Steve’s Round 1 Mock Draft 1.0

The national championship has concluded and if your NFL team has not made the playoffs then congrats, it’s DRAFT SZN! This is the debut of my very first actual mock draft. Sure I’ve gone through hundreds of mock simulations this season, but now that half the draft order is finalized, we can truly get to work. No trades in this mock, that’ll come later once we can truly get a lay of the land.

Without further ado…

*I used PFF and The Draft Network’s top team needs as well as my own knowledge to base these picks.

1.01 Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

The no brainer here. For anyone thinking that he may not go first overall, just stop, there’s no point. Then again, it’s Jacksonville, who the hell knows with them.

1.02 New York Jets – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio St.

This is up in the air for me. Personally, I think Sam Darnold has shown enough to think that he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. The big question will be is if he is better than who is available when the Jets are picking. I think not. So my QB2 Justin Fields is the pick here and Darnold will be moved to another team.

1.03 Miami Dolphins – Penei Sewell, OT Oregon

I foresee the Dolphins trading back from this spot to a QB hungry team but I’m skipping trades for now. If the Dolphins stay put and figure they want to give Tua another year (they should) Sewell is the obvious choice to the anchor a O-Line for the future.

1.04 Atlanta Falcons – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

Supposedly, Arthur Blank may ready to move on from Matt Ryan and even Julio Jones to begin a total rebuild. If this happens the rebuild should start with BYU’s Zach Wilson. He’s got all the arm talent in the world and could be just the fresh start that Atlanta is needing.

1.05 Cincinnati Bengals – Jamar Chase, WR, LSU

Bengals will be upset they’ve missed the Sewell sweepstakes but teaming Joe Burrow up with his former LSU teammate Jamar Chase will be a great consolation. Chase is my WR2 but you can’t really go wrong with any of the top 3 WRs.

1.06 Philadelphia Eagles – Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Philly needs weapons, in a bad way. Devonte Smith more than fits the bill. My WR1 is the 2nd receiver taken in the class to reunite with former Bama (and Oklahoma) quarterback Jalen Hurts.

1.07 Detroit Lions – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn St.

Parsons has dominated from the linebacker position and gets to the ball with great speed. His ability to blitz from the 2nd level is impressive and has many believing he can play off the edge in stints. Detroit could use a dynamic player like this on that end of the ball.

1.08 Carolina Panthers – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota St.

The Panthers quickly found out the hard way that Teddy Bridgewater isn’t the answer at QB for their team. Trey Lance had a meteoric rise in 2019 posting insane film and numbers. 28 TDs and 0 INTs is nothing to be scoffed at regardless of what level you’re playing it. ESPECIALLY when you’re as aggressive with the ball as Lance is. He may be the most raw QB in this class but since they’ve contractually tied themselves to Bridgewater so there doesn’t have to be a rush to start him immediately. (even though they probably should)

1.09 Denver Broncos – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan

You can never have enough pass rushers. Broncos already have Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, one of which is 32 and coming off an injury and the other who’s due for a pay day after 2022. Get young and stay productive on the defensive line and you will have very few problems.

1.10 Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama

Dallas has felt the loss of Byron Jones heavily as they’ve ended up having the worst pass defenses in the league the past year. The best cornerback in this draft won’t fall out of the top 10 and slips to Dallas in my first mock, and can hopefully be a cure to their issues.

1.11 New York Giants – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

Giants spent last years pick on a LT this year they look to upgrade the weapons around Daniel Jones in what I think will be his last chance as a starter this season. Jaylen Waddle is thought of by many to be the best receiver in this class but with the rise of his teammate Devonta Smith and Jamar Chase a likely top 5 pick, Waddle slips out of the top 10 and into the Giants hands.

1.12 San Francisco 49ers – RaShawn Slater, OL, Northwestern

San Fran could use an upgrade at the line position, they traded for Trent Williams last season who has been on IR but could use some refreshing at other slots as well. Slater has played both tackle positions and is seen as a guy who could easily be worked to inside to play guard and even center. A jack of all trades if you will for the 49ers.

1.13 Los Angeles Chargers – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

Chargers have their quarterback in Justin Herbert and they already have weapons in place, now it’s time to protect him. They traded their LT, Russell Okung, away last year to bring in guard Trai Turner, so drafting a tackle in the first round makes sense in what appears to be a solid class.

