Expectations for the Charlotte Hornets this season are super low. The over/under for the team’s win total is set at 23.5 by most sports books, the lowest in the NBA. But with low on court expectations come dreams of future grandeur. Bad teams get high draft picks, obviously, and the Hornets have a chance to be the worst of the worst.
If they’re not bad, we can enjoy the pleasant surprise of a young team galvanizing around a superstar-less core to shock the world. If they are bad, well, that’s what we expected, and now we have the draft to look forward to. When draft day comes, you’ll want to know about the prospects on the table for the Hornets. How do you do that? You follow them throughout the season. Here are a few names to keep an eye on.
The college kids
James Wiseman, Center, Memphis
Andrew Waters covered Wiseman in detail last month. You can read that here. In short, Wiseman looks like a defensive beast with a burgeoning offensive skill set. The NBA is moving away from bigs, but Wiseman may be special enough to overcome that trend.
Cole Anthony, Guard, UNC
Anthony is going to get plenty of airtime in the Hornets media market while playing for the Tar Heels this season. The son of former NBA player and current TV analyst Greg Anthony is an explosive, aggressive scoring guard with tremendous potential on both ends of the floor.
Anthony Edwards, Guard, Georgia
Edwards made the interesting decision of staying close to home and attending a non-perennial power in Georgia despite being one of the top recruits coming out of high school. Edwards is a physical, skilled combo guard that can score from anywhere on the floor.
Nico Mannion, Guard, Arizona
Mannion is the quintessential modern NBA point guard. He has decent size and athleticism to go along with a terrific balance of play making and scoring. He’s a three level scorer who will share time in the back court with Josh Green, another highly touted prospect who didn’t quite make the cut of players getting their names bolded in this article.
Jaden McDaniels, Forward, Washington
The brother of Hornets second round pick Jalen McDaniels, Jaden joins the Washington Huskies as the top prospect coming out of the state of Washington. He’s built like his brother, long and lanky, and boasts a decent combination of length and skill. He’s not as far along in his development as most of these other prospects, but he’s been given the ever-intriguing ‘potential’ label.
Scottie Lewis, Wing, Florida
Lewis is this year’s high-motor athlete that’s projected to go in the lottery based on defense and explosiveness. His offensive game is still a work in progress, but if he shows refinement on that area of the floor, he could vault to the top part of the lottery.
Other notables: Precious Achiuwa (Memphis), Isaiah Stewart (Washington), Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky)
RJ Hampton, Guard, New Zealand Breakers
Hampton decided to skip college to go pro straight out of high school. He’s part of the Australian NBL’s Next Stars Program, a program that intends to develop young NBA hopefuls that don’t want to go to college or deal with the NCAA. Hampton has few holes in his game from a basketball standpoint, but he’s still maturing physically.
Deni Avdija, Wing, Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel)
Avdija is a 6’9” positionless player with a mean streak. He’s coming off a summer in which he won MVP of the FIBA U20 European Championships. In his seven games during that tournament, Avdija averaged 18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.4 blocks, and 2.1 steals per game. Decent.
Theo Maledon, Guard, ASVEL (France)
Maledon is a big combo guard that is currently best suited as a distributor. He has good instincts and plus potential on both ends of the floor, especially if he can perfect his outside shot.
Lamelo Ball, Guard, Illawarra (Australia)
Yes, we’re going there. Ball joins Hampton in the Next Stars Program after a tumultuous amateur career. He wowed scouts at the NBL’s preseason tournament, bettering the NBL’s reigning defensive player of the year and putting up crazy stat lines. He still has a lot of maturing to do physically and people are naturally going to be skeptical of his ability to play within a team concept given his history, but he’s getting a lot of buzz early on in the process. It would help if he followed his brother Lonzo’s lead in distancing himself from his father regarding basketball matters.