The New Orleans Hornets are counting on getting a high-impact player with their first pick this June.
That pick in the first round is ranked fourth heading into the draft lottery, and they have a 13.7 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick. While hopes are surely high among Hornets fans that the team will vault to No. 1, it's also possible they could take the opposite turn.
That the Hornets could drop out of the top five on Wednesday when the balls jumble around during the lottery is a frightening, but a real possibility. Luckier teams just might leapfrog the Hornets to reach the top five.
If that happens, the Hornets would be looking at less attractive prospects with their first pick—perhaps even less attractive ones than those who they may see with their second pick. Still, the Hornets would have one player in particular who look to go between Nos. 5 and 10 in the draft who could help them turn the corner.
Harrison Barnes, who DraftExpress.com ranks No. 6 among prospects, would be an optimal choice for the Hornets if they fall out of the top five. He's a solid scorer with average shooting accuracy. Barnes has good size for a small forward, standing 6'8" with a solid 223-pound frame and an impressive 6'11" wingspan.
He is a capable three-point shooter, having shot 36 percent in his sophomore season, and is great at creating for himself. He can drive off the dribble, working off the screen and operating in isolation.
Barnes has a combination of scoring ability and defensive ability that few prospects possess, making him an intriguing prospect if the Hornets drop out of the top five. At small forward, Trevor Ariza is anything but a pure scorer. He averaged 10.8 points per game while shooting 41.7 percent from the field and taking 9.8 shots per game.
Who should the Hornets take with their first pick if it falls outside of the top five?
The Hornets lacked versatile scorers with Eric Gordon out almost all of last season. Jarrett Jack led the team's regulars with 15.6 points per game, but he's not a natural scorer. Barnes could fill the void.
Indeed, the Hornets would have to put a couple of scorers beside Barnes. His draft profile notes that he doesn't take well to being the go-to scorer right away.
That won't make Hornets fans happy, but their team will have another first-round draft pick, probably just a few places after the first one. Also, they'll have plenty of cap space for free agency, with almost $39 million committed for next season, per ShamSports.com.
If the Hornets drop out of the top five, they likely wouldn't be able to grab a true game-breaker with their first pick. Still, they would be able to get a legitimate prospect who could help them rise in the ranks in the Western Conference.
Barnes provides the scoring and defense to help New Orleans move up the standings.