1.14 Minnesota Vikings – Alijah Vera-Tucker, iOL, USC

Minnesota is pretty stout on offense but could really use some work upgrading their interior line. With Slater off the board they take the next best versatile linemen in Vera-Tucker. Another guy who’s played LT and is being seen as a true guard at the next level.

1.15 New England Patriots – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Long story short. The Patriots may have the worst skill group in the league. The hope is that one of the big 3 receivers falls to them but in this mock they get arguably the best “pass catcher” in this draft anyways in TE Kyle Pitts. Belichick loves his tight ends so it’s a natural fit in that regards and if they keep QB Cam Newton, he’s had his fair share of success with a tight end as his #1 options as well.

1.16 Arizona Cardinals – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

Arizona’s got some questions all over the roster and how they missed the playoffs is beyond me, they’ll go BPA here with Caleb Farley who I think is a top 15 pick. Patrick Peterson may be on the wrong end of 30 and even if he isn’t getting another lockdown corner is never a bad thing!

1.17 Las Vegas Raiders – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami

Raiders need pass rushing help. Maxx Crosby lead the team with 7 sacks which is solid but I think there is still more to be desired there. Unfortunately this isn’t a deep pass rusher class on the face but Rousseau is a raw prospect who has high potential to be a solid pass rusher.

1.18 Miami Dolphins – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

Miami elected to protect Tua with their first pick and now they’ll look to get him a weapon with their 2nd. This receiver class looks to be quite deep and Bateman is one of the best the group. Him being WR4 is pretty crazy but that’s just how good the top 3 are supposed to be.

1.19 Washington Football Team – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama

The Football Team played themselves out of a Top 4 QB in this draft but that can be addressed in FA. If it is look for the Team to go O-Line. Again a rich tackle class this year will have plenty of QBs happy this year.

1.20 Chicago Bears – Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas

The Bears got problems. Do they keep Trubisky? Do they need more weapons? I got no clue, so we’re going O-Line. Maybe this helps Mitch if they keep him around.

1.21 Indianapolis Colts – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

Unsure what the Colts will do here with QB being a big question mark going into the offseason. I do know that they need CB help so that’s what we’ll slot them for now until they truly enter the QB sweepstakes.

1.22 Tennessee Titans – Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas

Like the Raiders the Titans need to find some more sacks. They’ll take a shot on a EDGE this draft hoping he can be that guy. Tennessee is usually strong defensively but this where they’ve been lacking for the past couple seasons.

1.23 New York Jets – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio St.

The Jets went with Fields here with the 2nd pick, so we’re gonna be cheesy and give him his best friend on the field, Chris Olave. Jets start early with surrounding their franchise QB with weapons.

1.24 Pittsburgh Steelers – Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame

Another tackle needy team, Pittsburgh also has some questions surrounding themas it relates to their historic QB. For now we’ll assume Big Ben is staying, so Pittsburgh will look to keep him standing for one more season.

1.25 Jacksonville Jaguars – Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan

Jags got their man with Lawrence, now they have to keep him up right so he can use that golden arm of his. Look for them to dip into this tackle rich class.

1.26 Cleveland Browns – Christian Barmore, iDL, Alabama

Barmore made himself some money in the National Championship. How much money is question but for now he’ll be the first iDL taken in what seems to be an iffy class. Browns add a good player to a already strong defensive line.

1.27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

Tampa Bay finds themselves in that weird limbo of having a old as hell QB and being stuck at the end of the rounds because he’s so good. So they’ll need to hit on a late round QB. Mac Jones has probably played his way into the first round and some even have him as a top 10 pick (Lol). Maybe he’s Brady’s successor in Tampa.

1.28 Baltimore Ravens – Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU

Somehow the Ravens need weapons. That sounds really weird because most people fear this team as is, but really it’s Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews and that’s about it. Hollywood Brown has his flashes but he’s a true #1, he’ll need a running mate.

1.29 New Orleans Saints – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa

Saints need LB help so who better than the dude who just picked up the Bednarik and Nagurski award.

1.30 Buffalo Bills – Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia

Bills know what they’re doing, and they know they could use some cornerback help. Best available here is Stokes out of Georgia.

1.31 Green Bay Packers – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

Green Bay has finally done it. They’ll get Aaron Rodgers a first round receiver. Davante Adams is obviously a supreme stud but having a gadget guy like Toney who can work the slot will be wonderful for a team built like the packers.

1.32 Kansas City Chiefs – Wyatt Davis, iOL, Ohio St.

Chiefs don’t need much, but they could use a guard, Wyatt Davis seems like a guy who can slot in and start for 12 years.

