The Charlotte Hornets hold the 22nd pick in this year's draft, and there are more questions than ever surrounding what exactly the team will do with the pick. If you wanted to look at recent trends, the Hornets have drafted big men in each of the past three first rounds - Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh and Frank Kaminsky. One could say they already have a surplus of big men, but with Al Jefferson not guaranteed to return next season, could Charlotte go big again in the first round? If so, they could do far worse than Vanderbilt center Damian Jones.
Standing just under 7'0" and 244 pounds with wingspan of 7'4", Jones already has a NBA body who has shown flashes of brilliance - look no further than his 20 point, 12 rebound performance against Florida. He is an athletic hoss with the athletic ability to do things like this.
Jones, who turns 20 on June 30th and still has room to gain muscle, takes advantage of his physicality with his play. He had a team-high 27 and 1s last season and showed good touch from the floor. He shot 59.5% on two-pointers last season and can put it on the floor when needed. He is solid on the offensive boards and averaged a point per possession during his junior year. Defensively, Jones is able to switch and stay in front of defenders on pick and rolls, which is crucial in today's NBA. His long wingspan aids him, as he is able to get blocks if he is ever beat off the dribble. It is rare to find a big with the skills that Jones possesses, and his game seems better suited for the NBA than the college game.
Jones' biggest issue is that he struggles with consistency. For every 20-12 game against Florida Jones had, he had two or three games where he made little to no impact on the game. Despite his solid NBA body, he has issues on the defensive boards. He will often not try hard or just not box out and watch on defense. He can be foul prone, thanks in part to his inability to position himself to defend the rim well. Despite his good frame, he also shies away from contact often. On offense, his shooting touch comes and goes and his passing skills are limited at best. On top of all this, his basketball instincts are lacking, leaving Jones often slow to react to plays, and his fundamentals leave much to be desired.
The good news is that most of Jones' issues are fixable, especially with a defensive mind like Steve Clifford helping him out - after all, if Clifford can make Jefferson look good defensively, he should be able to do the same with Jones. Whether Jones is willing to put in the work to fix those problems also remains a question.
One of the biggest upsides to Jones is his potential, which is what makes him so exciting and simultaneously dangerous. Would the Hornets be willing to take that risk with Jones, particularly when he would be fighting hard for playing time in an already crowded frontcourt, or would they rather go with a safer pick?
The Hornets could do much worse than Jones, who is projected to go anywhere from the 15th to the 30th pick. Some compare Jones to Festus Ezeli, while others say Steven Adams with less of a mean streak. Fact of the matter is the team could do much worse than Damian Jones if he is available.