2020 NBA Draft Preview: Precious Achiuwa

I’ve seen a lot of people buzzing about Memphis’ Precious Achiuwa, so I wanted to see what all the hype was about. Let’s dive into his strengths and weaknesses and see if he actually makes sense in the lottery for the Hornets.

Precious Achiuwa, Memphis, F/C, 6’9, 225, 7-2.5 wingspan

Offense

After watching the tape, I’m much more intrigued by Achiuwa’s defensive potential but I think it is still important to dive in to what he can do on the offensive end. This past year with Memphis, he was very productive and averaged 15.8 points and 10.8 rebounds a game and was the AAC’s player and rookie of the year. However, there’s only a couple of offensive skills that I’m interested in for his projection to the NBA: his offensive rebounding, shooting ability, and ability to attack closeouts.

At Memphis, Precious was a very effective offensive rebounder, grabbing three a game (11.4 ORB %). With his good timing and jumping ability, Precious was able to create extra possessions for his team. This has value and is one of the avenues that Achiuwa can provide a positive impact on the offensive end.

The big question with Achiuwa though and what will ultimately decide whether he can be positive on the offensive end is if he is able to shoot from distance. His college numbers provide a mixed bag as he shot 32.5% from 3 this past year on a little over one attempt a game. This is decent enough for a big who is growing as a shooter but his FT numbers are abysmal (59.9% on about six attempts a game). FT% has often been a good indicator for players that can shoot in the NBA so that leads to some caution but it isn’t the end all be all. Achiuwa’s form isn’t bad:

I’m not a shot doctor but I think with some tweaking he is a good bet to be able to shoot corner 3s at least and maybe some above the break. If he can become capable at above the break 3s, he can provide value as a pick and pop big. But again, I think he can serve as a spacer at the corners and with his quick first step, he should be able to attack closeouts:

Against 4s and 5s, Precious should be able to utilize his quick first step to get good angles to the basket and finish. If he’s able to shoot and be a threat, that’ll only make it easier for him as a driver and he can provide value as a catch and shoot or catch and go guy in the offensive end.

Other than that, I don’t see any other avenues for offensive value for Achiuwa. I’ve seen comps for him as Bam Adebayo or Pascal Siakam and I just don’t see it. I don’t see the passing ability/decision-making ability of a Bam or the ability to self-create like Siakam.

You just don’t want Precious making decisions on the court in my opinion. He only averaged one assist compared to almost three turnovers a game. He just isn’t a good decision maker:

I don’t see him being good as a short roll guy at all. He just doesn’t have good vision. In addition, his shot IQ is low and he doesn’t show a good ability to self-create:

He’s not the type of guy to create on his own (21.2% on two point jumpers this year):

This isn’t to hate on Precious. He can still make a positive impact on the floor. It’s okay to not be Pascal Siakam or Bam Adebayo. If Precious can fix his shot and shoot 35-37% from three on a decent enough volume he will be fine on the offensive end.

Defense

This is where the intrigue comes from for Precious. He’s a versatile defender who should be able to switch between the 4 and the 5. I think he’s a 4 in the NBA and don’t think he can anchor a whole defense but he should be able to play the 5 for stretches which gives him more value than if he was just a straight 4 or 5.

I’m really interested in Achiuwa’s weak side rim protection at the 4 position. He shows pretty good awareness and is able to utilize his length to get blocks and steals:

Precious is able to cover a lot of ground on the defensive end and his wingspan allows him to get his hand on balls that others may not be able to. This is just an awesome play here:

In addition to his rim protection ability, Achiuwa has shown some capability to be a good switch defender:

Achiuwa can be vulnerable sometimes as he gets shook here:

So I wouldn’t call him a Bam level switch defender but I think he’s definitely more than capable to switch and should be pretty good in that area.

With his versatility as a rim protector and a switch guy, I think Precious can be capably play both the 4 and 5 positions and should be a high level defender.

