Looking to the Future: Size Wanted

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Published: January 28, 2012

This week we focus on the big men who stand out in the 2012 draft class, and how they might fit with the Hornets

If Dell Demps is as smart as he appears to be, he is going to do his due diligence before selecting any young prospect in the upcoming NBA draft. His track record shows that he wants good character guys with high basketball IQ’s, work ethic, and determination. Skill also doesn’t hurt. But there is one more attribute that will have to be at the top of the wants and needs list for Demps this summer: Size.

The Hornets roster is chalk full of quality perimeter players oozing with potential, and it is Monty’s job to develop those young guys. The wing positions alone consist of three lottery picks in Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Xavier Henry- all of which are still on their rookie contracts. Veterans Jarrett Jack and Trevor Ariza also have contracts that go beyond this year, and could both make cases to be long term pieces on this Hornets team.

Meanwhile, Chris Kaman is likely to be traded any day now and Carl Landry’s contract expires after the season is over. That leaves Emeka Okafor, Jason Smith, and Gustavo Ayon as the only bigs likely to be on the roster once the 2012-13 season opens in October.  Ayon and Smith are career backups, while Okafor can be moved any day if Demps can find a taker for that massive contract. Long story short, if all things are equal, Demps will be concentrated on big men this June. And this week, so will we. With no football this weekend, a lot of guys play today or tomorrow, so sit back and enjoy!

The Game Changer

Anthony Davis, Kentucky

Davis might be the only guy in this class that has the potential to be the best player on a championship contender once he hits his prime. That is not an insult to the guys in his class, as there are only 7-8 guys in the league at a time who fit that description. Davis can be Kevin Garnett 2.0 if he continues on his current trajectory. His impact on the defensive end can be Olajuwon-esque, as he has that rare ability to block shots, create steals, guard on the perimeter and in the paint- all while staying out of foul trouble.

Because his defense is so remarkable, people tend to overlook his offense, but this young man was a guard just four years ago. Because of that, he has remarkable handles for his size and the foundation of what could develop into a killer outside stroke. For now, he is mostly scoring at the rim and on lobs, but what’s wrong with that? Deandre Jordan just got 11 mil per year for doing that and he doesn’t have nearly the defensive impact.

When to Watch: Today, 4:00PM on ESPN @LSU (or head to the game if you are in the area)

The Solid Pros

Jared Sullinger, Ohio State

Sullinger is a below the rim power forward who will likely fall somewhere between Drew Gooden and Kevin Love in the NBA. He has been dominant during his year and a half in college, but has struggled at times when going against longer and more athletic players. He has the basketball IQ that both Monty and Dell will love, but he lacks the upside that the Hornets need to become legit contenders down the line.

There is some room for improvement for Sullinger, however, as he has extended the range on his shot since coming to Ohio State, and with work, he can become a legitimate three-point threat as he continues to evolve. He has also shown increased ability as a passer from the post, and by losing weight between his freshman and sophomore years, he has become a better perimeter defender.

When to Watch: Today, 1:00PM on CBS vs. Michigan

Tyler Zeller, North Carolina

We haven’t focused on Zeller before, because he is unlikely to go in the lottery, but he will be a first round pick and fits the Hornets profile in a lot of ways. He is an excellent help defender and a double-double machine. His future as a pro could resemble a less athletic, but tougher Jason Smith, as he plays 100% every night and can hit the mid-range jumper with regularity.

His upside isn’t great, and he lacks the low post moves needed to become a consistent threat on the offensive end, so he will likely fall to the mid-to late first round despite his size and determination. If the Hornets take a point guard or wing early in the draft, however, Tyler Zeller could be the exact kind of guy they look at with a pick that they could get from trading Kaman.

When to Watch: Tuesday, 9:00 PM on ESPNU vs. Wake Forest

Boom or Bust

Andre Drummond, Conneticut

Drummond will be drafted on upside alone if he comes out this year, because he has shown nothing on the court to warrant being a top-3 pick in June. Scouts who love his game say that he can fall somewhere between Amare Stoudamire and Dwight Howard, but he has played more like Kwame Brown this season to be honest.

