Predicting what the Charlotte Hornets will do with the 11th pick is a chore.
That’s because that pick appears to fall just below a stratum in this process. It’s easy to predict who the first five players will be, in some order, and not dramatically harder to project the top 10.
And then … who knows. The Hornets would be fortunate if one of five top point guards manages to last past Sacramento’s 10th pick. Short of that, the Hornets might have an interesting choice between talented wings with area ties (Duke’s Luke Kennard and North Carolina’s Justin Jackson), a defensive guard (Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell), or a freshman big man such as Gonzaga’s Zach Collins or Kentucky’s Bam Adebayo.
The mock drafts from various national media outlets are understandably all over the place in predicting what the Hornets might do. Let’s sample four prognostications, and see how each one holds water.
Draftexpress.com gave the Hornets French pro point guard Frank Ntilikina. Their profile:
Strengths: Strong physical skills for a point guard at 6-5. . … Frame continues to fill out. . … Has exceptional length. . … Smooth player who can operate at different speeds. Weaknesses: Lacks a degree of quickness from a stand-still, making it difficult for him to emerge as a high-value takeover, one-on-one player who can create something out of nothing with the clock running down in the half-court.
My thoughts on Ntilikina: If he lasts to the 11th pick, I think the Hornets should sprint to submit his name. Depth at point guard behind Kemba Walker is plainly a weakness since Jeremy Lin left. It would be a plus if smallish Walker was backed up by a bigger alternative who might be able to play a little with Walker. HOWEVER: I’m guessing the Knicks at No. 8 or the Mavericks at No. 9 is Ntilikina’s floor in this draft.
Nbadraft.net gave the Hornets Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen. Their profile:
Strengths: Versatile player who can play as a power forward or a center. . … He has impressive mobility and coordination for a player of his size. . … Good inside-outside player who can mix it up offensively, although at the moment his face-up game is a lot better than his back-to-the-basket game. Weaknesses: His wingspan is average and that limits him on both ends of the floor. . … He is a good, but not elite, athlete.
My thoughts on Markkanen: This 7-footer demonstrated in one season at Arizona that he sure can shoot (49 percent from the field, 42 percent from 3-point range). He will probably be gone before the Hornets pick. If he’s not, you have to wonder how many times this team will keep drafting variations on the same theme (Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh, Frank Kaminsky). Perhaps Markkanen is a better version of the modern NBA big man, but power forwards Marvin Williams-and-Kaminsky is the most solid starter-backup combination Charlotte has.
USA Today (Adi Joseph) gave the Hornets Zach Collins. Their profile:
The Hornets’ recent history with drafting 7-foot big men notwithstanding, Collins has the potential to be a very good backup center right away. Charlotte can go in many directions with this pick, but Collins’ mix of upside and efficiency definitely intrigues.
My thoughts on Collins: This, like Markkanen, wouldn’t be a bad choice. When in doubt, go big. However, I disagree with Adi that Collins is likely to have quick impact as a rookie. His ceiling is high, but he’s also a distance from refined by NBA standards.
Nba.com (Scott Howard-Cooper) gave the Hornets Louisville’s Mitchell. Their profile:
Mitchell’s potential ability to play both backcourt spots would be a boost for the second unit and give him a chance to break into the rotation. He has the physical tools, with very good athleticism and strength. … But his game is inconsistent and lacks 3-point range, two obvious concerns for front offices.
My thoughts on Mitchell: I picked him to go to the Hornets in my own mock draft, though I’m certainly not wedded to that idea. I see Mitchell as a compromise. His long arms and defensive track record at Louisville give me reason to think he’d earn minutes as a rookie.
Five thoughts approaching draft night
▪ The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are discussing a trade where the Celtics would give up the No. 1 pick in return for multiple assets. Joseph researched a telling chart on recent trades that involved the No. 1 pick. Based on Joseph’s research, only once in the last five such trades has the team giving up the top pick gotten the worse of the deal. That was 1986, when the Sixers sent the rights to Brad Daugherty to the Cleveland Cavaliers and got back Roy Hinson and cash.
▪ Bam Adebayo played high school ball in High Point, then one college season at Kentucky before turning pro. Kentucky coach John Calipari said during the draft combine he thought Adebayo would end up a lottery pick. Adebayo has some elements in his game that resemble a young Dwight Howard. If I had to pick a wild card, both for the lottery and for the Hornets’ pick, Adebayo would be it.
▪ Another Kentucky player, Malik Monk, had a prolific single college season, averaging 19.8 points and 40 percent shooting from 3-point range. Monk’s offensive skills are obvious, but his 6-3 height is smallish for an NBA shooting guard.
▪ The Hornets have traded away three second-round picks since 2014, with Charlotte getting back cash in some of those deals. General manager Rich Cho said Friday he’s open to trades (when have the Hornets not been?), but he considers depth the strength of this draft. As in, the player the Hornets would chose 41st might be comparable to what another team will get with a late-first round pick.
▪ I was surprised and impressed by North Carolina freshman Tony Bradley’s ability to make NBA 3-pointers in a drill for the Hornets. If that’s representative of his shooting range, it will help get him into the first round.