The majority of Achiuwa’s value in the NBA will come from his defensive versatility and I think he can really help a team on that end as he learns and gets more polish as a defender. How good he can be as an overall player in my opinion is if he shoots it. If he can, he provide value as a spacer and from attacking closeouts. I see him as a theoretical 3 and D big that would be amazing to have as a third big and probably should be able to be a starter.

I think the Hornets are picking too high though for a guy like Achiuwa. He is a first rounder in my opinion but not really a lottery level talent. And that’s totally fine. I think he will be a impactful player but I’d rather take a chance on a higher upside guy or get a guy that plays a more premium position.

2020 NBA Draft Preview: Scouting Top Big Ten Bigs

This week I’m diving more into some second round players and specifically, looking at some of the top bigs in the Big 10 this past year.

Jalen Smith, Maryland, C, 6-10, 225, 7-1.5 wingspan

Jalen Smith projects as a rim-protecting, sharp shooting big man. He has two of the most important tools that you look for in a modern big. The most intriguing skill for him is his shooting though. He has the chance to get it up with volume and shoot it in versatile ways.

With Maryland this past year, he shot 36.8% from 3 on 2.8 attempts a game. He was in the 75th percentile as a spot up shooter, 78th percentile on unguarded catch & shoot jumpers in the half court, and the 76th percentile in jumpers in the half court in general. He’s a really good shooter for a big.

Here’s Smith off-movement:

Smith as a trailer:

And Smith with a smooth pull-up:

As you can see, not only is Smith a good shooter, he can shoot in a variety of ways. Having him at your five will open up the floor tremendously.

Smith has also shown some capability of attacking closeouts which adds to his shooting value:

And a sweet post-move here:

Out of the three bigs, I think Jalen Smith has the highest offensive upside in the NBA as a scorer. I’m really intrigued into how he develops. He’s not much of a passer (6.1 AST%) but he should be a really good play finisher as a pick and pop guy and has shown some roll ability as well (90th percentile in rolls to the basket).

I’m not enamored with Smith’s rim protection otherwise I’d have him as a lottery level guy but I think he will be solid enough. Had a 8.2 BLK% this past year which was the best of all of the three bigs. He needs to get stronger to be a better defender but he has decent enough IQ to know where to be. He should be around an average center defender and that mixed with his shooting potential should put him into consideration at 32.

Xavier Tillman, Michigan State, C, 6’8, 245, 7-1 wingspan

Tillman has the highest basketball IQ out of the three bigs and has the most diverse skill set. His most intriguing offensive skill is his passing (three assists per game, 18.1 AST%):

Tillman should be a really good short roll big in the NBA. He makes really good reads and is able to handle it just enough to get to where he needs to go. He also has shown some ability to score out of it:

Tillman’s best fit on offense is with a long range bomber like Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, and to a lesser extent a guy like Devonte’ Graham. Those players get trapped a lot and Tillman can take advantage in the four on three situations that come from the gravity of them. Don’t really buy Tillman as a shooter ( 26% from three, 66.7% from the line, 32.4% on two point jumpers) but his passing and good decision-making should add value in the NBA.

Tillman is the most versatile defender out of the three. Don’t buy him as a switch guy as a whole but has shown some ability:

Tillman is also probably the best post defender in the draft:

And Tillman does well in the P&R:

Overall, Tillman is a really good defender and I think would be a plus on that end. It just comes to how much of a plus. He lacks some of the athletic ability and length that deters NBA caliber athletes at the next level. Bigs who have bigger size will be able to just score over him. However, Tillman would be excellent as a third big and could be a low end starter for certain teams because of his decision-making on both ends.

Daniel Oturu, Minnesota, C, 6’10, 240, 7’3 wingspan

Oturu has the physical tools to play center. Big and strong and has the longest wingspan out of the three. However, I’m worried about his feel and how his play style fits into the modern game.