Physical speciman’s like Drummond don’t come along often, however, and NBA GM’s will be terrified to pass on his potential for a solid player like Sullinger. So Drummond will likely go after Davis if he does come out, and the Hornets might be the team in that #2 slot, staring at Drummond’s name on their draft board. If you want to see the glass as half full, you tell yourself that he is only 18 and you can develop him. You tell yourself that he is nothing like another UConn #2 pick Hasheem Thabeet, and that his stats were only down because he wasn’t the focal point of the offense.

You have to tell yourself these things because there will be dozens of players who produced more on the college level available with that pick. But you almost have to take Drummond in that spot because of the upside. Personally, if I was a GM, I would pray I don’t have to make that decision.

When to Watch: Wednesday, 7:00 PM on ESPN2 @#10 Georgetown

Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State

His floor is Stromile Swift and his ceiling is LaMarcus Aldridge. The scary thing is that it is hard to envision Moultrie falling anywhere in the middle. His motor doesn’t run full time, but if a coach could motivate him to be great, the sky is the limit for this kid. He is long (6’11”), athletic, and has some polish to his game. He hits over 80% of his free throws and knows how to attack the offensive glass without picking up fouls.

But Moultrie simply disappears at times, and that is the lone reason why you won’t see him as a top 5-7 pick in any mock drafts. If he had Sullinger’s heart and head, this would be a guy who teams would covet in the top 3. Perhaps Dell and Monty will see something in him and believe in themselves enough to take a chance with their second lottery pick. If he develops, he could easily be the steal of the draft.

When to Watch: Today, 1:30 PM on ESPN3 @#13UF (and lottery prospect Bradley Beal)

Thomas Robinson, University of Kansas 

I know that most people see Robinson as all boom, with no potential for bust, but you have to remember that he really didn’t do anything until this year. His first two years in Kansas saw him average just a tad over 5 points per game, while racking up fouls at a ridiculously high rate. This year, however, Robinson has played at an elite level and is making a legitimate case for first-team All-NCAA.

Robinson doesn’t have super-elite athletic ability, but he is more athletic than someone like Sullinger, and he possesses the fundamentals that could help him make an impact right away in the NBA. The danger with Robinson is two-fold: Can he defend power forwards in the NBA? and What will be his go-to scoring move?

For a guy that is likely to go in the top 5, those are two questions you would rather not face as a GM. Is he one of those guys that does everything good, but nothing great? Proponents of Robinson will say that his rebounding is his elite skill, and that skill almost always translates to the NBA level. Everything else can be developed. We’ll see.

When to Watch: Today, 2:00pm on ESPN @ Iowa State

John Henson, North Carolina

A poor man’s Anthony Davis in some ways, Henson is raw offensively but can change the game in the paint and on the boards. He gets over three blocks a game and pulls down his share of rebounds despite being on the same team as Zeller, but he has a long way to go offensively. He has spent three years at UNC and has never cracked the 50% barrier from the free throw line. No improvement, whatsoever. That has to scare you as a GM. In his last three games, in fact, he is 1-12 from the stripe.

What you have to hope for with Henson is that he can find chemistry with a point guard that can get him the ball in situations that makes it easy for him to score. He has that right now in Kendall Marshall, the best distributing point guard in college today, but what if he doesn’t have an elite playmaking guard? Will you just be playing 4-on-5 offensively?

When to Watch: Tuesday, 9:00 PM on ESPNU vs. Wake Forest

Perry Jones III, Baylor

Finally, we come to the biggest enigma in the class. A guy who is guaranteed to go top-5, but nobody can tell you exactly why that is. Is he tall? Sure. Athletic? Yes. Okay, and what else? Honestly, I don’t know. He is an average scorer, average rebounder, and average from the line. He kind of effects the game on the defensive end and can sometimes hit from the outside. His basketball IQ is average and he does a decent job of protecting the ball, though he turns it over from time to time.

Honestly, I am looking for a reason to love this guy, but he hasn’t given me one yet. After a fantastic freshman year, people expecting him to take off this season, and we are all still waiting. Perhaps he will take flight in March and be the hot name come June. Or perhaps we will all still be waiting.

