Hornets

Who Should the Hornets’ 2024 Draft Targets Be?

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The Lead’s Corban Ford contributed to this article.

With the Charlotte Hornets looking ahead to a new future, it’s time to look ahead at the offseason that could be.

The Hornets will have a number of franchise-altering decisions to make this summer, potentially none more important than who to select in the 2024 NBA Draft. This time next year, they hope to have significantly better NBA Championship odds.

Over the course of twelve months, I have monitored, analyzed and ranked over 150 prospects, each with their own intricacies, strengths, hitches and tools that define them as not only a basketball player— but as a prospect.

As someone who has consumed thousands of hours of Hornets content over the last few years, these are the players Charlotte should look to pounce on in the upcoming draft:

1- Tyler Smith

PF | 6’9” | 215 lbs | 19 Years Old | G League Ignite

Draft Board Rank: 15

Hailing from the G League Ignite, Tyler Smith would be an awesome addition that would definitely benefit the Hornets, especially considering the recent trade of PJ Washington and the uncertain free-agent status of Miles Bridges.

Smith stands 6-foot-9 — and could still be growing — yet has the skill set of a wing, very much similar to what Washington flashed during his tenure in the Queen City. Two things that immediately stand out for Smith is his ability to run the floor as well as his proficiency to shoot the ball from range. Smith moves around the floor fluidly, and is comfortable with or without the ball in his hands, which only increases his versatility.

His shot is functional, mechanically sound with little wasted motion, and is an accurate one as well, and he projects to be a floor-spacing big at the next level. 

Defensively, Smith leverages his size in addition to a wingspan of over seven feet to deter shots from the rim on a regular basis, and by and large flashes the signs to be a real defensive playmaker in the NBA. His activity and quick second jump will also translate well, especially if he finds himself paired in the frontcourt alongside Mark Williams, where the two players’ style should complement each other well.

2- Rob Dillingham

PG | 6’9” | 175 lbs | 19 Years Old | Kentucky

Draft Board Rank: 8

When you first see Rob Dillingham play, you can almost immediately imagine him fitting right in on the Hornets and jump starting their offense for stretches.

It’s all there: the shiftiness with the dribble to get into the floater in the lane, the array of passes from all conceivable angles, the sharpshooting from midrange, from deep, from all over. Standing 6-foot-3 at a relatively slight 175 pounds, Dillingham makes the most of his relative lack of girth by using his quickness and speed to slither into the lane, and Hornets fans should be used to seeing a lot of paint touches generated by the Kentucky guard.

His more-immediate role with the Hornets might be as a backup guard to LaMelo Ball and Tre Mann, but Dillingham should be able to play easily with both from an offensive perspective and definitely juice up a Charlotte offense that can definitely be prone to dry spells. A Dillingham-Ball-Miller trio alone could inspire fear in the hearts of potential defenders.

Defensively is where things get a little dicey for Dillingham, where the same physical attributes that help him on the offensive side serve as hindrances on the defensive end.

His slight frame has and could continue to be a struggle against bigger guards, to say nothing of wings, and although he has shown that he can generate steals with his quick hands and anticipation, his lapses of awareness off the ball can be an issue. Mark Williams and the Hornets’ back line would have their work cut out for them if Dillingham is at the point of attack, but when engaged, however, he can string together some decent defensive performances.

Despite his flaws, Rob Dillingham is an electric and potential-packed player the Hornets would greatly appreciate should he be available to them when they are on the clock.

3- Kyshawn George

PG | 6’8” | 205 lbs | 20 Years Old | Miami

Draft Board Rank: N/A

Kyshawn George is a wing with the playmaking upside of a point guard, and the versatility to match.

He handles the ball well and is capable of making pretty good offensive reads, with the added benefit of being able to see over his defender more often than not with his size. A special twist that George possesses is being able to shoot the ball at a solid percentage, where he is shooting 46.4% on catch-and-shoot jumpers and 57.7% on unguarded catch-and-shoot jumpers with a smooth, repeatable shot that also translates well from deep, where he hit a solid 41% from three-point range in his freshman season on better-than-average volume. 

