Scott Fowler

Hornets should draft Devin Booker or Stanley Johnson

Devin Booker releases a three-point shot during a pre-draft workout for the Charlotte Hornets on June 10, 2015. Booker played for Kentucky in college.
Devin Booker releases a three-point shot during a pre-draft workout for the Charlotte Hornets on June 10, 2015. Booker played for Kentucky in college. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Every first-round NBA draft pick offers the chance to make a difference, and the difference the Charlotte Hornets must make Thursday night involves scoring points.

No matter how good the Hornets’ defense is – and sometimes it is quite good – the team will never get over the hump without some more players who can flat-out score. You watch a team like Golden State, and it has several players on its second string that the Hornets would love to start for them in large part because of their offensive skills.

To rebound from last year’s 33-49 season, the Hornets have to draft a shooter at No. 9 (or wherever they pick, if they ultimately trade up or down). I know general manager Rich Cho said the team was going to go “BPA” (best player available) in the first round. But he also mentioned that if a shooter and a player at a position of less need were “neck and neck” that he could lean toward the position of need.

I would go further than that. I think the Hornets have to take a shooter not just if it’s neck and neck, but if it’s even halfway close. In horse racing terms, I’d take the shooter even if he was two lengths back.

Which one do I want? Kentucky’s Devin Booker.

In the best-case scenario, Booker turns into Klay Thompson. But even in the worst case he helps improve that horrible 31.8 three-point shooting percentage from last season (worst in the NBA). Cho said he wants that percentage in the “upper 30s” next season. Given that defensive stopper Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is going to be on the floor a lot, the improvement is likely going to have to come elsewhere. Booker would fit in Charlotte as a shooting guard – he’s more athletic than he’s given credit for and he can absolutely fill it up from outside.

If Booker is not available, I’d go for Arizona’s Stanley Johnson whether he wants to play for Charlotte or not. He isn’t as pure a shooter as Booker, but he may be more ready right away on defense. Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky would be my reluctant third choice. He’s got a lot of the same look to him as Zeller – which is likely why Kaminsky wouldn’t be really hot about coming to Charlotte – but he does shoot the ball better.

Still, the Hornets should be able to get either Booker or Johnson at No. 9, and that’s what they ultimately should do.

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