Looking to the Future: Crashing the Party

The top prospects have apparently seperated themselves from the pack, but is there any chance the pack can catch back up? 

Since this series began, I have maintained that there are six players (Davis, T-Rob, Drummond, Sullinger, MKG, and Barnes) who have seperated themselves from the pack. And with the Hornets seemingly destined to finish with a bottom three record, they will be guaranteed one of those six. But the most important part of the season is still to come and we have seen huge March performances elevate a players stock. It could decrease it as well, if he is a no-show when the lights are brightest. So with that in mind we look at what would need to happen for an outsider to crack the mythical Top Six, and whether someone on the inside could fall out.

On the Inside Looking Out

Anthony Davis is going number one; case closed. But none of the other guys are stone cold locks to go in the first six picks this year. First of all, they are all underclassman and they can choose to stay in school for another year. Andre Drummond and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have already hinted at returning and Jared Sullinger could have been a high lotto pick last year, but passed it up because he wants to bring OSU a title. Harrison Barnes and Thomas Robinson are the most likely to leave, but the lure of college life or chasing a title might be enough to make them stay.

Even if they all do come out, however, there are flaws in their game that scouts can pick apart. Beyond that, only Barnes and Sullinger have had success in the tournament prior to this year, so if they do not step up big on the biggest stage, their stock could drop. We’ve already seen Thomas Robinson have a mediocre game in the Big XII tournament, as Kansas was upset last night. If they are bounced early from the NCAA tournament and Robinson fails to deliver, those concerns about his height and lack of athletisicm will become magnified.

The point is that none of these guys are safe as of right now, partly because of minor flaws in their game, and partly because the guys behind them are extremely talented as well. It has been said that this might be the deepest and most talented draft class since 2003, and if that is the case, nothing is guaranteed. These prospects will have to fight and claw for their positions, and if they fail, there will be someone right there behind them to take their spot.

Gunning for the Top

Bradley Beal- Shooting Guard, University of Florida

You wouldn’t know it by looking at his numbers, but if there is one player who can get hot from deep and carry an underdog all the way to the Final Four, it is probably Florida’s Bradley Beal. Beal is often compared to Ray Allen by scouts, but he has been wildly inconsistent shooting the ball during his freshman year. He started off ice cold, then got hot in the middle of the season, and has again turned cold as the postseason heats up.

But today he gets #1 Kentucky, and the formula for beating Kentucky is getting hot from the perimeter. Florida (and Beal) have the ability to do just that if everything falls right. A win, or a close lose, to Kentucky today plus a steller tournament showing could elevate Beal to the #1 spot amongst perimeter players. He has already shown the toughness that Barnes lacks, as well as the scoring touch MKG hasn’t developed yet. If he puts it all together, he can easily be a top five pick.

Jeremy Lamb- Shooting Guard, University of Conneticut

As I mentioned before, a lot of these guys have not done it on a big stage. Lamb, however, has come up huge in some big moments for Conneticut, as he helped lead them to a Big East title and the NCAA title just last season. Most of the credit was given to Kemba Walker last season, but there is no way UConn wins either of those tournaments without Lamb. This year, UConn has been a huge disappointment, but Lamb has come to play and has solidified himself as a lottery pick in the 2012 draft.

To crack the Elite Six, however, Lamb is going to have to showcase himself in individual workouts because the Huskies likely won’t make the tournament- and even if they do, they are likely one and done. Lamb is one of those players that can go 28 of 30 from three in a private workout, but what GM’s will want to see is some added muscle and an ability to defend bigger 2 guards at the next level. The wingspan is there, and he will be a terror playing the passing lanes, but he needs to get bigger to have an impact playing man-to-man D.

Perry Jones III- Power Forward, Baylor

The premise for this article, in all honesty, came from me thinking about Perry Jones’ play as of late. He started the season as a consensus top five pick, then fall drastically, and now after two great games, he is back in the picture. He followed up a 31 and 11 game against Kansas State with 18 and 7 in an upset win over Thomas Robinson and #3 Kansas. He look rejuvinated and fierce in both games, going full speed throughout and rarely took a play off. His athletisicm is undeniable, as are some of his skills. He handles the ball better than 99% of guys his size and he has shown potential as a jump shooter.

