Although it might be tough to consider on the heels of a dominant wire-to-wire victory against the Celtics, the Hornets will likely have at least one lottery pick in the 2012 draft, a draft that promises to be the deepest and most talented since 2003. Even though the Hornets are looking great right now, they still are nowhere near a +6 level team that would be expected to make the Finals. And the best way to go from a mediocre team to an excellent team is by drafting well, especially in a small market. Keeping that in mind, I’ll provide a quick field guide to watching College Basketball this year in light of the 2012 draft.
We be jumpin!
Barring any further deals, the Hornets will have two first-round draft picks next year: theirs and that of the Minnesota Timberwolves. According to Basketball Prospectus’s SCHOENE projections (which I’ll put more faith in than the results of two games), the Hornets are slated to post a 31-35 record, good for 11th in the Western Conference, and the Timberwolves are projected to finish 9th in the Conference at 34-32. If those projections are accurate, we can expect the Hornets to have two low-lottery slots, both between 7th and 14th.
That means the Hornets would most likely have a couple of picks in the low lottery range, but there’s still a reasonable chance the Bees could nab a top three pick. If we presume that the Hornets have two randomly distributed lottery slots somewhere between 7 and 14, they would have an 11% chance of getting one top three selection.
The purpose of the hilariously premature draft slot projections is to guide us in our scouting of prospects - the SCHOENE projections indicate that we should be focusing most heavily on draft picks projected to be selected towards the end of the lottery, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a look at the players projected to be drafted at the top, either.
As a rebuilding project, the Hornets should definitely be drafting on talent, not on need. But generally, New Orleans should probably be searching for players that can fit into Monty Williams’s system. That means the Hornets will likely be looking to find a big that can be a defensive stopper, plus a wing player that can play good defense as well as be a high usage, high efficiency scorer. And with the presence of Gordon, the Hornets probably wouldn’t be wise to draft a Shooting Guard.
By all accounts, the 2012 draft class is outstanding. It’s close to a double draft – lots of college players decided to stay an extra year with the uncertainty surrounding the lockout and will be in this year’s draft instead. Not only is the draft deep, it’s also filled with excellent top-end talent, especially for defensive specialists and power forwards. We’ll look at some of the big names by position:
Sorry to disappoint those looking for the next Chris Paul, but there are no outstanding point guard prospects in this draft. Kendall Marshall (North Carolina) and Myck Kabongo (Texas) are both projected to be picked in the mid to late first round by Draft Express.
There are some solid wing prospects expected to be selected in the lottery:
Bradley Beal (Florida): Excellent pure shooter, does best off screens, tends to pull up in the mid-range instead of attacking the rim.
Jeremy Lamb (UConn): Fantastic shooter, long arms, weak frame and doesn’t get to the foul line.
Terrence Ross (Washington): Huge (6’6"") swingman who can knock down tough shots, but has questionable shot selection.
Harrison Barnes (UNC) is the big name at SF in this class, and for good reason - he has a perfect frame, flawless mechanics, and is a fantastic shooter. He’s a bit worse in catch and shoot situations, but he will almost certainly be a top-5 pick.
Quincy Miller (Baylor) is a wing player that can make his own shot with fantastic ballhandling skills. Although a good perimeter defender, he tends to not apply himself on defense.
Michael Gilchrist (Kentucky) is a fantastic perimeter defender who can guard well in isolations and has excellent awareness to play passing lanes. He’s a gifted scorer from the perimeter but a bit raw on ballhandling and shooting mechanics.
Terrence Jones (Kentucky) is somewhere between a face-up power forward and a big wing player. He started well for Kentucky but lost favor with Calipari late in the year.
This is where the draft really shines - the Power Forward position is talented and deep.
Anthony Davis (Kentucky) is projected to go first in the draft - he sports a mean unibrow and plays incredible defense and has excellent raw skills on offense.
Jared Sullinger (Ohio State) - An excellent back to the basket scorer, Sullinger is also fantastic on the offensive glass and gets to the free throw line at a high rate.
Perry Jones (Baylor) - has incredibly high upside, an excellent midrange and perimeter game, but occasionally goes missing during games.
Thomas Robinson (Kansas) - A powerful defender, Robinson is also an efficient shooter and an excellent defensive rebounder.
John Henson (North Carolina) - Long (6’10") but skinny, Henson is a fearsome shot blocker and rebounder, but has a very raw offensive game, though he excels in pick and rolls.
Andre Drummond (UConn) - He has the perfect body and athletic profile for the center position, and he’s a defensive terror. He’s a bit raw on offense, but he will almost certainly be picked in the top three.
The top prospects tend to be clustered in a small number of teams – whenever Kentucky, UNC, or UConn play in nationally televised games, I strongly recommend taking a look at them and seeing how these prospects look.
As the season goes by, I’ll be posting more editions of At the Hive’s award-eligible "Better Know a Prospect" series, providing in-depth looks at each of these prospects. Until then, I’m gone like defense in the Alamo Bowl.