Oturu was super productive at Minnesota averaging 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks a game. His physical tools should lead him to be able to block shots (7.1 BLK%) but I am worried if he’ll contest enough shots. While watching him I noticed a lot of shots where he doesn’t contest at all but is right there:

Out of the three, I’m the lowest on his defensive potential so I think he’d be more of a third big than a starter. As a third big though, he may be able to carve out a role as a scoring big. He is the most talented iso scorer out of the three:

Oturu is going to be productive in the NBA but I just worry about his overall impact. He’s not going to be Embiid or Jokic in the post so he’s not going to get that many touches however he should be able to be an efficient shooter.

But I don’t see the versatility of his jumper in the ways that I see it in Jalen Smith. I don’t think Oturu will get up enough attempts for it to matter. He mostly only shot wide open ones at Minnesota and only took 1.7 attempts a game.

Oturu has had flashes. This is a good sequence here for him:

Overall though, I see him more as a scoring big that doesn’t bring that much value on the defensive end.

I’d rank the bigs as:

1. Jalen Smith 2. Xavier Tillman 3. Daniel Oturu

Smith and Tillman are very close and Oturu is a distant third. Oturu has the worst defensive IQ out of the three and doesn’t have an easily translatable offensive skill like Smith’s shooting and Tillman’s passing. Tillman to me is the safest of the bunch because of his high IQ but I’d go with Smith because of his higher scoring upside. Also, because he’s taller than Tillman, I buy him more as a rim protector.

2020 NBA Draft Preview: Devin Vassell

Devin Vassell is the premiere 3 and D wing in the draft. The Hornets desperately need two-way players so Vassell fills a need. He has a little bit of upside as well. Let’s dive in.

Devin Vassell, Florida State, G/F, 6’7, 194

Offense

Based on me saying that Vassell is the premiere 3 and D prospect, you can guess what Vassell’s best offensive skill is. Vassell shot 41.5% from 3 this year on about 3.5 attempts a game. Based on how the shot looks, he should’ve got more attempts but Florida State runs an equal opportunity offense. Contested or not contested, Vassell is a sniper:

At 6’7 with a 6’9-6’10 wingspan, Vassell has the extension to get shots up over defenders. In the NBA, where defenders are a lot faster, having a shooter who can get shots up over good closeouts is very valuable.

Vassell has shown some off-movement shooting too:

There’s potential for Vassell to grow as a off movement shooter and with his length, I think it can really be weaponized in the league.

As far as self-creation goes, there have been mixed results. Vassell doesn’t really have the burst to get by defenders. His handle isn’t that great either:

I’m pretty sure even with improvement that Vassell won’t really be that good of a rim attacker in the NBA. With his shooting and defense, it isn’t too much of a big deal. In addition, there is a case to be made that he has some upside as a shot-maker off the dribble. He’s made some fluid pull-ups:

Because of his size, Vassell is able to rise up over defenders and not be bothered by contests. This could potentially make him more impactful than the typical 3 and D wing because you won’t be able to hide a small guard on him. He may be able to take advantage:

Vassell has even flashed some step back ability:

The goal with Vassell would be to bring him on slowly and just let him focus on shooting spot 3s and defending in the beginning. As the years go on, the team selecting him should help him to work on his handle so that he can weaponize his size as a shot-maker. Different players (this isn’t a comp I promise) but the team selecting Vassell should develop him like how the Boston Celtics did with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Vassell will never be Jayson Tatum but Brown could be a potentially higher end outcome for Vassell. Obviously not the same players, as Jaylen Brown is a better athlete, but Vassell could be in the same vein as a 3 and D wing that has shot-making capabilities.

James Borrego values three point shooting a lot and Devin Vassell would fit right in as a spacer. If he can tap into some of that shot-making upside, it’d be great as the Hornets only have Devonte’ Graham as a shot-maker right now.

Defense

Vassell is definitely a top five defender in this draft and has a case as the best one. He projects to be able to guard 1-4. He provides value as a point of attack defender, iso defender, and help defender.