For Jones to climb back into the elite group, he has to help Baylor go deep in the tournament and play consistantly along the way. He has been up and down all season, and has actually scored in single digits 10 times this season, despite having the potential to go off for 30+ like he did against Kansas State. And it is not just the scoring that has wavered. Sometimes Jones looks like a beast on the glass and in the paint, while other times he simply has no impact in those areas. In the previous matchup against Kansas State, for instance, he had just four points and four rebounds in a 57-56 loss. That is the SAME team he went off for 31 and 11 against just three weeks later! Now just imagine- you are a GM of a bad team with a top five pick- how scared would you be to bet the future of your franchise on this guy? But somebody just might be crazy enough to do it.

Austin Rivers- Shooting Guard, Duke

Okay this one might be a bit of a stretch, but Rivers would be the guy I would put money on to have a Steph Curry type of tournament if I was forced to bet. And if he does, then why wouldn’t you consider him in the top five? A coaches son with a high basketball IQ, terrific body control and athletisicm, and the ability to score in a multitude of different ways. Obviously Rivers is a bit one-dimensional, but he is light years ahead of Jimmer Fredette, who went top 10 just last year.

With Rivers, a team would likely be drafting more on need, and that is probably the only way he cracks the top six. Power forward is a pretty stacked position in the NBA right now, and several teams already have their PF of the future. Rivers could leap frog the other perimeter players with a terrific postseason and land on a team like Charlotte, should they fall to the 4th pick in the draft.

Hornets Big Board as of today:

1. Anthony Davis

2. Thomas Robinson

3. Andre Drummond

4. Jared Sullinger

5. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

6. Harrison Barnes

7. Bradley Beal

8. Perry Jones III

9. Jeremy Lamb

10. Austin Rivers

11. John Henson

12. Cody Zeller

13. Damian Lillard

14. Terrance Ross

Looking to the Future is an article that runs every Saturday only on Hornets247.com. For past articles, click here.


25 responses to “Looking to the Future: Crashing the Party”

  1. I would take MKG over Sullinger, he seems perfect for monty, (only if the minn pick some how hits top 7 or so.

    And if the hornets draft Henson I might just give up on the whole sport, he screams bust

    • think you’re wrong about henson. he’s growing on offense and growing into his body but you don’t get three blocks and three otr a game by accident. it takes some heart (and timing and athleticism). I would not be unhappy at all if we scooped him with the minny pick (though I’d rather have lillard or marshall)

  2. I’m a Spartan fan, and would love to see Dramond Green in a Hornets uniform. Not with the lottery picks, but with one of the many later draft picks we will get via trade. He looks like a David West type, but with more passing ability and maybe a longer shot range. His weight has been an issue in prior years, but not this year. Go Green!

  3. In a quest for greatness we all want AD. If not, there’s Drummond, who’s risky. Everyone else seems to fall short ( Rob/Sull ) playing with the big boys.

  4. I don’t mean to brag, but in 2010 my favorite prospect was Paul George. I just loved his game. Last year, my two favorite prospects were Marshon Brooks and Kenneth Faried. My track record is pretty good so far.

    This year, I’m pretty much obsessed with Damian Lillard. He’s not in the tourney, which might make him fall behind other guys who have strong showings, but he put up Steph Curry-esque numbers this year playing with NO ONE. I hope we get the number one pick, but if we don’t, I’ll still be delighted with a Robinson-Lillard combo.

  5. Perry Jones’ ceiling seems like healthy T-Mac to me. Maybe because it’s his sort of lazy look on the court or his crazy scoring/athleticism, but I would take a chance on him. He’s been killing it in the Big 12 tournament and somehow he’s got freaking Baylor as a really good team. If he has a big tournament he could shoot up the board, a la Tyrus Thomas…though hopefully he would turn out better if we get him

  6. I fail to understand how Kendall Marshall isn’t on your Hornets big board. I have written about his virtues before, including his owning the ACC Season Assists Record. But don’t take my word for it, look at the All-ACC Team voting. He received just two votes less than Harrison Barnes, who is #6 on your board, yet you have all these “reach” big guys on your board: Drummond, Henson, and Cody Zeller.

    The wise Jim Finks used to alway say ‘draft production over potential’. I agree. It’s a much safer bet, and we need more quality players on the roster. We have too many holes already.

