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Draft & stash options for the Hornets at 56 & 57 in the 2021 NBA Draft

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With two very late second-round picks, Mitch Kupchak and Co. could be looking at international players that won’t take up a roster spot right away

The Charlotte Hornets have three picks in the upcoming NBA Draft; the 11th pick which understandably is the focus of most discussions, but they also hold the 56th and 57th pick. Charlotte unfortunately traded their own 2021 second round pick away (42nd) in the Willy Hernangomez trade, the last swing of the bat from the Rich Cho era.

So how did Charlotte end up with two very late seconds? The 56th pick from the LA Clippers was one of the picks Charlotte picked up from the Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - Miles Bridges trade. The 57th pick was sent from Brooklyn as part of the Dwight Howard/Timofey Mozgov trades. Looking back it’s hard not to think Charlotte were a little unlucky both picks fell so late in the draft, at the time of the trade both Brooklyn and LA were middling NBA teams, few could have foreseen Kawhi/George to LA and KD/Irving/Harden to the Nets.

In reality the likelihood of finding an NBA rotation player late in the draft is very slim. Below I’ve listed a total of 8 players who were in an NBA rotation last year and selected in the 50-60 range over the past five draft.

Abdel Nader (58th 2016)

Georges Niang (50th 2016)

Monte Morris (51st 2017)

Edmond Sumner (52nd 2017)

Alize Johnson (50th 2018)

Shake Milton (54th 2018)

Jalen McDaniels (52nd 2019)

Kenyon Martin Jr (52nd 2020)

There is some argument to be made here that Charlotte have found the knack of finding guys late in the draft who contribute. However, looking forward to the 2021-22 season the real challenge is roster spots, Charlotte currently has 10 players likely to return next year, but that doesn’t include the 11th pick, Monk, Graham or any free agency center additions. Adding two second round picks to the central roster does create some challenges for team building and free agency, there’s also a chance both two way contracts are taken by Darling/Riller, so what options do the Hornets have?

  1. Package 56 and 57 to trade up for a higher second round pick to select one player.
  2. Trading one or both picks away for a future pick or low end rotation player
  3. Draft & Stash - Select a player who will play overseas until they are ready to come over to the NBA.

The final option listed above is most likely, as finding a trade partner for option 1 and 2 could be a challenge, other teams know the hit rates for the late 50s picks are low so why would they trade for them? The majority of NBA fans spillover into college basketball so are at least familiar with most of the guys in the draft, but the international players are often a mystery unless you take the time to dig into them. Luckily for you, both James and Chase have already done that for you and are here to inform you about six potential draft and stash candidates.

EDIT - The original article featured Ibou Badji (C -Senegal) and Ariel Hukporti (C - Germany) but following the international player deadline on the 19th of July both opted to withdraw their name from the draft and will look to re-enter in 2022.

Juhann Begarin (French) - SG/SF - Paris Basketball (Pro B)

2020 NBA All-Star - BWB Camp Photo by Nicole Sweet/NBAE via Getty Images

Physical Profile: 6’6” - 215lb - 7’0” wingspan - 8’9” Standing Reach

Stats 20/21: 27mpg 12ppg 3.5rpg 3apg 1.3spg 0.5blk 2.4to - FG 46% 3PFG 34% FT 61%

Strengths - Begarin has a good combination of size, speed, length and athleticism for a wing player. He loves to get out and run in transition using a pretty functional handle to get to the rim and finish. He plays with physicality defensively pressuring the ball forcing turnovers and using his length to influence defenders with some highlight chasedown blocks. Despite a worrying FT% he’s shown flashes of being able to shoot from deep, his mechanics look pretty clean. He’s not a lead guard, but shows flashes to make plays for others showcasing an overall well rounded game.

Weaknesses - If he’s not in transition he struggles to influence the game offensively, teams often go under and dare him to shoot. You might look at his 34% and think that’s okay but a lot of those shots are wide open, judging by his FT% he’s still a work in progress on that end. He has struggled to really impose himself, he’s only playing in the second division of France and didn’t stand out while participating in the G-League combine. Off ball he’s a non-factor and often just watches his teammates, he has potential to be a good cutter but he’s not shown that as of yet.

Rokas Jokubaitis (Lithuania) - Guard - Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuanian League + EuroLeague)

Zalgiris Kaunas v Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv - Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Photo by Alius Koroliovas/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Physical Profile: 6’3” - 195lb - Wingspan & Standing Reach Unknown

Stats 20/21: 20mpg 7.5ppg 1.7rpg 3.4apg 0.7stl 0blk 1.4to - FG 46% 3PFG 35% FT 72%

Strengths - Jokubaitis is a difficult scout, his best position by far is point guard but he’s often been relegated to a secondary role. However, he has a strong feel for the game, and excels in the pick and roll game. He uses his tight handle and clever fakes to manipulate the defense and create shots for others. He’s not a great shooter by any means, but gets to his mid-range pull up at a good rate and has experience spacing the floor for others playing off ball too.

