Who to watch in March Madness – Part 1 – Shooting Guards
The following is a guest post by Michael McNamara (a.k.a. loveforthehornets).
As the playoffs become improbable, at best, Hornets fans need a reason to be interested in basketball for the next two months. Seeing LeBron or Kobe hoist the trophy at the end of the year will do little to satisfy the Hornet fan, who just two years ago had so much hope for the future.
While we do have CP3’s return to look forward to, there is little else to be excited about coming down the stretch. The best case scenario is that the last fifteen games or so act as an extended training camp for the 2010-2011 season. The coaching staff can figure out a way to get CP3 and the two rookies the minutes and the shots they need to remain productive. Okafor and West can continue to try and develop some chemistry, and CP3 and Okafor can do so as well. Remember, it wasn’t until their second season together that Chandler and Paul really got a feel for one another.
But there is at least one player who will be in a Hornets uniform next season that will be involved in the playoffs this year- the college basketball playoffs that is. This time last year Marcus Thornton was the SEC player of the year and was preparing to face Butler in the first round. Meanwhile, Darren Collison was attempting to lead his UCLA Bruins to their fourth consecutive Final Four appearance.
Somewhere out there, either in the NCAA tourney or in the NIT, a future Hornet will be putting his talents on display for the whole world to see. Maybe we will finally hit on our small forward of the future this year or find a big man who can protect the paint. Perhaps we can find yet another scorer who can find his own shot or a true low post presence. He is out there, we just need to know what to look for.
The Hornets will most likely pick somewhere between 11 and 14 this year, so we won’t look at prospects who will definitely be gone by then. This five include: John Wall, Evan Turner, Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins, and Wesley Johnson. Everyone else is fair game. We also won’t look at the two foreign possibilities Donatas Motiejunas and Jan Vesely because it doesn’t fit with our theme and international prospects and the Hornets simply don’t mix. We also will bypass the point guard position for two reason: it is definitely not a need and John Wall is the only point guard worthy of a lottery pick.
So, we start off with the shooting guard position. Both Morris Peterson and Marcus Thornton are under contract for next year, although Mo has an expiring contract and it would be surprising to see him finish out next season as a part of our roster. This leaves some room to add another player, although it is less of a need than it might first appear, as CP3 is bound to get quite a few minutes at the two if Collison is not traded this offseason.
1. James Anderson, Oklahoma State
Chances he will be available: 95 percent
Why the Hornets would be interested:
Going into next season, Marcus Thornton (because of ability) and James Posey (because of contract) are the only two wing players that seem certain to be with the team the entire season. Peja, Wright, and Peterson all have expiring contracts and will be trade bait. Since Posey has lost a step and seems better suited to play the four, there is plenty of room for a wing player who can slide between both the two and the three. Enter James Anderson.
Anderson stands 6’6” and nearly two hundred pounds, with room on his frame to add bulk. He is averaging nearly 23 PPG for Oklahoma State this season and is one of the most efficient scorers in the country, averaging 1.26 points per possession. To put that in perspective, Evan Turner averages 1.07 and John Wall averages 1.02.
This is largely because Anderson gets to the line- nearly eight times per game. Seeing that Posey, Peja, and Mo Pete don’t get to the line half that many times combined, this would obviously be an added dimension for the Hornets offense. He also rebounds well for a two guard and is an average rebounder if you project him to small forward. Much like Thornton, he attacks the glass on the offensive end and puts pressure on the defense to know where he is at all times.
Why the Hornets would pass:
James Anderson will never be confused with Bruce Bowen or Thabo Sefolosha. While it is true that all of the traits are in place for him to be an above average defender, he has not shown he can be one on the college level, where the athletes are obviously inferior. He often is too upright in his stance and gets blown by, something the Hornets get from all of their perimeter defenders already.
Anderson is also a bit of a Marcus Thornton clone, in that he can score the basketball in bunches and can grab his share of rebounds, but he does not offer much else in the form of play making or lock down defense. What the Hornets seem to need to compliment somebody like Thornton is somebody who does not need shots to be effective. A guy who can cover the other team’s best wing player and knock down the occasional open shot. Think Trevor Ariza, Shane Battier, Dhantay Jones, or Aaron Afflalo.
