New Orleans Hornets
I’m in New Orleans.
The New Orleans Hornets are the buzz, no pun intended, around town after they won the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery this past month. With only a 13.7 percent chance of earning the top pick, the New Orleans Hornets lucked out (thank you David Stern) and earned the right to the 1st overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
The New Orleans Hornets were a franchise that was on a downward spiral since they shipped out their star point guard Chris Paul this past season. They were out of favor in New Orleans and were thought to possibly be on their way out of town with their deal with the state of Louisiana on the brink of expiring.
What a difference a few weeks can make. At the midway point of April, the Hornets’ luck quickly changed. On Monday, April 16, 2012, NBA Commissioner David Stern introduced Tom Benson, New Orleans Saints owner, as the new owner of the New Orleans Hornets. Along with the great news of Tom Benson’s new ownership, the Commissioner announced that the All-Star game would return to the city of New Orleans in 2014.
Just as the Hornets thought things couldn't get better, they lucked out again. On May 30, 2012, the New Orleans Hornets were the winners of the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery, or as it should be called, “The Anthony Davis Sweepstakes”.
They also posses the rights to the 10th overall pick in what many see as one of the deepest draft classes in the last few years. Here are the 5 best draft options for the New Orleans Hornets with the 10th pick.
Zeller lead UNC past Ohio at the 2012 NCAA Tournament with an outstanding 20 points and 22 rebounds
University of North Carolina center Tyler Zeller is one of the most average looking players. On film he doesn’t stand out as other center prospects have before, such as Dwight Howard, with their out of the gym leaping abilities. But in another area he is a standout among everyone else. He is one of the hardest working players, which is a statement that is backed up by his head coach Roy Williams. He brings an all out, full motor effort in every play, which is an intangible that cannot be taught.
What Tyler Zeller lacks in “NBA looks” he makes up for with skill and hard work. Zeller is a true seven footer who has deceptive athleticism that makes him the best transition center in this draft. He is also a more consistent and instinctive runner of the floor than unanimous number 1 overall pick Anthony Davis.
Zeller may also be one of the best shooting centers in this draft. He is a good shooter with range up to 19 feet , which he says he is better than many think and will show that once he is allowed to shoot more in a different scheme than the one he played at UNC.
His most impressive shooting stat may be his outstanding free throw shooting percentage for a center at 80% in his senior year at UNC. This stat may be one of the key factors on why to draft Zeller. Free throw shooting has been an Achilles heel for most big men in the NBA and a lot of times forces teams to take out their centers at key situations in games in order to avoid a “Hack a Shaq” situation. With Zeller’s great free throw shooting percentage, it would allow the Hornets to play him in any situation in the game.
Most centers that are drafted in the lottery now are developmental players with great upside and a limited offensive game. Zeller is not one of them. He is a good post scorer with a go to move in his right handed hook shot. His great transition game also allows him to get a lot of easy baskets which have accounted for 10% of his scoring.
Defensively, Zeller isn’t a premier shot blocker. Instead, his best attribute is his athleticism on pick-and-roll defense and as a great help defender who influences shots and takes charges.
He is a true seven footer and doesn’t possess the incredible wingspan to height ratio that a lot of centers do (Anthony Davis who is 6 ft 10 in with a 7 ft 5 in wingspan). This limits Zeller as a shot blocker against the longer centers he may face in the NBA.
His frame at 245 lbs has caused him trouble at times in his collegiate career against bigger and stronger players, who at times seemed to bully him in the post. Many experts believe he lacks the toughness of a true center but this could change if Zeller bulks up and adds more power to his frame.
One of his strengths is also one of his weaknesses, oddly enough. He is a low risk player who has proven in 4 years that he can be successful in the NBA, which draft experts don’t doubt. What is in doubt, is his seemingly low upside that begs one to wonder whether Zeller has already reached his full potential and will only produce at the level he does right now for the rest of his career.
In conclusion, Tyler Zeller will be at the least a solid and consistent center in the NBA for years to come. At pick number 10, the New Orleans Hornets should consider taking Tyler Zeller to add size and possibly, if their luck continues, build one of the best 1-2 big men combinations in the league in Zeller and Davis.
