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PIECES TO THE DRAFT PUZZLE
By: Bob Licht, @hortonhomers
June 18, 2012
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the New Orleans Hornets. The expressed opinions, analysis and/or speculation are solely those of Bob Licht, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the New Orleans Hornets organization or Basketball Operations Staff. His views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with the Hornets Basketball Operations staff, unless otherwise noted.

The Hornets have a unique opportunity on June 28th. The franchise can reshape itself in one day. With two of the top 10 picks in a deep NBA Draft (#1 and #10) they can re-populate the roster to fit their coach and current players under contract. In football, one or two additions rarely reshapes a team; however, in basketball two talented newcomers can transform a non playoff team into a post season contender.

So just how might two key draftees impact Monty Williams 2012-13 Hornets team? Heres my take on the top 10 players available in this years draft and how each one could impact the Bees roster next season.



#1 | ANTHONY DAVIS - FORWARD (KENTUCKY) | 6-10 | 220
IMPACT:
Name a team in the NBA that cant use a shot blocker and rebounder? Theyre like lefthanded pitchersyou can never have enough of them. With Emeka Okafor, Jason Smith and Gustavo Ayon returning playing time could be hard to find early on; however, hes the best shot blocker of the group and runs the floor better than any veteran returnee. He would compliment Mek quite well once he develops a more consistent face up jump shot. Together they would form one of the best defensive tandems up front in Hornets history; He and Smith would likely run the floor better than any other duo. Smiths ability to catch and shoot together with Davis propensity to rebound and move without the ball would be dynamite; His ability to block shots (he averaged almost 5/game in college) and defend anywhere on the court would help Ayon, who is not a shot blocker; He compliments all of the frontcourt players in that he has a great work ethic and can defend multiple positions on the floor.

NEGATIVES:
Lack of strength. Hes just 220 pounds and will be expected to play either power forward or center in the NBA.



#2 | ANDRE DRUMMOND - CENTER (CONNECTICUT) | 7-0 | 280
IMPACT:
Hes the biggest, strongest and most athletic (longest wingspan, 7 ft-6 inches, in draft) and explosive frontcourt player available in the draft; unfortunately, hes much less ready to play than most others who will be picked in the first round. But, he is such an incredible physical presence with such enormous potential he could be paired with Emeka Okafor at times to permit the Hornets veteran to guard a power forward, while allowing Drummond to use his big body against a center. The larger issue would be scoring. Neither would be a consistent, low post threat. But defensively it would give the Hornets one of the most imposing duos in the West; With Jason Smith, the 19 year old would be an ideal compliment since he would play inside and Jason can step out and hit the face up jumper. In addition, putting two legitimate 7-footers on the floor simultaneously is a luxury the Hornets have rarely enjoyed; Ayon would be the Yin to Drummonds Yang. Goose is a bit undersized, blue collar, savvy forward, while Drummond would be the athletic banger able to deal with size and speed up front.

NEGATIVES:
I watched Andre play several times on television and the thing that stood out most was his inconsistency. One moment he would make a play nobody else could possibly imagine; the next, he did something nobody else would want to imagine. Very raw. Hes the biggest wild card in the draft with enormous potential to be the best in this class or the biggest underachiever.



#3 | THOMAS ROBINSON - FORWARD (KANSAS) | 6-9 | 244
IMPACT:
Early in the NCAA season he was my Player of the Year and he finished his Junior season with 27 Double Doubles (most in NCAA Div I). Im not sure why so many scouting boards have him downgraded because of his size. Hes 6-9 with a 7-4 wingspan, plays hard, and runs the floor extremely well. He would fit it nicely next to Okafor, although they are almost identical size wise. Robinson could step out and hit more face up jumpers and play more above the rim as Mek controlled the game below it. Robinsons experience might afford him a chance to step right in and play in the rotation almost immediately (as opposed to Drummond); He and Smith together would make for an interesting tandem. Both can hit mid-range jump shots, both can play above the rim, and both can run the floor. They would be less adept at stopping the oppositions inside game in the half court; Robinson and Ayon would likely be an unlikely duo on the floor at the same time. Theyre roughly the same size, meaning one would have to play out of position to be on the court together.

NEGATIVES:
Almost a tweener. Hes not a big power forward and not an all around gifted small forward. He reminds me a little of Terry Cummings or Horace Grant. Hes talented, and needs to get on the right team to fit in.



#4 | BRADLEY BEAL - SHOOTING GUARD (FLORIDA) | 6-5 | 200
IMPACT:
Hes the best shooter in this draft. Hes also a good enough ball handler to help out at the point. He would fit nicely next to either Jarrett Jack or Greivis Vasquez, freeing either point guard to drive and kick or just drive and finish. Defenses have to go over screens for Beal, giving the Hornets frontcourt ample opportunities on pick and rolls to score inside. If either Gordon or Belinelli departed via free agency Beal would provide the team with the best sharpshooting prospect in the rookie class.

NEGATIVES:
Hes not the tallest two-guard, but the Hornets have started smaller shooting guards for years and made the playoffs.






