Can the Hornets Land a Solid Wing Player in the Draft?

Published: June 17, 2009

After drooling for a while over players like James Harden and trying to figure out how Demar DeRozan ranks so highly when he’s shown almost no basketball-related skills, I moved on to evaluating the wing players who might actually fall to the Hornets.  I grabbed any true wing player that fell with 10 picks or so of the Hornets on any of the major Mock Draft sites, and then evaluated their numbers. Here’s my ranking, which I’ll admit, I struggled with some.  Oh – and the first guy I put up should make a lot of you who live in Louisiana happy.  Homers!

1. Marcus Thornton, SG, LSU

Thornton was a scoring machine, pouring in the 4th most points per 100 posessions of any college wing prospect.  He’s also a very low risk player, turning the ball over very infrequently despite being the focus of so many possessions.  Combine that with him being the 8th best thief and he would fit right in with the Hornet’s careful ball-handling and hawking game.  Other than that, however, he’s a just a little better than average as a prospect.  His scoring efficiency is 17th out of 41 prospects.  His three point shooting is 14th, his Free throw shooting 27th.  He drew free throws at the 19th fastest rate.  He handed out the 22nd most assists, blocked the 21st most shots, and was the 24th best rebounder overall.  Pretty average.  He does have the best ball-handling ability and is skilled running in  set plays – which makes me lean towards him over similar players like Jermaine Taylor.  As a second unit volume scorer, he has potential.

2. Sam Young, SF, Pittsburgh
Young is a physical specimen and ranks pretty highly on most draft boards because of his ability to spot up, finish in transition, and defend.  His rebounding, steals and blocked shots numbers do support his claim to athletic gifts, as Young posted numbers in the top 15 in all three.  His scoring was prolific in college and he posted shooting and efficiency numbers very close to Marcus Thornton’s.  However, as a passer, he left much to be desired, posting an awful assist rate for someone who had the ball so much, and a pretty ugly turnover rate to go along with it.  He’s also known to have some weakness in his ball-handling and one-on-one scoring opportunities. The best comparison I’ve seen for him is to James Posey.  I can’t say I’d mind having another James Posey around – though I’d prefer a scorer who could produce more on their own, thus Thornton ranks ahead of him on this list.

3. Terrence Williams, SF, Louisville

Williams is a mid-1st rounder with enough questions he could fall to the Hornets.  He’s quite simply an excellent athelete(all the markers from college ball confirm as much) posting the best steals numbers among swing men, nice shot-blocking numbers, and is top 5 as a rebounder.  He’s also a good passer, racking up the most assists from the wing positions while posting good turnover numbers for such a willing passer.  All of that sounds wonderful, until you get to his scoring numbers, where he falls off the cliff.  He’s the 4th least effecient scorer amongst wing prospects, posting an abysmal true shooting percentage of 52%.  Some of that is his shaking shooting ability, but he was also the third worst wing at drawing free throws – on top of his 58% free throw shooting(good for last amongst wing players.  It’s hard to get excited about the guy.  The Hornets don’t need a focused defensive stopper in the second unit – they need a capable scorer.  Williams isn’t that.  Still, he’s got some serious potential.

4. Jermaine Taylor, SG, UCF
Taylor is a lot like Marcus Thornton – a scoring machine.  When you look at the numbers, the difference between the two players ends up being a wash.  Thornton is a slightly better three-point shooter, Taylor slightly better at free throws.  Thornton gets a few more steals, Taylor a few more blocked shots.  Both rebound about the same.  Both get about the same amount of assists.  In the end, stat-wise, the biggest seperator between the two is Thornton’s much lower turnover rate – which gives him the edge here.

5. Jodie Meeks, SG, Kentucky
Meeks is a crazy player to try and evaluate.  He was the most efficient scorer among college wing prospects, posting a crazy true shooting percentage of 64%.  He stroked the three-point shot at 41% and took it freely, firing more than half of his shots from that range.  Yet despite his love of the three, Meeks still managed to draw the 9th most free throws per posession and he converted them at a high rate, posting a 91% from the stripe.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is Meeks was well below average at assists, turnovers and steals, and ranked 40th out of 41 in blocked shots and rebounding.  The knock on him has always been his lack of height and athleticism, and those numbers bear that out pretty definitively.  The idea of Meeks’s scoring makes me think he could be Ben Gordon’s level of player – but that doesn’t give enough credit to Ben Gordon, who is a pretty good athelete.  Meeks as an Eddie House, maybe?  A House-like player would be useful to the Hornets in the second unit.

6. Chase Budinger, SG, Arizona
Budinger has all the physical tools you could want – standing 6’6″ and with the leaping ability to have qualified as an Olympic-level volleyball player.  His scoring numbers are pretty, posting top-10 numbers in efficiency and three-point shooting.  Despite his strength from downtown, only 1/3rd of his shots came from there as he willingly drove and drew a decent number of free throws, knocking them down at a nice clip.  Budinger also posted a top 10 assist rate while only giving away an average number of turnovers.  His steals, blocks, and rebounding are all average or slightly better than average.  From every report I’ve seen, however, the problem with Budinger appears to be his desire and drive.  Every year he’s been in college his stock has dropped as scouts have noted he may not be the toughest and hardest working guy around.  In the New Jersey Workout that happened a few days ago(which the Hornets attended) there were reports that he pretty much stopped working hard when the his opponent got physical and settled for jumpers.  The idea of Budinger is highly attractive to me – but I’ve always believed that people don’t change much without something catastrophic happening.  If Budinger isn’t driven and focused now – I doubt he will suddenly become that way by entering the coddled world of an NBA player.

7. Wayne Ellington, SG, North Carolina
Ellington’s calling card is shooting, posting top ten numbers in efficiency and three point shooting.  His numbers indicate 40% of his shots were from beyond the line, but his low rate of drawing free throws is an indicator he only attacks the basket when the way is clear. Unsurprisingly, his turnover numbers are also fairly low, considering his role as a shooter.  Beyond his nice efficiency numbers, his assist rate is ordinary, and his athletic markers are pretty bad, posting bottom ten numbers at blocks, steals and rebounds.  I know some have said he’s developed other aspects of his game over the past year, but the numbers don’t really support it.

8. DaJuan Summers, SF, Georgetown
Summers was a nice, solid scorer, posting the 6th best efficiency rate among wing prospects on a decent volume of shots.  He drew fouls at a good rate(though he was only so-so at converting them) and showed a good stroke from the college three-point line.  Unfortunately for Summers – his size, reliance on strength over speed and poor ballhandling make him more of a SF/PF sort of player – which means his rebound rate is horribly lacking as he ranked only 29th out of 41 wing prospects.  He’d have been dead last among the big men.  Anyway you cut it, Summers isn’t going to really fill any need for the Hornets at this point – which revolve around scoring guards or rebounding big men.

Next, I’ll hit the ballhandlers.  Personally, I think our best potential prospect will come from that group – but we’ll see how the numbers bear out.

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