Tenth Pick Tournament Semi-Finals: Perry Jones III vs. Tyler Zeller vs. Trade Up

Published: June 22, 2012

In the second semi-finals contest, it’s a 3-way battle between last week’s two winners, Tyler Zeller and Perry Jones III, along with the recently revived plan to trade up in the draft.

Tyler Zeller

(by Mason Ginsberg)

This semi-finals match-up simply could not have been timed better. Before Ariza and Okafor were traded away, Zeller was still both a fit for the Hornets and possessed the skills to be the best player available at the 10th spot. Now, with Okafor gone, you can add “need” to that list, because guess what? The Hornets have zero centers under contract! While clearing Emeka’s contract from the books is undoubtedly a good thing for the future of this franchise, it means that the team is left without a true starting-caliber center, and therefore must find one in free agency or the draft. Let’s take a look at both options, shall we? (If you want to learn more about Zeller’s unique and diverse skill set as well as his great fit with Anthony Davis and the Hornets, click on either of those links for prior Zeller matchups.)

Free agency would certainly seem like a convenient option, but the brutal reality is that there just aren’t any options available at the position over the next two seasons who are not only starting-caliber, but who also make sense for the Hornets long-term. Furthermore, the position is frequently overpaid, as teams generally have to pay a premium for size. Look at the two centers on the Hornets’ roster this past season, for example; combined, Kaman and Okafor made a stunning $26.5 million in 2011-12. (For comparison’s sake, the 10th pick in the draft will make about $2 million per year for each of his first four seasons.)

Bringing back Chris Kaman on something like a 2-year deal for around $6-7 million would be a decent move, but he will likely look for a more lengthy and more lucrative contract, something the Hornets should be very wary about offering in order to properly reconstruct the roster. In 2013, apart from Al Jefferson, Emeka Okafor, and Dwight Howard, there aren’t any quality centers set to become unrestricted FAs. The moral of the story here is that if the Hornets decide to pursue the free agency route for a center, they will likely end up overpaying a sub-par player.

As a result, the Hornets’ optimal option would be to use the draft to plug the hole left by Okafor. Doing so would make a lot of sense since the team would be paying him on the rookie scale instead of bidding for him on the free agent market. One of the most beneficial aspects of top draft picks is the potential for that pick to vastly outplay that rookie scale contract, and Zeller should have close to as good of a chance as anyone to do so, as he is the most NBA-ready center in the draft, the position that typically commands the most money.

This is not to say that they should reach for a less talented player in this spot if Zeller is already gone just because that player is a center, but if Zeller is still on the board, he fits in too many ways for the team to pass up. Of course, the Hornets could either add a fourth power forward to their roster (Perry Jones III) or attempt to acquire a pick even higher than 10th, despite the lack of expendable assets that the team would need to do so. Both of those options clearly make tons more sense than drafting Zeller, right?

The Case for Trading Up

(By: Michael McNamara)

This draft has a super-elite tier that consists of one player. After that, it has a quasi All-Star level tier that consists of five guys, and once you get past those guys it is a muddled mess at tier three. Because of that, if the Hornets have any chance to trade up and grab a guy in that second tier, they should jump on it.

The two teams I would target are Sacramento and Golden State, who hold the fifth and seventh picks respectively. By all indications, the top four will go: Skynet, Thomas Robinson, Brad Beal, and MKG. Recent rumors have the Trailblazers locked into Damian Lillard at 6, meaning that you can have your choice of Barnes or Drummond at five or take whichever guy the Kings don’t take at seven. Walking out of this draft with Skynet and either one of those guys will be a coup, and the Hornets should be willing to move any asset to do it. Without further adieu, here are my proposals.

Trade #1 : Al-Farouq Aminu, Gustavo Ayon, and #10 for Francisco Garcia and the rights to Harrison Barnes

I know it seems like a lot to move up five spots, but if Harrison Barnes is the small forward of the future, Aminu will never develop and is not worth hanging on to. Ayon hurts even more for me, but you have to give to get. Ayon can help stabilize their frontcourt, and after the Kings add John Henson or Meyers Leonard at number ten, they will finally have a balanced squad. Francisco Garcia has one year left on his deal (and a team option for ’12-’13 that Hornets obviously won’t pick up), so the Hornets will still have the ability to go into the summer with a TON of cap room. A core of Eric Gordon, Harrison Barnes, and Anthony Davis will be more than enough to attract an elite guard (CP3 or Harden) or an elite center (Dwight or Bynum) to come and fill out the roster. Can you say Dynasty?

