When we did our last 2020 Hornets NBA mock draft roundup on Jan. 16, they were slotted anywhere between the fifth and eighth spot in the lottery. On the back of five and eight-game losing streaks since then, the Hornets have solidified themselves as contenders for the coveted top-three, where all teams have an equal percent-chance to select #1 overall.
Where exactly the Hornets’ lottery odds are at the end of the year is beyond me; but I think it’s fair to assume they’ll be no worse than sixth. The team in seventh, Washington, has a two-win advantage (or disadvantage) on the Hornets, and it’s unlikely that ground is made up due to the Hornets’ recent tumble. Charlotte is slotted sixth in each of the following mock drafts. Let’s see what the “““Experts””” have to say.
6. Charlotte Hornets: G Tyrese Haliburton
Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 175 lbs.
Draft Age: 20.31 years
Iowa State: 15.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 6.5 apg, 0.7 bpg, 2.5 spg
Tyrese Haliburton has no position. He is simply a basketball player. Before his season ended with a fractured left wrist last Saturday, he was arguably the best passer in the entire country. His decision-making is stellar, he can execute any kind of pass (jump passes, kick-outs, wrap-arounds) from any spot on the floor, he defends any position 1-3, all while hitting 41.9% of his threes on five attempts per game. His TS% is 63.1, showing that he can score efficiently from anywhere on the floor. He also has a 7-foot wingspan. Haliburton has the prized Chase Whitney Seal of Approval.
6. Charlotte Hornets: F Deni Avdija
Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 215 lbs.
Draft Age: 19.46 years
Maccabi Tel Aviv: 7.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.7 apg, 0.7 bpg, 0.4 spg
Deni Avdija is a hot name within draft circles right now. Per The Observer’s Rick Bonnell, the Hornets’ scouting department has spent it’s fair share of time overseas this season scouting the 19-year-old forward from Israel. Avdija is best described as a multi-positional playmaker, both on the ball and off, with an unusually-high basketball IQ for someone his age. He’s been a professional with Maccabi Tel Aviv since 2017, and is a crucial role-player for them this season as they currently sit at fifth in the EuroLeague standings. That type of competitive experience is invaluable to a young player transitioning to the the NBA. The Hornets don’t have a player with a similar archetype to Avdija, who has potential defensive versatility coupled with a unique offensive skillset, so it makes some sense for the Hornets to be honing in on him at this stage.
6. Charlotte Hornets: C James Wiseman
Ht./Wt.: 7-1, 237 lbs.
Draft Age: 19.22 years
Memphis (three games): 19.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 0.3 apg, 3.0 bpg, 0.3 spg
James Wiseman is going to be a good basketball player, but we can insert the randyjacksonthatsanofrommedawg.gif here. The Hornets spending a high lottery pick on a center who cannot shoot threes and whose main impact comes from post-ups (the least efficient way to score in today’s NBA) against smaller, less-athletic players would not be wise. Sure, Wiseman will “wow” us with the athleticism and rim protection. But, he played just three games against NCAA-level athletes before being (wrongly) suspended by the NCAA and ultimately leaving Memphis, and he got bullied in the paint by Oregon’s Francis Okoro in their one matchup with a Power-5 conference team. Picking Wiseman at sixth overall is like picking a young Hassan Whiteside or Clint Capela with slightly less upside. That’s not worth it, to me. There are bigs on the board that will be available with the Cavs’ second-round pick that the Hornets own, and the value is much better at that point.
6. Charlotte Hornets: G Killian Hayes
Ht./Wt.: 6-5, 185 lbs.
Draft Age: 18.9 years
Ratiopharm Ulm: 10.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 5.1 apg, 0.3 bpg, 1.4 spg
Killian Hayes, an overseas prospect from France, is a crafty ball-handler at the guard spot that can score off the dribble in a variety of ways. A team can never have too many playmakers, but adding a combo guard in Hayes to a nucleus that already has three combo guards in Devonte’ Graham, Terry Rozier and Malik Monk seems redundant. However, the Hornets are not in a position to draft for need over talent, so if Hayes is the highest-graded player on their board when they’re on the clock, they have to pick him. With a 6’8” wingspan, he has the length to defend up a position if he builds strength. He’s not a great 3-point shooter at this stage, and it seems like he’s a better shooter on the move than he is from a stand-still. Regardless, Hayes is a prospect for Hornets fans to keep their eye on. He’s really young, already a pro, and has been steadily improving with ratiopharm Ulm in Germany.
6. Charlotte Hornets: C Onyeka Okongwu
Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 245 lbs.
Draft Age: 19.52
USC: 16.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.1 apg, 3.0 bpg, 1.1 spg
I’m not sure how many of you are active followers of NBA Draft Twitter, but Cosmis is among the most trusted of sources in that arena. And as a card-holding member of the Oneyka Hive, all I have to say is; thank you, Cosmis. I will speak “Onyeka to the Hornets” into existence. If the pick is going to be a big man, Okongwu is the guy. 6’9” is no longer “undersized” for a center, and even if it were, he has a 7’1” wingspan to make up for it. His frame is NBA-ready, he has a defensive IQ well beyond his years, his mobility and change-of-direction are excellent for a big man, and he finishes around the rim at an extremely high efficiency with both hands from either low block. He can take bigger, slower centers off the dribble. The only things missing are playmaking ability (which should come with more exposure to double-teams and traps) and a 3-point shot (which could come at some point, his catch-and-shoot from the baseline and elbows is decently fluid). He racks up an insane 4.9 stocks (steals and blocks combined) per 36 minutes. The Hornets have a black hole on the defensive interior right now, and Okongwu would instantly plug that if he were to be their draft pick.
It should also be noted that Cosmis has Jalen McDaniels, a freshman forward from Washington and the younger brother of Hornets forward Jalen McDaniels, going to Charlotte via Cleveland with the 32nd pick in the draft. Jaden is more of a wing than Jalen, but he isn’t as much of a shooter. It would be pretty cool for the Hornets to have Cody and Caleb Martin along with Jalen and Jaden McDaniels. Maybe they could sell Giannis Antetokounmpo on coming to Charlotte in 2021 by signing all of his brothers with him. Lastly, Cosmis mocked Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans to Charlotte via Boston with the 55th pick. The Hornets do kinda need a backup point guard, but the late-second round is a crapshoot at this point.
That should be all of the newly-released NBA mock drafts. I’m patiently waiting for SBNation’s Ricky O’Donnell to update his own mock draft, and I’ll re-post this if/when he does so. Let us know what you guys think about the current mocked selections and which prospects you have your eyes on for the Hornets.