2020-21 Season Preview: PJ Washington

After an extremely promising display in his rookie season with Charlotte, the expectations for PJ Washington going into his 2nd year are very high. With an increased role and the addition of elite playmakers on the roster, Washington should be primed to continue his development in a positive direction this season with the Hornets.

Last season PJ did just about everything well enough to convince us that he was an excellent draft pick who could do just about everything and fit the bill of modern day power forward. Shooting 46% from the field, 37.5% from three, 18th and 8th among rookies respectively. Not only did PJ display the ability to shoot effectively, but he showcased an arsenal of ways to put the ball in the hoop. Just simply watch the below video to see with your own two eyes.

The best part about is that he did so efficiently and with consistency. Ultimately he was robbed from the 1st team all rookie team. They put Eric Paschall on there instead of PJ, I mean cmon.

While Washington proved to be an effective player on the offensive end of the ball, on the defensive end he became a solid player as well. While he’s not the greatest interior defender or rim protector he can get the job done in a stint. His defensive ability has many believing (wishing rather) that we’ll be seeing a lot more small ball this season with Washington at the 5. If this tactic works that would be huge for a young team like the Hornets who like to get up and down the court with a sense of urgency.

So far this season we’ve had a roller coaster of a season from Washington that have had many concerned and calling for him to benched. On bot ends of the ball he was not up to standard and looking flat out lost on the defensive end.

The start of this season was a whole lot of that and instead of a whole lot of this.

We’re only three games in now so whoever was calling for PJ’s job was sort of jumping the gun with that, but I can understand the concern. The PJ Washington we saw in preseason and in the season opener against Cleveland was not the same Washington we saw last season or in the past couple games for that matter. However after the past two games against OKC and Brooklyn it looks like we’ve got our PJ back.

This season I’m looking for Washington to just continue his development in the path that it’s going. The team is going to ask a lot from him, he’s going to be looked at to do just about everything on the court, shoot, distribute, anchor a defense, rebound, small ball 5, and if he’s able to step up to plate and seize the opportunity then what we already know will be written in stone. He’ll be a good. maybe great player in this league for a very long time.

2020-21 Player Preview: Miles Bridges

When it comes to most young players, the fans of their team are usually more inclined to have a higher view of him that the rest of the league at large – displayed in drastically uneven NBA Trade Machine proposals and references to impressive yet innocuous performances on random nights in January.

However when it comes to Miles Bridges, the sides of the debate are actually reversed. Though the rest of the league remembers the All-Star Rising Stars MVP performance and the ferocious dunks he gives on a weekly basis, Charlotte fans are more likely to have a critical, sometimes cynical opinion of Miles as he comes into his 3rd year as a pro.

A lot of these criticisms of his game are fair, Bridges has even said as much himself, and it’s that character and ability to be his own biggest critic that influences many (most notably those around him) to believe that down the road he’ll be able to get it corrected.

The main problem for him to overcome is heightened given it’s importance in his role, that is his ability to shoot the ball. He is 33% on 3 point shooting for his career so far, which though already not ideal gets even more worrying when you dive deeper into his splits.

To be taking the most catch and shoot 3’s on the team and making them at such a low clip? A less than ideal situation, but one that will have to improve for Bridges to keep clocking big minutes for this team – especially given the number of initiators now on the team who’ll need to rely on him to get these shots to fall.

Whilst Bridges’ minutes will naturally go down due to his new role coming off the bench, making way for newly acquired Gordon Hayward to enter the starting lineup, the hope is that it could end up being the making of him.

His connection with new star LaMelo Ball was clear over the pre-season, and indicated that playing next to a guard with his style handling the ball may be more conducive for success for Miles going forward.

Defensively, the hope is that we’ll see less of the mental lapses that have caused issues over the last couple of seasons. It’s clear that Bridges has the build and makeup of a strong defensive player, but now the onus will be on him to start going out there and proving it as he grows more experienced as a player. Now that coach James Borrego has other strong defensive options at the forward positions with Gordon Hayward, PJ Washington and the Martin twins – the big question will be if Bridges can prove himself as someone you can play in those important crunch minutes, rather than a liability who the opposition will pick out to attack.

