Currently sitting at 44-33 and heading back to the postseason, the Charlotte Hornets have the appearance of a good team. A team that is solid enough to make the playoffs, win a few games, and head home after the first or second round. But after losing Al Jefferson for a while this season one thing has become evident in Charlotte: the young talent that Rich Cho has been drafting in the middle of the first round has been solid and they should build upon that foundation. With their record this year the Hornets are currently slotted to pick 21st this summer in the NBA Draft and should be looking at depth for certain positions. Here are a few players that they should consider with those picks.
With the 21st overall pick in the NBA Draft, the Charlotte Hornets select:
Source: USA Today
Taurean Prince – SF, Baylor University, 6’7”, 220 LBS
NBA Comparison: DeMarre Carroll
This summer Charlotte could lose Nicolas Batum to free agency and Prince would be a solid pick for them with the 21st overall pick. Prince projects as a solid “3 and D” type player who has the size to guard both shooting guards and small forwards in the NBA. He’s a good spot up shooter and can knock down corner 3’s at the next level. He would need to improve upon his ball handling and passing (only averaged 2.3 assists his senior year at Baylor) in order to replace some of Batum’s production and would need to work on his shooting from the charity stripe as well after averaging only 76.9% his final season at Baylor. Prince would be great depth behind Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and provide a nice spark off the bench for the Hornets.
Source: USA Today
Diamond Stone – C, Maryland University, 6’10”, 255 LBS
NBA Comparison: Kendrick Perkins/Nikola Jokic
With the chance that the Hornets could lose Al Jefferson this summer, Charlotte should consider Maryland Freshman Diamond Stone with their first round draft pick. A highly touted recruit coming out of high school, Stone disappointed at times this season on a talented Maryland squad with averages of 12.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots both starting and off the bench. Stone is more of a hybrid type of center, possessing the size and physical statue of elite centers but has the shooting touch and agility to make him a scoring threat in the NBA. He is far from a finished product though with his potential being the biggest upside for the team that does draft him. He does have the ability to grow and fit nicely at the next level in the NBA and could slide in as an eventual starter for Charlotte allowing Frank Kaminsky to move over to more of a stretch power forward position.
Source: USA Today
Malik Beasley – SG, Florida State University, 6’5”, 195 LBS
NBA Comparison: Wesley Matthews
The Hornets should also consider Florida State freshman Malik Beasley with their first round draft pick. Beasley is an athletic and energetic playmaker on the floor who would help Charlotte greatly if they lost Nicolas Batum or Courtney Lee to free agency this off season. He has textbook mechanics on his jump shot and is a knockdown shooter when open, hitting nearly 40% on his 3-point attempts his freshman year at Florida State. He does have plenty of room for improvement though as he can still improve his ability to create for others and learn to get to the rim more efficiently off the dribble as well. He also gambles often on defense that can leave the rest of the team unable to compensate. If he is drafted by Charlotte he could develop and grow both off the bench behind Jeremy Lamb or in Greensboro, Charlotte’s D-League affiliate, and eventually become a solid bench contributor for the Hornets.
Source: USA Today
Denzel Valentine – SG/SF, Michigan State University, 6’6”, 220 LBS
NBA Comparison: Jared Dudley/Greivis Vasquez/Smaller Draymond Green
Finally, the Hornets should take a long look at Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine with their first round draft pick. Valentine is a truly complete basketball player with averages of 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists a game for the Spartans his final season. His court vision and basketball IQ are top-notch and his only true knocks are he’s not the most athletic player for his position and not big enough for the standard NBA small forward. But he is also viewed in the same light as fellow Spartan Draymond Green, also considered undersized for his position when coming to the NBA, where he could also be used as a key contributor to a championship contender. Valentine could perfectly replace Nicolas Batum if drafted by Charlotte and his rare skill-set would perfectly compliment his teammates if given the time to grow and develop.
The 21st overall will most likely not be a star player immediately out of the gates for Charlotte. Instead the player they pick this summer will need time to grow and properly develop and eventually they will become a key unit of this young swarm of Hornets players. With the possibility of losing many key members of the team to free agency this summer, Rich Cho and Charlotte should most definitely turn to the draft in order to help the team grow even further.
Stay tuned for part two of this series on who should the Hornets target in free agency this offseason.