Charlotte Hornets

Scanning the NBA talent in Charlotte for ACC Tournament this week

Duke’s Cam Reddish (2) blocks the shot by North Carolina’s Coby White (2) during the second half of UNC’s 79-70 victory over Duke at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, March 9, 2019.
Duke’s Cam Reddish (2) blocks the shot by North Carolina’s Coby White (2) during the second half of UNC’s 79-70 victory over Duke at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, March 9, 2019.

NBA scouts will flock to Charlotte this week for the abundance of talent playing in the ACC Tournament.

You know Duke is loaded with NBA prospects. You know North Carolina and Virginia have first-round picks. Here’s a quick look at 10 players with NBA futures playing at Spectrum Center this week:

Zion Williamson, Duke freshman: His knee injury could impact the Blue Devils’ NCAA seeding, but it sure won’t hurt him in the draft. A favorite to be the top pick in June, power forward Williamson is reminiscent of Detroit Pistons All-Star Blake Griffin. Like Griffin, it will be important at the NBA level for him to become a more consistent jump-shooter. Also, and this is more a quibble than a concern, he needs to lose some weight.

R.J. Barrett, Duke freshman: He is already a part of Canada’s senior men’s national team program, so he won’t feel out-of-place around NBA players. He needs better shot selection; he’ll be playing as a pro with players just as skilled, so he needs to know when to attack and when to give up the ball.

R.J. Barrett
Duke forward R.J. Barrett (5) signals strength to teammate Zion Williamson (1) after he scores while being fouled in the first half of play. Duke defeated Eastern Michigan 84-46 at Cameron Indoor Stadium In Durham, N.C. Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. Chuck Liddy

Nassir Little, North Carolina freshman: He will benefit from an NBA era when there is a premium on mid-size players with the ability to switch defensively. Has yet to demonstrate reliable shooting range from distance (just 27 percent from the college 3-point line).

Duke’s Javin DeLaurier (12) and North Carolina’s Nassir Little (5) go after a loose ball in the second half on Saturday, March 9, 2019 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett

Cam Reddish, Duke freshman: He is similar to Washington Wizards forward Bobby Portis in terms of a combination of length and ball-handling ability; that gets him to the rim and the foul line. Reddish has a lot of frenetic energy, but that isn’t always utilized efficiently yet.

Coby White, North Carolina freshman: Few college players have improved more dramatically over this season. The NBA is fine with score-first point guards if they can do it efficiently; White uses screens well and has made big shots the second half of this season. His 6-5 height is a significant plus.

DeAndre Hunter, Virginia sophomore: Tony Bennett’s teams have not been loaded with high NBA picks, but Malcolm Brogdon with Milwaukee and Joe Harris with Brooklyn are thriving. Hunter’s 3-point accuracy as a small forward (47 percent this season) is distinguishing on his NBA resume.

Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter (12) secures a rebound from North Carolina’s Luke Maye (32) in the second half on Monday, February 11, 2019 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett

Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Virginia Tech sophomore: Cousin (and former high school teammate) of Los Angeles Clippers rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, he is yet another big-time Canadian product. He’s a shooting guard with some playmaking skill, appealing because it makes it harder for defenses to load up on the point guard’s side of an offense.

Tre Jones, Duke freshman: Younger brother of former Blue Devil Tyus Jones, Tre is one of college basketball’s best on-the-ball defenders. He needs to improve significantly as a jump-shooter, making just 26 percent from the college 3-point line.

Cameron Johnson, North Carolina graduate student: It’s not a common path to the NBA these days for a player to exhaust his college eligibility. Johnson’s particularly long arms (typical of the players Roy Williams prefers) and 3-point accuracy figure to make him a late first-round pick.

Jordan Nwora, Louisville sophomore: A small forward who has always been a strong 3-point shooter. In a time when shooting creates spacing and post-up basketball is less in vogue, players like Nwora always have value.

Duke center Marques Bolden (20) and Louisville forward Jordan Nwora (33) vie for a rebound during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Louisville, Ky., Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley) Timothy D. Easley AP

Rick Bonnell is a sportswriter/columnist for the Charlotte Observer. He has been in Charlotte since 1988, when the NBA arrived, and has covered the Hornets continuously. A former president of the Pro Basketball Writers Association, Bonnell also writes occasionally on the NFL and college sports.
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