    • I agree, to an extent. But let’s remember: production over potential can be a disaster (Adam Morrison, anyone?). The production/potential debate is never going to end. Some guys who produce in college will fail in the NBA, while some will succeed. Some guys who have high potential will fail in the NBA and some will succeed. The best way to draft is to find the right mix of production AND potential (example: Kevin Durant, John Wall, Blake Griffin etc.). And I think the reason Kendall Marshall isn’t on his big board is because Marshall is projected late 1st round/early 2nd round. Our two picks are gonna be between 2-5 and 13-16. Obviously, taking Marshall at either of those spots would be a tremendous reach. But I’m with you, I love him. I think we should trade down to get him.

    • I feel like I have addressed this multiple times, but here I go again. Marshall is one of my top 10 players in this draft, but he is not the type of PG you want to put next to Eric Gordon. Actually, he is the exact opposite of what you want next to Gordon. Marshall is a guy who will dominate the ball in the NBA, like Nash, CP3, Jeremy Lin, etc. If he doesn’t, he will be ineffective.

      Next to Gordon, you want a knock down shooter who can play off the ball effectively. It is about fit, nothing personal.

      • Michael, I think you need to look at the Hornet’s entire roster, not just Gordon. I see guys who need the ball in spots: Okafor and Aminu down low, Ariza and Beli on the wings. And Gordon is also a good spot up shooter.

        Then I think you need to look at Marshall’s college team. UNC plays like a “traditional” basketball team, by that I mean pre-3pt shot. UNC doesn’t take threes. So what Marshall is asked to do is to get the ball to players in their 2 pt spots (usually high percentage shots down low), and he does that very well.

        In spite of the fact that he isn’t being asked to score, he has had some very strong shooting nights: 2nd two NC State games, 1st two Duke games are good examples. I am not so sure he can’t be a better scorer in the NBA.

      • Okay, but you know we have Dealer Dell, right? Every marginal player on this team will be gone in the next two years if you look at Dell’s track record. EG10 (and maybe Ayon) are the only guys on the current roster who I believe will be Hornets long term. You find guys who compliment your stars, and if Gordon is in the long term plans, you find the right backcourt mate for him. Can he be a better scorer in the NBA (as you put it)? Of course, but guys like Lillard, Teague, etc already possess the skill set that will compliment Gordon.

        Again, I LOVE Marshall, but if Gordon is in the long terms plans, he will not be a Hornet.

      • You make a good point, Michael, but I think it would be worth having Marshall for his passing prowess, even if he’s not a great scorer. I can’t stand watching the Hornets run a disjointed, unorganized, offense with a combo guard running the point anymore. We need a real PG, and that’s what Marshall is. He always makes the right pass, he’s got great instincts, and he knows how to run the show and organize the offense, unlike Jarrett Jack. He’s shown some scoring ability in the past, (22 pts v NC State, 20 pts vs Duke, 14 pts vs Wake Forest), and I think he’s a better shooter/scorer than people give him credit for (he’s a career 36% three point shooter, which is decent enough). I think he doesn’t score more because his team really doesn’t NEED him to score. UNC has Barnes & Zeller to carry the load, and so Marshall only gets 6 shots attempts per game. I feel like he can be a solid NBA scorer, if given an opportunity (about 10-12 shots per game). He’s got a proven track record of success, and he did wonders for UNC’s offense after he became the starter last year. I know you don’t agree with me and 504ever, but I think he’d be an awesome fit for the Hornets. Anyone’s better than Jack.

      • michael,

        I disagree with you. One of the great things about marshall’s game is that he looks to move the ball out of his hand and upcourt quickly, and only takes a return if things break down. I can see him blasting it up to ej on a regular basis for fast break, quick points. now if we want to play a super deliberate style then he is not the guy. but his court vision is incredible. I agree he should be higher on the board.

  7. Oh, and there’s some big news concerning our Minny pick: Rubio is reportedly out for the season with a torn ACL. It sucks that he’s injured, but I’m glad it helps our draft pick. I wish him a speedy recovery. Two top-10 picks, here we come!

  8. What makes Kendall Marshall any better than Greivis Vasquez? His passing is considerably better and he probably has a higher B-Ball IQ, but physically and athletically, they are virtually the same. Both struggle shooting, but i think Vasquez is a slightly better scorer.