#5 | HARRISON BARNES - SHOOTING GUARD/SMALL FORWARD (UNC) | 6-8 | 228
IMPACT:
When I see Barnes play I think Paul Pierce with more length. He may be one of the most underrated players in the lottery because he isnt a high-flying, above the rim athlete. But he is very reliable, steady, and solid. For the Hornets he plays either shooting guard or small forward and defends like Monty Williams demands. He could be an interesting compliment at small forward to Al-Farouq Aminu, who is the definition of athletic, young, forward. He could stretch defenses from the small forward spot, and present post up opportunities off the bench from a backcourt position.

NEGATIVES:
Hes not exactly a high motor guy. Some of that is perception. He is very fluid, but doesnt knock your socks off with his hustle and hard nose mentality.




#6 | MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST - SMALL FORWARD (KENTUCKY) | 6-7 | 235
IMPACT:
One of my favorite players in this draft because he has so many intangibles that so often get overlooked when theyre measuring height, weight, reach, and wingspan. Hyphen is a player who fits in with all 30 teams because he has the much coveted skill called ENERGY! He could play in the backcourt alongside either Jack or Vasquez and make it better. He could play up front with Smith and Okafor and make it better. Hes a tremendous athlete who can play multiple positions. Imagine his blue collar work ethic next to Gustavo Ayon, for instance. It would drive teams crazy trying to match their motor. Sounds like Monty Ball to me!

NEGATIVES:
Hes not a great shooter and doesnt have great size for the NBA, but he more than makes up for both with guile, desire, and athleticism.



#7 | JARED SULLINGER - POWER FORWARD (OHIO STATE) | 6-9 | 268
IMPACT:
Hes a smart, tough, talented forward who reminds me so much of Emeka Okafor. Hes undersized, but is so intelligent he will find ways to score inside. He also has an underrated perimeter game that will get better in the pros. Hes a very good rebounder who would compliment Smith underneath for the Hornets and possibly work well next to Ayon; but, he would not be a good mix on the floor with Mek. They are too similar, in my mind. Sullinger will be a great teammate, a terrific kid to coach and an asset to any roster; however, he doesnt appear to be a good piece to the Hornets puzzle up front.

NEGATIVES:
Hes the anti-Anthony Davis: Not a dunker, not a shot blocker, not long and athletic, and not a lot of upside. What you see is what you get with Sullinger.




#8 | DAMIAN LILLARD - POINT GUARD (WEBER STATE) | 6-3 | 190
IMPACT:
Hes emerged as the best point guard in a poor point guard class. That does not diminish teams desire to keep Lillard high on their boards. He is a modern day Sam Cassell. More of a scoring guard in a point guards body (before you get upset, remember Cassell won two titles with the Houston Rockets). Lillard on the Hornets would mean a third string point guard behind Jack and Vasquez and likely a long rookie season of learning during Monty Williams practices. He is good enough offensively to consider using next to either Hornets point guard. And remember, the NBA is full of scoring point guards. Westbrook. Holiday. Collison. Lin. The Hornets have two good point guards. Adding a third would benefit the team and improve the roster, but it is not the top need for them.

NEGATIVES:
Not many. Hes not a pure point guard, but the league has plenty of room for the hybrid guard.



#9 | JOHN HENSON - FORWARD (UNC) | 6-10 | 216
IMPACT:
After Davis this is my favorite player in the Draft. Hes bright, long, a great natural shot blocker, and understands rebounding. He has a 7-5 wingspan that seems longer! He reminds me a bit of former UNC rubber man Sam Perkins, who had a lengthy NBA career. He would be a great compliment to Okafor. Imagine Mek up front with Henson. A veteran, defensive minded center and a rookie, defensive-minded power forward could work! Together with Smith the Hornets could have a pair of shot blockers and face up jump shooters. Pair him up front with Ayon and the Hornets would have a hustling, blue collar, shot blocking duo. Better yet, what if you paired Henson, Smith, and Okafor up front? Henson and his 7-5 wingspan could play SMALL forward!

NEGATIVES:
Henson needs to put on some weight to deal with the longer NBA schedule and larger frontcourt players.



#10 | AUSTIN RIVERS - GUARD (DUKE) | 6-5 | 200
IMPACT:
Docs son reminds me of his dad. A hybrid guard who was one and done with the Blue Devils isnt a point guard and isnt a shooting guardbut he has plenty of time to become one or the otheror both! He is an intriguing talent for Monty Williams, who is best friends with Glenn Rivers (Doc). His ceiling for improvement is high after just one season of college ball. I like his desire to take big shots. I like his above average ball handling skills for a big guard. He would be a great fit next to either Jarrett Jack or Greivis Vasquez, giving the Hornets two ballhanders in the backcourt as well as two scorers. In fact, with Vasquez and Rivers opposing teams would have a difficult time matching their size (6-6 and 6-5). With Jack teams would have problems with a pair of drive and kick guards (think of it as a more athletic version of the Jack/Vasquez backcourt last season).

NEGATIVES:
Rivers, like Lillard, is not a pure point guard. Adding him to the current Hornets roster gives Monty three hybrid guards (although at 19 Rivers has plenty of time to become the guard his team needs him to be).



The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the New Orleans Hornets. The expressed opinions, analysis and/or speculation are solely those of Bob Licht, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the New Orleans Hornets organization or Basketball Operations Staff. His views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with the Hornets Basketball Operations staff, unless otherwise noted.

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