The Charlotte Hornets have made it very obvious in recent drafts that they value versatility and positional play making with all of their draft picks. With both Malik Monk and Devonte’ Graham entering free agency, the Hornets have room to add another combo guard to fill out their bench.
Jason Preston fits that need and brings the positional versatility that the Hornets covet. On top of that, he’s one of the best stories in this draft, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone that’s easier to root for. Preston averaged two points per game for his entire high school career and had no aspirations to even play college basketball after that. After some strong play on the summer circuit after his senior year, he eventually went to prep school, where he was able to put together enough of a highlight reel to garner some interest from Ohio University. He joined the Bobcats and eventually developed into an NBA caliber prospect over his three year career.
Preston has the size and skill to play either guard spot. He ran point at Ohio, but he measures 6’3” without shoes with a 6’8” wingspan, meaning he should be able to share the floor with another point guard without sacrificing positional size.
Preston’s main NBA skill is his passing and overall offensive creativity. He averaged 7.2 assists per game as a junior, good for sixth in the NCAA. He’s lethal in the pick and roll in the half court, particularly as a distributor. He creates passing angles with deliberate, slithering ball handling and has a knack for unleashing passes with perfect timing and perfect touch. That same creativity shows itself in the open court and when he gets moving against scrambling defenses. He’s unselfish in transition, frequently delivering hit-ahead passes and finding open shooters filling the lanes.
Preston’s outside shooting should allow him to function off the ball as well. He has terrific range on his jumper, particularly off the catch, and he shot around 40% from three in his final two seasons at Ohio. His release looks somewhat unorthodox, but it’s compact and repeatable, and most importantly, it works.
Preston is a good positional rebounder and is generally a high effort player. He averaged 7.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game in his final season. He’s not a gifted athlete and he can struggle defending at the point of attack, but he makes plays and tries hard.
Jason Preston’s athleticism has the potential to be a significant limiting factor on his effectiveness as an NBA player. He doesn’t have great burst with the ball in his hands, which makes it difficult for him to get by defenders in isolation situations. He frequently settles into backing down his defender and putting up tough floaters instead of getting all the way to the rim. He wasn’t the most prolific scorer at Ohio, so it’s hard to imagine that’ll change against bigger, more athletic competition in the NBA.
His lack of explosiveness hurts him defensively as well. He’s prone to getting blown by and will probably struggle to stay in front of starting NBA point guards. He has good length to be disruptive off ball and on the glass, but it might not be enough to counter his below average foot speed.
Jason Preston’s scouting report isn’t unlike LaMelo Ball’s coming into the NBA. They are both incredibly instinctual, creative passers that rebound very well from the point guard spot. Both have somewhat unorthodox shooting mechanics that serve them well. Ball sets himself apart as a ball handler and shot creator out of isolation situations, but Preston profiles as a sort of diet off-brand version of Ball. They even have similar hair. They’d be a joyful backcourt pairing with their play making and creativity.