When to Watch: Today at 1:00PM on CBA vs. Texas

Looking to the Future is a weekly article that you can find every Saturday only on Hornets247.com. For past articles, click here.

23 comments
BIGBREED
BIGBREED

NOengineer Last I checked, Tim Duncan had major Skins on the wall playing 4 yrs at Wake Forest! He was well developed and the words "Potential" wasn't used freely with him! He had a well rounded game by the time he was drafted, not 1yr of college and the word Potential on his scouting Report! Lost me with your last statement! It proved my point

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

the difference? Duncan was totally DOMINATING the college level.. his senior year he averaged 20 pts, 15 rebounds, 3 assists 3 blocks 60% FG. his junior year, he averaged 19 pts, 12 rebounds, 3 assists 4 blocks 55% FG. and he was just 21 when he entered the league, even after 4 years of college seasoning. Potential wasn't used on him because people KNEW what they were getting - a superstar. Barnes will enter this 2012 draft as a 20 year old(only 1 year older than Duncan, but 2 years less of experience) and Barnes hasn't exactly lit the world on fire. Besides scoring and good defense, he doesn't provide anything. Plus with Ariza on the books, I think we can get by without Barnes. So yeah. based on production, Davis = Barnes. Add on the potential factor and you have a clear winner - Davis.

simon
simon

Barnes also averages 1.5 steals a game.. No way you can compare him to Ariza because Ariza can't shoot as well as Barnes (who by the way doesn't turn 20 until May) Barnes is the second best defensive wing available (behind Kidd-Gilchrist) and easily the best wing scorer. This is why he's the only wing who's currently projected in the top 5. Kidd-Gilchrist could go that high depending on who's picking and what happens for the rest of the season. Barnes is my favourite player in college but if we get the first pick I'm taking Davis. He's going first no if's and's or buts. Other than him I like Robinson and Drummond. Would'nt take Perry Jones or Sullinger in the top 5. Would happily take Kidd-gilchrist with the 5th/6th pick if Barnes is gone (which he would be coz he'll go top 3) Personally I see Davis and Barnes as the top 2 but I think Drummond will go 2 and Barnes three. Happy to take Gilchrist with our first pick and then Meyers Leonard with whatever pick we get from the T-Wolves. If we can get another pick around 17-18 for Kaman then I'm hoping Tony Wroten Jr is available. That way we get a Top quality potential all-star wing who at worst will be a hybrid between Tony Allen and Shane Battier, a potential all star centre (who by the way I think should have got a mention in this article) and a potential starting PG.

NOEngineer
NOEngineer

So.... We need to draft a wing man with several NBA titles ("skins on the wall") or a point guard who will immediately perform in the NBA. Sound's easy.... I'll just go steal Marty McFly's copy of the future sports almanac and be back in my DeLorean right before the draft to whisper in Dell's ear. Wing men skills translate the easiest to the NBA, whereas most big men only face other quality big men a couple of times during their career in the NCAA. That's why they are risky. However, statistics have shown that rebounding skill does often translate to the next level, and that excellent big men are the rarest commodity in the draft. Even if you can't always get it right, drafting for big men is the way that a small-market franchise like San Antonio makes it to the big time....

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

Again, I say this.. If you get a chance to draft Davis, you do it.. He's got the upside for the future and the ability to make an impact as soon as he's drafted. Barnes' only skill is the ability to be a scorer. You chose the defensive behemoth over the scorer 95 out of 100 times. relive the 2007 draft, and I'd still draft Oden. relive the 2004 draft, and I'd still draft Bogut.. People like Paul are hard to draft, we just lucked into him. Paul was a special player because he was so awesome even at his size. I say it again but without names, "If you have the ability to pick a top 5 big, you do it." For anyone who's been saying Davis looks a lot like Randolph. Give me a rookie AR right now and I'd love him O_O Only reason Randolph is so screwed right now is because of Don Nelson. Never really developed the skills necessary (offensively, defensively and physically) because Don Nelson didn't pay attention to him. Had Randolph had the same training as Bynum, Randolph would still be a Warrior right now and be totally beasting this league. Alas, that is not the case. So yeah, give me an Anthony Randolph, right here, right now. Let Monty develop him. Let our esteemed coaching staff train him. And I'll enjoy every step of Davis' ascent to superstardom..

