It is March. It is the time of year when college basketball takes center stage in the sports world. Since we’ll all be tuning in, why not get an idea of what prospects to watch in case they find themselves in a Hornets uniform next year?
The Hornets currently sit at the eleventh pick, so we’re going to look at mock drafts through that lens. With that, let’s go.
ESPN: Coby White, G, UNC
White came to UNC as the less heralded of two highly rated recruits, but he’s established himself as the better NBA prospect. He’s got prototypical size for a guard and he has the skills to play either guard position.
He’s averaging 16.3 points, 4.2 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game while hitting 36% of his threes on a high volume. He’s also an 81% free throw shooter, which bodes well for his chances to become a good shooter at the NBA level. From ESPN’s breakdown:
But White’s ability to shoot off the dribble and generate offense out of ball screens make him extremely appealing in today’s NBA. He’s ultra-aggressive and confident, putting pressure on the rim with excellent open-court speed and showing little fear pulling up from deep. He does a great job of splitting screens with burst and changes of direction, and he’s showing more comfort finishing with either hand around the rim. He’s showed better feet and physicality defensively than we’ve seen from him in the past, too.
Tankathon: Sekou Doumbouya, F, International
Doumbouya is extraordinarily young for an NBA prospect- he won’t turn 19 until December. Along with that, he has the prototypical size and athleticism for an NBA combo forward.
I don’t really know much about his game, and it’s hard to find much about a guy who plays in the French League. I do know he’s not a shooter, as he’s hit less than 30% of his 3-pointers this season.
NBA Draft Net: Nassir Little, F, UNC
The second UNC prospect to make this roundup, which makes sense considering the abundance of Tar Heels ties around this franchise since Michael Jordan took over. Little was a more heralded prospect than his aforementioned teammate, but he’s struggled to find his footing playing for Roy Williams. He’s playing under 19 minutes per game and his only averaging 9.4 points per contest. Stealing from ESPN’s report on him:
He figures to really help himself in workouts -- as he’s likely to post Kawhi Leonard-like measurements while showing he has more skill than he flashed in college -- and impress in interviews. A fresh start will be good for Little, who came into the season with sky-high expectations and simply hasn’t gotten comfortable. But there’s no question that even some of Little’s biggest fans in NBA front offices are skeptical of using a high pick on him.
Basketball Insiders: Nassir Little, F, UNC
See above. It’s the same player.
Sports Illustrated: Kevin Porter Jr., G, USC
I’ll share author Jeremy Woo’s reasoning for this pick:
Porter quietly showed signs of progress toward the end of the season and continues to entice NBA brass with what many believe is star potential, although expectations are realistic and tempered. Some teams will stay away based on concerns about Porter’s maturity level and approach to the game, but others are heavily intrigued by his ability. Ideally, he’d land in a low-pressure environment with veterans around him to help with the transition. In what’s shaping up as an underwhelming lottery, don’t expect Porter to slip too much further than this. The Hornets need an infusion of talent, and could be a soft landing spot.
The Athletic: Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga
He’s a straight 4 man right now with potential to be more of a small-ball 5 if his game doesn’t really expand as a shooter, but there is potential there. He’s only taken one 3-pointer per game, but he’s made them at 46.9 percent. He needs to up the volume, but there is real starpower here if Hachimura an develop the shot.
Hachimura has grown by leaps and bounds every year he’s been at Gonzaga. He didn’t start playing basketball until junior high in Japan, so there’s probably more untapped potential there than is typical for a 21-year-old junior.
Other names to keep an eye on that are mocked around the Hornets pick and could play prominent roles in the tournament:
- Jarrett Culver, SG, Texas Tech
- Brandon Clarke, PF/C, Gonzaga
- Keldon Johnson, F, Kentucky
- Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G/F, Virginia Tech
- De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia
- Tyler Herro, G, Kentucky
It’s weird. A lot of the guys projected to go in that 7-to-12 range play for college teams that missed the tournament, like Romeo Langford with Indiana and Jaxson Hayes with Texas.