With a big summer coming up in 2021 as he becomes eligible for big money, this 3rd season will be huge in determining whether the former 12th Overall Pick is someone GM Mitch Kupchak will want to have in his long term plans. The issues he needs to correct are laid out, and with his attitude and will to succeed as outlined earlier, I wouldn’t want to bet against him getting it fixed and developing into a strong player for the team. He’s one of the easiest players to root for on our team, and I’ll be cheering for him hard this season.










2020-21 Player Preview: Gordon Hayward

Charlotte has been building up a lot of good grace with basketball heads and media figures alike over the past season or so. They’ve been able to boast an impressive young core of lottery picks, 2nd rounders and undrafted guys led by James Borrego, who has done one of the leagues more underrated coaching jobs since taking the helm in 2018. The LaMelo Ball pick, though maligned by some, was a calculated shot at a high upside player who many smart analysts believe to be the best player of his class – a skilled initiator with great size who projects very well to the direction the NBA is currently headed.

Ultimately, there was too much good grace being afforded to the team – not to say it wasn’t deserved, it just didn’t feel like the Charlotte we’d grown to know…

In many ways, Gordon Hayward is about as ‘Charlotte Hornets’ as it gets from a free agency signing. A perceived overpay for a player who is in a battle with his own body to reclaim some of his prime years due to a combination of frustrating and catastrophic injuries. Whilst the signing gave everyone a chance to criticize Michael Jordan’s ownership and have another big laugh at Charlotte fans, there’s more than enough reason to have belief that this signing can be a success for the team in the short term at the very least.

Short memories are a problem in most sports, and basketball is not exempt – so it has been easy for many to forget that the health of Gordon Hayward was discussed by many as the X-Factor of the Eastern Conference we watched a mere 3 months ago.

Boston found themselves 0-2 down in the series by the time Hayward was able to return, and though likely still compromised by injury he was able to contribute effectively as a 6th man as the teams split the next 4 games 2-2. Though not enough to stop Miami making it through to the finals, it was clear he made his presence felt.

His performance in Game 3 gave a little bit of everything you’d want to see out of a star wing player, including a particularly relevant quote from former coach and current commentator Jeff Van Gundy.

“Thats why they pay him 30 Million Dollars a year, it’s cos he’s good”


Ultimately, it’s that ‘little bit of everything’ that Hayward will have to provide for this to work out for Charlotte, and he’s more than capable of filling almost every need the team would’ve had down going into last off-season. Perimeter shooting, perimeter defense and a wing player who can initiate but also play efficiently… Hayward fits the bill.

For the 2020-2021 Season, it feels very safe to say that Hayward will be the best player on the team, which begs the question of whether he’ll be able to carry the demands this role will bring. He will have a lot of responsibility handling the ball, will almost definitely take the most shots on the team and will be asked to do a good share of work on the defensive end as well, likely clocking around 35 minutes a night – a return to the role he was assigned in his last season in Utah, the version of him the team is hoping they see this season

Will he be able to get back to that form? If the last 2 seasons are anything to go by, he still has the ability – but it’ll be as much about the durability that will determine whether his season is a success. When he’s out there, I have no doubts you’ll be able to pencil him in for a 25-5-5 with strong defensive contribution, something this young team will be so so dependent on.

And that for me, is as important as any other part of Hayward’s play this season. For as much as we’ll need him to play well for both the benefit of himself and the team, it is the way this will help the younger guys on the roster that will be instrumental for this team getting better going forward.

We’ll need him to take some of the initiating burden off of LaMelo, we’ll need him to provide spacing to see if Malik Monk’s career can be salvageable in Charlotte, we’ll need his defensive ability to see if Miles Bridges can hold up more effectively in big crunch situations.

It may seem like a lot, but Hayward wouldn’t have taken on the challenge if he didn’t feel he was up to it, and I for one won’t be betting against him having an All-Star level season in his 1st year in Charlotte.

2020-21 Player Preview: Cody Martin

To the surprise of many, Cody Martin rookie’s season went a lot better than many anticipated during last year for the Hornets. His defensive and playmaking instincts helped Charlotte overcome a lot of difficulties in his 49 appearances. Mitch Kupchak really believed in him and decided to spend the 36th pick of 2019 Draft for the former Nevada WolfPack player even if younger players who were thought could be of more value were still available.

James Borrego really believes in his play style and during preseason he used Cody Martin continuously from the bench. When Gordon Hayward injured his finger after the first two meetings with Toronto, JB promoted Martin as a starter to fill the role. It’s not wrong to consider him one of the first bench pieces of this team.