Austin Rivers took the world of basketball by storm before he even played a single game of college basketball. In high school, he was the number one prospect in many recruiting databases and his basketball pedigree, son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, made him a unique prospect.
In his freshman year at Duke, Rivers didn’t consistently live up to the hopes people had for him. The expectations may have been unfair, as Rivers was a 19-year-old freshman at one of the most prestigious college basketball schools in the toughest basketball conference. Rivers still performed well, averaging 15.4 ppg and was an All-ACC first team selection as a freshman.
Austin Rivers’ biggest strength can be spotted in a single possession. He is an exceptional scorer who is a nightmare for any defender when the ball is in his hands. Unlike other great scoring prospects in this draft such as Harrison Barnes and Bradley Beal, Rivers excels at creating his own shot. His repertoire of moves on the ball is second to none in this class. He has an explosive first step that allows him to attack the basket at will, which enables him to get to the line frequently.
The NBA game has been changing to a more up tempo and isolation style which was seen in the success of the teams in the NBA Finals between the Thunder and Heat. Austin Rivers almost solely creates his offense in isolation play, consistently beating defenders in one-on-one plays.
Many great scorers struggle at times with the transition of the college three pointers to the longer range of the NBA. This transition is one Austin Rivers will not struggle with as seen many times were it seemed he'd rather take an NBA three pointer than the college one.
An attribute that cannot be taught or coached is confidence. Confidence can be the difference between a player who is willing to take any shot and do anything it takes to win, to a player who is afraid of taking the shot and being the guy. Austin Rivers lacks no fear in taking the shot or being the go to guy as he was deferred to many times at Duke.
For example, with 5.8 seconds left, Austin Rivers had the ball at the top of the key down two points against bitter rival North Carolina. Plumlee set a pick-and-roll and caused Rivers to now be guarded by seven-foot center Tyler Zeller. Austin Rivers dribbled and with the slightest step forward created space between him and Zeller and fired off a three-pointer with 1.3 seconds left. As the shot was in the air, time expired and the ball went in. 19-year-old freshman Austin Rivers scored the game winning three-pointer to beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill. That’s confidence.
What Austin Rivers excels in his on the ball scoring, he lacks in his off the ball scoring. He rarely scored with backdoor cuts, freeing up out of picks, or moving without the ball. The reason for his lack of off the ball scoring may come from his physicality. Rivers lacks premier strength as a shooting guard who can be seen as a skinny 6'5" guard. In order to keep up with the physicality of premier shooting guards like Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade, he must add more strength to his frame.
Another weakness in his offensive game is his lack of a mid-range game. He rarely pulled up for shots while driving in and this caused him to pick up a lot of charges. He needs to develop his mid-range to not only protect himself from foul trouble, but to make defenders come out and chase him, which will only open up the lane even more.
Rivers scoring has also been a downfall to his game at times. He can have a very bad shot selection in which he forces low percentage shots rather than passing the ball and facilitating his teammates. His selfishness has caused many to question whether he is a team guy, but Rivers may just be used to being the guy as he always has been. NBA teams will be willing to settle with this if Rivers shows the production like another “selfish” player has in Kobe Bryant.
Austin Rivers has the potential to be one of the elite scorers in the NBA and can be a star with the skills he posses. At pick number 10, Rivers would be a bargain who can one day be looked at as the one of the great steals of this draft. Yet, Rivers will come as a commodity rather than a need to the Hornets if they resign star player Eric Gordon. Nonetheless, you can never go wrong with picking value over need in the draft. The New Orleans Hornets should at least consider taking Austin Rivers with their 10th pick in this year’s draft.
Kendall Marshall was 2nd in the NCAA in assists averaging 9.7 apg
A general is the leader of the group. Kendall Marshall was the undisputed leader of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. As only a sophomore, Marshall took charge as the floor general of the team.
Marshall was the “quarterback” of the team who seemed to create all the offense. He facilitated points for the very talented group of players at UNC who were a No. 1 seed at the NCAA Tournament and who many saw as favorites to win the Championship.
