Looking to the Future: Let the Games Begin

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Published: April 3, 2012

Don’t think that the fight for draft position is over just because the actual games have ended.

Dell Demps spent the last few days watching several of this year’s prospects up close and  personal as the Final Four, but in some ways, his job has just begun. In the next few months, guys will be measured, poked and prodded, asked to jump standing still, jump with a running start. They will compete one-on-one, three-on-three, and one-on-none. But the most important part of the process will be the interviews, and this is where Dell Demps will thrive. Up until now, he has been unable to sit across a table from a prospect and grill them on their work ethic and their love for the game. The Hornets, under Demps and Monty, are all about building a certain culture and all of the game tapes in the world can not tell Dell what he wants to know about the character of these guys.

I trust Dell to bring in the guys that will fit the blue collar mentality of this team, but without knowing them myself, all I can do is judge them by what I see on the court. In this week’s edition, I look at the six players that are in consideration for our top pick and then I match them with the best guy likely to be available with the Minnesota pick (10th as of right now).

Candidates for Hornets Pick

1. Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky

There is no way he is not the #1 pick, and if he stays healthy in the pros, he is a franchise changer but not in a Derrick Rose or Kevin Durant kind of way. Think more along the lines of Bill Russell or Tim Duncan. For those who criticize his offensive game, just know that Anthony Davis is miles ahead of Duncan or Hakeem at the same age. He can handle the ball like a guard, has a better stroke than most college small forwards, and has fantastic low post footwork. Best case scenario is that the Hornets have a 20% chance at Davis in May’s draft lottery. So, if you believe in a multi-verse, in one out of every five worlds, the Hornets dynasty is right around the corner.

Ideal Teammate: Austin Rivers, G, Duke 

If you are going to project Davis as the next Tim Duncan or Bill Russell, then you are going to want to follow their model by surrounding him with guards that can score. San Antonio never really had a true point guard; instead, Parker and Ginobli have shared the load and Rivers and EG10 can do the same thing. Rivers is a liability on defense, but Davis will erase any and all mistakes.

2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky

MKG effects the game in so many ways, and is truly a coaches dream come true. Kentucky has unleashed him defensively, putting him on the other teams’ best perimeter player. Several times this year, including in the Monday’s title game, MKG locked down the other teams’ point guard, yet he still grabbed boards and blocked shots. Offensively, his jump shot is inconsistant, mostly because of his form. He pushes the ball, rather than releasing it off of his finger tips. But he is excellent in the open court and cuts hard in the half court. He probably won’t average 20 PPG in the pros, unless he is in a Phoenix-type of system with an elite PG, but he will effect the game in so many ways and be a leader in the locker room. Imagine a more mature, better shooting Shawn Marion in his prime.

Ideal Teammate: Kendall Marshall, PG, UNC

It is easy to say that the Hornets should go big if they take MKG, but hold on just a second. Think about the Marshall/Gilchrist partnership and how lethal they can be with Gordon in the back court. MKG needs to get out and run and Marshall is one of the best open court point guards to come out in years when it comes to getting easy buckets for teammates. Meanwhile, what is Marshall’s biggest weakness? Now that he has improved his jumper, it is his defense. Well, Gordon can cover the 1 or the 2 and MKG can cover the 1,2, and 3- meaning that the Hornets can just put Marshall on the other teams’ worst perimeter player. Get your big next year or go find another Ayon.

3. Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas

Whether it is fair or not, Robinson’s draft status will rely somewhat on how he measures in the pre-draft workouts. He was guarded all night by Terrance Jones in the title game, who is listed as 6’9″ and Robinson looked shorter. He had a tough time in the title game, but I don’t think that had to do with Kentucky’s length as much as it had to do with Robinson rushing and trying to do too much. Robinson should wow GM’s in the interview process and he has a fantastic blend of production and upside, but if he measures 6’8″, that all might be thrown out the window.

Ideal Teammate: Tyler Zeller, Center, UNC

Gordon and Robinson will play pick and roll all day, so no need to grab a guy who needs the ball to impact the game. Enter Zeller, a true center who can play from day one and will do all the little things needed to help your team win. Robinson and Zeller might not be the most talented front line every night, but they will never be outhustled or outworked.

