With the 21st Pick...

Slightly longish post ahead, but it should be worth it. As outlined in yesterday's post, there is some solid statistical backing for the "Blair or Bust" line of thinking. There simply is not a big worth the guaranteed dollars at 21 overall. Unless Blair falls to the level, the Hornets have to be looking elsewhere. But who?

The Candidates

Eric Maynor because... a good percentage of mocks have us taking him. He gained national attention by knocking off Duke that one time and almost knocking off UCLA this year.

Marcus Thornton because... Hornets fans seem to have fallen in love with the guy, and he's a New Orleans product. He gained national attention by winning the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Award.

Sam Young because... he's 6'6", is athletic, shoots the three, and projects as a plus defender. He gained national attention by averaging 23 points per game in this year's Tournament.

Austin Daye because... he's super long, deep range. He hasn't really gained much national attention yet.

Danny Green because... John Hollinger loves him, and Hollinger usually nails two or three sleepers every year that nobody else is high on. He's gained no national attention despite playing for NC.

Jeff Teague because... he fills a need, he's (ostensibly) friends with Chris Paul. He gained national attention during Wake Forest's rise to #1.

Ty Lawson because... statistically, he may be the best overall player in the draft. He gained national attention by being the PG of North Carolina.

These seven guys comprise my final list, to be culled down to the best option(s). I think I have pretty good reasons for leaving other guys out, some documented towards the end. Definitely leave comments on other prospects, and we can discuss.

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3PT FT Rebounds Misc

Height Weight Wingspan Vertical FG% M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG

2008 - Eric Maynor

6'2" 164
6'2" 31.5 46.3 1.9 5.4 36.1 5.8 7.1 81.5 0.5 3.1 3.6 6.2 3.0 1.7 0.2 2.4 22.4

 

  • Draft Express says: 8th best PG in draft
  • Hollinger says: 21st best player in draft
  • Points/Possession: 1.17
  • FTA/Posession: 0.37
  • Ast/Possession: 0.32
  • TO/Possession: 0.16
  • Usage%: 28.6%
  • eFG%: 52%
  • TS%: 58%

Most people are viewing Maynor as a point guard in this draft, but there are many shooting guard aspects to his game. While he lacks range (36% from the college three isn't terribly inspiring), he took on a large role of his team's offense, accounting for almost 29% of possessions. His solid floor percentages are more due to shots in the ilk of floaters and runners than jumpers. As his career at VCU unfolded, he became more and more of a scorer. So while his 32% assist rate still seems solid, he posted a 49% rate in his first year as starter. There are many aspects of Jannero Pargo's style of play to Maynor's game; a case could be made that Maynor is Pargo with less range. That in mind, the Hornets' decision on Maynor may very well depend on their plans with Pargo. The earliest they can sign Pargo would be July 11th, more than two weeks after the conclusion of the draft. If Maynor is indeed the pick, the writing may be on the wall for Jannero.

Verdict: Maynor has a solid skill set, but his statistics simply don't compare with two point guards (who both played "purer" points in college) who may still be available. Couple that with questions about his conference, and I don't know. It'd be a solid pick, but one with minimal upside.

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3PT FT Rebounds Misc
Height Weight Wingspan Vertical FG% M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG

2008 - Marcus Thornton

6'3" 194 6'5" 33 47.2 2.2 5.7 38.8 4.3 5.7 74.5 2.0 3.5 5.5 2.1 1.8 1.6 0.4 2.1 21.1

 

  • Draft Express says: 5th best SG in draft
  • Hollinger says: Not in Top 31
  • Points/Possession: 1.24
  • FTA/Posession: 0.33
  • Ast/Possession: 0.13
  • TO/Possession: 0.11
  • Usage%: 25.0%
  • eFG%: 54%
  • TS%: 58%

Southeastern Conference Player of the Year usually doesn't mean much, because the SEC produces 1 or 2 great NBA prospects a year, max. But there's a lot to like with Marcus Thornton. Physically, he's got good tools. The 6'3" measurement is an immediate red flag for a guy that plays exclusively shooting guard, but I love his release on his shot. He gets it off quite surreptitiously, and the 6'5" wingspan aids with that. On top of that, he generally makes the most of his 33 inch vertical in terms of his jumpers- something he has to do, but something a lot of prospects don't make a habit of.