His importance couldn’t have been proved more evident after UNC struggled to win only one game without Marshall in overtime against 13th seed Ohio. UNC was then eliminated in the Elite Eight by Kansas.
It is an understatement to say that Kendall Marshall is a great passing point guard. His passing skills are absolutely brilliant and unlike any other point guard in this year’s draft. He is the epitome of a pass first point guard floor general.
Kendall Marshall’s passing skills flourish in any situation in the game. Despite his lack of quickness, he probably runs the best fast break in the nation with his ability to cut through a defense with a pinpoint pass to a teammate for an easy basket.
A lot of point guards tend to cover up their lack of vision with athletic ability, but it tends to show when they are forced into a half court offense. In the half court game, his basketball IQ comes into play which is a factor that sets him apart from most point guards in this draft. He is one of the most intelligent passers and seems to always find or create mismatches for his teammates.
Physically, Marshall has a great frame for a point guard at 6'4". His strength and size help him make up for his lack of athleticism. His size also allows him to attack the paint, which sets up one of his go to passing moves which is the drive and dish.
Shooting wise, Marshall may be at the short end of the stick in this year’s point guard draft class. With most point guards being shot first and athletically gifted players this year, Marshall seems to be the exception. As the intelligent point guard he is, Marshall knew his shot wasn’t his strong point and rarely resorted to shooting the ball but instead set his teammates up. At the end of the season Marshall was forced to shoot more and surprisingly, he delivered. He drastically improved his numbers as seen:
First 30 games
Last 6 games
3-pt FG Pct.
Speed and quickness. These are the two attributes that the prototype point guards now seem to posses such as Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose. Yet, players who don’t posses as much speed and quickness, such as two-time MVP Steve Nash and promising rookie Ricky Rubio, continue to flourish in the league.
Kendall Marshall lacks the top end speed and quickness of some of the top point guard prospects in this draft. He doesn't have the quickness on his first step to successfully get to the basket which also diminishes his opportunities to get to the free throw line.
On the defensive end, at times he has been a liability against quicker point guards. His lateral speed is below average and with explosive point guards such as Westbrook and Rose, he can become a defensive liability if he doesn't improve this area of his game.
Despite the late bloom on his offensive game, Marshall is still an average scorer at best. At UNC, he limited himself to as few shots as possible and was able to get away with it. In the NBA, teams will force Marshall to beat them with his scoring and try to eliminate his ability to assist others.
Overall, Marshall is still the most well rounded point guard prospect in this year’s draft. His glaring weakness is his shooting, but we have seen the likes of Rajon Rondo perform as one of the best point guards in the league with an almost nonexistent jump shot.
With the Hornets taking Anthony Davis No. 1 overall, Marshall would be the perfect addition to not only add the top point guard in the draft but also add a player who will immediately improve Anthony Davis' game. He would create offense for Davis and would help progress Davis’ offensive game rapidly. Marshall’s ability to improve all others is a must need addition to a Hornet’s offense that was ranked 2nd to last in points per game last season.
Damian Lillard has been a player who has flown under the radar for the whole season until draft week. This is not because of his skill, but instead because of where he played. Lillard was the point guard for Weber State, a small school in the Big Sky Conference, who earned conference MVP honors and was second in scoring in the NCAA.
The guy is a pure scorer. Lillard has shown to be able to score in any way and from anywhere. He was second in the NCAA in scoring averaging 24.5 ppg. He scored 30+ points in seven games and 40+ points twice in his senior year. He has great range that extends past the NBA three-pointer. He was a consistent three-point shooter with a respectable 40.9 three point percentage that is well above average, especially for a point guard.
Damian Lillard seemed to be a highlight machine at Weber State. Despite not having the biggest frame, at 6'2", he plays bigger than that. He is a great finisher who isn't scared to penetrate the paint and finish at the rim. Along with his will to drive, he has great athleticism which allows him to finish strong in the paint.
One of the most shocking statistics about Damian Lillard is his efficiency. Typically high scoring numbers mean a lot of shot attempts or high turnover rates, such as Russell Westbrook, who is often criticized for these things. But this is not the case for Lillard. He averaged 24.5 ppg while only averaging 15.5 shots per game. Also, he had a 46.7 FG%, shot 40.9 % from three-point land, and an impressive 88.7 FT %.
