Deep List of Guard Prospects May Fill a Hornets Need

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Published: June 19, 2009

To my mind, the most intriguing set of prospects in this draft are the ballhandlers.  The draft is chock full of them, with Ricky Rubio, Stephen Curry, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Jonny Flynn and Brandon Jennings all ranking as possible lottery picks – so it’s highly possible that a solid prospect who normally would go higher will drop to the Hornets as teams fill their need with those higher-rated players.

That’s my hope, at least.

So here’s the set of six ballhandlers that have a chance to fall to the Hornets at 21.  I’ve ranked them according to my preference.  The first two make me smile.

1. Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina
Knowing my propensity for stats – it should come as no surprise that Ty Lawson tops my list of point guards prospects.  As some of you have noted, several posts have already gone up other places celebrating the statistical force Ty Lawson was last year in college.  In case you haven’t seen them, let me re-iterate it here:  Lawson was the most efficient scoring guard in college basketball last year, posting a true shooting percentage of 66.4%.  His marksmanship from behind the three-point line was an exceptional 46%, but despite his shooting prowess, only 31% of his shots was from that distance.  Instead, Lawson drove freely to the basket, where he finished well and managed to draw free throws at the highest rate of any guard or wing prospect on my list.  Those numbers alone make him intruiging, but as a distributer, he was also incredible.  He sported the highest assists per 100 posessions of any player in the prospect pool, while posting the 2nd best turnover rate of any point guard.  As a thief, he was the 4th best player among point guards.  Rebounding and blocking?  Alright, he wasn’t so good at those, landing 16th and 19th respectively.  Still – why could he be available?  I’ve heard a lot of reasons:  GMs think he was a product of the North Carolina system more than a talent.  They say he’s too small.  They say he’s only got one speed and can only go right.  To me, I don’t care.  He’s a championship point guard who put up insane college stats.  His speed and agility numbers are very, very good, and he carries 190 solid pounds on his frame.  Byron has also proven in the past with Pargo and Speedy Claxton that he likes playing two small blurs in the backcourt.  Lawson could fit that role next to Paul perfectly.

2. Jeff Teague, PG/SG, Wake Forest
To me, Jeff Teague is a very nice combo guard prospect, offering the combination of ball-handling and scoring that I think the Hornets could really use off the bench.  Teague posted the 5th best true shooting percentage among the ballhandling prospects at 63%, doing it on a nice mix of jumpshooting(44% shooting from three) and aggressive drives to the basket.  In fact, according to DraftExpress.com, Teague was the best player in the draft at getting out in transition, which helped him land the 2nd highest number of free throws per posession behind Ty Lawson – and he knocked down those free throws slightly better than Lawson too.  As an athelete, Teague is pretty amazing, posting great speed, agility, length and even strength stats at the NBA Combine, and those are born out by very nice shot blocking and steals numbers(though his rebounding was pretty lame).  His greatest weakness was as a distributer, with his assist numbers 19th among ballhandlers – and his turnovers a high 17th despite his low number of passes.  Regardless, I think his ability to get out and score in transition and on drives to the hole combine with his ability to knockdown perimeter shots to make him a pretty intriguing prospect as a backup shooting guard/point guard.

3. Eric Maynor, PG, VCU
I went to VCU, and still live in Richmond, so I have more direct knowledge about Maynor than I do most prospects.  Maynor is a penetrator more than a shooter, and he’s got a lot of slick ways to finish inside.  He posted a true shooting percentage of 59%, using a decent free throw rate and those good finishing skills to keep his numbers at a high level despite having to score a lot, with only Stephen Curry and Ben Woodside beating him out in points per posession.  Outside of his efficiency and volume and the 4th best number of assists per posession, Maynor was fairly average as a point guard prospect.  Out of 21 players, he was 13th in 3PT%, 9th at FT%, 11th in blocks, 11th in steals, 11th in rebounds, 13th in turnovers.  He’s being billed as a player that will know his weaknesses and should be able to help now . . . but having seen him some I’m not sure he’ll be able to handle the NBA until he’s added some strength.  I think right now the interior finishing he relies on so heavily would be hampered by NBA-level contact, and he might take a year to become an impact player, though I think in a year or two he could be pretty effective.

4. Darren Collison, PG, UCLA
Collison has spent 4 years at UCLA, and always seems to be overshadowed by his teammates.  Statistically, he was a pretty solid player, however, posting numbers in the top half of his position at everything but rebounding and scoring rate.  He may not have been a volume scorer, but the shots he did take were efficient, ranking 4th among point guards.  Collison’s efficiency is driven by his shooting skills, as shown by his great free throw shooting(89%) and 40% shooting from the three point line.  His assists and turnovers are ranked 8th, his steals 9th.  It seems like an intriguing package for a 21st pick – but I don’t see him as a tremendous fit for the Hornets.  They really do need a ball-handler in the backcourt willing to score with that second unit.  To me, Collison is more like a Steve Blake complimentary piece.  Solid and able to hit the open shot – but probably not capable of high-volume scoring.

5. Nick Calathes, PG, Florida
Calathes has signed a contract with a Greek club, but remains in the draft with the hope of being drafted and coming back from Europe later once he’s proven himself more.  Calathes is a tough competitor, with a motor that helped him be the second best rebounder as a ballhandling prospect.(Behind Tyreke Evans).  He also posted nice steal and blocked shot numbers, which indicates that despite the rumors that his athleticism is suspect, he’s still pretty solid.  As a scorer, he had a little better than average efficiency, but most of that was due to his ability to knock down threes, as he was fairly poor at drawing free throws, and downright bad at making them, ranking 19th out of 21.  As a distributer, he had a high rate of assists 2nd, but combined that with the third worst rate of turnovers, making him a good, but not great distributer.  In all, I think he has a chance to make the NBA one day – but I can’t see him being more than a 6th or 7th man sort.

6. Patrick Mills, PG, St. Mary’s

Mills does have a nice reputation – a lot of due to the solid games he put together against Team USA last year in the Olympics – but while those few games may have been impressive, at St. Mary’s he’s been less than stellar.  Mills likes to shoot.  Scoring, apparently, isn’t quite as important however, since he posted the 19th worst efficiency number behind the 16th worst three-point shooting.  Despite his inability to hit threes(33%) half of his shots were from that distance – which limited his best ability, shooting free throws.  Despite hitting free throws at a 5th best clip of 86%, he wasn’t particularly aggressive going to the hole, drawing the 4th fewest free throws per posession amongst the 21 prospects.  As a passer, he was weak, posting the 3rd worst assist numbers with an average turnover rate.  His steals were the 5th best, which was nice – but his rebounding was the worst among all prospects.  I know there’s a lot of love for Jannero Pargo out there – but if we want Pargo, I’d rather take Pargo, not draft Mills who appears to be his potential duplicate.


So that’s it.  To me, my top 4 players(among those on the lists on my last three posts) are DeJuan Blair(unlikely to be there), Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, and then Marcus Thornton.  If we got any one of those four, I think the Hornets would be in position to get immediate help at one of the things on my list of what they need.

Who do you have your heart set on?

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