4. Andre Drummond, C, UConn

If the three guys listed above are all gone by the time the Hornets pick, Dell Demps will be faced with a tough decision. Basically, the choice will come down to Bradley Beal, Jared Sullinger, and Drummond- and they all have as many cons as they have pros. Beal just happens to play a lot like the supposed cornerstone of the franchise, Eric Gordon, which makes him redundant. Sullinger has a limited ceiling and is a liability on the defensive end. And Drummond has the highest ceiling, by far, but he had a disappointing freshman year and people see Kwame Brown or Thabeet when they look at him.

Really, it is all a matter of personal opinion, but I would take Drummond here for a few reasons. The biggest one is that contrary to what we see from guys like Anthony Davis, most bigs are horrible in their freshman seasons. Go ahead and look up the freshman stats of the #3 guy on this list. 2.5 PPG, 40% FT shooter. Yes, I know he didn’t play a ton, but isn’t that kinda supporting the argument? He wasn’t good enough to play. Should Drummond be penalized because he was just good enough to get time, but not good enough to dominate?

Keep digging and you will find a ton of centers who have succeeded in the NBA but did not have good freshman seasons in college. Greg Monroe was considered a disappointment his freshman year in college after being a top 3 recruit. Joakim Noah barely played or produced in his freshman year, same goes for Al Horford and Roy Hibbert. Point is, that you can’t just give up on a big with this much potential and promise because he did not dominate in his freshman season- especially when you consider all the turmoil surrounding that program and the fact that their guards dominated the ball.

Ideal Teammate: Kendall Marshall

For Drummond to succeed on the offensive end, he will have to get some easy buckets while he works on the other aspects of his game. Marshall’s playmaking ability and overall leadership will be a perfect mix for Drummond’s raw ability and low key demeanor.

5. Bradley Beal, SG, Florida

Yes, Beal is a Gordon clone in some ways, but isn’t there a saying about not being able to have too much of a good thing? Again, I would prefer the Hornets to trade the pick if they were in this spot, but for the point of these rankings that is not an option. Beal would give the Hornets insurance in case Gordon leaves or can’t get healthy, and there is a small chance that they could play together since they both can handle the ball and Eric Gordon can cover most point guards. Not ideal, but a better option than the rest.

Ideal Teammate: John Henson, PF, UNC

Whether they draft Beal to take over for Gordon or to pair with Gordon, the fact of the matter is that the Hornets will have an undersized back court and they will need to protect the rim. Henson can do just that, and he is improving on the offensive end as well. People will see Branden Wright, just because of the UNC jersey and the skinny frame, but Henson is a much different player than Wright. Leaving college, Wright’s only offense came at the rim, but Henson has a legit post-up game and an improving jumper that he displayed this year.

6. Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State

Guys like Sullinger get unfairly bashed because the expectations are so high, while guys like Royce White get overly praised because the average fan has no idea who they are heading into the tournament. Yes, Jared Sullinger has flaws and limitations, but there is only one guy in this draft that doesn’t have glaring issues. People tend to take highly rated prospects and focus on what they can’t do, but what about the things Sullinger CAN do. He can dominate the post if guarded one-on-one. He can take the guy guarding him out to the three-point line, he can pass out of the double team, and he can play within the framework of a team concept. Some mock drafts have Sullinger falling to the Minny pick, but I think the backlash will end by June and GM’s will start to remember what they loved about him in the first place. Guys like Sullinger might not become perennial All-Stars, but they very rarely fail and there is some value in that.

Ideal Teammate: Terrance Jones, SF/PF, Kentucky

Jones is more of a combo forward who can play inside and outside, but isn’t that what Sullinger is developing into as well? Depending on the match-ups that night, they could play off each other, with the guy who has the weaker defender taking the low block while the other stretches the defense from the outside. Both guys can pound smaller defenders on the block or take bigger guys off the dribble, making them quite an intriguing pair.

Honerable Mention (for Hornets pick): Harrison Barnes, F, UNC – doesn’t fit Hornets philosophy. Cody Zeller, C, Indiana- Will likely return to school.

Looking to the Future is a weekly column that you can find every week, only on Hornets247.com. For past columns, click here.

 

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