Weaknesses - Jokubaitis is a poor athlete even by European standards, he struggles defensively and could be a liability in the NBA. Despite his pull up two, he’s mostly a spot up three point shooter which as a lead ball handler doesn’t excite you. Will his high BBIQ enable him to overcome the challenges of NBA size and length? How will he stay on the court defensively? Will he ever shoot the ball to a level that NBA teams have to go over on screens? Those are all real questions Jokubaitis will need to answer, from what I understand he’s not in the US for the pre-draft process so teams will have to trust the tape.

Santi Aldama (Spain) - Big - Loyola University Maryland Greyhounds (Patriot League)

NCAA Basketball: Patriot League Conference Championship- Loyola-Maryland vs Colgate Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Physical Profile: 6’11” - 215lbs - 7’1” wingspan - standing reach unknown

Stats 20/21: 35.0 MPG, 21.2 PTS, 10.1 REB, 2.3 AST, 3.2 TOV - 51.3% FG/36.8% 3P/68.6% FT

Strengths - Throughout his career as a basketball player, Santi Aldama has played like a man amongst boys on the court. He was named MVP of the 2019 U18 FIBA European Championship playing for Spain alongside Usman Garuba and has since dominated the Patriot League at Loyola-Maryland. As a 6-foot-11 forward/center, he shot career marks of 30.6 percent from long-range on 6.5 3PA per-40 minutes with some impressive range and movement shooting flashes for a big. His verticality and high motor make for decent rim protection even if he’s thin; Aldama blocked 2.0 shots per-40 in college.

Weaknesses - As much as Aldama’s production has been a strength, there are questions as to whether he’d be able to excel to the same degree when his usage rate inevitably drops from near-30 percent. While he is able to handle the ball and make plays for himself and others in transition, his decision-making in the halfcourt leaves some to be desired for a player that has so much offense ran through him — however, that’s not to say he doesn’t have some feel and flair as a passer. Two-hundred sixteen pounds isn’t as skinny for an NBA big as it used to be but he’s not quite there yet in terms of his upper-body frame.

Vrenz Bleijenbergh (Belgium) - Point Forward - Antwerp Giants (Belgian League)

BASKET EUROMILLIONS LEAGUE D8 ANTWERP GIANTS VS MONS HAINAUT Photo by JASPER JACOBS/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

Physical Profile: 6’11” - 170lbs - 7’1” wingspan - standing reach unknown

Stats 20/21: 23.9 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 3.1 REB, 2.1 AST, 1.8 TO - 43.4% FG/37.5% 3P/52.6% FT

Strengths - The strengths in Vrenz Bleijenbergh’s game are not that of the typical 6-foot-11 forward; Bleijenbergh projects as an off-the-dribble shot creator and pick-and-roll operator with loads of offensive versatility. He has the potential to play as both the screener and ball-handler in pick-and-rolls with his elite size and top-end speed, and his passing and decision-making are sound for a player his age — he has an extensive repertoire of one-handed passes and some really impressive ability to make reads off the dribble. The space he creates on step-back and side-step jumpers makes his length and touch even more potent as he can shoot over nearly any defender.

Weaknesses - First and foremost, Bleijenbergh needs to add some pounds — his size will help him get by at the start, but the rigors of the NBA will surely take its toll on a player that’s well under 200 pounds but nearly 7 feet tall. Despite being a good decision-maker with feel for the game, his handle is pretty loose and the ball gets poked away from him easily, especially in traffic. As a defender, most of his issues will revolve around his strength (ironic for his “weaknesses” section) and limited explosiveness but he is an all-around smart basketball player.

Amar Sylla (Senegal) - Forward - Filou Oostende (Belgian League)

BASKET EUROMILLIONS LEAGUE D3 OOSTENDE VS CHARLEROI Photo by JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

Physical Profile: 6’9.25” - 196lbs - 7’2.25” wingspan - 8’10” standing reach

Stats 20/21: 20.3 MPG, 8.7 PTS, 5.7 REB, 0.6 AST, 1.2 TO - 49.8% FG/17.1% 3P/66.2% FT

Strengths - For as raw as Amar Sylla is, he’s got excellent mobility on the perimeter, coordination on drives and solid footwork in the paint. Utilizing his speed and length, he’s a solid finisher around the rim and has displayed offensive feel in the paint; the majority of his floor game has room to grow but leaves some to be desired at this point, though. High motor and athleticism help cover up for a lack of polish and efficiency. Sylla has garnered comparison to a young, raw version of Pascal Siakam or Jerami Grant with his mobility, speed, fluid hips, leaping ability and energy off-ball.

Weaknesses - Sylla is a non-shooter and he’s not a threat to convert at the line if teams get physical with him inside. He’s only 196 pounds so that’s an obvious reason why and he’ll need to get much bigger in the NBA to be able to play inside, but he’s also a limited ball-handler when he’s not in the open court and struggles to create offense outside of athletic hustle plays, transition opportunities and cuts toward the rim. With a decent foundation of touch, feel and size, there’s plenty for Sylla to build on in the NBA.