The Missing Piece: Instant Impact

We have all seen the struggles of one Austin Rivers this year, and he is not alone. Top ten picks like Bradley Beal and Terrence Ross have had similar struggles, while highly touted players like Jeremy Lamb and Kendall Marshall haven’t even gotten a chance to show what they can do in this league because of the talent in front of them and the holes in their game. Meanwhile, several guys have come into this league and made an instant impact- from Damian Lillard in Portland to Anthony Davis when healthy and Andre Drummond in Detroit.

Coach Williams recently stated that Austin’s struggles now will help him two to three years down the line, basically insinuating that he will be somewhat of a liability between now and then. The question must be asked then, if the Hornets are serious about making a playoff push next season, can they afford to take another 2-3 year project next June when guys like Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson are ready to win now?

Isn’t it possible that Demps goes into next year’s draft looking to get a guy who can help fill a need right away? And if so, how do you know which kind of players make instant impacts and who specifically in this draft fits that mold. Well, I’m glad I asked.

Instant Impact Prototypes


1. Physical Specimen/ Freak Athlete

Tyreke Evans is an example of a player who came into the league with a man’s body, so he was not only able to take a beating, but dish one out as well. The majority of guys, like Rivers, come in undersized and need a couple of years in the weight room before they are really able to handle the physical nature of this game. Meanwhile, physical freaks like Andre Drummond also have the ability  to make an instant impact because they can impact the game at the rim. Drummond almost never takes a shot that is not a layup or a dunk, but he makes 6-7 plays a game at the rim on offense and defense and that is enough to qualify as instant impact.

2. Upperclassmen

This is kind of a no brainer, as it is only logical that a 22 year old has a better chance of being able to play a game in a league full of grown men than a guy who is just 19 or 20. Darren Collison came into the league after having played and started for four years at UCLA. He understood concepts on both ends of the court, knew how to lead young men, and was fully aware of his own personal strengths and weaknesses at that point. When he got the opportunity, he took advantage of it and played better in his rookie season than most of the guys drafted ahead of him. In fact, in that draft class that had some fantastic young prospects, three of the top six rookies that year (Collison, Marcus Thornton, and Taj Gibson) were upperclassmen who were drafted 21, 24, and 45, showing that you can get some instant impact later in the draft as well.

3. Non-stop Motor

The scouting report said that Kenneth Faried was productive in college and had a non-stop motor, but he was undersized and had a limited ceiling. So even though NBA teams saw a guy like Paul Milsap make them regret on passing on him years earlier, Kenneth Faried fell all the way to #22 and the Manimal has been making teams regret not picking him ever since. Teams miss on this because they don’t think that having a non-stop motor is a developed skill. They think every player has it in them and all they have to do is bring it out of them, but that is not the case. It takes years to develop a skill that silences your mind when it tells you to stop or to play for yourself instead of team, and some guys have it coming into the league. Most guys don’t.

4. Multi-dimensional Scorer

Damian Lillard has sustained his offensive success in his rookie season because he can score in a myriad of ways. Primarily, he is a fantastic jump shooter who hits a ridiculous percentage of his mid-range and deep jump shots, but he is also a guy who can score in the paint and in transition. Most players are one dimensional coming into the league because that one thing that they did in college or high school could not be stopped by the future real estate agents and restaurant managers that they faced at those levels. But when you get to this league, they are going to take away the things you like to do most and if you don’t have something else you can go to, it will be a struggle.

Instant Impact Candidates


1. CJ McCollum, G, Lehigh (Upperclassmen and M-D Scorer)

Almost everybody remembers #2 Duke getting upset by Lehigh in the first round of the NCAA tournament and how Lehigh star CJ McCollum thoroughly outplayed Austin Rivers on that night. The Junior looked savvy and in control all night while the 19 year old Freshman Rivers struggled with his shot and his composure. McCollum will have another year under his belt by the time draft night comes around and from what we have seen early on this season, he has really taken his game to another level. His three-point numbers are through the roof (3.1 makes per game shooting 56%) and his mid-range game has improved each of the last two seasons, going from 27%  his sophomore year to 38% last year and 44% this year. His percentages at the rim have also skyrocketed from 36% to 50% last year to 57% this year. He is great off the dribble or in catch and shoot situations, and has put on 32 pounds since coming in as a freshman, so he can handle contact at the rim as well.