Trade #2: #10 and unprotected 2013 first-rounder for #7

If Barnes falls to seven, I admit that the Warriors would probably pass, but if the Kings take Barnes at five, there is nobody on the board that the Warriors are crazy about. Basically, they can get the same guys at 10 (Terrence Jones, Moe Harkless, Ross, etc.) that they will be forced to reach for at 7. Why not pick up an extra asset? The Hornets, meanwhile, select Drummond in this scenario and hope that Monty and Anthony Davis rub off on him. The problem with Drummond is his motor, but competing against Davis and Jason Smith every day in practice should help that, as will Monty’s hands on approach. The added bonus is that Drummond won’t have a mountain of expectations heaped on him the way that he would if he were the sole first-round pick for another franchise. The Hornets can afford to be patient and let he and Skynet’s games grow together.

Again, the Hornets retain all their cap space in this situation and have an ultra athletic, high flying front court of Aminu, Davis, and Drummond to pair with Eric Gordon. And with 25 million in cap space still available in the summer of 2012, the Hornets have the ability to throw a max contract at a certain point guard and still have enough to upgrade the small forward position if Aminu or Henry don’t pan out.

Zeller is a safe pick with a much lower ceiling than either Drummond or Barnes, and Perry Jones is an Aminu clone who is plummeting down draft boards for a reason. We already hit a homer with Anthony Davis, and if we continue to be aggressive, this draft can be a grand slam- jump starting our dynasty. Jones or Zeller can’t give you that. Trading Up can.

Perry Jones III

(By: Jake Madison)

I’ve gone over Perry Jones III’s potential, athleticism, and fit with the Hornets in the first two rounds. Here in the semi-finals I’m going to take a slightly different approach. My argument today is built on the fact that traditional positions don’t exist anymore. The Hornets traded away their one “true” center, but does that even matter? Go look at the box score for the Heat’s win over the Thunder last night. The Heat’s one “true” center only played 3 minutes.

That’s why I don’t think a player like Tyler Zeller is that important. He’s a non-versatile player who has little room to grow. Players like that are easy to neutralize and become big non-factors during a game. Look what happened to Kendrick Perkins in the Finals. You could argue that having him, a “true” center, out on the court hurt the Thunder. Factor in Zeller’s very poor 8-foot 8.5 inch standing reach and I’ll pass on him.

If there Hornets were to trade up and try to snag Drummond, the same problem presents itself. Drummond is a better prospect than Zeller, but there is no versatility. That isn’t what I want out of a top ten pick.

I want someone who is 6-foot 11, 235 pounds, 7-foot 2 wingspan, 8-foot 11 standing reach and has freakish athletic ability.

I want a someone who can play and defend multiple positions.

I want Perry Jones III.

Some say that being a jack-of-all-trades but a master-of-none is a bad thing. I disagree in this case. I want someone who can be a five-tool player (perimeter scoring, inside scoring, distributing, defense and rebounding). Jones III is one of the few players in this draft who has the potential to do all of that.

Jones III will need some time to develop a more consistent jump shot, but he has shown strong shooting range for a near 7-footer–even being able to shoot from deep.

With respect to inside scoring…have you seen the dude throw down dunks? When he’s not trying to get on SportsCenter’s top 10, Jones III has incredible footwork in the paint and a pretty little hook shot. With his height, he has no problem getting his shot off in traffic.

As for distributing, one overlooked part of Jones III’s game is his unselfishness. If he is doubled, he is going to pass the ball rather than try and force a shot. I’d be excited to see him cut to the basket and kick out the ball to an open Eric Gordon for 3.

Rebounding and defense go hand in hand. Jones III’s height and athleticism will help him out with both of those. His height will make him a pain for opposing players and he has the quickness to keep up with faster big men. With rebounding, all the tools are there, he just needs to get the timing down and he could be an absolute beast on the boards–particularly offensive rebounds.

Aside from his potential, Jones III’s versatility is what really makes him a great fit for the Hornets. He could become the starting swingman, or he could also be a starting big man if there are lots of injuries. I see him as filling a Lamar Odom-type role for the Hornets. That versatility is not something that can be passed up at the 10th pick.

Check back tomorrow for our counterarguments and your chance to vote for who moves on to the Finals.


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