While his 38-39% three point shooting doesn't look other worldly, a lot of those looks did come under heavy pressure. I like his range overall, and I wouldn't be surprised if he could maintain a 35%-40% stroke in the NBA. He isn't the fastest guy in the world, but the Hornets wouldn't be drafting him to be a Jason Terry/Jannero Pargo-like speed option (even though that's Draft Express' comparison). Rather, they'd be drafting him to fill up the scoreboard in a hurry, mostly through sets. Thornton's 1.24 points/possession is an impressive stat indeed; he's a creative scorer. The one odd thing is, though he's more of a scoring threat (efficiency-wise) than Maynor, he used substantially fewer possessions than Maynor. Maybe this will amount to nothing, but his 25% rate is lower than a lot of the top scorers in the NCAA's. It's something of a red flag in terms of how much "volume" he could actually provide as a volume scorer.

The final stat that intrigues me is the 11% turnover rate. As much as he handles the ball, it's very impressive. Observationally, I don't think he has nearly the vision to play point guard though. His low assist rate of 13% back that up, as does his pure point ratio of -1.36 (positive indicating "purer"). So while the turnover rate may come in handy, I don't think it'd help much in terms of him getting point guard minutes. At 6'3", and with his skill set, Thornton would step in as a "pure shooting guard," a position that's disappeared a little bit in recent years, in favor of swingmen and guys that can rotate between the 2 and 3.

Verdict: Like Maynor, there are a lot of "safe" aspects to a Thornton pick. He's a very efficient scorer, he has a well set position, he doesn't turn the ball over. But again, the cost of that safety is minimal upside. Who he is today is likely very similar to who he'll be in three years.

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2008 - Sam Young

6'6" 223 6'11" 33
50.2 1.6 4.2 37.3 3.2 4.3 74.0 1.9 4.3 6.3 1.1 2.4 1.0 0.8 1.7 19.2


  • Draft Express says: 3rd best SF in draft
  • Hollinger says: 52
  • Points/Possession: 1.17
  • FTA/Posession: 0.26
  • Ast/Possession: 0.07
  • TO/Possession: 0.15
  • Usage%: 24.4%
  • eFG%: 55%
  • TS%: 58%

Sam Young really made a name for himself this year, averaging almost 20 a night for the season, then performing even better in the Tournament. It's interesting how split analysts are on Young. There's one crowd that believes he can step in and contribute minutes to virtually any team in the league at this point. The other viewpoint is that he's an old prospect who may have been vastly overvalued by the 2008-2009 campaign.

Physically, the tools are all there. He's 6'6", athletic, has a very long wingspan at 6'11" and a decent vertical for his size. His frame could easily be more bulked up if that's what a team needs, and he's already at a good weight right now anyways. The problem is, despite the gaudy scoring averages, the underlying statistics give me reason to pause. A 15% turnover rate from a small forward who didn't do too much ball-handling (LeVance Fields was one of the top point guards in the country) is a flag. A 7% assist rate indicates that he virtually never set up teammates for anything. It's a serious flag for a wing player, as even well-reputed ballhogs often create opportunities for their teammates, via double teams. His 26% free throws per possession is more about 10% lower than either Maynor or Thornton. It makes me seriously wonder how he'll adapt to the contact game of the NBA. And if that wasn't enough, his 24.4% usage rate doesn't do much to increase his value.

Looking specifically at the Hornets, Young is a Julian Wright clone in many ways. Similar height, long wingspans, questionable ball control skills. Young clearly has the better stroke and better strange, but would it be worth using the 21st pick to get Julian Wright with a better jump shot (maybe)? And the age issue is not to be overlooked. Young is already 24 years old, way, way older than most other rookies.

Verdict: Very little upside. This is who he'll be in the NBA. His peripheral statistics are somewhat alarming, he's been overhyped a little due to Pitt's run, and he could very well be a redundant player on our roster. I'm taking Maynor and Thornton over him.

