Hornets Should Pass on Daniel Orton

Published: May 21, 2010

Taking a look around the ever changing world of mock drafts, one might find that the Hornets have been slated by quite a few writers to wind up with Daniel Orton. It’s understandable why some think Orton is the best choice since he’s a wide bodied center who supposedly is pretty good at defense. Sounds perfect, right?

Not even close. In a draft filled with front court prospects, it would be a true shame for the Hornets to take someone as inexperienced and unprepared as Orton is. The team has immediate needs up front, and Orton is at best two years away from being a contributing player. His weaknesses are in areas in which the team already struggles, and in which he is unlikely to improve.

Now I don’t follow college basketball all that much, so it’s possible I’m missing something that just doesn’t show up on stat sheets or bits of tape that I’ve seen, but there appears to be one major thing that intrigues scouts.

Standing at around “6’8, 6’9 with shoes off” and weighing in at 260 pounds, Daniel Orton is a very large man, although still undersized at center. His 7’4 wingspan is nice, but not the same thing as actually being taller. Orton’s NBA ready frame is really the only thing that’s keeping him in this draft. That and his father, of course. Oh, and the expiring CBA.

It’s being considered a sure fire decision for him to head to the NBA draft. Why would that be? Because his stock is high despite doing nothing in college. A return for a second season would give NBA scouts and GM’s a better idea of what kind of player he can really be. and that could be horribly detrimental to his draft prospects. Right now, they just don’t know, and that’s the best thing for a young gargantuan prospect. Will be be a Kendrick Perkins or a Robert Swift? Either way he wants to be paid millions next year.

It makes one wonder if he cares more about the money or becoming an awesome basketball player. It’s also concerning that he skipped the NBA Draft Combine this week for no apparent reason. For a guy having a lot to prove, he certainly doesn’t seem too interested in showing off.

His knee is more than a bit of a concern as well. He’s yet to prove that he can play even 20 minutes a game in college, and considering he’s had knee problems in the past, including surgery for torn cartilage which cost him most of his senior season in high school, it isn’t a certainty that his legs can support his over-sized frame.

What’s odd is that his defense, widely considered his strong suit, has a gaping hole. His lateral quickness, or slowness as it should probably be referred, and low basketball IQ leaves him completely unequipped to handle the pick and roll. At present, multiple scouting reports describe him as having no concept of how to defend the pick and roll. Given the prevalence of the pick and roll in just about every NBA offense, this is a bit of a concern.

As a college rebounder he was quite mediocre, even though that was the task he was relegated to most. Averaging less than 10 rebounds per 40 minutes (pace adjusted) isn’t something to write home about. Although he’s considered to have lots of potential here (there’s that word again), it’s not a certainty that he will ever develop that aspect of his game. As I mentioned, he has a relatively low basketball IQ, and rebounding has lots to do with smarts. Don’t believe me? Ask The Worm, obviously a brilliant man.

Offensively he’s clueless and was rarely involved in the offense in Kentucky even when he saw playing time. Although some scouts claim he has soft hands and solid fundamentals, he’s years away from being even an average offensive player. In 38 games he had a grand total of two double digit scoring performances and averaged less than 10 points per 40 minutes (pace adjusted). He’s particularly bad with the pick and roll on offense as well, limiting his role with any offense run by Chris Paul or Darren Collison. When drafted he will immediately become one of the worst free throw shooters in the NBA. Adding to the trouble, he’s not a high flier by any means, limiting his fan pleasing CCC ability.

That lateral slowness we talked about also limits his position strictly to the center role. He’s not a guy who can slide to the four if necessary, and probably never will be.

If that wasn’t enough, he has character issues and what can be described as an overbearing father. Now I can’t say by any means that the reports on these things are completely accurate, as I haven’t contacted either Orton or his father, but there are more than a few stories detailing the father as a hands on kind of guy.

What the team needs is a big man who can come in and play either the four or the 5, and provide energy and solid defense as a fourth big man next season, while developing the rest of his game. Orton literally provides none of this.

Let’s compare him with Emeka Okafor for a second. Both are fairly big bodied, but undersized. They stand the same height, have the same wingspan, and tip the scales within a few pounds of each other. Both are good shot blockers, but lack lateral quickness. Neither can jump particularly high, and although Okafor is a very good rebounder, both lack the athleticism to be dominant. At best, Orton will be as good as Okafor currently is on offense, which as you may or may not remember isn’t that hot. Emeka’s 56.7 percent mark from the line last year, which wound up being dead last among qualified players, is slightly better than the 52.4 percent that Orton put up last year in limited time.

We’ve seen that Okafor isn’t really an ideal fit for the Hornets, and even though I think with a third versatile big man and David West he could play a big roll on a contender, it clearly isn’t a match made in heaven. If the team is planning to bring a project youngster they should focus on guys who play more like Chandler than Okafor.


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