Defensively, George can slide up and down positionally and make the most of his length and athleticism to be disruptive and make an impact. His versatility also allows him to defend some guards, something that probably won’t be a consistent thing but could definitely come in handy when it comes to switches or key stretches where George’s size could be a different and needed defensive look.

George is relatively raw compared to some of the other prospects here, but the potential he holds is also among the highest, and on a team like Charlotte, it might be worth the risk for the chance of a great reward.

4- DJ Wagner

PG | 6’3” | 175 lbs | 19 Years Old | Kentucky

Draft Board Rank: 33

Before we go into Wagner’s game specifically, let’s take a moment to chat through an archetype of a player that might be appealing for the Hornets.

Does a scoring threat to get into the paint at will with elite-level quickness sound good? How about a natural from-scratch offensive creator who can generate buckets in a hurry?

Too good to be true? Let’s throw in the ability to score at all three levels. Interested? Ok, then I can reveal that I have now described the potential archetype of what DJ Wagner can be if it all comes together. 

Wagner comes with an NBA pedigree and has the offensive creation skills of one in the league, especially once he gets going. Although he is a smaller guard for the scoring role he will likely try and occupy, Wagner can score and score well, using his great body control and handle to create offense for himself in a hurry or for a teammate.

His jump shot has range, although not yet all the way out to three consistently, which is something he must improve. DJ Wagner on the offensive end has a one track mind and is pretty good at keeping his main thing the main thing. Playmaking and defense are definitely things that Wagner would have to work to improve upon to be a major contributor for the Hornets, but for the potential offensive creation he brings to the table plus the upside that exists for him, he has to be mentioned here.

5- Ja’Kobe Walter

SG | 6’5” | 180 lbs | 19 Years Old | Baylor

Draft Board Rank: 12

Walter operates at a high tempo on the offensive side, maintaining a consistent speed throughout. His primary assets lie in his shooting accuracy and ability to create shots. His shooting form is fluid, resulting in impressive shooting percentages. He excels in catch-and-shoot situations and is proficient in executing pull-up midrange shots. He navigates his way to the midrange area by capitalizing on defensive closeouts and creating isolation opportunities. His finishing skills exhibit good finesse.

Currently, he tends to finish plays near the basket, but he can elevate and score over defenders. Additionally, he demonstrates proficiency in utilizing floaters and executing acrobatic finishes.

He would slot in well next to LaMelo, and potentially could be his backcourt partner of the future that the Hornets have looked for. His ability to work and move off the ball, and knock down catch-and-shoot jumpers, will allow him to play to his strengths, with elite playmaking being a feature of the starting lineup.

Everyone has the ability to move the ball. Obviously LaMelo can, Brandon Miller has shown the ability to be the lead guard in LaMelo’s absence, and Mark Williams is an underrated post playmaker.

6- JaeDon LeDee

PF | 6’9” | 240 lbs | 24 Years Old | San Diego State

Draft Board Rank: 25

JaeDon LeDee possesses a unique skill set that sets him apart from other prospects in the country.

Standing at 6-foot-9 and weighing 240 pounds, he combines size, skill and versatility in a way that is rare to find. With the ability to handle the ball, create opportunities for his teammates, and shoot from the perimeter, LeDee showcases a blend of traditional power and modern finesse.

His background as a point guard before transitioning to the frontcourt has honed his passing and court vision, making him a well-rounded player. Despite concerns about his age, as he will be 25 when the NBA season begins, LeDee’s experience and maturity could prove valuable to a team. Furthermore, teams stand to benefit financially by acquiring a player entering his prime years on a rookie contract.

This is the perfect move if the Hornets are really looking at making a Play-In/Playoffs push next season. He slots in perfectly with the current starting lineup, and would allow Brandon Miller to play the two, where he has excelled this season. His ability to space the floor, lock down on defense, and most importantly playmake will make him the perfect glue guy for the Hornets. I liken LeDee to a young Draymond Green with better inside scoring capabilities.

