Charlotte Hornets

Can Charlotte Hornets find that rare impact rookie at No. 11 in NBA draft?

Boston Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown (7), here guarding Cleveland Cavalier LeBron James, averaged 12.6 minutes in playoff games this season.
Boston Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown (7), here guarding Cleveland Cavalier LeBron James, averaged 12.6 minutes in playoff games this season. AP

The Charlotte Hornets, a team intent on returning to the playoffs next season, have the 11th pick in the June 22 NBA draft.

Will the player chosen eleventh crack the rotation and help the Hornets in a playoff run?

That’s iffy, based on a study of first-rounders in the 2016 draft class. Among 30 first-rounders, 14 were drafted or traded for by teams that advanced to the 2017 playoffs. Of those, 10 participated at least briefly in the playoffs.

Four first-rounders had significant roles in their teams’ postseasons.

▪  Boston’s Jaylen Brown, the third overall pick, averaged 13 minutes in 17 playoff games. He averaged five points and shot 48 percent from the field.

▪  Milwaukee’s Thon Maker, the 10th pick, started six playoff games, averaging 19 minutes, 5.8 points and 39 percent from the field.

There are numerous reasons why rookies seldom shine in the post-season, both obvious and subtle.

▪  Atlanta’s Taurean Prince, the 12th pick, averaged 31 minutes, 11.2 points and 56 percent shooting in six playoff games.

▪  San Antonio’s Dejounte Murray, the 29th pick, played in 11 games, made two playoff starts, and averaged two points and 5.3 minutes. He was pushed into a bigger role by a season-ending injury to Tony Parker.

The days when a Magic Johnson closed out the Los Angeles Lakers’ 1980 title run as a rookie are ancient history.

There are numerous reasons why rookies seldom shine in the postseason.

The obvious reason is the draft process sends the best prospects to the worst teams. But there’s a subtler factor as to why most rookies don’t contribute to playoff teams.

The draft pool has gotten progressively younger. As NBA Commissioner Adam Silver noted recently, about 20 players projected among the 60 chosen June 22 entered this draft with a single season of college experience.

Silver wants at least a tweak in the draft-entry rules. He said at a news conference at the outset of the NBA Finals that no one is happy with the current system.

The NBA would like players to complete at least two seasons, either in college ball or some other pro league, before entering the draft. The players association would go back to the old rules, in which players leaving high school could make themselves draft-eligible.

Dejounte Murray
San Antonio Spurs rookie Dejounte Murray (left) takes direction from coach Gregg Popovich. Murray made two starts in Spurs playoff games. Marcio Jose Sanchez AP

With top prospects often spending just 10 months in college basketball, they tend to enter the NBA with raw ability and athleticism, but not the skill or strength to compete against veterans.

In the Hornets’ case, they got 190 minutes of playoff basketball out of then-rookie Frank Kaminsky in the seven-game first-round loss to the Miami Heat in 2016. Kaminsky was an exception to the norm, in that he played all four seasons of college basketball at Wisconsin before turning pro.

More typical is Brown, who played a single college season at California before turning pro.

With the Hornets in a tight cap situation this summer, it’s extra important they hit with the 11th pick. Whether that player contributes as a rookie is no given.

Bonnell: 704-358-5129: @rick_bonnell

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