The Charlotte Hornets are loaded with UNC connections. Chairman Michael Jordan, General Manager Mitch Kupchak, and Assistant General Manager Buzz Peterson all attended school and played basketball at Chapel Hill. The team spending two lottery picks on UNC teammates Raymond Felton and Sean May back in 2005 has stuck in the team’s reputation for 14 years. Combine those two, and you get a lot of people assuming Nassir Little is a lock for the Hornets’ first selection.
Height: 6’4.5” without shoes, 6’6” in shoes
Standing reach: 8’8.5”
Weight: 224 pounds
Vertical: 31” no step, 38.5” maximum
Strengths: Physical profile, defensive potential, shooting potential
Nassir Little is a prototype combo forward. He’s a little on the short side at 6’6” in shoes, but he has a tremendous 7’1.25” wingspan, a strong frame, and terrific athleticism. His physical tools give him the potential to be a menace on the boards and on the defensive end of the floor. He averaged 10.1 rebounds per 40 minutes at UNC, a very strong number for a forward. Those rebounds included a number of tip slams and impressive offensive rebounds in traffic. His 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per 40 minutes are both respectable, and he has the tools to improve on those numbers as he gains experience and refines his technique. He’s also a highlight reel lob threat on back door cuts and in transition.
Little struggled to shoot from outside during his lone collegiate season, but he has the foundation to be a strong shooter. His form is very good, and he shot a very respectable 77% from the free throw line. He has apparently shot very well throughout the pre-draft process, which explains his rise up mock drafts over the last week or two. And despite the shooting struggles in college, Little still averaged 21.5 points per 40 minutes, so he knows how to find ways to put the ball in the basket.
Question marks: Feel for the game, ball handling/shot creation
The number one criticism I’ve heard of Little from UNC fans on social media (a super reliable source, I know) is that he looked lost for most of the season. He came into the season as a top ten recruit, but never found his footing as freshman and was limited to just 18 minutes per game. He never had the impact his talent level would suggest and posted poor advanced metrics. He posted a 0.5 assist to turnover ratio and posted a meager assist rate relative to his usage. He committed a hefty 3.6 fouls per 40 minutes despite playing as a hybrid forward.
Little is not an advanced shot creator for himself or for others. His lack of feel for the game comes into play here as well. His handle is loose, and it even looks a little unnatural in his workouts. He’s not dynamic enough of a dribbler to get to the basket in isolation situations and doesn’t change directions or speeds very well. He might be limited to an athletic 3&D player at the NBA level.
Little has the tools to form an athletic and physically imposing forward duo with Miles Bridges, but his lack of feel could limit the impact he has. The Hornets have shown interest in Little, bringing him in for one of the one million workouts they’ve hosted, so there’s a real chance he’ll be a Hornet in a couple days.