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FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
Height Weight
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2008 - Austin Daye

6'11" 192 7'3" 28 47.7 1.1 2.5 42.9 2.3 3.2 70.6 1.1 5.8 6.8 1.1 2.1 0.7 2.1 2.9 12.7


  • Draft Express says: 2nd best SF in draft
  • Hollinger says: 4th best Player in draft
  • Points/Possession: 1.09
  • FTA/Posession: 0.28
  • Ast/Possession: 0.09
  • TO/Possession: 0.18
  • Usage%: 16.8%
  • eFG%: 53%
  • TS%: 56%

After a freshman campaign that left Zags fans drooling, Daye's game took something of a dive this year. His points/possession went down, his assist rate went down, his turnover rate stayed poor, he drew fewer fouls. Of course, analysts are all mostly in love with the guy now. Go figure.

Statistically, Daye leaves much to be desired. His points/possession of 1.09 is far lower than any of the other guys on this list; he was simply not very efficient on offense. For his size, he doesn't get to the line very often (more than Young, but less than either Maynor or Thornton). He showed zero ability as a passing big man, averaging 9 assists every 100 possessions. Unfortunately, he did turn the ball over a ton, almost double as often as he assisted on baskets. His usage rate was quite low, as Gonzaga relied on a variety of other players to make their Tournament run.

As you might have guessed, there's a large school of people that feel statistics won't tell the whole story on Daye. I am one of those people. As poor as his stats have been, the guy is 6'11" with small forward skills. He has a 7'3" wingspan. He has a standing reach of over nine feet. Add in a 28 inch vertical, and Daye's hands will be somewhere around eleven feet and a half in the air when he jumps. His pace-adjusted block statistics aren't noteworthy, but from the four or five times I've seen him play, I've found him to be more of a "Tyson Chandler shot blocker"- he'll challenge and alter a lot more shots than the box score credits him for.

On top of that, he has range. NBA range. He shot 41.3% from three last year and 42.9% from three this year. In two years, he's averaged taking around 4 threes per game. He can shoot off the dribble, has good ball handling skills for his size, can create shots, has excellent coordination, and though is a terrible offensive rebounder, he's as good a defensive rebounder as Greg Oden and Paul Millsap were in college. He turned 21 a couple weeks ago. Does he have flaws? Absolutely. But if Daye could pass and score more efficiently, he'd be a lottery pick. Those two issues mean he's almost guaranteed to be available at 21. I'd take Thornton over him probably, but if Pargo is in our future plans, I'd take him over Maynor. Over Young, I'd take him without thinking.

Verdict: Major, major, major upside. Major crash and burn potential. The clincher for me is that John Hollinger's draft analyzer loves him. Every year, it pinpoints a couple guys that could vastly outperform their stock, and Daye looks like the pick this year. He doesn't fit an immediate need, but I wouldn't be terribly depressed if he was the pick.

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3PT FT Rebounds Misc
Height Weight Wingspan Vertical FG% M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG

2008 - Danny Green

6'5" 208 6'10" 33 47.1 2.0 4.7 43.0 1.4 1.6 85.2 1.8 2.8 4.7 2.7 1.7 1.8 1.3 2.2 13.1

 

  • Draft Express says: 9th best SF in draft
  • Hollinger says: 8th best Player in draft
  • Points/Possession: 1.20
  • FTA/Posession: 0.15
  • Ast/Possession: 0.25
  • TO/Possession: 0.15
  • Usage%: 14.3%
  • eFG%: 57%
  • TS%: 59%

This is another one of Hollinger's favorites, the only reason he's on this list. I figure if I included Hollinger's take on Daye, I had to include Green. However, I don't agree with Hollinger that Green is going to be great. The Draft Rater has him as the 3rd best wing, behind Tyreke Evans and Daye.

His efficiency numbers are all excellent, but the reason behind it is very clear- he's primarily a shooter, a very good shooter. The majority of his looks come on jumpers, often set up by his very good teammates at North Carolina. He doesn't draw fouls, and based on my observations of him, he probably won't be making many contact filled forays to the hole in the NBA. Another factor is his low usage rate of 14.3%. Essentially, Green was a very good role player at the college level. That simply isn't the player the Hornets should be targeting in this draft. Green could end up being a very good fit for a team looking to add depth (Utah? L.A.?), but he doesn't have the off-the-dribble ability of Maynor/Thornton, or the superstar potential of Daye.

