Hornets

Hornets 2024 Draft Board 1.0

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With LaMelo Ball going down for what may be over a month, the Charlotte Hornets playoff hopes might be all but dashed. While we shouldn’t give up on the season, it’s never too early to look ahead to the 2024 NBA Draft.

Right now, it’s apparent that many changes are coming to the Hornets’ roster very soon. As we usher in the core of the future, this iteration of the team may be on its last dance.

It’s highly doubtful that Terry Rozier or Gordon Hayward will be on the Hornets 12 months from now. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a draft board that fills one of at least two needs for this squad to move forward. Those needs? A long-term backcourt running mate for LaMelo Ball, and shooting.

1- Nikola Topic

  • Combo Guard | Serbia | 6’6″ | 200 lbs | 18 yrs
  • Draft range: 5-12
  • PPG: 18.8   APG: 7.0   RPG: 3.3   FG%: 51.3%   3PT%: 28%
  • Shades of: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
  • Projected playtime (rookie season): Starting shooting guard

An elite offensive engine in the NBA has three major qualities: elite self-creation, elite efficiency, elite playmaking and the ability to get to the line. Topic demonstrates all four of these qualities as well as any guard prospect in recent memory. He is elite in transition. When evaluating offensive engines, you need to evaluate their impact on the half-court game and their impact on the transition game.

Fellow European ‘prodigy’ Luka Doncic is an example of someone who has a massive positive impact on the half-court game but a negative impact in transition.

Topic projects to be great at both.

People will claim that Topic’s athleticism is weak for the NBA, but his speed as a 6’6 ball handler is undoubtedly elite. His explosiveness may not be to par with many of the great point guards in the NBA, but with this new generation of guards such as Tyrese Haliburton and Josh Giddey, we have been proven time and again that the modern game is much better fit to positional size than athleticism. He also projects as a tremendous off-ball threat, with cuts, rolls and movement commonplace in his game.

His unselfishness and playmaking expertise is also readily on display at all times. His assists aren’t just from pick and rolls and relay passing. He possesses an innate ability to create open looks for others. He shows no care towards counting stats, but instead cares about his contribution to winning, and the team outcome. When was the last time we had that in Charlotte?

His ability to attack the rim and penetrate the last line of defense is remarkable. He is fearless, and he invites contact— even creates it. There are so many players with the tools to get to the rim but lack the ambition and heart to attack fearlessly. Topic is not one of these players.

He owns the floor. Despite his youth at just 18 years of age, he regularly displays unwavering confidence and poise in a competitive professional league, which projects extremely well for the NBA, where many rookies struggle on the back of poor performances (cue Scoot Henderson).

2- Izan Almansa

  • PF | Providence | 6’10” | 215 lbs | 18 yrs
  • Draft range: 4-9
  • PPG: 8.8   APG: 2.3   RPG: 6.6   FG%: 52.7%   3PT%: 16.7%
  • Shades of: Alperen Sengun with elite defensive upside.
  • Projected playtime (rookie season): Backup power forward

Almansa has displayed tremendous touch around the rim so far this season. He’s knocked down 67.4% of his shots in that area. He is an elite athlete who can seemingly get to the cup with ease. To do this, he regularly utilizes his grand ball-handling abilities for his size.

His vision and efficiency when creating for others is a real draw card for NBA scouts. He finished the U19 World Cup in the 97th percentile for assists per 100 possessions.

The 18-year-old possesses the rare knack for the spinning hook shot, which so far looks like a replicable move to have in his arsenal, and is nearly impossible to guard.

His rebounding capabilities are solid, with a seemingly infinite motor.

Almansa’s defensive IQ on switches, help defense and positioning is similar to that of Giannis Antetokounmpo. His frame also allows him to capitalize on this IQ. He acts as a deterrent, stopping even the elite inside scorers from attempting the drive on him.

3- Robert Dillingham

  • Combo Guard | Kentucky | 6’1″ | 165 lbs | 19 yrs
  • Draft range: 9-16
  • PPG: 15.4   APG: 5.7   RPG: 4.4   FG%: 52.6%   3PT%: 53.3%
  • Shades of: Bones Hyland with exceptional playmaking
  • Projected playtime (Rookie Season): Starting shooting guard

A lightning-quick combo guard, Dillingham is undersized with a thin build but has the handle and shiftiness to create for himself. He also possesses explosive athleticism that allows him to play above the rim.

Although he’s a good passer and has what it takes to run point, Dillingham tends to create for himself. He is crafty at the rim, and boasts a reliable jumpshot.

