Looking to the Future: March Madness, June Gladness

This week we look at how several future lottery picks are performing in the NCAA tournament

As if your bracket was not incentive enough to watch the 52 NCAA tournament games this week, there is also the very high likelihood that you could be watching two future Hornets stars. Because of some extraordinary tanktastic efforts this week, the Hornets currently hold the #2 position in the race for ping pong balls. The Timberwolves, meanwhile, have lost four of five and are without their sensational rookie Ricky Rubio. Realistically, that pick won’t be in the top 10, but 11 or 12 will be much nicer than 16 or 17. With that said, let’s take a look at how some of the top prospects have fared early and what we should look for moving forward.

Thursday’s Games

– The biggest thing that we can all take away from the first slate of games is that Andre Drummond should return to school. Before the season started, there was actually debate over who should be #1- Anthony Davis or Drummond. Not only is it clear that Davis will be #1, but we also know that Drummond plays like #2. What a disgrace he was in the opening round game against Iowa State. I usually give guys the benefit of the doubt, especially if they are young (wink, wink Mr. Aminu), but the lack of fire and passion that Drummond played with in a win or go home game was alarming. Missed shots are excusable, even turnovers and bad fouls can be forgiven if the player is trying to do too much, but lack of effort is a deal breaker for me.

– Kentucky cruised through its first game, so you couldn’t take much away from a game against a vastly inferior team, but today’s match-up against Iowa State should tell us a lot about Kentucky’s young guys. Anthony Davis is going to have to deal with Royce White. White is a burly low post player who has given Thomas Robinson fits this year, and was responsible for getting Drummond in foul trouble early. Anthony Davis has a few inches on him, but White has about 50 extra pounds to push Davis around with.

The X-factor in this game might be Terrance Jones, a combo forward who is working his way back into the lottery discussion. Jones will likely be a stretch four in the NBA and the Hornets could be tempted to take him with the Timberwolves pick, seeing that Monty had a lot of success in Portland grooming a similar, but less talented player in Travis Outlaw. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could easily be a Hornet if Thomas Robinson and Anthony Davis are off the board when they pick, but Gilchrist has hinted lately that he might want to return to Kentucky. Lastly, Marquis Teague could get into the discussion of top point guard drafted with an exceptional tournament.

– If Baylor’s bench hadn’t bailed them out, Perry Jones III would be in a lot of trouble right now after a no-show performance in round one (I refuse to call it round 2!!). After an outstanding Big XII tournament, Jones was awful in the first game of the tournament, going 1-6, scoring just two points against the mighty South Dakota State Jackrabbits. Optimists will point out that he grabbed 11 boards, but then I will just counter with the fact that he had more turnovers (2) than assists, steals, and blocks combined (1). Just a horrible game, but unlike Drummond, he can still redeem himself today against Colorado, and then possibly UF and Kentucky next weekend.

Cody Zeller was out-muscled in the low post by New Mexico State’s bigs, but he used his athleticism and intelligence to make an impact in the game. He filled the stat sheet with 14 points, 6 rebounds, 6 steals, and 4 assists. Zeller, like his older brother, plays within himself and is completely unselfish. I watched him every minute he was on the court and he never stopped moving. He is always looking to set a pick or get in position to make a play and there were several times when he did something big for his team that did not show up in the box score. The more I watch him, the less worried I would be if the Hornets took him with their second pick in the lottery.

Jared Sullinger was the offensive focal point in the first half, but then DeShaun Thomas got crazy hot and Sullinger took a back seat. He shifted his focus to the defensive end and finished the game with 11 rebounds and 5 blocks. Sullinger uses his body a ton to get position, but it would be nice to see him improve his lateral mobility.

Friday’s Games

– We saw UK’s super squad on Thursday, and got UNC’s dream team on Friday minus John Henson. The two teams will combine for 6-8 of the top 20 picks, and it is not out of the question that we see those two squads responsible for half of the lottery picks. Tyler Zeller was stellar in the first half and Kendall Marshall was smooth all game, but I was actually most impressed with Harrison Barnes, at least from an NBA prospect standpoint. We know he can shoot, but he actually got down into the post several times and showed ability on the block. At the age of 19, he already has a more diverse offensive repetoire than 85% of wing players in the NBA. Oh, and James Michael McAdoo will be a guy we will be talking about next year in these Looking to the Future pieces.