Verdict: I'd take him 7th among the 7 players on this list.

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3PT FT Rebounds Misc
Height Weight Wingspan Vertical FG% M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG

2008 - Jeff Teague

6'0" 175 6'8" 37 48.5 1.5 3.3 44.1 5.8 7.1 81.4 0.5 2.8 3.3 3.5 3.4 1.9 0.6 2.2 18.9

 

  • Draft Express says: 4th best SG in draft
  • Hollinger says: 14th best Player in draft
  • Points/Possession: 1.15
  • FTA/Posession: 0.43 (!!!!)
  • Ast/Possession: 0.22
  • TO/Possession: 0.20
  • Usage%: 21.9%
  • eFG%: 55%
  • TS%: 62%

A 6 foot point guard, weighing 175 pounds, with a 38 inch vertical, a lane agility of 11.1, and a 3 quarter court sprint time of 3.2 seconds, hailing from Wake Forest University. Even if Jeff Teague was absolutely terrible, Hornets fans would've stood up and taken notice, because those were exactly the draft measurements of one Chris Paul. But Teague doesn't suck at all- far from it. According to the latest estimations, it's unlikely he falls to 21, but it's worth going over him anyway to see where he should be on our draft board.

A lot of places have Teague listed as a shooting guard, and for good reason. In two years, he posted pure point ratios of -3.04 and -3.17. He posted the measley assist rates of 19% and 22% while posting 79% and 73% FGA/possession. He's decidedly a shoot first guard, to an extreme relative to the college level. His turnover levels were 19% and 20% (better than Chris Paul in college for what it's worth). But he doesn't carry nearly the assist:turnover ratio Paul did.

In essence, Teague played shooting guard from the point guard position, inflating his PG stats tremendously. That doesn't mean he can't score at all. He certainly has some great tools. He shot 44% from three last year, displaying good range. His most promising statistic is 43% FTA/possession. That's not just promising; it's amazing. The ability to get to the free throw line is a great indicator of NBA success for college players (it's probably the definitive statistic that set Chris Paul way apart from Deron Williams in college).

So I'm not saying Teague is all hype. What I am contending is that he isn't too much of a "combo" guard like many reports suggest. I think he lacks the point guard element of the combo guard to enough of an extent that he'd struggle if played at PG without another PG on the floor. In the long run, that means he won't be an Antonio Daniels replacement. Is it worth using a draft pick on that?

Verdict: He's a legitimate scorer. If we're drafting for a combo guard, Maynor is the better option. If we're drafting for a creative scorer at the 2, Teague is a better option than Thornton, but Thornton's 3 inch advantage on Teague makes me think he'd be more successful at getting minutes and translating his game to the NBA. Overall, there's only a 1% chance we'd need to make a decision on Teague, since one of the 20 preceding teams is guaranteed to be tricked into thinking he's a full time point guard.

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Height Weight Wingspan
Vertical
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M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG

2008 - Ty Lawson

6'0" 197
6'1"
37 53.2 1.5 3.1 47.2 4.7 5.9 79.8 0.7 2.3 3.0 6.6 1.9 2.1 0.1 1.7 16.6

 

  • Draft Express says: 7th best PG in draft
  • Hollinger says: 1st best Player in draft (!!!!)
  • Points/Possession: 1.30 (!!!!)
  • FTA/Posession: 0.47 (!!!!)(!!!!)
  • Ast/Possession: 0.51
  • TO/Possession: 0.15
  • Usage%: 16.8%
  • eFG%: 61% (!!!!)
  • TS%: 66%

Take note of all those exclamations. Ty Lawson posted some truly off the wall statistics in 2008-2009. The contention is  that there was some tremendous statistical inflation going on due to North Carolina's ridiculously fast system. But a closer look shows that Lawson actually was very, very good.