Martin fought for this, his play time was limited when the 2019 season began and he also made several appearances with the Greensboro Swarm. Hustle, defense and high IQ secured him a stable role in the Hornets rotations. For a young and scrappy team, a player like Cody Martin is really helpful because he can bring instant defense and playmaking without any kind of effort. The amount of possession he turned into our favor with his defensive position are countless.

The greatest problem with his game is three point shooting. During last year he was reluctant to shoot the ball from long range and this really hurt spacing while he was on the court. That is the reason why Borrego preferred to use him as a ball handler with good shooters around him. This is the key part of his game in order to succeed in the 2020-21 season.

Martin needs to shoot with consistency and confidence if he wants to keep his role in the rotations, especially with Ball and other ball handlers ready to eat his minutes from the bench. His shooting stroke looks good and the mechanics are clean, it is much more a mental problem than a technical one.

Despite this struggle he was able to display a good ability to cut and understand opponents defense. Add to this a good propensity with passing and that is a player that could not hurt an NBA offense in the best case scenario.

Martin is already 25 and that is the reason why he was so effective during his first year in the league. In his sophomore season it is likely he has the same effectiveness both defensively and offensively.

Haywards presence could really help his development as well. They are similar players despite the effectively savvy offensive skillset that Gordon has. Being near a good player like him could just make him better.

Borrego will keep on using him from the bench and is ready to unlock him as a starter if Gordon Hayward miss some games during the 72 game stretch. The hope is that Cody Martin can keep on bringing balance to every Charlotte lineup, playing with great effort and IQ. As we said, if he shoots better he is going to be great and could really helps the team win some more games.

2020-21 Player Preview: Terry Rozier

When Terry Rozier was brought over to Charlotte in the sign-and-trade deal last season involving Kemba Walker, I won’t lie, I was salty about it. I didn’t like it at all, especially the contract, and as the season went on I was never truly impressed with what Rozier brought to the table. This season however is a completely different case. At the time of writing this though it’s only been preseason (EDIT: 42 points in the first game LOL), Rozier’s approach to this season has me believing that we have a confident player who’s ready to show that he can be a pivotal piece on a good team.

Rozier’s catch and shoot ability has really jumped off the page to me so far this season, he’s got good shot selection and is making difficult shots. He’s also doing so with extremely high confidence. Last season he shot a personal best 40.7% from three on about 7 attempts per game. During the preseasons 4 games he went 12/22 from behind the arc, thats 54.5% and it looks wonderful. He’s looking like he can score from every level.

Transition 3s.

Floaters.

Middy pull-ups.

Tougher middy pull-ups.

Impressive reverse finishes around the defense.

Rozier is doing it all so far this season, and you just have to love it. You have to wonder what’s in the Hornets gatorade at times with how some of these guys are developing as shooters. We saw it with Kemba Walker, Devonte’ Graham, Caleb Martin’s form has improved, even Miles Bridges has become a capable shooter. Maybe this is nothing because it’s not like these guys were particularly bad shooters in college and maybe we’ve lucked out on development but it is interesting nonetheless.

Especially if you’re a contending team in need of a guy who is specializing in catch and shoot that could provide a scoring spark off of your bench. This piece was published on The Charlotte Observer questioning Hornets fans who think it’s a good move to trade Rozier. Sure those points are valid. Rozier could be seen as a veteran mentor to our young guys and losing him could stifle the development of LaMelo Ball who appears to work well with Rozier.

True points. I’ll look at it from the other side though. Say we wait until the trade deadline which isn’t confirmed yet, but is being targeted as March 25th. At that point in the year what if Ball has found his comfort zone and is creating his own shot and doesn’t need a guy like Rozier on the court to succeed. Wishful thinking, maybe? Charlotte still has Devonte’ Graham who I think can excel even more with more catch and shoot opportunities, and now theres pieces such as Gordon Hayward who we can lean on, Miles Bridges, PJ Washington, Jalen McDaniels, Cody and Caleb Martin to a lesser extent all can be competent three point shooters at a lower volume. Maybe you’re grasping at thin air with some of those names but it’s possible. Rozier isn’t unmovable is the point I’m willing to make.

Rozier’s contract is pricey, floating at around $18 million for the next couple of years. If Charlotte sees the development they like from their young guys, and they can move Rozier for an expiring deal, young assets and draft capital I think you just have to do it. On the other hand It may end up being another point guard that gets traded though with Graham being on the final year of his contract. Maybe it makes more sense to just keep Rozier and move Graham, that way you don’t need to bring in a bad expiring deal and you still get a good package in return.