His length is very disruptive guarding one on one:

He’s able to deny the post because of his length and strength:

He can use his length to block shots on closeouts:

His best trait is his team defense. His IQ is amazing and he truly blows plays up:

Vassell should be a really good defender right away in the league. He’ll be able to be good in any scheme and make plays happen. This past year he averaged 1.4 steals a game and a block a game (2.8 STL% & 4.1 BLK%). The Hornets need that too. They added PJ Washington and Cody Martin in last year’s draft and a Vassell pick would continue the run of good defenders for them.

With his three point shooting and defense, Devin Vassell is already a lottery level prospect in my eyes. The fact that there is potential for him as a shot-maker adds to his intrigue and moves up my board. The Hornets need to continue to add two-way players to build a good foundation on both ends of the floor. Vassell would be a great choice to add.

2020 NBA Draft Preview: Tyrese Haliburton

The Hornets are currently the eighth worst team by the NBA standings so it’s likely that they’ll be picking somewhere around there. Today, I’ll be diving into Tyrese Haliburton, a player who’s skill set would fit well with any team and could possibly be around when the Hornets pick.

Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State, G, 6’5, 175

Offense

When watching Haliburton, the thing that stands out the most is his passing. He has really good vision and with his size can get passes to places that others can’t. This past year, Haliburton had a 35% assist percentage at Iowa State. He’s a pass first type of guy:

Haliburton is a terrific P&R passer. Here, he makes sure to manipulate the big to get his guy and open basket.

More P&R craft from Hali:

The last clip shows Haliburton’s great basketball IQ. He’s able to manipulate the tag man to get the open look for his guy.

Haliburton’s also able to make the essential cross court pass for P&R operators in the league:

I don’t expect Haliburton to be a primary initiator in the league as he isn’t the rim attacker or P&R deep shooting threat that others are but as a secondary option, his passing and high basketball IQ should shine as a connector in the half-court as well as running secondary P&Rs.

Additionally as a secondary option, Haliburton should be a really good shooter off the catch:

Those shots are pretty deep, showing that he has NBA range. As a freshman, Hali shot 43.4% from three on about three attempts a game. As a sophomore and with a lot more difficult attempts, Hali shot 41.9% from three on almost six attempts a game. I think it’s a pretty safe bet to assume he’ll shoot and shoot well.

Haliburton has showcased some shot-creation behind the arc and in the midrange as well:

The knock on Haliburton is that he doesn’t showcase the necessary burst at times to truly unlock his passing. Here, Hali can’t really shake the big:

Also, Hali might be a bit too passive at times:

If you’re projecting Haliburton as a ball dominant #1 option, I can see what the issue would be. However, if Haliburton is used in a lesser role, these concerns are very much mitigated. In addition, Haliburton does showcase some able to get by guys and rim attack:

Again, I don’t think Haliburton has the burst to just get by everyone in the league. However, he has enough to be able to attack close outs well and score with the occasional pick and roll. He is by no means a liability in that regard.

With Haliburton’s three point rate (.667 as a freshman, .508 as a sophomore) and passing feel, I think he’d be a great fit with the Charlotte Hornets. Coach Borrego encourages guys to launch from deep and wants the ball to keep moving. Haliburton will be able to do both and do it well in the league.

Defense

As a defender, Haliburton shines more off ball than on ball. He’s not a clear liability on ball but he could be a bit better:

However, his IQ on the offensive end directly translates to his off ball defense as he is pretty awesome as a help defender:

His length is functional and impactful as well:

No one is going to confuse Haliburton with being a defensive stopper but overall his impact on the defensive end is a clear positive. His instincts are great (3.8 STL% and 2.0 BLK %) and he is always on his toes looking to make an impact on the play.

After drafting two smart defenders in PJ Washington and Cody Martin, Haliburton would fit right in as another good help defender. With some of the low defensive IQ players that the Hornets have, bringing in Haliburton would help to cover up for some mistakes.

