The Charlotte Hornets dramatically reshuffled their own deck this week, adding eight-time NBA all-star Dwight Howard at center and subtracting wing Marco Belinelli and oft-injured big man Miles Plumlee in a blockbuster trade with Atlanta.
So what does that mean for the 2017 draft, in which the Hornets now hold both the No. 11 and No. 31 overall picks? Here’s what I want it to mean, and who I want the Hornets to take (and not take) at No. 11.
My wish list, in order:
1. Malik Monk. Good gracious, can the former Kentucky shooting guard ever shoot the ball. I think he can work on the rest of it. Monk probably won’t last until No. 11. But if he does, that sweet stroke makes him a no-brainer – the 47 points he scored against North Carolina last December remains the best individual performance I saw anyone have the entire college basketball season.
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2. Donovan Mitchell. I think he will be there, and the Louisville guard could immediately improve the Hornets’ overall defense. Mitchell’s 6-foot-10 wingspan means he should play bigger than his height (6-3). He would not score as easily as Belinelli but he would defend better.
3. Justin Jackson. I like the North Carolina product slightly better than former Duke player Luke Kennard – although the Hornets may well like Kennard a little better – mainly because I believe Jackson will be a better NBA defender. In either case, I think you only go to Jackson or Kennard if Monk and Mitchell are both off the board.
Here’s what I absolutely don’t want the Hornets to do:
1. Zach Collins. On a team with different personnel, he makes sense. On a team with Howard, Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky, he makes no sense.
2. Frank Ntilikina. There are five point guards who will be drafted in the lottery in this draft, with Frenchman Ntilikina probably the fifth one. The Hornets are in the market for a better backup point guard to Kemba Walker – if I were Charlotte, I would not pick up Ramon Sessions’ option. Despite the maturity issues, I like former N.C. State point guard Dennis Smith better than Ntilikina if Smith happens to drop to 11 (although that is unlikely).
The obvious thing I am leaving out here is the trade potential. Cho’s deal for Howard shows again how comfortable the general manager is pulling the trigger. Don’t be surprised if the Hornets end up dealing out of the No. 11 or No. 31 slots – or both – as the night wears on, with a trade down more likely than a trade up.