Looking to the Future: Size Wanted

Published: January 28, 2012

This week we focus on the big men who stand out in the 2012 draft class, and how they might fit with the Hornets

If Dell Demps is as smart as he appears to be, he is going to do his due diligence before selecting any young prospect in the upcoming NBA draft. His track record shows that he wants good character guys with high basketball IQ’s, work ethic, and determination. Skill also doesn’t hurt. But there is one more attribute that will have to be at the top of the wants and needs list for Demps this summer: Size.

The Hornets roster is chalk full of quality perimeter players oozing with potential, and it is Monty’s job to develop those young guys. The wing positions alone consist of three lottery picks in Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Xavier Henry- all of which are still on their rookie contracts. Veterans Jarrett Jack and Trevor Ariza also have contracts that go beyond this year, and could both make cases to be long term pieces on this Hornets team.

Meanwhile, Chris Kaman is likely to be traded any day now and Carl Landry’s contract expires after the season is over. That leaves Emeka Okafor, Jason Smith, and Gustavo Ayon as the only bigs likely to be on the roster once the 2012-13 season opens in October.  Ayon and Smith are career backups, while Okafor can be moved any day if Demps can find a taker for that massive contract. Long story short, if all things are equal, Demps will be concentrated on big men this June. And this week, so will we. With no football this weekend, a lot of guys play today or tomorrow, so sit back and enjoy!

The Game Changer

Anthony Davis, Kentucky

Davis might be the only guy in this class that has the potential to be the best player on a championship contender once he hits his prime. That is not an insult to the guys in his class, as there are only 7-8 guys in the league at a time who fit that description. Davis can be Kevin Garnett 2.0 if he continues on his current trajectory. His impact on the defensive end can be Olajuwon-esque, as he has that rare ability to block shots, create steals, guard on the perimeter and in the paint- all while staying out of foul trouble.

Because his defense is so remarkable, people tend to overlook his offense, but this young man was a guard just four years ago. Because of that, he has remarkable handles for his size and the foundation of what could develop into a killer outside stroke. For now, he is mostly scoring at the rim and on lobs, but what’s wrong with that? Deandre Jordan just got 11 mil per year for doing that and he doesn’t have nearly the defensive impact.

When to Watch: Today, 4:00PM on ESPN @LSU (or head to the game if you are in the area)

The Solid Pros

Jared Sullinger, Ohio State

Sullinger is a below the rim power forward who will likely fall somewhere between Drew Gooden and Kevin Love in the NBA. He has been dominant during his year and a half in college, but has struggled at times when going against longer and more athletic players. He has the basketball IQ that both Monty and Dell will love, but he lacks the upside that the Hornets need to become legit contenders down the line.

There is some room for improvement for Sullinger, however, as he has extended the range on his shot since coming to Ohio State, and with work, he can become a legitimate three-point threat as he continues to evolve. He has also shown increased ability as a passer from the post, and by losing weight between his freshman and sophomore years, he has become a better perimeter defender.

When to Watch: Today, 1:00PM on CBS vs. Michigan

Tyler Zeller, North Carolina

We haven’t focused on Zeller before, because he is unlikely to go in the lottery, but he will be a first round pick and fits the Hornets profile in a lot of ways. He is an excellent help defender and a double-double machine. His future as a pro could resemble a less athletic, but tougher Jason Smith, as he plays 100% every night and can hit the mid-range jumper with regularity.

His upside isn’t great, and he lacks the low post moves needed to become a consistent threat on the offensive end, so he will likely fall to the mid-to late first round despite his size and determination. If the Hornets take a point guard or wing early in the draft, however, Tyler Zeller could be the exact kind of guy they look at with a pick that they could get from trading Kaman.

When to Watch: Tuesday, 9:00 PM on ESPNU vs. Wake Forest

Boom or Bust

Andre Drummond, Conneticut

Drummond will be drafted on upside alone if he comes out this year, because he has shown nothing on the court to warrant being a top-3 pick in June. Scouts who love his game say that he can fall somewhere between Amare Stoudamire and Dwight Howard, but he has played more like Kwame Brown this season to be honest.

