Charlotte Hornets: Udoka Azubuike could be worth a look in the second round

Kansas Jayhawks Udoka Azubuike. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
Kansas Jayhawks Udoka Azubuike. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images) /

It would seem that the Charlotte Hornets have their sights set on a big-man in the upcoming NBA Draft. If their initial targets are taken before they pick in the first round, could they find an answer in the second?

In the NBA, it’s always good to have a backup plan. This especially holds true for the draft. Right now, the Charlotte Hornets don’t really know where they’ll be picking in the first round of this draft. Given past history, I wouldn’t put much stake in them having a top-five pick, but stranger things have happened.

So, if the basketball gods deem them unworthy of a top-five or even top-eight pick, what does that mean for the second round? As of now, they have the 32nd pick from a 2018 draft-night trade with the Los Angeles Clippers that involved Miles Bridges and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

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They also have the 56th pick that came bundled with Terry Rozier in the Kemba Walker sign-and-trade deal with the Boston Celtics this past offseason. Those may not sound like winners, but remember, Devonte’ Graham was picked with the 34th pick in the NBA draft and he seems to have turned out well.

If the Hornets aren’t able to land in the first round what many assume will be the answer in the middle, they could look to address that issue in the second. That could possibly mean they choose Udoka Azubuike from the University of Kansas.

Featuring a 7’0″, 270-pound frame, Azubuike is a load under the basket. That might not translate well to the modern NBA that puts an emphasis on athleticism, spacing the floor, and the transition game, but Udoka certainly commands presence down low.

He sports a 7’7″ wingspan and used every bit of it at Kansas, swatting nearly 3 blocks a game and corralling almost 11 rebounds per contest. His 13.7 points a game was second on the team and from his sophomore year to his senior season, he averaged 13.4 points.

The big thing to look at regarding Azubuike is his field-goal percentage, making 75% of his shots around the basket this past season. The key there being “around the basket.” Azubuike isn’t going to wow you with his range. He’s very much a 5-10 footer when it comes to his shot selection, which is something else that today’s NBA game has somewhat left behind.

I liken him to someone like Al Jefferson, with slightly less range. That sounds great on paper, given what Big-Al did in Charlotte, but that kind of style doesn’t really mesh with what a lot of NBA teams are doing nowadays.

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As is typical of a player of this style, his free-throw percentage is definitely lacking, with Udoka hitting just 44% of his shots from the line his senior year. That might not sit well with a team that is already in the bottom-tier of the league in terms of percentage.

Defensively, though, he could be a boon, especially on a team that has garnered a reputation for being soft in the paint. It’s no secret that the Charlotte Hornets need rebounding and rim protection and Azubuike certainly delivers that.

Whatever happens with this draft, the Hornets are hoping to find a diamond in the rough and if they end up picking outside of the eighth or ninth spot in the first round, they’ll definitely be searching for something shiny and brilliant in the second.

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Udoka Azubuike may be raw and his game might be more suited for the NBA of 10 or 15 years ago, but he could just be what the Charlotte Hornets need at the center position. We’ll see if he ends up in the Queen City whenever draft-night comes around.