Only Mitch Kupchak knows what will happens, but while he’s on this team I think we can all be excited for what Rozier is bringing to the table this year. He’s passing the eye test, stat test, and he’s wins before the game even starts with his pre-game attire. Consider me a fan.

2020-21 Player Preview: Cody Zeller

This is gonna be the eighth season for Cody Zeller with the Charlotte Hornets. As the guys at the Buzz Beat pod said in one of their latest episode it feels like he has been with this team forever. Maybe it’s the hairline. Every player that was involved in the Kemba Walker era is not with the team right now, aside from Zeller. His presence is going to be be important for the young guys, especially in helping them usher in the new era of the culture of this team.

Zeller recently declared that he talked with Gordon Hayward before his agreement with Charlotte and he played a big role in that decision. His presence is felt with this team, even if he is not the most flashy guy.

As we enter into the 2020-21 season the most talked part of his game is three point shooting. Fans expected some development in this area for some time now, Zeller is slowly improving but he still has a long way to go before he is considered a respected long range shooter. During preseason he appeared a little bit more confident with his range and his stroke has looked better as seasons have gone along.

His offensive skillset and ability to play the pick and roll in different scenarios will give a lot of help to a guy like LaMelo Ball, who needs a consistent screen setter in order to be more consistent. Screen setting is still the best part of his game, and this is a great key for Charlotte as they will be a heavy pick and roll team with very few players that can create something without some kind of help.

Zeller will continue to be a good play finisher for Charlotte, especially around the rim. With athleticism vanishing day by day he will need to work on crafty finishes instead of power plays like he used to have back in the days.

Defensively he will keep on with his role as big part of the 1 through 5 switching scheme as he can handle smaller guys relatively well or even play a little drop in some scenarios.

Zeller’s contract is expiring this year, freeing around $15 million of cap space. This is a good news for Charlotte’s payroll because he is not the best fit with this young group, speaking of timeline and overall age. Front office will have different options with him during this season. First of all they can use his contract as part of some trade as the expiring $15 million is a great asset and he is still capable to contribute even on a good team. If the Hornets are not able to find any trade partner interested in him they could probably cut him at the deadline like they did last year with Marvin Williams or MKG in order to free him up if he wants to join a contender. Last scenario is Charlotte keeping Zeller the whole season and giving him a cheaper contract during the next free agency, exactly like they did with Bismack Biyombo this past summer.

Charlotte selected two centers during the second round of the 2020 draft because they know that the 5 position is missing a young and talented piece to develop with this core of players. The aim of the team could be the same during next summer and draft too, retaining a veteran like Zeller that knows the team could be great for the Hornets. That is my personal hope.

Production and impact by Zeller will be the same for this season as it was during last years. Physical condition will be the key for him; Zeller has not played a full season since his rookie campaign. This season has a really stressful schedule for every team and it will probably means that Zeller is going to miss a good amount of games due to rest or injuries. Expect a good amount of minutes played by Biyombo and, I hope, Vernon Carey Jr.

2020-21 Player Preview: Bismack Biyombo

Is Bismack Biyombo looking a little..different.. this year to anyone else? I mean that in the most positive way possible. The Hornets were in desperate need of some veteran leadership this year and Biyombo was glad to stay. After finally getting through his massive 4 year $72 million deal, Big Bis was brought back to Charlotte for the year on a team friendly, 1 year $3.5 million deal. That contract alone makes me like Biyombo a lot more than I did a year ago.

As Hornets fans we know what Bis is bringing to the table at this point, and honestly, it’s not that much. We’re going to get a guy who most would consider to be undersized for a “center” and isn’t going to anchor your defense with any sort of regularity. However, where he lacks in size, he makes up for in pure athleticism, the reason Charlotte drafted him back in 2011. This doesn’t tend to translate into crazy numbers or really anything satisfying to the eye when watching him play, but he brings the energy every night he steps onto the court.

From the outside looking in it appears he has really taken on this leadership role this season. He’s always been a leader on and off the court but this year in particular it’s really standing out to me. Maybe that’s just because the media team is taking more photos of him with his arm around LaMelo Ball, but either way. That’s something you like to see. This young squad needs that.

