Our missing piece may be missing from the NBA at the moment.
Last night as the New Orleans Hornets were thrashing the helpless Bobcats, the college season began with some under the radar games and a big announcement from the NCAA. For those who haven’t heard yet, top recruit Shabazz Muhammad was ruled ineligible and will be out indefinitely as the NCAA determines the length of his punishment. Muhammed is a silky smooth wing player who has drawn comparisons from James Harden to a left-handed Kobe Bryant. The early word is that even if he is ruled ineligible for the entire season, Muhammad will still be a top three pick in the 2013 draft, but not getting to see such a unique talent on the college level will be a loss for all the fans. Thankfully, we got to see these guys last night, and we might get the opportunity to see one of them in a Hornets uniform next season.
- Some people wondered whether James McAdoo could make the leap from sixth man to star, and even though this first game was against Gardner-Webb, it looks like McAdoo is ready to carry this North Carolina team on his back. He scored 26 points and yanked down 14 rebounds (8 offensive) in an impressive debut. And it wasn’t just a serious of dunks and layups against an inferior opponent. Nine of McAdoo’s ten made field goals were jump shots, all coming from different spots on the floor. He hit coming off screens, hit the mid-range jumper off the pick and pop, and drilled it when he was spotted up. McAdoo is a bit of a 3/4 tweener that would fit amazingly on a front line with Anderson and Davis, once AD puts on a little weight. The bad news is that if he keeps playing like this, he will lock himself into the top-five, and the Hornets figure to be too good this year to be picking that high.
- Overall, Kentucky was rather unimpressive in their first game of the season as they narrowly squeaked by Maryland 72-69. Nerlens Noel had a forgetful night, scoring just 4 points on 6 shots and missing all of his free throws. Meanwhile, Alex Poythress, a likely target if Demps lets Aminu go, got into foul trouble early and was turnover prone as he scored just eight points in 23 minutes. One thing to keep in mind is that Calipari’s teams tend to grow more than most as the season goes on, so we’ll continue to check in on these youngsters. On the other end of the court was Maryland’s Alex Len, a 7-1 true center who dominated Noel, going off for 23 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocks. Len is projected to go anywhere between 5 and 10, and Dell Demps would have an interesting decision on his hands if this raw but ultra-talented big was still on the board when we picked.
- North Texas got crushed by #16 Creighton, but star forward Tony Mitchell did his part, scoring 18 while pulling down 7 boards and logging 2 blocks and 2 steals. I only watched about 20 minutes of this game, but it only took two possessions to see that Mitchell belongs at the next level. He is super talented offensively and reminds me of a more athletic Eddie Griffin, the 7th overall pick from the 2001 draft. I know that Griffin’s career and life ended tragically, but I am just comparing him as a college basketball player, and for those of you who remember Griffin at Seton Hall, imagine a more explosive version. Kid is impressive.
- The Lehigh/Baylor game was probably the most interesting of the night when it comes to watching possible 2013 draft prospects that might fall into the Hornets range. Lehigh point guard CJ McCollum is the guy who has the best chance to become this year’s Damian Lillard- a point guard from a small school who goes from off the NBA radar to lottery pick. You might all remember him as last year’s tournament darling as he dropped 30 on Austin Rivers and Duke in Lehigh’s monumental upset over the #2 seed. He kicked off the 2012-13 season with 36 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 assists in a loss to #19 Baylor. Meanwhile, Baylor freshman phenom Isaiah Austin looked poised to make people forget Perry Jones III, as he went 10-12, scoring 22 points in just 17 minutes.
- Chad Ford has updated his top 100 for the upcoming season, and the first thing you notice is that front court players make up 17 of the top 20. If Aminu continues to play well and the Hornets welcome him back, then New Orleans is loaded up front and would be forced to either pick for a need or draft a guy who couldn’t get any playing time in his first or second year. BJ Young is the only point guard in Ford’s top 20, but he is more of a combo guard, not the true point that the Hornets so desperately need.
Breaking Down the Denver Wings
The Nuggets have an overload at the two/three position and Dell Demps is likely keeping a watchful eye on them, hoping to pluck away one of their talented wings for cheap. The crazy part so far, is that if you just look at the production, it is clear which swing the Hornets should target- Corey Brewer. Iguodala isn’t giving the Nuggets more this year than what Aminu is giving the Hornets, Danillo Galinari has forgotten how to shoot, and Wilson Chandler simply looks lost. Meanwhile, Brewer has the best defensive rating of all the regular rotation players on the team and he leads the wings in offensive rating, three-point percentage. points per minute, PER, and defensive rebound percentage. It can easily be argued that Brewer has been the Nuggets second best player this season behind Kenneth Faried, and he will be completely unrestricted this summer.
Anderson and Davis Sandwich, Just add Mayo?
The Dallas Mavericks signed OJ Mayo to a two-year deal this summer, with the second year being a player option for just over four million dollars. That might have been a mistake, because if Mayo keeps playing like this, he is likely gone. OJ is scoring 22 points per game on just 15 shots and is hitting 60% of his three’s, which is insane considering he takes 7 per game! You have to wonder if the Hornets could target him this summer if they choose to unload Eric Gordon. Mayo, like Gordon, is a bit of a combo guard and the Hornets targeted Rivers because they wanted two guys who could handle the ball late in games, essentially sharing the load. Mayo is just 25 and fits that “young vet” profile that Dell covets.
The Missing Piece is a weekly article that you can find every Saturday only on Hornets247.com. For past articles, click here.