Grading the Hornets’ potential draft picks

Luke Kennard was named Ohio Mr. Basketball in 2014 and '15.

After witnessing an NBA Finals laden with obscene levels of talent, middling teams like the Charlotte Hornets are left scratching their heads. How can a team like the Hornets stockpile the necessary talent to eventually compete with the NBA’s true title contenders?

Despite the beautiful weather and friendly people of Charlotte, North Carolina, marquee free agents will never mistake the Queen City for destinations like Miami or Los Angeles. GM Rich Cho and the Hornets know this, and thus are aware of the importance of the draft next Thursday night in Brooklyn.

With just about a week remaining until NBA commissioner Adam Silver kicks off this year’s extravaganza, Cho and the Hornets appear to have several options with the 11th pick. Below we’ll examine a handful of different perspectives from around the web, and grade each potential outcome.

Charlotte, you’re on the clock!

  1. Zach Collins, C, Gonzaga

Several sources have linked the 7-footer from the Zags to Charlotte, including Reid Forgrave of CBS Sports and Andrew Lynch of Fox Sports. “Charlotte needs help in the frontcourt more than anything,” Lynch preaches, a statement that has been applicable to this franchise since Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” sat atop the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Despite this lack of production from the center position over the past 20 years, I’m still hesitant to endorse the Collins pick here. The evolution of the NBA has de-emphasized the role of the big man, placing more value on pace, space and three-point shooting. This feels a little early to take a gamble on the freshman from Gonzaga.

Grade: B+

  1. Lauri Markkanen, PF, Arizona

“Wait, but what about all the talk of not drafting big guys?” Yes, yes the Finnish freshman is indeed another 7-footer, but that’s pretty much where the comparisons to Zach Collins end. Per The Ringer, Markkanen is a “tremendous perimeter scorer at the big-man position,” who shot over 49% from the field and 42% from three in his lone season in Tuscon. Gary Parrish of CBS Sports explains how Markkanen may not even be available when Charlotte picks. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he went in the top six.” If the Hornets are going to go big, they’d be smart to go in the direction of Markkanen.

Grade: A

  1. Bam Adebayo, PF, Kentucky

Born Edrice Adebayo, the aptly nicknamed “Bam” is a physical force. The Hornets frontcourt has been pushed around in recent years, most notably by Hassan Whiteside in the first round sweep of the 2016 playoffs. Charlotte desperately needs a rim protector and the 19-year-old Adebayo fits the bill. Despite his offensive game seeming to need more time to develop, Bam would provide an instant boost to the defensive side of the ball.

Grade: B

  1. OG Anunoby, SF, Indiana

The supremely-athletic forward from Indiana has drawn comparisons to Kawhi Leonard in some places and Tony Mitchell in others (Mitchell was a late 2nd rounder who now plays in the Dominican Republic). Perhaps this disparity in projecting the sophomore Hoosier is the best illustrator of his boom-or-bust nature. OG reminds me a bit of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, an athletic wing in his own right, who the Hornets are still patiently waiting to fully develop. Like MKG, Anunoby lacks a natural scoring instinct, with his field goal and three-point shooting percentages both dropping significantly in his sophomore season. Oh, and did I mention he’s also returning from a torn ACL? I’d pass.

Grade: C-

  1. Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville

EXPLOSIVE. That’s the best word to describe the 6-foot-3-inch highlight generator from Louisville. Sure he’s a bit undersized for an NBA shooting guard, but Mitchell has the athleticism and wingspan (6’10”!!) to more than make up for his somewhat underwhelming stature. Mitchell would provide instant scoring support for the overburdened Kemba Walker, in addition to some much needed attitude and athleticism. Still not sold? Then watching this YouTube video of Mitchell dunking all over the faces of helpless souls might help.

Grade: A

  1. Frank Ntilikina, PG, France

The French point guard could be scooped up by Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks with the 7th overall pick, based on recent reports from the NY Post. Jackson seems to like the length, strength and defensive prowess the Frenchman possesses, as well as Ntilikina’s potential fit within New York’s well-documented triangle offense. While Charlotte could use some point guard help behind Walker, I don’t see how an unproven 18-year-old who lacks explosiveness is the answer. Plus, the Hornets already have one Frank already, how many more do they need?

Grade: C+

  1. Luke Kennard, SG, Duke

On June 25, 2009 the Charlotte Bobcats selected Gerald Henderson, shooting guard from Duke University, with the 12th overall pick. That was the last time Charlotte drafted a first round shooting guard. Next Thursday could be the second occurrence, and it could very well be another Blue Devil if the Hornets grab Luke Kennard at number 11. Per The Ringer, Kennard is a “sharpshooting combo guard with elite feel,” and has “a quick release and pristine footwork.” But I don’t need to sell you on his shooting ability. The dude can flat out score. Where things get hairy is on the defensive side of the ball, where Kennard “struggles to move laterally and has short arms.” Hey, better that than small hands, right?

Grade: B-

Christopher Kreider | @krydr1