At the end of the day, Tyrese Haliburton is a smart and good basketball player. I don’t think he’s going to be a star caliber player but for where the Hornets are picking, they probably won’t have the chance to get a player with that upside. Teams always need smart and good basketball players and the Hornets are desperately in need of some. Haliburton would be a worthy addition to the young core of Charlotte and would help them to build a great foundation if/when the Hornets are able to get a player with star potential.

2020 NBA Draft Preview: Onyeka Okongwu

It’s not up for debate, Onyeka Okongwu is the best center prospect in this years class. He possesses the skills necessary to be an effective 5 not only during the regular season but during the playoffs as well. Let’s dive into why he is good and how he’ll translate with the Hornets.

Onyeka Okongwu, USC, C, 6’9, 240 pounds

Offense

During the college season, Okongwu was a very effective offensive player. He was able to average over 16 points a game on 61.6% shooting. On offense, his four main play types were post-ups, putbacks, cuts, and as the P&R roll man. I’ll talk about the most important three (imo) for his NBA protection.

Post-ups:

While at USC, Okongwu posted up for 102 possessions and was able to score 1.127 points per possession which was in the 94th percentile in the country. That’s pretty significant and on good volume as well. Okongwu isn’t going to be the next Embiid but his success as a post-up threat in college leads me to believe that he’ll be able to punish mismatches in the league.

USC ran this little rub screen every game to get Okongwu an advantageous post-up and he usually delivered:

Fronting didn’t work to stop Okongwu either. He finishes through contact here:

These plays aren’t overly complicated and it isn’t like Okongwu has this advanced footwork but it is another weapon in his arsenal. We’ve seen in the league the past years that some P&R bigs aren’t able to post-up mismatches which makes it easier for teams to just switch the action. With Okongwu, I think it is a good bet to make that he’ll be able to punish those mismatches with his strength and touch.

The Hornets often posted Cody Zeller, Marvin Williams, PJ Washington, and Miles Bridges in mismatch situations so Okongwu would fit right in.

Putbacks:

Onyeka is a strong guy and was pretty dominant as an offensive rebounder this year. He had an offensive rebounding percentage of 12.4% (3.3 offensive rebounds a game) and was effective with finishing them off as he scored 1.37 points per possession on putbacks which ranked in the 90th percentile. Watch him toss around his opponent here:

The Hornets were third in the league in offensive rebounding but only 11th in second chance points. Okongwu would help here as he is such a good play finisher.

P&R Man:

This will be Okongwu’s bread & butter in the NBA. He’s in that Clint Capela & Jarrett Allen mold. With Devonte’s wizardry as a passer, Okongwu will thrive as a diver in the P&R. While at USC, Okongwu was in the 78 percentile as a roll man.

Okongwu is a terrific vertical athlete and can catch in traffic as well:

Give him some space on the catch and he’ll make you pay too:

Not only does Okongwu score for himself in P&R but he has really great gravity as a roller that will help his teammates get open looks:

The Hornets have some pretty good shooters and with Okongwu in the mix, it’ll only help them to get better looks.

Okongwu has some passing feel as well. He’s no Jokic but he can find the open man:

This is probably my favorite pass from Okongwu. Such a good find:

Don’t ask Okongwu to dribble too much outside of one or two dribbles but he has such a great set of skills. He’s not going to be a star level offensive player as a big (there are only a few) but the skills that he brings to the table are very intriguing. He brings Capela’s roll gravity with actual passing feel and potential to post mismatches. Okongwu isn’t going to shoot but that doesn’t matter as much to me because he’s so good as a roll guy and offensive rebounder. You want him more around the rim anyways. Additionally, with a floor spacing 4 like PJ Washington, the fit is like a glove.

Defense

I love Okongwu’s collection of offensive skills but the defensive end is where he truly shines. Okongwu was 10th in the NCAA in defensive box plus/minus. His rim protection is his best trait (9.8% block percentage) but he can fit into a variety of schemes. Watch him hedge and recover:

Okongwu hedges out to impede the defender’s progress but has the movement skills to get back to his own man for block.