2. Alex Poythress, F, Kentucky (Physical Specimen and Non-Stop Motor)

I joked in a prior piece that if you wanted to find Poythress while watching a Kentucky game, just watch for the guy who looks like he should be playing defensive end on Sundays. Poythress just turned 19 three months ago, but he is built like a tank, standing 6 foot 8 and weighing in at a solid 245 pounds. 19-year old Lebron James would look like a string bean standing next to this guy. In fact, the comparison I like better for Poythress is Larry Johnson, who was a man amongst boys during his days at UNLV and took the league by storm when he arrived back in 1991. Poythress is averaging 15 points per game on a young, but talented Kentucky team and is shooting over 67% from the field. He never stops on either end of the court, and when you combine a non-stop motor with a body this powerful, you have a combination that most players would rather avoid than try to stop.

3. Jeff Withey, C, Kansas (Upperclassmen and Non-Stop Motor)

We have all heard that Anthony Davis was so good in the NCAA title game that he won Most Outstanding Player despite going just 1-11 from the field. But do you remember the player who caused his to have such a horrible shooting night? That’s right, it was Jeff Withey, who also gave Jared Sullinger nightmares two nights earlier in that fantastic Final Four held in New Orleans. Withey is a defensive monster who not only has good size but also possesses fantastic foot work for a big and a non-stop motor. Watching him last year was impressive, as we saw him lock down All-American after All-American, averaging 3.6 blocks per game while picking up just 2.5 fouls. This season, he is downright ludicrous, as he is blocking 5.7 shots a game and only picks up .9 fouls per contest. That is Anthony Davis territory. Combine that with a respectable offensive game and you got a guy who can come in right away and give opposing post players nightmares.

4. Patric Young, PF/C (Physical Specimen, Upperclassmen, and Non-Stop Motor)

Patric Young is a guy that I personally have had the privilege of playing against two summers ago at UF, and let me tell you that I have never come across a more impressive physical specimen than this big man from Florida. In the offseason, his workouts include strapping a rope around his waist and pulling full size tractors up and down an empty street in Gainesville. He stands 6’9″, 250 pounds and does not have an ounce of fat on his body. Combine that with a non-stop motor and one of the nastiest on-court dispositions you will ever see and I have the feeling that Young will be being praised this time next year for doing all of the little things that help teams win.

The Missing Piece is a weekly feature that you can find every Saturday only on For past articles, click here.

17 responses to “The Missing Piece: Instant Impact”

  1. Really like the article, although I think we need to draft a guard or SF.

    Look at the PER of our players. Roberts is in only non-big the top
    6, and only three non-bigs have double digit PERs. Below is the current list of Hornet player PERs. (15 is the league wide PER average and a PER of 13 indicates a rotation player.)

    Davis 26.63 (but only based on 6 ganmes)
    Anderson 21.36
    Lopez 19.02
    Roberts 17.58
    Smith 15.19
    Thomas 14:71
    Vasquez 14.57
    Aminu 13.24
    Mason 9.38
    Henry 8.85
    Miller 8.00
    Rivers 6.12

    So McCollum, and possibly Poythress, make sense. Do we really think the others will break into the rotation? If so, how much better will they be than Lopez or Smith and how long will it take them to be better? A guard or SF will have a much easier time breaking into the rotation and contributing more than the weaker guards or SFs on the roster.

    • Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever draft for need. Did I say never?

      You take the best player possible and tinker with your roster if need be. If you identify the best guy as a center, then trade Lopez for another need or asset. If all things are equal, then yes draft for need, but in all likelihood, draft picks won’t fully mature for 3-5 years, so why draft for a need now when your roster could look completely different by the time the player matures?

      BPA, plain and simple

      • I typically agree on drafting for need, but the way this team is constructed the Hornets need perimeter help. 2 of the team’s best 3 players are PFs on fantastic contracts. Monty has not yet been able (albeit a limited sample size) to get them on the court together for one second this season. Another big makes it even harder.

        Part of this question comes down to how the team thinks they will get Davis and Anderson on the court at the same time. If they think one of those guys can guard 3s, then a low post presence makes sense. If they project Davis or Anderson to guard 5s, then they have to go with a perimeter player.

      • Why draft for need? Because, as you state in the article, “can they afford to take another 2-3 year project next June when guys like Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson are ready to win now?”

        I agree with your statement of never drafting for need, but your reasoning contradicts your article intro a bit, IMO. The reason you don’t draft for need is because if the GM is competent and the coaching staff is worth a darn, you can make the talent you have work for you and trade for need when it arises.

  2. Theoretically, yes, especially in the first few picks. But the reality is that at most other points in the draft there are many similarly rated players available. When that happens, need is certainly a factor.

    Are you saying Rivers was the 10th best player on NBA draft boards? (If so, I don’t think so.)

