Charlotte Hornets: Frank Kaminsky vs Devin Booker: No Regrets?

Jan 2, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets center Frank Kaminsky (44) drives to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) during the second half at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Thunder defeated the Hornets 109-90. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 2, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets center Frank Kaminsky (44) drives to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) during the second half at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Thunder defeated the Hornets 109-90. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports /

The Charlotte Hornets’ front office chose to draft Frank Kaminsky over Devin Booker last year but does the team regret making that decision?

As the saying goes, hindsight is always 20/20. Everyone has those moments where they wish that had known or said something at a certain point in their life. Maybe if they had said or done the action, a different result would have occurred. As the days gone by go past in our rearview mirrors, I think it’s safe to say that in hindsight, the Charlotte Hornets should have drafted Kentucky’s Devin Booker.

I vividly remember the weeks leading up to the 2015 NBA Draft. I remember rolling my eyes at the fact that the Hornets had received the ninth pick (again), but I hoped that we would do something positive with the pick. Personally, I had wanted us to trade the pick, considering that the Hornets haven’t had the best luck in drafting in the past (see: Sean May, Adam Morrison, Jeremiah Davidson, etc.)

However, I specifically remembered reading numerous articles by sportswriters saying that the obvious pick for us was Kentucky’s Devin Booker. Booker was a long two-guard with great shooting range– something that Charlotte teams have always lacked. First, I saw a few local Charlotte bloggers write about Booker. Then, before I knew it, writers from BleacherReport, ESPN and other analysts with Mock Drafts were saying the same thing. Unintentionally, I jumped on the bandwagon.

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It made perfect sense. Other than Marvin Williams and PJ Hairston (occasionally), Charlotte lacked a true three-point threat. Booker played for a Kentucky squad that had seven players enter the Draft. While Booker only averaged 10 points, the argument was that if he played for a different school, he would’ve put up more than 20 points easily.

So you can imagine my frustration when I heard Commissioner Adam Silver call out Kaminsky’s name instead of Booker’s when our pick came. I screamed in desperation and threw the remote at the television. We had done it again: the Hornets had the option of drafting a player with skills we needed, and instead had drafted a big name player for the headline.

Negative Trend

One year and a few months removed, my opinion hasn’t changed much. While Frank the Tank had a decent rookie season, he didn’t do as well as Booker (more on that in a second). The real thing that made me mad over the season was noticing the trend of Charlotte’s power forwards.

Last season, we had Al Jefferson as a back to the basket player. If Kemba Walker or Nic Batum was covered, Al was always counted on to get us a basket. However, the power forward position was weak.

Charlotte’s power forwards included Marvin Williams (good player), Spencer Hawes (seldom used), Kaminsky (young), Tyler Hansbrough (seldom used) and occasionally Cody Zeller (when he wasn’t backing up Al at center). As a whole, none of these forwards were bangers. You couldn’t count on them to get clutch rebounds, block shots or defend physical bigs down low. Al was never a strong defender, and these guys didn’t help. To be quite blunt, the 4-man was weak across the board.

Charlotte needs another rough-and-tumble big man who isn’t afraid to get physical; Kaminsky doesn’t really fit that role. Last season, the team averaged 36.9 boards a game, which was 15th in the league. Al battled through injury to bring down 6.4 boards a game. Marvin chipped in with 6.4 boards, and Zeller contributed 6.2 rebounds a game.

Kaminsky averaged 7.5 points and 4.1 rebounds, which isn’t bad for a rookie. However, he’s not a dominant scorer and not a physical enough rebounder. Cody, meanwhile, has bulked up noticeably since his rookie campaign and gave the Hornets good minutes in the playoffs. He routinely battled Miami’s Hassan Whiteside on the glass and is known as a physical screener. He’s never afraid to get dirty, and even though he isn’t a back to the basket scorer like Al, he can still get his points.

Quite frankly, I remember the pre-draft hype surrounding Zeller, too. All mock drafts said he was “a physical specimen from Indiana who could probably expand his shooting to NBA range”, or something along those lines. Charlotte fans were supposed to get excited about a 4-man who could shoot the rock. I like Cody a lot, but truthfully, he is a role player. I think he has the capability of starting, but he hasn’t yet made the jump to an elite big man, and this will be his fourth season.

Kaminsky was hyped up much like Cody, and I don’t think we need two Codys on the roster. Cody is still maturing and developing, as all big men do. No Hornet fan wants to wait on another big man to develop.

Meanwhile, Devin Booker became an electric scorer for Phoenix. He put up 13.8 points, 2.6 assists and 2.5 rebounds for the Suns, who missed the playoffs. However, DBook pushed those averages to 18.8 points, 3.5 assists, and 2.5 rebounds after the All Star break, leaving fans to wonder if he’ll break into the starting 2-guard slot for the Suns this season.

What Could Have Been

The Charlotte Hornets’ unquestioned leader last year– and for the next few years to come– is point guard Kemba Walker. Last season, he averaged a career-high 20.9 points, 5.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game. At 20.9 points, Walker was responsible for almost a quarter of the Hornets’ points (they averaged 90.3 per last season, 15th in the league). Nic Batum averaged 14.9 points, and Jeremy Lin added 11.7 points off the bench. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist averaged 12 points, but only played seven games.

Meanwhile, the big men were led by Al Jefferson’s 12 ppg and Marvin Williams’ 11.7 ppg. No other big man averaged double figures. What does this mean, you ask? It means that the Hornets’ scoring mostly came from the wings or guard positions. When it did come from the bigs, it came from Jefferson. Williams is known as a shooter, so hardly any of his points came from the post.

Altogether, it means that the Hornets’ offense was/is guard heavy, which would have been helped with Booker’s presence. After MKG went down with the shoulder injury, Batum was moved to the 3 and PJ Hairston would sometimes start at the shooting guard. Hairston struggled mightily and was never a true scoring threat (6.0 ppg). Batum himself was battling injury in the playoffs, as was Jefferson. However, if the Hornets had drafted Booker, everything would have been different.

For one thing, if Charlotte had drafted Booker, they would have had a dependable shooter alongside Williams. Even if MKG got hurt, the lineup would be Walker at the point, Booker at the 2, Batum at the 3, Williams at the 4 and Jefferson at the 5 with Lin coming off the bench (along with Zeller). Also, coach Steve Clifford sometimes liked to pair Walker and Lin together; that means Booker could still come off the bench and be the primary scorer. Kaminsky simply isn’t a scorer.

All in all, the Hornets would have benefited from Booker a lot sooner than they might benefit from Kaminsky. If Charlotte had drafted Booker, then the team wouldn’t have had to deal with Hairston’s struggles. And, while that means we might not have traded for Courtney Lee, perhaps Booker would have become another scorer in the playoffs when Batum was hurt. Maybe we would have won Game 6 versus Miami. We’ll never know, and that’s what stinks.There are so many what-ifs to this question that it’s maddening.

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Kaminsky and Booker will never guard each other (unless they switch on a pick-and-roll), but the Suns and Hornets battle for the first time on March 2, 2017. In the meantime, Booker continues to put up impressive numbers in the preseason (22 ppg, 3 rpg, 3.5 apg). Kaminsky is averaging a solid 11 ppg and 8.3 boards per game. The difference is, Kaminsky is unlikely to put up these same numbers in the regular season, while Booker seems primed to have a stellar sophomore campaign. That fact is worrisome.

Hopefully, Kaminsky can continue to build on this preseason and prove to the organization–and the fans– that he was worth the ninth pick.