First Pick – 9th overall
Aaron Gordon – Forward – Arizona
NCAA Stats: 12.4 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.0 APG
If Gordon is still available at number nine, then the Charlotte Hornets should be quick to pick him. His athleticism is off the charts and could bring a whole new dimension to the Hornets’ slow offense.
Everything can’t run through Al Jefferson down low, and Gordon would allow the Hornets to spread the defense. He could play the small forward position – starting over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – and be a wing speed guy, much like Shawn Marion was young in his career. If Steve Clifford decided to plug him in at power forward, then he would be more of a defensive based player.
Gordon’s outside shooting is questionable, but his versatility and speed make up for it.
You may say that the same thing was said about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist before the then-Bobcats drafted him.
There is one major difference, though.
Gordon’s shot can use some tuning, but it’s still a shot. MKG has some sort of weird, arm catapult tactic he tries and, by now, we all know it has failed. Aaron Gordon offers a weapon on both sides of the ball that Charlotte would gladly take on to their roster.
While he is no Blake Griffin, Gordon can be a highlight reel and a gamechanger at the same time. That is something Charlotte must understand if he is available by the time they are on the clock.
Nik Stauskas – Shooting Guard – Michigan
NCAA Stats: 17.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 3.3 APG
Stauskas is much more likely to be available at number nine then Aaron Gordon, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he is the worst of the two.
His outside stroke (44.2 percent ) and overall shooting (47 percent) are things the Hornets will desperately need next season. The Bobcats last year averaged just 35.1 percent from downtown, good for 23rd in the league. Stauskas brings a cure to that issue. Starting Stauskas and bringing Gary Neal and Gerald Henderson off the bench gives the Hornets some real depth at shooting from the wing.
I compare Stauskas to a Klay Thompson type player, and Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman seems to agree.
“He apparently likes to compare himself to Golden State Warriors’ guard Klay Thompson. And though it might seem like a stretch, I kind of dig the idea of it. “
Thompson had an instant affect on the Warriors once Monta Ellis was shipped off and he got the opportunity to play. The same may be the situation for Stauskas.
Zach LaVine – Combo Guard – UCLA
NCAA Stats: 9.4 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.8 APG
The sleeper of all the picks here, LaVine has really stood out at the combine with his “41.5″ vertical and measuring at “6″6″, among the tallest point guards. While going number nine may be stretching it, a lot of GMs – including our own Rich Cho – will be hesitant to pass on the guard out of UCLA.
Lakersnation.com’s Elliot Cook made a comparison that I completely agree with, stating that LaVine is very similar to Russell Westbrook.
“An explosive combo type guard coming out of UCLA? It would be easy to draw a comparison to Russell Westbrook, but the scary thing is he might ACTUALLY play like him.”
The 2014 draft is truly full of possible gems, and LaVine is the shiniest of those. His boom or bust potential is hard to tell, especially for a guy who averaged less than 10 points a game in college, but I do believe he would be worth the risk for Buzz city. He could plug in right at shooting guard, and give the Hornets one of the speediest backcourts in the league.
Dario Saric – SF – Adriatic League – Croatia
Adriatic League Stats: 16.2 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 3.4 APG
The most mysterious prospect among the top ranks, Dario Saric is also one of the most exciting.
His ball handling and finishing at the basket skills are downright scary. His outside stroke is solid, and his post game is one if his best attributes.
He reminds me a lot of an Andrei Kirilenko type player on ‘roids. He can play nearly any position on the floor and NBA defenses will dread matching up with him.
So why is he not first on this list?
While he is by far one of the best players in the draft and the Hornets should love to have him, he should not be a top priority because the power forward spot is not one of dire need.
Well, it is, but not AS drastic of a need. Cody Zeller was playing some amazing basketball towards the end of last season, and Josh McRoberts continues to outplay both expectations and his contract.
Still, Hornets management may change their mind on the future of their power forward position and take Dario Saric at number nine.
Trade The Pick
Trading the pick for a player is something Rich Cho has to consider. A ninth pick in this years draft is about as valuable as a fourth or fifth pick in other years drafts, so the ultimate reward that the Hornets could bring in for this kind of deal could be huge.
Players they could receive could be something like Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, or Thaddeus Young. All these guys would grow the team to be even better and a more mature playoff team next season, but maybe not worth the upside that they could get with a guy they actually draft here.
Second pick – 24th overall
Shabazz Napier – Combo Guard – UCONN
NCAA Stats: 18.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.9 APG
Napier fits the true logo mold – A Hornet. His defense is very similar to that, always in the defender’s face and able to get up and down the court in a moments notice.