    Not that big on Marshall personally. I see him as a good rotation player.

    • grievis is a good passer, marshall has the kind of elite vision that only comes along every few years. think young jkidd, and yes marshall will learn to shoot an nba three.

  9. Already made my comments on both Marshall (unathletic, limited as a scorer, bad defender, poor fitcw hornets) and Sully (marginal athlete, short, not long enough. Avg defender and rebounder). Gordon running pick n roll will be the basis of our offense. We need a combo guard to be our point. Gordon, statistically, is one of the best PnR players in the NBA. Having s ball dominate guard like Marshall does nothing for us bc he is not a threat to score off of the PnR set. I hope we can get Beal w one of our picks and let he and Gordon play off of each other

  10. Can we please remove Robinson from #2. We will be right back in the lottery if we waste a top 3 pick on him. Total disappointment!

  11. MM, can you please explain why we would not want to draft Harrison Barnes? Wouldn’t he be perfect next to Gordon (minus Ariza)? What am I not seeing?

    • Monty and Dell have a track record of wanting high character individuals who do multiple things well on the court- defense being one of those things. Harrison Barnes is a flat out scorer, a guy I can see scoring 22-25 per game in the NBA when he hits his prime, but he makes absolutely no impact on the game outside of scoring. And he does not have low character, but it is average at best, and Demps will fall in love with a guy like MKG who is a team leader, unselfish player, hard worker, defender, etc.

      • I appreciate the feedback. I thought long and hard tonight about what direction the team should/ might go. I think Gordon will get extended even if we have to overpay. He’s 23, high character, and lots of upside at the SG position. With him as our vocal point offensively, I think we next need a PF that excells in pick and roll/ pick and pop. Gordon has ball in his hands, comes off the pick from the pf and then either dumps it to his rolling pf, goes for the shot himself, passes to an open Kaman for a jumper, or to his open SF or PG for a shot. Kaman and Gordon are a solid start, but is Ayon and Smith good enough to be that pick and roll/pop pf we need as a starter? I say both are backup. We need a starter. Why not go after Varejao? He has a great contract, is awesome on D and rebounding, works hard/ high energy, and is a nice size to set solid screens for Gordon. Another plus is he’s out for this season, so we can continue our tank job. Downside is he might be too old. Check out this trade:

        Okafor, Landry, our MINN pick for Varejao, Jamison, and CLE’s 2nd rounder.

        This deal would be ugly in the end if we land the #1 pick, but I think it sets us up nicely if we land #2 or after. We would no longer need to draft a PF in the draft with this deal. So that leaves Drummond, Barnes, or MKG as our top guys we go after with our pick. Another avenue is trading Ariza to LAL for a 1st rounder to give us 2 1st rounders still. This would make us go after a SF with our pick.

        So my question is, what are your thoughts on Varejao considering the direction of the team? Thanks.

      • Hornets (and I) would do that trade in a heartbeat, but Cleveland would say no and probably wouldn’t even bother countering. Unlike the Hornets with Okafor, the Cavs actually love Varejao and his contract. But I think a guy like Ilyasova is someone who could be had and do a lot of the same things.

      • Thanks again for your feedback. Looking forward to the new podcast in the morning MM.

      • Agree about Barnes being one dimensional, disagree about the trade.

        We trade a career 13/10 C and the say #10 pick in the draft for a career 7/7 PF, who happens to be an 11/11 guy this year. They are both the same age 29, the same age as Kaman (who people say is too old for the Hornets to keep as part of the rebuilding process).

        It’s more likely than not we are losing Kaman, so this trade gives us zero Cs. Also, if we really need a PF (and I think we have two starter quality PFs, who can play the pick and roll and are locked up at good salaries for a few more years) we can draft one; this is a PF heavy draft. All of the C prospects in the drafts are projects, and maybe one rates being picked in the top 6 where the Hornets are sure to draft.

        I would never do this trade: we give away more than we get (2 for 1), we don’t get younger, we don’t get quality draft picks (we lose one), and we trade a harder to fill position(C) for an easier to fill position (PF).

        [Landry and Jamison don’t count as part of the trade, especially for the Hornets, since they are both expiring contracts. If anything, Cleveland has a better chance of signing Landry than we have of signing Jamison. THis makes the trade marginally worse.]

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