Tim
Tim

I would not be upset if we walk out of the draft with Harrison Barnes as our top 5 pick and here's why- Barnes is supposed to be a "sure thing." This is not necessarily true, but Barnes' defense is vastly underrated. He could be a lockdown defender in this league, especially with Monty teaching him the ropes, along with his great scoring ability. Do I take Barnes over Davis? Never. Do I take him over Drummond? Maybe.

simon
simon

When did Roy Williams call Barnes out for not driving? He never goes to the basket yet he averages 5 FT's in 25 minutes a game.. He's a perimeter shooter who shoots less than two threes a game. Shoots, not makes. he just happens to drop 45% of them.. Barnes fulfills his role in the offense, he doesnt need to drive as much because they have Zeller and Henson in the paint. Plus, he's shooting 49%. He's 19. And hes scoring 18 ppg on less than 13 shots. But nah, he's no good. Also, Henson is more athletic than Plumlee and Zeller is more skilled.. Sure Plumlee is a decent player but he's a late first rounder at best. He has NO differentiating skills to speak of.

504ever
504ever

Has anyone been watching Harrison Barnes in college this year? He is a perimeter shooter, period. A 6'8" guy who never goes to the basket, never plays tough defense, and never gets an assist. His coach has already called him out for his lack of rebounding and failure to drive to the basket Barnes isn't a leader either. His team just lost by 33 at Florida State. The worst loss in Roy Williams career. I'd stay away from any UNC player this year.

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

Agree with your last statement..

George
George

I'd take Cody over Tyler right now out of the Zeller brothers. If the Hornets land some second round picks they should target Kevin Jones or Ricardo Ratliffe. Ratliffe is 4th in the nation in PER and Kevin Jones also in the top 10 both solid players who outperform players like Perry Jones in one on one matchups but will be overlooked because their ceilings aren't as high.

BIGBREED
BIGBREED

Sp we aren't missing the point. You're still using the word "Potential" after Saying that Anthony Davis is a "Sure Thing" and after him is a gamble! Really? Let's see.... SF- Harrison Barnes 2yrs of college (2010 - 15.6ppg ; 5.8rbs; 1.4ast) (2011 - 17.1ppg ; 4.6rbs; 0.9ast) PF/C- Anthony Davis only 1yr (2011- 13.3ppg; 10.3rbs; 4.5blk) With only 1yr of college ball, you mean to tell me that you can honestly say that Davis is the most "Can't Miss Guy"? Anthony Davis has the highest Potential of the two. Harrison Barnes is more season and shows more consistency as a college player. Now by the Hornets needing a PF, Anthony Davis is our guy. But if Davis is gone and we don't have the 1st overall pick, Harrison Barnes is my guy due to the inconsistencies in the other PF/Big man in the Top 5 mock drafts! Trust me, we all Agree but I've played/seen to much basketball to just be sold on "Potential"

504ever
504ever

I'd take Duke's Mason Plumblee over either UNC big man, if he comes out this year. Mason has more skill and is a better athlete than either UNC big man.

Paul
Paul

Davis is just a boom or bust guy as anyone else. His defensive numbers are great because of the level of competition. DeAndre Jordan would go to town on him on sheer size/weight alone. Davis reminds me Anthony Randolph, hows he doin so far in the NBA? No Patric Young on the list? Should at least give him a mention if you're going to list Moultrie, Henson, and Zeller.

JP
JP

i think if we got anthony davis, take him, but if not drummond and jones III are probably the next best. and if we can succesfully shop kaman, we could get 2 of em :)

Tyler
Tyler

Jared Sullinger - OSU

BIGBREED
BIGBREED

Cont.^ Another ceiling potential guy was PF/SF/SG/PG- Marvin Williams Coming out of North Carolina this dude scouting report was crazy. And Atlanta choose Williams over CP3! Remember that?

