The Charlotte Hornets two-way contract players did not live up to expectations last season. Point guard and Carolina Tarheel favorite Marcus Paige wasn’t able to become a meaningful facilitator during his time in both Greensboro and Charlotte. The other signing, Mangok Mathiang, showed that he will never quite develop any sort of outside game. As a result of all this, both players were cut from their respective contracts this offseason.
The Hornets already filled Paige’s spot with former Xavier point guard J.P Macura. He has the size at 6’5” and deep shooting range to potentially become a solid 6th man off the bench sometime in the future.
As for the other slot, that is still up for grabs.
What the Hornets need from that slot is a two-way big. Having already signed Macura, it doesn’t make much sense for the team to add yet another point guard into the mix. The team also have a logjam at the wing position as they currently have five players who can reasonably play either the shooting guard or small forward position.
In reality, the team needs someone who can be complimentary pieces to one of the team’s one-dimensional frontcourt players. Either provide defense for a liability in Frank Kaminsky, or help spread the floor for a non-shooter in Cody Zeller.
Of course, the main focus when looking at a potential two-way signings is his age. Ideally, the Hornets should sign someone no more than 25 years old, so they can continue to develop their game before they reach their prime.
With all that said, here are realistic options that the Hornets should look at to sign as the other two-way player.
Nuni Omot was one of my favorite underdog storylines heading into the 2018 NBA draft. He was a refugee in Ethiopia and emigrated to the US in 1996. There, he had to play Junior College basketball since he wasn’t offered any DI scholarships. After a brief stint at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa, he was able to transfer to Baylor University.
That will and determination that Omot showed in the real world emulated on the basketball court.
At 6’9 with a seven-foot wingspan, Omot has the size of an average NBA center, but he uses his height to be a hybrid-forward. This helps to create mismatches amongst opposing forwards on the offensive end. He has an impressive contested shot game, and although universally known as a bad shot selection, Omot has proven to be an excellent shooter with a man in his face.
His 3-point shot is his calling card. Last year, he ranked 5th in the Big 12 in 3-point percentage at 43. That isn’t a small sample size either, as he hoisted up 3.5 3-pointers a game. This shot allows him to play the power forward as he can provided much-needed spacing to his Baylor team.
On a side note, he is also credited for the best poster in NCAA history.
The main areas that have scared teams away from him are his defense and turnovers.
At only 205 pounds, Omot has been known to get bodied down low by opposing players, which causes his interior defense to be lackluster.
He also has an atrocious turnover percentage of 16.3. That is obviously a major hiccup that he needs to fix in order to become situated in an NBA offense.
In the end, Omot is a raw prospect who, with developmental time, could become a positionless X-factor for a team.
Pro Comparison: Dorian Finney-Smith with a jump shot
Luke Petrasek is the only one on this list who has been apart of the Hornets G League affiliate, the Greensboro Swarm. As a result, his “household name” is one of the motives behind GM Mitch Kupchak’s decision to sign him to a training camp deal with the team.
Petrasek is an ideal stretch big that you need in the NBA. At 6’10 with a 7’3 wingspan, he has a clear height advantage over the majority of league defenders. This allows to be a lethal scorer in all three areas of the halfcourt. With his signature lefty jump shot, he has managed to become a true focal point from 3. Last year, he shot 35 percent from 3 while taking a staggering four per game for the Swarm. Petrasek isn’t bad in the rebounding department, either. Last season in the G League, his defensive rebound percentage was intriguing at 20.5.
That’s why a potential pairing between him and Hornets big man Frank Kaminsky could be lethal. Although the defense may be vulnerable, which I’ll elaborate later, having two outside shooters who are 6’10”+ could bring the Hornets back to its moderately successful days of Kaminsky and Spencer Hawes.
Of course, just like every other young stretch big, Petrasek main weakness is his defense. His height, which gives him a great presence in the paint, causes him to be a liability on defense outside of that area. Especially in the perimeter, Petrasek has been seen as slow-footed and not having the ability to switch effectively nor stop an open cutter from the outside.
At only 23 years old, Petrasek has time to develop his defensive efficiency. If he can, expect him to get a real shot at the Hornets rotation come next season.
Pro Comparison: Ersan Ilyasova
Cameron Oliver, to be it simply, has been a diamond in the rough.
After having a sophomore season at Nevada which saw him score 16 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, he went undrafted in 2017. From there, he showcased an impressive G League stat line of 10.8 points and 7.1 rebounds a night.
Olivier has everything you want on offense. He is a proven above-average mid-range shooter as he’s able to rise up and drain from 14 feet. At the 3-point line, he has been able to knock it down, shooting 34 percent in the G-League and 37 percent in college.
Athleticism is also a big part of his offense. He has a unique ability to catch lobs from either the halfcourt or transition. This athleticism is also used for cutting inside after a PnR, which most of the time leads to highlight reel dunks.
On the defensive end, Oliver’s question marks begin to show. He has been an incredible shot-blocker as his stature of 6’9, 239 pounds, allows him to reach up amongst the trees and swat away potential buckets.
The main problem is that he has been, at times, over aggressive and relies on shot blocking too often. As a result, he has become a regular victim to pump fakes and other post maneuvers in the paint.
If he’s able to fix that aspect of his game, (mind you, he’s only 22), then the Hornets may have a real 3-and-D player on their hands at the four slot. A pairing with him and rookie Miles Bridges should both effective and as well as entertaining as the two have a knack of hitting an outside shot while also having sensational athleticism.
Given the choice of these three players, I would choose Olivier. Oliver is what the Hornets wanted out of former player Johnny O’Bryant III and couldn’t get. A guy who has a touch on all levels of the floor while having his main priority be on the defensive end.
He can become a truly reliable option for the Hornets in the upcoming years if he continues to develop on defense.
Which player would you want the Hornets to sign to a two-way deal?
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