The roster of the Charlotte Hornets has been improving over the last few years, but there are still gaps to fill. Opportunities to retool the roster are going to be somewhat limited this offseason, which makes the draft so much more important to the franchise. Thankfully, they've had success with their draft picks in recent years, even though it hasn't necessarily resulted in long-term success just yet. Regardless, the Hornets have a solid young core of players to build around. What should the Hornets be looking for in this year's draft?
I don't think they should limit themselves to filling a certain position, but I don't think they should take a pure big man in the first round either given what's already on the roster. That said, taking the best player available is normally the right move, even if that player is at a position without need. Going about a draft thinking "take a point guard here" or "make sure you draft a wing player" isn't necessary as long as you have a competent NBA roster, which the Hornets do have now. Still, there are several things the Hornets should be looking for.
This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone: The Hornets finished last in the NBA in effective field goal percentage, last in the NBA in 3-point percentage, and second-to-last in 2-point percentage. That's very bad, and clearly something that the front office needs to consider addressing. But should the Hornets look at a pure shooter as opposed to a more well-rounded player who makes shooting a small, but important, part of his game?
Probably not in the first round; some dead-eye shooters like Jimmer Fredette and Doug McDermott have struggled to see consistent floor time in the NBA, even when they are making their shots. That's not something the Hornets can afford to use a top-ten pick on at this point. Thankfully, there's only one pure shooter like this among this year's potential lottery picks, and that's Devin Booker, and Booker is a better all-around player than Fredette and McDermott.
The Hornets can't afford to take a player whose skillset is limited to shooting. They need somebody who can see the floor for extended periods of time, which makes specialists a liability. Whether that upgrade in shooting comes through drafting, free agency, or a trade is another question altogether, but the Hornets will need shooting in order to go to the next level.
With players like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo (who is a restricted free agent, but one who the Hornets should re-sign), and Noah Vonleh already on the roster, the Hornets have a squad of players that can play multiple roles. Why limit their potential impact by using their first-round pick on a one-dimensional prospect? This ties back to the discussion of the pure shooter a bit in that they do need to take a player who can perform a variety of tasks.
It's not that the Hornets need to draft a guy who can jump like Zach LaVine or someone who's as strong as LeBron James, but it would surely make Steve Clifford happier if he had another player whose physical gifts make him capable of playing sound defense. Athleticism would certainly help the offense too, but Clifford's proven he can make defensive contributors out of players who typically aren't known for their defensive prowess. And if the draft picks are talented offensively too, that's a recipe for success.
The Hornets' perimeter players aren't players who can easily create shots for themselves near the rim. There are a couple guys who are capable of doing that, but it's not a big part of any of their games at this point. Even with an offense centered around Al Jefferson limiting opportunities for drives, there's nobody on the Hornets comparable toManu Ginobili. Getting a player who can get to the rim easily would provide a lot of options for the Hornets offensively.
Of course, it will probably be difficult to find a player who can capably demonstrate all of these things during his career, let alone his rookie season. Drafting a player who is legitimately good in two or three of these areas is the goal. The Hornets don't need a home run, but they can't afford a single either.