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Hornets mock draft round-up, version 1

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With the season just about halfway over, we take our first look at some prospects that could be Hornets this time next year.

NBA: NBA Draft Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018-19 season is just about halfway done. The Charlotte Hornets have been stuck in a battle for one of the lower seeds in the East for most of this season. With Kemba Walker’s free agency upcoming and no cap space to speak of, the draft is the easiest avenue on which general manager Mitch Kupchak can improve the team. If things hold true to form, the Hornets will pick just outside of the lottery. Below are some names to keep an eye on.

(Note that for any mock drafts that don’t have teams assigned to picks, we’re going with the player ranked at the Hornets’ current draft slot.)

ESPN: Bol Bol, C, Oregon

The news that Bol is undergoing season has impacted his perceived draft stock, at least for now. Brian Windhorst reports that many NBA general managers see the 19-year-old going in the top ten despite the obvious concerns that come with big men and foot injuries.

...In canvassing the league over the past few days, teams remain very high on Bol. While they all have to wait for the medical exams in the spring, a handful of executives said they could still see him going in the top 10 in June.

Bol was having an incredible freshman season before the injury. In nine games, he averaged 21.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks while shooting a staggering 52.0% on nearly three 3-point attempts per game. His ball handling, shooting, and mobility are all incredible for a kid standing 7’2”.

Tankathon: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech

Standing 6’5” with a 6’9” wingspan and weighing in at 210 pounds, Alexander-Walker fits the prototype of an NBA wing. He’s a a versatile defender and can fill it up on offense. This season, he’s averaging 17.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 2.2 steals per game while shooting 54.6% from the field and and 42.4% from three. His advanced stats are through the roof. Just look at this breakdown from Tankathon.

NBA Draft Net: Daniel Gafford, C/PF, Arkansas

Gafford would have been a borderline lottery pick had he come out after last season, but he elected to return for his sophomore season at Arkansas. His block numbers are down, but his shooting efficiency, scoring, and rebounding are all up. He falls into the Clint Capela mold of bouncy rim-protecting, vertical-spacing centers. He has no jump shot to speak of and hasn’t been a good free throw shooter, but there is always room in the league for guys that can finish in the pick and roll and protect the paint.

Basketball Insiders: Jaylen Hoard, SF/PF, Wake Forest

Depending on where you look, Hoard is projected to go anywhere from the mid teens to the second round, if he even declares at all. In 14 games for the Demon Deacons, he’s averaged 15.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. He’s a versatile defender and an adept scorer around the basket, but his outside shooting is still a work in progress (19.2% 3-point shooter).

Sports Illustrated: KZ Okpala, SF, Stanford

Sports Illustrated’s rankings aren’t based on the teams at the current draft spot. Okpala is fifteenth in their rankings, which is where the Hornets would pick if the season ended today. From their rankings:

A toolsy wing player with a clean-looking jumper, Okpala continues to trend upward, and justifiably so—he’s rebounded from an iffy freshman season, and it doesn’t appear he’ll have to hang around college much longer. He’s very slender and has to continue filling out, but has done a lot of growing dating back to high school and has retained some of his point guard skills, including strong vision as a passer. Okpala’s shooting and offensive feel bode well, and coupled with his length and ability to switch screens on the other end, there’s plenty of untapped upside here. After beginning the season as more of a curiosity, he’s become a strong bet for the first round.

The 6’8” sophomore is averaging 17.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.1 assists for the Cardinal this season while shooting over 45% from deep. All of those are significantly up from his freshman season, so it appears he still has plenty of growing to do as a player.