Further linking LeDee to the Warriors legend, he will look to be a pick-and-roll/dribble handoff partner for LaMelo Ball.

7- Dominick Harris

SG | 6’4” | 170 lbs | 22 Years Old | Loyola Marymount

Draft Board Rank: N/A

The Gonzaga transfer is a skilled combo guard possessing good size and lengthy arms. Prefers to have possession of the ball and focuses on scoring, although he also has the ability to create opportunities. Proficient shooter from midrange and beyond the arc. Enhanced shot selection could lead to increased effectiveness, yet he is skilled at making tough shots. Has the potential to grow into a low-usage, high-volume scorer. Harris leads the WCC in three-pointers made, and is top three in the country in three-point percentage.

The 22-year-old would be the perfect piece of the bench for the Hornets. He would add some much-needed shooting and off-ball movement. The Hornets have struggled to find a backup point guard for a while now, and if they fail to add a legitimate one once again this offseason, Harris will undoubtedly make their job much easier. To think they could very well pick him up in the second round makes this an even more obvious selection.

8- Juan Nunez

PG | 6’4” | 190 lbs | 19 Years Old | Ratioharp Ulm

Draft Board Rank: 4

Nunez is undoubtedly my favorite prospect in this draft. A European prodigy who has played professionally since the tender age of 15, he is the embodiment of the modern point guard. His ability to read and play the floor with little-to-no mistakes at such a young age is remarkable. While at times streaky, he can light you up from three-point range at a moment’s notice. On the defensive end though is where he rises up the board dramatically. His ruthless and relentless pressure on the ball handler is a trait that can’t be taught. He possesses this burning fire and passion for winning, and he will stop at nothing to achieve that.

Nunez could be the next iteration of European guards that dominate the league. Think Luka, Rubio, Parker. GM’s will look back at this draft and think “Damn, how did we pass on this kid?”.

He has Sixth-Man-Of-the-Year potential, as the ideal backup point guard. Furthermore, given his height, he has the ability to play shooting guard alongside LaMelo Ball. Having a guy like Nunez off the bench would be a game-changer for the Hornets, as he would be able to get the most out of elite bench guys like Nick Richards, Grant Williams, and young prospects like Nick Smith Jr., Bryce McGowens and Tre Mann.

9- Izan Almansa

PF | 6’10” | 216 lbs | 19 Years Old | G-League Ignite 

Draft Board Rank: 30

He’s a great finisher at the rim, can post-up, and can handle the ball a bit. He’s okay at rebounding and has a good motor, but he’s more of a below-the-rim finisher which is worrying for a big, especially at his size. He has average length at best for a big man (7-foot-1 wingspan), and is a non-shooter at this point, but he has shown solid touch from the free-throw line. He’s pretty agile but not someone who can be called switchable at the moment.

He doesn’t offer much rim protection either. We need to see some more playmaking reps before we fully judge that part of his game, but right now he projects to be the next iteration of shot-creating bigs from Europe (think Jokic, Sengun, Giannis).

He would fit nicely into the Hornets lineup. Imagine having one of the best playmakers on planet Earth in LaMelo Ball paired with two elite lob threats (Mark Williams, Izan Almansa), the perfect modern wing and elite scorer (Brandon Miller), and someone who could very well be the next elite post playmaker (Almansa).

10- Kyle Filipowski

F/C | 7’0” | 248 lbs | 20 Years Old | Duke

Draft Board Rank: 22

The last player here is one that offers the most interesting blend of talents to the Hornets. Big man Kyle Filipowski from Duke is a multi-skilled big who can do a little bit of everything: score, shoot from range, rebound, defend, even flash some passing chops.

His versatility stands out over all, but the hope is he continues to grow in his outside shooting and overall defensive ability. Even so, having a big with the skill set that Filipowski does lends itself to so many more versatile lineups for the Hornets, and his floor mapping and floor-spacing ability gives hope to line up success in the front court alongside a player like Mark Williams or Nick Richards.

He may not be an ideal fit at the moment, and he certainly isn’t a need for charlotte, but his addition to the team would prove beneficial with the value that he can provide.

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