Moving into the basketball side of things. This preseason it seems like he may finally be figuring out how to catch the basketball, however, it seems that only seems to be the case when the ball is coming from Ball. So maybe, he hasn’t figured that out, but if you’re going to catch from anyone it might as well be the potential superstar of the team. This Ball-Biyombo duo has actually intrigued me during the preseason. In LaMelo’s player preview, I talked about Ball’s ability to take a quick glance and toss a football pass down court. Biyombo was on the other end of that a couple times, the early chemistry is there. It also seems like when used in a short roll action, Biyombo has been somewhat decent in being able to find open guys, see below.

Ball isn’t the ball handler here, he’s actually the shooter, but you see where this action could have James Borrego more willing to give Biyombo some extra minutes.

He gets the hockey assist above. Again being able to make some magic happen out of the short roll and get that ball to PJ Washington could prove to be very beneficial to the team moving forward. I’d go as far to say if he can do this with any sort of consistency he could find himself in the starting lineup. As I said, It seems he already has some chemistry with Ball and he may be better defensively than Cody Zeller. I don’t say that with actual certainty, but wouldn’t doubt if it is indeed the case.

I wouldn’t expect much change from Biyombo this year. We can only hope he truly learns how to catch the ball and becomes a better finisher around the rim. This short roll development however is very intriguing and something that we should all be keeping our eye on as we head into the season. I think at the very best we could see Biyombo get some starts during the season if Zeller doesn’t perform to standard.

Carolina Panthers GM Candidates

The time has finally come (again). Panthers fans around the globe; Twitter GMs, Teddy Bridgewater lovers, Ford F150 fans, and Cam stans alike can all come together (again). For the Carolina Panthers and Marty Hurney have agreed to part ways (again). The man who has held this team down in mediocrity for just about as long as I have been alive is finally gone (again).

We shall not bag on Hurney, enough of that has been done. We will only move forward to new beginnings. Starting with this article. It’s time to get familiar with some names who David Tepper should be looking at, and no, Louis Riddick will not be on this list. I do not understand the hype, sure he’s on ESPN, helped build Philadelphia’s “dream team” (for what that worth), dashing fellow, but this is the same guy who said Kyle Allen was the future here, thought Eli Apple was a better prospect than Jalen Ramsey, and also thought Solomon Thomas should have been picked over Myles Garrett who he thought should have gone 3rd. Everyone has misses but those are obvious gimmes, and he’s loud about it. I’m OK!

Moving on, when I’m thinking of who our next GM should be, I want someone from a winning organization, or at least an organization that has been trending in the right direction. Along with Tepper we want someone who will be analytically focused but there’s not really any way for me to know if they are or not, if any of these names hate analytics then I will scratch them off. Also, Tepper just wants the best of the best. So with that said let’s look at some names (in no particular order).

* denotes a minority candidate. New NFL rule rewards 3rd round comp picks.

Lake Dawson* – Assistant Director of College Scouting – Buffalo Bills

Mr. Dawson may be a name that rings a bell to Panthers fans as we interviewed him back in 2018 after Hurney’s return as interim GM. Obviously, we stuck with Hurney. Other experience for Dawson includes VP of Football Ops for the Tennessee Titans from 2011-2015, not the best years in Tennessee but the work he’s done in Buffalo since then has been excellent and with over a decade of experience and recent success, Dawson is sure to be one of the hotter names this year.

Terry Fontenot* – VP/Assistant General Manager-Pro Personnel – New Orleans Saints

Could we see Tepper dip into the Saints organization yet again? Last year we saw former Saints coach Joe Brady, brought in to be Carolina’s offense coordinator, and Teddy Bridgewater was signed to be the teams placeholder at QB for the season. Fontenot has been with the Saints for 16 years now, and yes as Panthers fans, we hate him for it. BUT, there is no denying the part he has played in helping New Orleans build a successful franchise. A pro scout for seven years, before being promoted to his current position Fontenot has played a crucial role in the Saints success, he even helps the Saints advance scout their opponents. I would not be surprised if he were on the Panthers shortlist.

Brandon Hunt – Pro Scouting Director – Pittsburgh Steelers

Hunt will be another top candidate during this years GM carousel. He’s been with the Steelers for a decade now and has been instrumental in rebuilding the defense into the respectable unit that is today. What I love the most is that Hunt was the driving force for the Steelers to go out and trade for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is already a 1st team All-Pro in his young career. Someone who is not scared to make savvy trades is a big bonus for me. Tepper, being from the Steelers organization, may be one of the first to look Hunt’s way.