Let's start with something nobody is questioning: Lawson's shot. He has maybe the best range of any guard prospect, shooting a wacky 47% from three this year. If his three point shot doesn't translate to the NBA level, I will be absolutely stunned. Nothing's a guarantee obviously, but this is as close as it gets. I love his form, and the way he gets into position off a dribble. On top of his long range abilities, Lawson is also one of the top finishers in college basketball. So his very high eFG% is not only a reflection of his deep ball talent, but also of his skill close to the hoop. And nobody's questioning his ability to draw contact. His 47% FTA/possession rate is simply amazing, and as much as you want to talk about system inflation, it certainly points to some serious underlying talent.

The one statistic I accept may be somewhat inflated is the assist ratio. Lawson averaged a 51% rate last year (actually down from his freshman rate of 59%). Pace adjusting can simply level the possession playing field, but it can't take into account the fact that Lawson absolutely dominated the fast break. There certainly wasn't a better fast break field general in America. Will he get that many fast break opportunities in the NBA? Obviously not. The defenders are more athletic, will get back faster, and will cut off passing lanes with ease. But to point out only the inflation of assists and to ignore the turnover rate is a serious error. Lawson's 15% turnover rate, in a fast break environment requiring rapid decision making, is yet another impressive attribute.

At best, Lawson could be one of the most talented point guard prospects in a long while. At worst, his assist numbers are somewhat inflated, and he's not as good a passer as people thought. So? The shot is for real. The decision making is for real. His driving ability is real. His defense is real.

Verdict: I know I said yesterday that I'd take DeJuan Blair over any guard/wing prospects... but I don't know. If he's available, I'd take Lawson in a heartbeat out of these 7.

Who Didn't Make This List?

Chase Budinger: Great stats, but workouts have revealed that he'd much rather stand and shoot than drive and force the action. A stand-still shooter with questionable defense is the last thing the Hornets should look to add this summer.

Terrence Williams: He's primarily a defensive stopper with highly questionable offensive skills and the inability to create a shot (though he is an awesome passer). With Posey and Wright aboard, that seems redundant.

Jodie Meeks: Meeks is a terrific, undervalued scorer. I think apprehensions about his lack of athleticism will prove misguided because he has amazing range, took on a huge scoring responsibility with ease, drew a lot of fouls, and was one of the most efficient scorers in the country. But I don't think his stock is high enough for the Hornets to even think about taking him at 21. Is that undeserved? Absolutely. That's just how the draft goes some times.

Tyler Hansbrough: Very poor rebounding numbers. As much as his "toughness" has been touted, I (and the numbers) simply don't see it. See yesterday's Blair or Bust post if you're not convinced.

So Who's the Pick?

I'd put the board in this order:

  1. DeJuan Blair
  2. Ty Lawson
  3. Marcus Thornton
  4. Eric Maynor
  5. Austin Daye
  6. Jeff Teague
  7. Jodie Meeks
  8. Sam Young
  9. Chase Budinger
  10. Danny Green

Blair and Lawson have to be considered nearly equivalent in terms of talent, but the larger need at frontcourt puts Blair over the top. Whether or not Pargo comes back could really influence things too. If Pargo is in the Hornets' plans (as in, they know for sure they'll sign him on July 11th), I would push Daye over Maynor for sure. I've got Teague only at 6 because I consider Maynor a better version of him, more or less. Teague showed terrific scoring skills in college, but at 6'0", he won't have nearly the same scoring role or chances in the NBA. Basically, his most valuable skill set will be underutilized, and Maynor's previously shown passing ability will be given more opportunity to resurface in the NBA. So Maynor is the better combo guard in my eyes. If Blair, Lawson, Thornton, and Daye are off the board by #21, that's when I'd consider trading the pick. That would seem to be the line at which the pick ceases to have too much value to the Hornets, but could still be valuable for other teams.

If we get #1 or 2 on that list, I'll be extraordinarily happy. #3 through 6 would evoke a sound "meh" although Austin Daye is intriguing. #7 and below or any non-Blair big men could be filed into the Summer of 2008 disaster cabinet. This will truly be a difficult draft to navigate.

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