– If the Hornets were at least considering the option of playing Eric Gordon and Kevin Martin together, why can’t we give some consideration to Florida’s Bradley Beal as a guy to target with the Minny pick? Granted, he will likely be gone by then, but if he isn’t I say that we snatch the kid up. He still hasn’t regained his three-point stroke, but he always finds a way to make an impact on the game. He’s a 6’3″ guard who averages 6.5 rebounds a game in the rugged SEC and he pulled down 11 more yesterday. If Gordon is in the long term plans, Beal likely will not be a Hornet, but I just hope he ends up on an Eastern Conference team because he is a gamer.

– Remember how Jason Thompson came out of nowhere to be a lottery pick? That guy this year could be Andrew Nicholson from St. Bonaventure. Let’s just imagine that the Hornets get Harrison Barnes or MKG with their first pick and Demps looks at the board for a big man with the Minny pick. He sees a bunch of 19 year old, skinny developmental projects. And then he sees Nicholson, a senior who has gone from a dunker to an inside/outside power forward who can make an impact defensively. Might be hard to pass up.

Austin Rivers was quiet in the first half of Duke’s loss, as the Blue Devils attacked inside, but they ran the offense through him the entire second half and he responded well. Rivers is a fearless player who contineously attacks a defense, but he doesn’t have the speed to get around the corner consistantly. My best guess is that he he can be Lou Williams, and that ain’t bad, but the Hornets don’t need Lou Williams.

Thomas Robinson is a beast, let’s just agree on that. But I have heard some people say that Anthony Davis is 1A and Robinson is 1B. No, he’s not. It’s no disrespect to Robinson, but Davis is a franchise changer while Robinson is a potential All-Star. Robinson could easily have the kind of career that LaMarcus Aldridge is having, and I will take that any day of the week, but Anthony Davis will be a guy who will be in MVP conversations. Disagree? Okay, think about this. Anthony Davis is this good now as a freshman; Robinson is a junior. How dominant would Davis be if he stayed in college for the next two years. Robinson will be very good, Davis is a once in a generation type of guy.

Updated Hornets Big Board

1. Anthony Davis

2. Thomas Robinson

3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

4. Jared Sullinger

5. Harrison Barnes

6. Andre Drummond

7. Bradley Beal

8. Cody Zeller

9. Perry Jones III

10. Jeremy Lamb

11. Damian Lillard

12. Tyler Zeller

13. John Henson

14. Terrance Jones

15. Tony Wroten Jr.

Wild Card: If James McAdoo continues to play great in the tournament, he could declare and be a possibility for the Minny pick.

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



7 responses to “Looking to the Future: March Madness, June Gladness”

  1. Oh, and I forgot to mention that Andrew Nicholson is a beast. He’s got a nice back-to-the-basket low post game, he’s got a pretty good face up game, he’s long, athletic, strong, he’s hit two game winning jumpers this year. He has range out to the college three. He shoots above 40% from beyond the ark.

    He scored 20 points on a strong Florida State defense. He’s gonna be one of the steals of the draft, I just hope the Hornets make the right choice and get him (granted we don’t get Davis).

  2. i still would take austin rivers with the minny pick but i dont think him or brad beal is gonna leave after 1 year

    • Certainly think Rivers needs to stay a year in college and work on his interior passing and shot judgement. He is like a Shane Battier to me. In college, Battier developed into nice NBA athlete whose decision making and knowledge of the game made and make him a key player every NBA season. (Battier is averaging 23 minutes a game as a 10th year NBA player “backing up” LeBron. He has got to be doing something right to be on the court that much.) The difference is Rivers needs more time in college to get to the Battier level of game decision making and knowledge. I wouldn’t draft Rivers now, but later I could see him being a ‘better than Vasquez’ combo guard.

  3. Agree with everything you wrote except picking Cody Zeller (or any thin big), which you hedged well with your Andrew Nicholson comments.

    I also want to inject a name into the PG conversation: C.J. McCollum of Lehigh. He is a thinner, quicker Eric Gordon with a handle that might just allow him to play PG in the NBA. He is a Junior so he could come out now, or stay a year and get PG polish his Senior year. But this kid can score.

  4. Update: I will do these twice a week for the rest of the tournament- Saturday and Tuesday; the day after each round. Watched every minute Sullinger played today and looking forward to watching several other lotto picks tonight and tomorrow

  5. strange how the perhaps the best two players of the tournament and I think the longest pro careers ahead of them weren’t even mentioned : dramond green and jae crowder who are being projected in the 2nd round , all the more reason to be bummed we couldn’t get anything worked out for Kaman. People put to little emphasis on leadership , intangibles and being a Winner when it comes to evaluating the draft. Their not lottery picks their not 19 with outrageous proportions , but they are the most intriguing players in the tournament.

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