It's universally agreed that the Hornets are most lacking at the 4/5 spots and at the wing. Hornets247 did a great review of some prospects while I was
slacking curing cancer with Matt Wieters, but I figure I should expand on some of those before the draft is upon us.
Relative to the NBA, analyzing the NCAA via statistics is quite an inexact science. Pace adjustment is obviously a huge corrective step and methods of normalizing for conference do exist, but there are many, many variables that can't possible be accounted for. The shorter season. Travel within a generally smaller geographic region. The tendency of many top players to play close to home. The presence of friends and family. Less pressure from a fanbase. Etc. So I'll try and incorporate much of my own experience watching these players into the statistics because anecdotal evidence can actually have tremendous value here.
For today though, I'm going to go with almost an all stats approach. That's because the rebounders are first up.
I've mentioned this many times in the past, and it's worth saying again: rebounding may be the most consistent stat a player can have. Players from major NCAA conferences maintain remarkably similar rebounding rates in the NBA. Rebounders from minor NCAA conferences generally tend not to get picked... but I'd be willing to wager they'd do well on the boards if their other skills weren't so mediocre. The draftees with the top rebounding rates are generally the rookies the top rebounding rates. In 2007/2008, Kevin Love had the highest rebound rate among draftees, posting 5.1/9.8/14.8 offensive/defensive/total per 40 minute, pace adjusted split. He led the NBA in offensive rebound rate last year, and finished with Tim Duncan-esque defensive rebounding totals.
Most of the 2007/2008 leaders (Blair, Harangody, Griffin) returned to NCAA for one more year. In 2006/2007, the top rebounding rate belonged to Joey Dorsey. He hasn't panned out so far due to disciplinary issues, but he's rebounding decently in the D-League. The 2nd best rebounding draftee of 06/07- Greg Oden- posted a 5.0/8.5/13.5 split. He was injured all of last NBA season, but this year he would've led NBA in offensive rebound rate if he hadn't missed 20 games. The 3rd best rebounding draftee- Aaron Gray- has been widely and correctly reputed to suck, but his rebounding splits of 13.5/17.6/9.6 are absolutely rock solid good.
In 2005/2006, Paul Millsap led with an amazing 7.0/8.5/15.5 totals split. Nobody knew who he was. In three NBA seasons, he's posted rate splits of 13.3/20.6/17.0, numbers any team would drool over. I have a lot of confidence in the translation of the top rebound figures. So who's up there this year? Numbers are tabulated below, with the inclusion of comparable rebounders from years past.
Offensive/40M, pace adjusted
Defensive/40M, pace adjusted
Before delving into any of these numbers, my biggest desire for this draft was getting a bruising, battering big man. He doesn't have to be able to shoot, or even catch; he just needs to rebound the hell out of the ball and push some people while he's at it. Question is... does he exist?
Ability on both the offensive and defensive glass indicates a higher probability that either offensive or defensive rebounding will translate to the NBA. Paul Millsap's defensive numbers weren't otherwordly, but it appears his incredible offensive numbers translated to the defensive side somewhat. The same thing seems to have occurred with Kevin Love. Another conclusion seems to be that good college rebounders seem to become much better NBA rebounders, more often than they become awful ones. The only guy on this list that turned in a truly hideous performance was Michael Beasley on the offensive glass (his college numbers were mediocre, but I don't think many people would've pegged him to be this poor). But otherwise, Kevin Love absolutely blew up on the defensive glass, and Greg Oden blew up on the offensive glass, among others. Personally, I view this as "if you were this great in college, your rebounding skillset is only likely to get better from this point."
These two graphs also point out why so many are viewing Hasheem Thabeet as an automatic bust. A 7'3" center posting that pathetic offensive rate and mediocre defensive rate isn't awe inspiring. I still think he could develop into a guy of the Roy Hibbert mold (a player I love), but he'll need to bulk up big time, and the naysayers have plenty of statistical ammunition here. If you're wondering where Tyler Hansbrough is... he posted a 3.5/5.9 split this year. Not inspiring stuff. To me, his best case scenario is a taller Matt Harpring. Another guy not cracking the lists is B.J. Mullens, projected to go in the top 20 in many places. His 3.5/6.2 split is very poor also, but his combination of age (20) and offensive skills may make him worth it (though I doubt it).
Is there a player on here that fits that "battering, bruising" description? Absolutely- DeJuan Blair. The numbers say he is exactly that guy. The problem is, his stock has been rising very rapidly. He showed up to a bunch of workouts, 15 pounds lighter, and allaying a lot of people's fears that he could never cut down on weight. It would take a series of strange events- probably starting with a bunch of teams passing on Brandon Jennings, so Indy takes him over Blair- for him to fall to 21. Basically, Blair is last year's Courtney Lee. I drooled over him badly last year, fully aware that there was no way he'd fall to 27. Same thing this year... if Blair drops this low, the Hornets have to take him no matter what. Forget the offensive shortcomings, forget his height, forget his weight. Those rebounding numbers are a steal at 21 any way you slice it.
In regards to the others, I'd definitely steer clear of Jordan Hill if I were Washington (or whoever else is supposedly drafting him). His board numbers are decidedly mediocre. I've noticed that the Pac-10 has posted generally lower pace-adjusted numbers in recent years, so Hill's numbers may not be that terrible... but at best, they're average. We'll see, but I'm officially predicting a bust. Speaking of the Pac-10, Jon Brockman (Washington) has some above average numbers. He's one of the biggest mysteries of this draft to me. I watched him a ton at Washington, and I've always been impressed with his ball skills and touch close to the basket. The biggest knock on him is his height (6'7") but he's always used his bulk (260) to muscle opponents out of the way. His rebounding figures certainly attest to that. I'd peg him as a great second round pick for New Orleans... if we had a second round pick. Nonetheless, most mock drafts don't even have him going in the second round. I imagine Portland (4 second round picks (!!!!!!!!!!!)), Detroit (3 second round picks), and San Antonio (3 second round picks) have to be taking a serious look at him though. John Bryant's another second round gamble kind of guy since he's out of SCU, and nobody knows what lens to view his crazy rebounding numbers through.
Overall? 21 is not a good place to snare a big man. Frankly, these guys all suck. The one good guy is going to be gone by pick 16, and the two other guys that intrigue me (Bryant and Brockman) are decidedly not 21st overall selection material. Anyone think DET/IND would bite on a 21st and Daniels for the 13/15? Yeah, me neither.
The conclusion is basically: take a wing. I'll go over who my preference would be tomorrow (tons of mocks have us taking VCU's Eric Maynor). Take a wing, go get Richard Hendrix from the D-League. Get back a healthy Chandler and Peja, and hey, failing to get that big might not be the worst thing after all.