Chuck
Chuck

I'm...I'm confused, aren't you saying we SHOULD take a wing? There are plenty of wings that have busted, none more so than Marvin Williams as you pointed out. And both he and CP3 were taken behind Bogut, who is very good (when he's not injured)

SP
SP

Guys, I think many of you are missing the point of what Michael has outlined for you in this column... It's inevitable in every draft class you will have some guys that just don't pan out, for whatever reason it just happens. His point is that Anthony Davis is the one guy who's shown enough promise at the collegiate level that he could step in to the pro's and make an immediate impact, with the potential to one day be a superstar on a contender. There is no position on the court where drafting can be more dangerous, there are flops at every position on the floor, one year the wing guy might be the right choice, one year the point guard might be the right choice, but this year it's the big guys. Davis is the closest thing to a sure thing in this class, and just about anyone else is a gamble. Fingers crossed he comes to the big easy!

Bee dat
Bee dat

so no kobe garnett or lebron?

BIGBREED
BIGBREED

In the NBA, when there's a 7'0 Big man, everybody in their momma runs to that word "POTENTIAL"! It spells doom for a Franchise and his Coach. It only tells me that the guy pass the eye test of measurements but his actual skills have major flaws.{Like buying a house, its run down but it has "potential", with a lil work}. Give me the guy thats proven in battle, not the guy thats a 7'0 freshman only 8mo out of high school who's body haven't develope just yet for the NBA! The NBA is a SG/SF/PG league. And NBA owners would tell you what position bring in the most revenue, has Won more Championships and Won more MVP awards. For instance Dr. J merged the two leagues, Magic & Bird brought the NBA to primetime, and Jordan changed the game & Wall Street! And each one of those players had skins on the wall, not POTENTIAL! All I'm saying is, don't draft a Center bcuz NBA Theory say always Draft a Big Man with the 1st Pick. ON Andrew Bogut, the Bucks needed a Center. They had just drafted PG- TJ Ford BUT Atlanta messed up by drafting SF-Marvin Williams. The hawks needed a PG. they only had Tyronne Lue and Tony Delk!? They shouldnt have drafted another SF bcuz they'd just drafted SF- J. Smith plus they had Al Harrington. ******NEVER GO BY POTENTIAL******

bee dat
bee dat

I take exception with the characterization of gustavo and jsmith as career backups. Gustavo has excelled everwhere he's been (as a starter) and has already shown he can compete against starters on this level. J smith (our current starting pf) has backed up for much of his very short career (I do remember him starting against us as a rookie on phil and jacking 3s) but is very young and continues to demonstrate growth. I don't think we have a good idea of the ceiling for either player. I'd be happy if they were components of our bench in future but I'm not ready to confine them to that role. Henson is best compared to camby, uncanny timing on shot block, knack for boards, beanpole frame, and awkward jumper that is getting better. I see him as a ssolid pro if he's available in the9-15 range. Zeller's durability concerns me, he's been hurt a lot and he'll face a lot more rigors bangin with the nba bigs

BIGBREED
BIGBREED

The NBA is a wingman league! Alot of people fall for the "always chose a big man over a small", but let's not forget what Portland did twice.....Sam Bowie & Greg Oden! Back in the '70s Centers ruled (Kareem,Wilt, Russell) but since the early '80s it's been the SG/SF that made the NBA(Doc, Bird, Jordan, Kobe, lebron, DWade, Dirk, PG-Magic, Durant, Pierce and do on! Yes Shaq, Olajuwon & Duncan won titles during that time, but that's it, plus Shaq had Kobe(SG/ one of the all time greats)! Don't fall for the banana in the tail pipe, don't choose Bowie over Jordan, Oden over Durant, or Milicic over Melo. Don't do it! Finally, I know the Hornets are stack at the wing with Previous Top Picks. But the question that's always throw a GM in drafting the wrong guy is, Should he draft High potential player with ave. stats -over- a dominate college player with ave potential? *How many Highly potential guys who's cant miss skills paned out? .....and I'll close with Kwame Brown!