    Also, at halftime in Miami, there are three players who have scored above 4 points. They are all in double figures and are our three best, uninjured, bigs: Anderson, Lopez, and Smith. Again pointing to the value added of acquiring players at a different position, including through the draft.

    Like Lopez or not, he and Smith are cheap at the price bigs and in the age range of the rest of our team who you don’t trade away to make room for am unproven rookie.

    • Hornets had a top 7 on their board, then Drummond, Rivers, and Leonard in their next tier. Rivers was at the top of their board regardless of position because the brass believes that after watching that OKC- Miami finals, you need guys who can create their own shots at the end of games and Rivers had the highest potential for doing that of anybody else on the board.

      Wanting to trade Lopez is more about showing respect for him, at least that is how I see it. His value is sky high right now and the simple fact is that once Davis matures, the Hornets won’t be able to utilize him for more than 12-16 MPG. Why not trade a guy whose value will never be higher, especially when you won’t really have room for him down the line? That’s how I see it, at least. I am not going to be mad if we keep him, but I think Lopez has a better chance of helping this franchise as a trade asset than as a 3rd or 4th big sitting behind two guys who will be getting 34-37 MPG and playing at the end of games

      • Michael,

        These are the two players we disagree on most. But let’s just talk about Lopez because he is at least a possibility to get traded.

        Doesn’t Lopez’s high level of play mean you don’t have to play Davis and Anderson so much each game, and they are fresher throughout the season (and any playoff run)? So Davis and Anderson together can average 60 minutes when healthy, and Lopez can average 20-25 depending on the health of Davis and Anderson (and Smith).

        And what do you think the Hornets could get for Lopez, and is it worth giving up such a high quality, young, big who is a fit in our system?

      • Your point is exactly why I wouldn’t be mad if we kept Lopez, but I still like the idea of trading him for a young guard and a late 1st rounder. Smith and Thomas are two bigs on great contracts that give me depth at the 4, meaning I need 10-12 minutes at the 5 at most if I was really pushing it.

        As for trades, I think the Hornets could target a win now team and do something like Lopez and Vasquez for Bledsoe, a late first, and expirings. If something like that was on the table, I would have to do it. That is the kind of trade I am advocating for- not just dumping Lopez for nothing. Trade a guy who would, at most, get 15-18 mins when the whole team is healthy for a guy who could earn 35 if he hits his potential.

  3. Poythress would be great, but if we really want to see this offense take off, getting a 3 who can shoot the 3 would be perfered.

    Imagine the damage that a Gordon Davis pnr would have if we spaced the floor with legit threats from 3 on both wings/corners.

  4. So Im procrastinating in the library avoiding studying for Finals and read that Derrick Williams is close to requesting a trade from the T-Wolves. What do y’all think about trying to trade for him, maybe giving up Aminu in the process.

    I don’t watch the Timberwolves enough but I feel like Williams is a better scorer than Aminu. Williams is about 6’8 and 240 to Aminu’s 6’9 215 so you would be giving up some height but gaining a little bit of muscle. He also has another year left on his contract with a team option after that.

    Earlier y’all talked about how a change of scenery could really help a player, maybe all Williams needs is to come down to NOLA.

    • A change of scenery could be just what he needs but Williams is a stretch 4. He’s struggled as a 3 playing next to Kevin Love. Playing next to Anderson wouldn’t change much.

      The Lakers could use him. He should be a target in whatever Gasol swap they are planning. He could be an offensive minded version of Marion in SSOL offense.

  5. I just love it, when you bloggers want to trade away players that can’t play for a players that can play.What team in their right mind would trade for Aminu? Michael, if you were running the Clippers would u really trade Bledso to the Hornets for the” turnover king” Vasquez and Lopez? If we could con the Clippers to do that I would love it.

    • I think your comment of Vazquez being the turnover king are un-warranted as technically he would be more the “turnover duke” seeing as he is only 4th in the league in turnovers per game. James Harden would take the mantle of turnover king. And has a pretty solid 2.43 assist to turnover ration.

      In defense of the writers as a manager of the clippers being in a win now mentality as the clippers are. Yes I do that trade because you are giving up one serviceable piece in Bledsoe in return for two serviceable pieces. 7ft Big man that can actually play basketball and aren’t just around because they are tall are rare commodity in the NBA couple that with a PG who is playing just as well if not better than Bledsoe.

      Who is the clippers back up center, Ryan Hollins. Your telling me you would take Ryan Hollins and Bledsoe over Vazquez and Lopez? I would not, no matter how good bledsoe is Hollins is terrible. I have friends from both Cleveland and Boston and have seen plenty of Ryan Hollins “Highlights”


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