Dillingham has the speed and hands to pressure ball-handlers for steals, although his lack of positional size and thin frame likely make him a target on defense.

When he does decide to create for others, he has an innate sense of the court around him. He can find teammates in pockets that others wouldn’t even see, whilst limiting the turnovers.

4- Zaccharie Risacher

  • SF | France | 6’10” | 204 lbs | 18 yrs
  • Draft Range: 3-8
  • PPG: 10.0  APG: 1.2   RPG: 3.6  FG%: 50%  3PT%: 33.3%
  • Shades of: Harrison Barnes with a higher ceiling
  • Projected Playtime (rookie season): Starting small forward

He has an excellent combination of size and skills, perfect for the modern game that demands skill from all five on the court. He has the ability to shoot, dribble and create for others at a high level, and projects as someone you can build an offensive system around.

The ball may not be on a string, but he possesses a solid handle— enough to beat players on the perimeter.

His high release point, accompanied by his height and length, allow him to simply shoot over defenders, and he boasts upside as a pull-up scorer.

On the defensive side, his long strides on closeouts allow him to be a deterrence on the inside whilst still covering the outside scorer. Paired with his active hands, Risacher projects to be a force on the perimeter.

He also has the capabilities to play as a pick-and-roll ball handler, and as the roller, an attribute only the elite such as Nikola Jokic possess.

Risacher also boasts great positional rebounding and hustle, projecting his floor to be at the very least a glue guy, such as Draymond Green or Jarred Vanderbilt.

5- Stephon Castle

  • SG | UConn | 6’6″ | 215 lbs | 19 yrs
  • Draft range: 4-8
  • PPG: 14.5  APG: 3.5  RPG: 6.5  FG%: 66.7%  3PT%: 33.3%
  • Shades of: Playmaking Jimmy Butler
  • Projected playtime (rookie season): Starting shooting guard

The ball skills and the reads were the takeaway with Stephon Castle throughout the college season so far. Listed on the roster at 6-6, he is built like a wing, but he makes his biggest impact — as he did in travel ball and in high school — playing on the ball. Castle touches the paint with balance and he sprays good passes across the floor, not forcing anything.

Whilst his jumpshot is solid right now, improving in that department over the course of the season will see his stock skyrocket.

Castle is a disruptive defender on the ball, and is a pest off of it. His active hands allow for steals and easy fast-break points. He has the ability to seemingly guard two bodies at once, without conceding an inch.

With his playmaking, perimeter defense and, hopefully in the future, his jumpshot, Castle would be the perfect backcourt partner for LaMelo Ball.

6- Ja’Kobe Walter

  • SG/SF | Serbia | 6’5″ | 195 lbs | 19 yrs
  • Draft range: 6-9
  • PPG: 15.6  APG: 0.7  RPG: 4.4  FG%: 43.1%  3PT%: 39.5%
  • Shades of: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
  • Projected playtime (rookie season): Backup small forward

Walter is the perfect size for an off-ball guard at the NBA level and has a frame that projects to develop more strengths, particularly on the defensive end of the ball. He also possesses tremendous length which will allow him to slide up and play on the wing as well.

An elite shooter who can seemingly get into rhythm as he pleases, Walter can take over games with his remarkable range and efficiency. He has also shown significant improvement in the midrange from his high-school years, and has become a legitimate threat in that area.

His ability to stop and start at a moment’s notice also showcase his balance and body control on the move.

While he can create for himself, and possesses a number of go-to moves, he struggles to consistently create for others. Should that side of his game develop, his draft stock will take a massive rise.

The defensive side of the ball is where Walter can differentiate himself. He can guard four positions with his length and athleticism and has a frame that should eventually allow him to hold his own against bigger bodies.

The freshman is good both on and off the ball defensively, and should earn minutes this season because of it.

His rebounding — or lack thereof — is something that has taken a massive hit on his draft stock, but with his frame that should eventually come around.

He can impact a winning team as of the moment he’s drafted, which could see him fly further up the draft if a team wants to make a playoff push.

7- Carlton Carrington

  • Combo Guard | Pittsburgh | 6’4″ | 180 lbs | 18 yrs
  • Draft range: 5-12
  • PPG: 14.9  APG: 5.9  RPG: 5.6  FG%: 44.7%  3PT%: 38.6%
  • Shades of: Tyrese Maxey
  • Projected playtime (rookie season): Starting shooting guard

As one of the most impressive freshmen in the country, Carrington has shot up the draft boards. Six months ago, he wasn’t even on the radar of scouts, but now he is a bonafide first-round lock.

Carrington is a triple-double threat every time he steps on the hardwood. With his positional size, and if his frame continues filling out, he will only continue to thrive at the college and NBA level.

