It doesn’t often happen, but trading back in the draft is one of the many options that Mitch Kupchak could do this Thursday. With other teams looking to move up, they may be willing to take on a bad contract if it meant getting the player they want. On the other hand, Charlotte could look to move back if their top options are picked ahead of time.
Without pinpointing where the team could move back to, here’s a look at four prospects the Hornets could consider anywhere from the mid to late first round.
Aaron Holiday: PG, UCLA (6’1, 185)
The Hornets need to solidify their backup point guard position, as Michael Carter-Williams, Julyan Stone, and Marcus Paige made little impact and aren’t expected to return. While Shai Gilgeious-Alexander is one to consider at 11, he could be gone by then, or, the Raptors, who are rumored to be looking to trade up for him, could instigate a deal that moves Charlotte back in the draft. One option later on is junior UCLA point guard, Aaron Holiday, who’s brothers Justin and Jrue currently play in the NBA.
As a junior, Holiday averaged 20.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game, shooting 46.1 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent from distance. Holiday improved in all these areas from his freshman season to this past season at UCLA.
Holiday is a stat sheet stuffer. In 33 games played this season, he recorded double-digit points in all but one, recorded 30 games with four or more assists, had 31 games with at least one made 3-pointer, and had 17 games with four or more rebounds.
Holiday’s junior season ranks higher than his brother Jrue’s freshman season at UCLA, who was drafted 17th Overall in 2009 by the Philadelphia 76ers, and his brother Justin’s numbers at Washington who went undrafted in 2011 but has won an NBA Championship with the Golden State Warriors in 2014-2015. He’s a bit older than Jrue was coming out of college, and his size could be an issue at the NBA level, but he could be a good value pick late in the first round.
Melvin Frazier: SF/SG, Tulane (6’6, 200)
Melvin Frazier could be the first ever Tulane player drafted in the first round and the first player since Chris Owens was drafted in the second round in the 2002 NBA Draft to come from the Green Wave.
Frazier is coming off a strong junior year campaign in which he averaged 15.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 2.1 steals per game while playing 34.4 minutes a night. Those averages ranked Frazier among the top conference players in the American Athletic Conference; i.e. 4th in PPG, 11th in RPG, 12th in 3PT%, and 2nd in SPG.
Frazier’s game improved dramatically in two seasons at Tulane. He raised his field goal percentage from 43.8 to 55.6 percent, his 3-point percentage from 26.4 to 38.5 percent, and his free throw percentage 66.7 to 71.2. He also nearly doubled his assists per game, from 1.5 to 2.9.
He had a number of strong performances against good competition, including:
- 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals, 88.9 field goal percentage vs. Fordham on November 19th
- 27 points, three rebounds, five assists, and 56.3 field goal percentage vs. UNC on December 3rd
- 25 points, seven assists, three steals, 69.2 field goal percentage vs. Temple on December 28th
Frazier had several big time highlight plays during his three-year career at Tulane, including including a massive dunk versus UNC this past season and against South Florida as a freshman in 2015-2016.
Frazier was recorded at the 2018 NBA Draft Combine with a 7’2 wingspan and a 43-inch vertical jump. His versatility on the wing can give options for James Borrego with several different lineup options.
Zhaire Smith: SG, Texas Tech (6’5, 195)
Zhaire Smith could potentially go 11th overall or before, but some mocks have him slipping further back. If the Hornets saw an opportunity to trade back and select him, he could end up as a steal.
In 37 games played this past season, Smith averaged 11.3 points, five rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 55.6 percent from the floor and 45 percent from 3.
The biggest questions regarding Smith are his potential and what kind of shooting guard he will be in the NBA. Smith struggled to score last season. Here are some lowlights:
- Only had two games scoring 20+ points (21 vs Iowa State, 2/7), (20 vs Kansas, 2/24)
- Struggled with single-digit scoring in several games (6 vs Boston College and Northwestern), (6 vs Oklahoma), (9 vs West Virginia), (2 vs Oklahoma State), and (7 vs Villanova)
- Only had three games making more than two 3’s in one game (vs Oklahoma, vs Oklahoma State, and vs Florida)
Despite those questions about his scoring ability and production offensively, Smith’s rebounding ability is something to marvel at. In the 37 games, he recorded at least one rebound in all but one game, averaging 5.0 rebounds per game, a mark that ranked him high in the Big 12. Smith also finished 11th in the Big 12 in offensive rebounds per Game (2.2), and 20th in Total Rebounds per Game (5.0) during this past season.
Rebounding from shooting guards is something that the Hornets need as Jeremy Lamb and Nicolas Batum were the only two Hornet shooting guards ranked in the Top 10 in the Hollinger Eastern Conference Player Stats for Rebounding Rate.
Charlotte Hornets’ Shooting Guard Rebounding Rates from 2017-2018:
- Jeremy Lamb - 8.9%, 5th Place
- Nicolas Batum - 8.4%, 8th Place
- Trevon Graham - 6.2%, 22nd Place
- Malik Monk - 4.2%, 37th Place
Smith would be an interesting prospect for the Hornets to consider at #11 because of his his ability to rebound and block shots on the defensive end. However, Smith’s potential depends on whether he improves his offensive game.
Chandler Hutchinson: SF, Boise State (6’7, 195)
Much like Melvin Frazier, Chandler Hutchinson could become the first player from the Boise State to get drafted in a 1st Round of an NBA Draft and could be the first Bronco men’s basketball player taken since Roberto Bergersen was selected by the Atlanta Hawks in 1999 with the 52nd overall pick.
Hutchinson spent four years at Boise State and ended on a strong note. Playing 31minutes per game, Hutchinson averaged 20.0 points, shot 47.5 percent from the floor and 35.9 percent from distance, and averaged 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
Hutchinson had several strong scoring performances in his senior year, scoring in double figures in all but three games. His highlight reel game came on January 13th in the Broncos, 83-80, victory over San Diego State. Hutchinson recorded 44 points on 15-for-21 shooting and 7-for-10 from 3. Seen in the highlights below, Hutchinson has the ability to score from the outside, attack in transition, and he also is a dynamic passing guard as well.