should translate to the NBA with some development. As with any prospect, though, there are some question marks surrounding him. After all, there's a reason his former teammates are projected higher than him.

Height w/o shoes Height w/ shoes Weight Wingspan Standing Reach Body Fat
6' 9" 6' 10.25" 241 7' 1.5" 9' 0" 12.1
Minutes Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers Fouls
23.0 8.7 5.2 1.1 0.5 0.5 1.1 1.6
FG FGA FG% FTM FTA FT%
3.3 6.7 48.8 2.1 2.8 73.5%

(Numbers via Draft Express)

Strengths

The most difficult part about judging Lyles is that during his final year at Kentucky, he played mostly the small forward position next to the dominant Kentucky frontcourt of Cauley-Stein and Towns. He played well, however, and this not only shows an ability to adapt to new situations, but also his versatility as a player. Not many big men have the skill set or mental willingness to play a different style of basketball at an unfamiliar position. Lyles was able to do this, and by the end of his final year, his improvement was apparent in the minutes he played.

What Lyles really brings to the NBA is perimeter skills not often seen in a big man. He's shown an ability to take his man off the dribble, and he has nice jump shot mechanics that suggest he has the potential to be a stretch four in the NBA. On top of this, he has no problem driving in either direction, and can score in a multitude of ways thanks to a solid touch inside.

That said, Lyles still has the build of a big man. He's 6'10" and is considered a power forward on most draft boards. He does have some big man skills, like a solid back-to-the-basket game and a very nice touch around the rim. He uses his 7'1.5" wingspan and great footwork to maneuver his way around defenders and create open looks for himself. This doesn't mean he avoids contact; Lyles still drew fouls on about 25 percent of his possessions.

This ability to play both inside and out as well as being only 19 years old is what's so appealing about Lyles. He's already decent in a lot of areas, and he's young enough to still improve. And if he does, his future as a scorer in the NBA looks bright.

Weaknesses

Lyles has the skill set to be an NBA scorer, but to do that he'll have to become a better shooter. While his mechanics looked good in college, his shot didn’t fall often enough to earn a reputation as a very good shooter. He attempted 29 3-pointers while making only four of them, and shot 37 percent on jump shots in general. His shooting was inconsistent at best, and he had to rely very strongly on his driving skills to open up the offense for him. The argument can be made that Lyles will be playing closer to the basket in the NBA, but it wouldn't hurt to develop his jump shot.

Lyles' jump shot will need to be improved if he wants to find NBA minutes early on, because at the moment his defense is in need of a major overhaul. While quick on his feet, Lyles isn't particularly athletic and that was never more obvious than when he was forced to the perimeter at Kentucky. Smaller, quicker defenders were able to speed right by him, and he didn't register many blocks or steals.

It doesn't get much better in the post, where Lyles tends to let players get deep post positioning on him and doesn't really show the skills of a rim protector. If he bulks up a little, he should be able to become at least average, but it's unlikely he's going to become a lockdown defender. He does have potential as a help defender, however. Either way, his play on the defensive end needs a lot of work.

Fit with Hornets

Lyles would be a bit of a reach for the Hornets in their current spot, but if they trade down he could be a good choice. If the Hornets do draft Lyles, his role with the team would likely be a stretch four, as that's the skill set he showed at Kentucky. He knows how to play on the perimeter and has shown the ability to play off ball, which works well with such an Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker centric offense.

The problem is that Lyles would add to an already crowded front court that includes Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller, Jason Maxiell, and now Spencer Hawes. There just isn't enough room for Lyle to play his natural position. The Hornets could try developing him into a wing for depth, but that doesn't seem to fit the current model of win-now.

Draft Express 13th
CBS Sports 16th - 20th
NBA Draft.net 11th
The Lottery Mafia 19th
ESPN's Chad Ford 9th