Mike Borgonzi – Director of Football Operations – Kansas City Chiefs

Touted as Kansas City’s secret weapon, Borgonzi has supposedly been a key player in building the Chiefs into the dominate force that they are today. At his best he is a supreme talent evaluator and plays a big part in the draft. Patrick Mahomes and that armada of weapons? That’s him. If Tepper wants the best of the best then there’s no better place to look than the Chiefs organization. He is the right hand man to GM Brett Veach and nothing gets done without Borgonzi knowing about it. If you’re in rebuild mode like the Panthers are, you would want a guy like Borgonzi leading the charge.

Luke Kuechly – Pro Scout – Carolina Panthers

Too soon? 100%. Would I love it? Absolutely. In my short, 25 years of life. Kuechly is the smartest defensive player I have ever seen play the game. Maybe the smartest overall. However we have no idea what a Kuechly draft pick (or really any Kuechly move) looks like as he was only signed to the scouting department back in June, but I would bet on him knowing what a good football player looks like. Tepper already has a cap expert in place to help with that end of things since Kuechly has no experience there. If you think age is a problem. Browns GM Andrew Berry is the youngest GM in the league at 32 (now 33). He was actually being looked at by Carolina just last year but Hurney was in place with that weird minimized role yet still the GM mumbo jumbo. Kuechly isn’t that much younger Berry, he’ll be 30 in April, the idea isn’t THAT crazy. You get someone who is close to the team and already understands the direction, loved by the fans, and just flat out knows ball. I would bet that Kuechly will be the GM of a team within in 5 years, and it might as well be this team.

2020-21 Player Preview: Devonte’ Graham

Devonte’ Graham, 6’1, 195 pounds, G

After a slow start as rookie, Devonte’ Graham had an excellent sophomore season and finished fifth in Most Improved voting. Te’ improved in nearly every category across the board this past year:

The big driver of Graham’s impact was his improved three point shooting. Te’ was a great shooter at Kansas so I expected him to be better than the 28.1% that he shot in his rookie year but I really didn’t see him bombing over nine threes a game. He’s a special shooter:

Te’ in transition. Cash.

Stepback Te’. Cash.

Te’ off a handoff. Cash.

Don’t go under on Te’ in pick and roll. Cash.

Every time the ball left his hands, I thought it was going in. Only three players played in at least thirty games, shot over nine threes a game, and made at least 37% of them: Damian Lillard, Buddy Hield, and our own Devonte’ Graham. That’s a special class to be in.

Te’ is also a special passer. He has great vision and has all of the passes in his bag. He excels at the pocket pass and for my money is one of the ten best guys in the league at it. He developed a good connection with PJ Washington on it which bodes well for our future:

As you can see, Te’ is a pretty special shooter outside the arc. Inside the arc, not so much. Te’ shot just under 40% on two pointers this past year. Only 13.2% of his shot attempts come at the rim and he only shot 54.3% there. In the floater range (3-10 feet), he only shot 27.4% from the field. He struggled a lot when teams sold out on his three point shooting and forced him to go inside.

In addition, even as the primary scorer for the Hornets, Graham shot under four free throw attempts a game. These are the areas that Devonte’ has to improve in to take the next step as an offensive player. The biggest area out of those that I can see him improving on is his shooting from floater range. Graham isn’t the biggest guy out there so I don’t see him improving too much at the rim or getting fouled a lot. You have to be a healthy Isaiah Thomas level athlete at that size for you to be really good there. However, a lot of good small guards have that floater in their bag. With his shooting ability, Te’ should be able to easily get into the paint as teams sell out on his shooting. That will allow him to get into floater range pretty frequently. He has to be able to hit those and take advantage.

The other thing I’m looking for is how Te’ works off ball this year with added ball-handlers in LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward. I hope to see his shooting leveraged a lot. He should be able to be really good as a spot-up guy and hopefully, we can even see him take advantage of his shooting gravity off-movement. Te’ was a pretty special player offensively last year and ranked in the top 15 in offensive PIPM per bball index. We can’t trust all in one metrics without context but I think it does give a good gauge of how good offensively he was last year. All of this value came with the ball in his hands though so it’ll be interesting to see how this shifts this year. It’ll be important to watch as we look at the Hornets long term outlook.

Overall though, I expect that Devonte’ will have another good year. Gordon Hayward should make it a lot easier for Te’ and will take a lot of pressure off. The other question in the room is that Devonte’ is entering the final year of his rookie deal. He is restricted so the Hornets will be able to match anything but look for them to get an extension done before it comes to that. He deserves it.