Physical speciman’s like Drummond don’t come along often, however, and NBA GM’s will be terrified to pass on his potential for a solid player like Sullinger. So Drummond will likely go after Davis if he does come out, and the Hornets might be the team in that #2 slot, staring at Drummond’s name on their draft board. If you want to see the glass as half full, you tell yourself that he is only 18 and you can develop him. You tell yourself that he is nothing like another UConn #2 pick Hasheem Thabeet, and that his stats were only down because he wasn’t the focal point of the offense.

You have to tell yourself these things because there will be dozens of players who produced more on the college level available with that pick. But you almost have to take Drummond in that spot because of the upside. Personally, if I was a GM, I would pray I don’t have to make that decision.

When to Watch: Wednesday, 7:00 PM on ESPN2 @#10 Georgetown

Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State

His floor is Stromile Swift and his ceiling is LaMarcus Aldridge. The scary thing is that it is hard to envision Moultrie falling anywhere in the middle. His motor doesn’t run full time, but if a coach could motivate him to be great, the sky is the limit for this kid. He is long (6’11”), athletic, and has some polish to his game. He hits over 80% of his free throws and knows how to attack the offensive glass without picking up fouls.

But Moultrie simply disappears at times, and that is the lone reason why you won’t see him as a top 5-7 pick in any mock drafts. If he had Sullinger’s heart and head, this would be a guy who teams would covet in the top 3. Perhaps Dell and Monty will see something in him and believe in themselves enough to take a chance with their second lottery pick. If he develops, he could easily be the steal of the draft.

When to Watch: Today, 1:30 PM on ESPN3 @#13UF (and lottery prospect Bradley Beal)

Thomas Robinson, University of Kansas 

I know that most people see Robinson as all boom, with no potential for bust, but you have to remember that he really didn’t do anything until this year. His first two years in Kansas saw him average just a tad over 5 points per game, while racking up fouls at a ridiculously high rate. This year, however, Robinson has played at an elite level and is making a legitimate case for first-team All-NCAA.

Robinson doesn’t have super-elite athletic ability, but he is more athletic than someone like Sullinger, and he possesses the fundamentals that could help him make an impact right away in the NBA. The danger with Robinson is two-fold: Can he defend power forwards in the NBA? and What will be his go-to scoring move?

For a guy that is likely to go in the top 5, those are two questions you would rather not face as a GM. Is he one of those guys that does everything good, but nothing great? Proponents of Robinson will say that his rebounding is his elite skill, and that skill almost always translates to the NBA level. Everything else can be developed. We’ll see.

When to Watch: Today, 2:00pm on ESPN @ Iowa State

John Henson, North Carolina

A poor man’s Anthony Davis in some ways, Henson is raw offensively but can change the game in the paint and on the boards. He gets over three blocks a game and pulls down his share of rebounds despite being on the same team as Zeller, but he has a long way to go offensively. He has spent three years at UNC and has never cracked the 50% barrier from the free throw line. No improvement, whatsoever. That has to scare you as a GM. In his last three games, in fact, he is 1-12 from the stripe.

What you have to hope for with Henson is that he can find chemistry with a point guard that can get him the ball in situations that makes it easy for him to score. He has that right now in Kendall Marshall, the best distributing point guard in college today, but what if he doesn’t have an elite playmaking guard? Will you just be playing 4-on-5 offensively?

When to Watch: Tuesday, 9:00 PM on ESPNU vs. Wake Forest

Perry Jones III, Baylor

Finally, we come to the biggest enigma in the class. A guy who is guaranteed to go top-5, but nobody can tell you exactly why that is. Is he tall? Sure. Athletic? Yes. Okay, and what else? Honestly, I don’t know. He is an average scorer, average rebounder, and average from the line. He kind of effects the game on the defensive end and can sometimes hit from the outside. His basketball IQ is average and he does a decent job of protecting the ball, though he turns it over from time to time.

Honestly, I am looking for a reason to love this guy, but he hasn’t given me one yet. After a fantastic freshman year, people expecting him to take off this season, and we are all still waiting. Perhaps he will take flight in March and be the hot name come June. Or perhaps we will all still be waiting.

When to Watch: Today at 1:00PM on CBA vs. Texas

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


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