Pairing Napier with former teammate and fellow Husky Alumni Kemba Walker would also be favorable. While Napier would have a hard time getting the starting job from swingman Gerald Henderson, he would be instant offense off the bench.
Backup point guard is a position of need for the Hornets now that Luke Ridnour is a free agent, so Napier would have no trouble getting minutes.
The success that Walker and Napier experienced in college would hopefully transfer over to the NBA.
P.J. Hairston – Shooting Guard – Dallas Legends
NCAA Stats: 21.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, .8 APG
Hometown favorite P.J. Hairston would be a popular pick here, depending on the first of Charlotte’s two picks. If there is still a hole at 2 guard after the top 10 picks, then Hairston is likely the way to go for Charlotte.
His lights out scoring has been showcased in both the NBA D-league and at the University of North Carolina, so NBA teams have seen plenty of what he can offer. Charlotte has always been searching for offense, so Hairston could end up the Jamal Crawford of Charlotte if Rich Cho decides on him in June.
Jerami Grant – Small Forward – Syracuse
NCAA Stats: 12.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.4 APG
Grant’s draft status has fluctuated all season, mostly because of his lack of scoring ability. Still, Grant and his 7’2.5 wingspan could help this Charlotte team substantially.
If Charlotte takes LaVine or Stauskas at number nine, then defensive wing will be the next priority (assuming Napier and Hairston are off the board). Grant is the ultimate defender with back-to-the-basket skills. His massive size could easily shut down stars like Carmelo Anthony, something current defensive small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist failed to do this season.
Charlotte has a lot of ways to go here, but Grant is a safe pick.
Elfrid Payton – Point Guard – Louisiana Lafayette
NCAA Stats: 19.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.9 APG
Payton has flown under a lot of NBA GM radars so far, and I’m not sure why. This guy can really do it all. At 6-3, Payton has excellent size for a hyper-athletic point guard. While his three point shot could use some work – just 26% from downtown last year – the rest of his offensive game is very mature. An excellent driver, Payton could make plays for Charlotte’s slow offense.
Of course, if Napier or Hairston are still on the board here, I doubt Payton to become a Hornet.
Package Both First Rounders In a Trade
Perhaps the thing that appeals most to Rich Cho about being awarded the ninth pick in this year’s draft is the opportunity to package them together for a star.
Having one first round pick in this year’s draft is a big deal, but having two?! That’s invaluable.
So, what could the Hornets really get for two super-valuable picks in this years loaded draft?
Maybe Brook Lopez, the oft injured yet still star center for the Nets?
Or maybe Atlanta’s Al Horford – If the Hawks look to kickstart a fast rebuild.
Hell, maybe even Kevin Love and a bad Minnesota contract for the 2 picks, Gerald Henderson, and a future first rounder?
All these are in fact possible, and that just shows how valuable picks are in this year’s draft. As much as I want to throw Charlotte into the mix for Kevin Love, I just don’t see Love committing himself to a still-growing market like Charlotte, nor do I see Michael Jordan making that deal without confirmation of a re-sign.
Al Horford and Brook Lopez are definitely a possibility though, and Charlotte has been linked to both in the past.
Maybe Charlotte is better off keeping the picks, but if MJ’s main goal is to win right now, then acquiring one of these players listed would definitely be the way to go.
Third pick – 45th overall
Jahii Carson – Point Guard – Arizona State
NCAA Stats: 18.6 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 4.6 APG
If the Hornets haven’t taken a point guard up to this point, then that should be their number one priority. Carson provides Charlotte with a small guy ( just 5’11″) who can do it all. He averaged nearly 19 points a game in college whilst averaging 4 boards and nearly 5 assists. He also shot 39 percent from downtown last season, which the Hornets could always use.
The second round is a round for need, so Carson fits that mold depending on the previous two picks.
Markel Brown – Shooting Guard – Oklahoma State
NCAA Stats: 17.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.9 APG
Markel Brown’s upside is limited due to the fact that he is already 23 years old but, as a late second rounder, the risk:reward ratio is favoring reward. The Hornets are very weak at guard and, if we take a forward with either first round pick, we will remain shallow at the position.
Brown can provide instant offense, as evident by his 17.2 points per game in Stillwater for Oklahoma State. His athletic ability is considered one of the best among all prospects. Charlotte would be adding a solid player here for a cheap price, so why not pull the trigger?
Daniel Zimmermann is a writer for Swarm and Sting. follow him on Twitter at @danZman25
Stats via Espn, Basketball Reference, and NBA.com