Damian Lillard’s biggest weakness is his ability to create for others. Despite playing point guard, he only averaged 4 assist per game last season. He also only had five or more assists in only five games, another shocking stat for a player who plays in the facilitator position. His statistics in facilitating others may be because at Weber State his role was to score and it may be yet to see how he can transition into a distributor.
Defensively Lillard was a very solid on the ball defender who played above average and used his frame very well to defender bigger players. He has great footwork combined with great speed, which allows him to recover and stay in front of players. Off the ball is where his defensive liability comes into play. In this case his frame works against him, in that it causes him to struggle to fight through screens and to recover in time to defend.
The fear of NBA teams have in drafting Damian Lillard is the risk of small school syndrome. Small School Syndrome is the deception of numbers by players who play in smaller schools against lesser competition, in cases such as Adam Morrison. Damian Lillard seemed to score at will against most schools, as was the case when he scored 36 points vs St. Mary. Against tougher competition such as Cal and BYU, he only averaged 14.5 ppg and shot a disturbing 29 percent from the field.
The New Orleans Hornets have a tough decision to make in the case of Damian Lillard. They could be drafting the best point guard in this class and a future Russell Westbrook with the 10th pick, or they could draft the next Adam Morrison, who never produced against the tougher competition in the NBA. Nonetheless, at pick 10 the Hornets have a chance to land one of the most dangerous and high scoring backcourts in the NBA with the combination of Lillard and Eric Gordon, given the latter re-signs and Lillard is able to duplicate the production he had in college.
Meyers Leonard is a player whose stock has skyrocketed in the recent weeks leading up to the NBA Draft. He was a solid player who showed promise and flashes of brilliance in his first year as a starter for Illinois.
Meyers Leonard’s physical tools are what make him one of the top center prospects in this year’s draft. He is the tallest player in the draft measuring in at 7 ft 1 in and weighing in at 250 lbs.
Despite his size and frame, Leonard plays quicker and lighter than what he really is. He has deceptive speed on both sides of the court. Offensively, he is an above average runner of the court for his size. Defensively, he has very good vertical speed to stay in front and recover on defense and also has good lateral speed that shows in his ability to defend the pick and roll.
Leonard’s athleticism, his height, and his wingspan (7ft 3in) are the factors of why he is a very good shot blocker. He led the Big Ten in blocked shots as only a sophomore and also showed great help defense that helped alter shots in the paint. He is very good leaper for his frame and has shown flashes of incredible leaping blocks such as Anthony Davis.
His upside is the reason why Leonard is projected to become a lottery pick. He is a very raw yet talented player who only has 1 full season as a starter under his belt and is only 20 years old. Offensively he has the upside and raw talent to become a solid offensive player not only in the post game but also with his jump shot.
Meyers Leonard can be compared to a diamond that hasn’t fully been polished yet. You know or are pretty sure that you have a diamond because you have seen the flashes of brilliance yet it will take time until you can fully polish and see the diamond. He is a project and a developmental player who in a few years can be the staple of a team. His game will take time to develop for the NBA, especially in the offensive side of the ball.
He has also shown to be very inconsistent in all areas of his game. Defensively, he at times tends to lose focus and interest when he isn’t driven by some type of motivation. Also in the offensive side of the ball he can at times shut down or take himself out of the game if he is having a bad game.
A huge question mark for NBA teams has been Meyers Leonard’s mental toughness. He shows this in his inconsistency when if he loses his confidence with a bad shot or a bad possession he tends to live on the mistake for the remainder of the game and shows it in his lack of effort. He also at times seems a little naive in the game making questionable choices that beg to ask whether he really understands some areas of the game. Some games Leonard looks like a sure lottery pick and then shortly after like a 2nd round draft pick.
The New Orleans Hornets are looking to be ready to add size to a squad that lacked a true defensive presence in the paint last year. Meyers Leonard can become the perfect 1-2 punch along with Anthony Davis as defensive enforcers in the future for the Hornets. Meyers Leonard is a player with a tremendous upside whom if produces up to his potential could be a steal for the Hornets at pick number 10.