Thornton and Anderson on the court would be a defensive nightmare, even if the offensive potential would be excited. And if Anderson only plays when Thornton is on the bench, then we have to wonder how we could get enough minutes for Paul, Collison, Thornton, and Anderson.
2010-2011 Outlook (if drafted):
If Anderson’s offensive potential was too much to pass up on, he could be the starting two guard from day one- given the assumption that the Hornets wanted to keep Thornton in his role as our bench assassin. Not doubt Anderson would be an instant upgrade over Devin Brown and Mo Pete, and having him would give the Hornets possibly the best offensive backcourt in the league, one through four.
But not one of those guys is a great man to man defender, and that leads to tons of points in the paint and getting our bigs into foul trouble. The Hornets already have shown they have plenty of firepower in the backcourt, and adding Anderson might just be overkill. As nice as it is to think about how CP3 could make this guy even more deadly, we have to remember that there are two sides of the court.
2. Xavier Henry, Kansas
Chances he will be available: 85 percent
Why the Hornets would be interested:
To some scouts, Henry was number two on their list of freshman in 2009, behind only John Wall. Much like LeBron James, Henry has had an NBA body since high school and will not get abused like many the nineteen year old one and done’s that have proceeded him. He also is playing at an elite program for an elite team, something the Hornets have stated in the past that their value. They want winners, and Henry has had plenty of experience winning this season with the Jayhawks.
Like Anderson, Henry can also play both positions which would be beneficial considering that the Hornets strength are their guards. In fact, Henry appears more comfortable covering bigger wing players and should not have much trouble covering most teams small forwards- unless those small forwards are named LBJ or ‘Melo, but really, who can guard those guys?
Henry also would follow in the recent tradition of drafting good basketball players who are also good people. He is extremely coachable and is the kind of player who would give up individual glory for the sake of the team. He could have gone anywhere this year and been a 20 PPG guy easily, but he choose to go to a loaded team because he wanted to win. And if you watch him on the court, he is always smiling and positive, even though he only takes a very modest 10 shots per game.
Why the Hornets would pass:
Some say that ‘Age ain’t nothin but a number’ but Henry will only be nineteen years and two months on the day he is drafted. And to expect a big impact in year one from a player that age might be asking too much. Henry is more likely a project that we not show full returns until season three at the earliest, and the Hornets need to put together a winner for Chris Paul by 2011-2012 at the latest. He needs to be convinced that he has guys around him that he can win a championship with, or he might leave. Knowing this, it might be hard for management to draft a kid who might not produce much in his first few years.
The Hornets also might want a little more athleticism on the wings. Since Paul has been here, the only above the rim wing players he has played with are Julian Wright and Desmond Mason. Both were so deficient in other areas that they did not warrant the playing time or commitment from the franchise that would have given Paul his 2002 Richard Jefferson.
If Thornton will get the majority of the minutes at the two guard, it would make sense to acquire a wing player who could finish above the rim while Thornton spots up for three on the break- giving Paul a variety of options when we run. Henry is a good, but not great athlete.
Unlike Anderson, it is doubtful that Henry could start right away. He simply does not have enough experience playing at high enough levels to warrant a starting role in the NBA. He is a terrific spot up shooter, but probably would find it tough to score any other way in the NBA right now. At best, he could take Wright’s spot in the rotation. Basically, he would get spot duty when injuries called for it or there was foul trouble.
Long term, he could be the starting two guard and play much of the role Peja played in 07-08. He could spot up and spread the court, while occasionally getting to the bucket and hitting some mid range jumpers. The question is: How long would it take for him to assume that role and do the Hornets have the time to invest when there are other guys who could come in and have an impact from day one?
Other two guards:
Avery Bradley, Willie Warren, and Elliot Williams all will go in the first round and could sneak into the lottery, but they all are, at best, Marcus Thornton clones- undersized two guards that the Hornets would have no use for.
Evan Turner is a lock to go in the top three and is most likely the odds on favorite to go second. The Hornets will have a 2 percent chance to land a top 3 pick, but if they do, Turner will definitely be in the discussion.
Check back on Thursday for a look at small forwards.