He is an elite rebounder for a guard, and is also one of the best perimeter passers among all freshmen in the NCAA. His assist rate is remarkable for a player as inexperienced as himself, and he’s proven to be able to take care of the ball.

He truly does it all on the court, and stuffs the stat sheet like the very best; think Westbrook, Jokic, LaMelo, Haliburton, Harden.

As a scorer, Carrington is extremely smooth and constantly gets to his spots in unique ways, which allows him to keep the defense guessing.

8- Matas Buzelis

  • Wing | G League Ignite | 6’8″ | 209 lbs | 19 yrs
  • Draft Range: 3-6
  • PPG: 16.5  APG: 2.0  RPG: 4.5  FG%: 50.0%  3PT%: 42.9%
  • Shades of: Michael Porter Jr. with good passing and IQ.
  • Projected playtime (rookie season): Starting small forward

Buzelis is a big wing/guard with a versatile skill set. He’s got handles and great court vision, allowing him to excel at initiating the offense. His passing ability stands out for a 6-10 player and he’s got a great feel for the game.

He is able to score from all three levels, and seemingly never takes a shot he can’t make. He boasts an impressive knack to score on pull ups and on the move, while also being a catch-and-shoot threat.

His ability to play as a guard allows him to use his length against any smaller matchups on either end of the floor.

His perimeter defense is solid, but could use some work.

9- Baba Miller

  • SF/PF | Florida State | 6’11” 204 lbs | 19 yrs
  • Draft range: 15-22
  • PPG: 4.0  APG: 1.3  RPG: 4.7  FG%: 41.7  3PT%: 33.3%
  • Shades of: Jonathan Isaac
  • Projected playtime (rookie season): Backup power forward

Miller makes his money on the defensive end of the court, where he uses his elite positional size, length and agility to dominate both in the post and on the perimeter.

He is a fantastic athlete, who can get inside and score the ball. Paired with his shot, he projects as the perfect 3-and-D power forward, with the ability to handle and create for himself too.

His off-ball movement gives him the ability to be a volume scorer on off-ball motion plays, which are a large part of the modern game.

Despite his physical gifts, Miller can become passive on the perimeter. This is something he needs to sort out ASAP should he want to be a lottery pick.

He also tends to be foul-prone, leaving him off the court during the most important stages of the game.

Miller is able to rack up the steals and blocks unlike anyone we’ve seen in the game, maybe ever.

10- Tyrese Procter

  • Guard | Duke | 6’5″ | 180 lbs | 20 yrs
  • Draft range: 5-11
  • PPG: 11.7  APG: 5.4  RPG: 3.4  FG%: 44.6%  3PT%: 32.4%
  • Shades of: Jalen Brunson
  • Projected playtime (rookie season): Starting shooting guard

Procter is a shifty lead guard with great size. He passes the eye test as a guy who can excel in the modern NBA. He shares some similarities to recent high draft picks such as Anthony Black and Jalen Hood-Schifino, although Proctor is slightly smaller than both.

He’s shown creativity and flashiness when creating for others, yet is poised and calm when creating his own shot. He seems to have the ball on a string, and appears to be a court general of sorts, despite his youth.

Procter loves to get out and run, throw lobs and create highlights. This trait perhaps makes him the perfect backcourt running mate for LaMelo Ball.

He has shown decent touch around the rim, with a range of shot including runners, floaters, hooks and deep layups.

Unfortunately, he shoots the ball poorly from all three levels, with a particularly abysmal three-point shot, making just 32% of his threes in his freshman season at Duke. Should he figure out his shooting woes, Procter could absolutely challenge for a top-five pick in the draft.

11- Garwey Dual

  • SG/SF | Providence | 6’5″ | 175 lbs | 19 yrs
  • Draft range: 20-35
  • PPG: 5.4  APG: 2.7  RPG: 1.3  FG%: 30.3%  3PT%: 40.0%
  • Shades Of: Alex Caruso
  • Projected playtime (rookie season): Backup shooting guard

Dual boasts an impressive ability to score off the dribble, off the catch, or in an off-ball motion play. Despite this, it’s the defensive end where he hangs his hat.

Despite his average-at-best size, Dual is an elite athlete who can rack up steals and blocks.

During the college season so far, Dual has been something of a perimeter deterrent. The only thing holding him back is his lack of an explosive first step off the dribble, allowing defenders to easily stay in front and gatekeep the paint. Because of this, Dual rarely gets to the line enough for a first-round guard, so that may be the point of difference for him between late first round, and early second.

About Nic Thomas

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