Again, Okongwu stops the defender and recovers and just swallows up his man for the block.

Okongwu can guard in drop coverage as well:

Stays between both the ball-handler and the roller and disrupts the lob easily.

Okongwu has shown some switch potential too. Here he guards TCU guard Desmond Bane:

Here he rejects Arizona guard Nico Mannion:

The shot blocking is Okongwu’s best trait though:

Okongwu ran the full court to get this block:

I mean look at this versatility. Stonewalls the post-up and stays with Oregon guard Payton Pritchard on the switch to get the block:

Okongwu can be legitimately terrifying on the defensive end. His weakest point as a defender probably is his post defense but it’s not like he’s bad at it, he’s just too small to guard guys like Jokic, KAT, or Embiid. Being that most bigs are unable to guard those guys I don’t see it as too big of a problem. Additional , with bigs it is a lot easier to deny them the ball in the playoffs especially. You can always get a bench big that is huge that can take those assignments at times.

Okongwu is easily the best defensive big prospect and it fills a huge need for the Hornets. The Hornets need a lot (lol) but defense was a huge problem last year (25th in defensive rating) and Okongwu would help them set an identity. With guys like PJ Washington and Cody Martin improving, adding in Okongwu would give the Hornets a really good defensive foundation.

Onyeka Okongwu is a prospect with few concerning weaknesses and fills a big need for the Hornets. Cody Zeller is a good defensive big but he just doesn’t bring the versatility that Okongwu can bring to the table. On offense, Okongwu brings that lob gravity that the Hornets haven’t really had which will open the floor for the shooters. Te’/Okongwu pick & roll with Miles, Terry Rozier, and PJ spotting is a really solid offensive foundation. All three of those guys can attack close outs when the ball is kicked out and have enough passing feel to make the next pass. Te’ can find all open guys and Okongwu can finish and find the open man as well.

We’re projected around the 7-10 pick and depending on how the board shakes out Okongwu will probably be one of the best options at the spot. While the Hornets will lack that offensive centerpiece, the Hornets will put themselves in a good position to have a great foundation for the future. Get lucky in the 2021 lottery and the Hornets could be looking at a pretty quick turnaround.

2020 NBA Draft Preview: Kira Lewis Jr

Alabama’s Kira Lewis Jr. is one of my favorite prospects in this years draft class. His shooting, length, and speed give him legit upside. He’s a bit of an interesting fit for the Hornets and they probably will be picking too high for him but I think he could possibly be one of the steals of the draft. Let’s dive into why.

Kira Lewis Jr., Alabama, G, 6’3, 165 pounds

Offense

Kira has two key skills that drive his offensive potential. First, it’s his speed. Kira is a terror in transition and in the half court and gets to the paint any time he wants.

Kira skies for the board (he’s a really good rebounding guard, around five boards a game) and is off to the races. He blazes by everyone and dishes to his teammate who gets fouled.

Not the best defense from Georgia but you can just see how much faster Kira is compared to everyone else. Kira would instantly improves his teams transition offense. Per synergy, he ranks in the 79th percentile. His combination of speed and length is terrifying in the open floor. Speed kills.

Kira’s speed is not only functional in transition but also in the half court. He can get by anyone:

Kira goes to work here. He gets Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans off of him with the double screens and dusts the big and finishes with a beautiful length extension.

This is probably my favorite Kira sequence of the season. Here he cooks Isaac Okoro (who might be the best perimeter defender in the country) and finishes at the rim.

It’s just easy for Kira. Gets into the paint, euro steps around the defender, bucket.

This is a valuable skill. Rim pressure is extremely important in the NBA. Kira’s ability to collapse defenses will give his teammates great looks. With the better spacing that the NBA provides, Kira should thrive.

The other thing with Kira is that he isn’t just a guy who can only get to the rim. Kira is a shooter as well. He has the outlines of a pretty special scoring prospect:

The shooting will translate. This year, he shot around 37% from 3 on about five attempts a game. His shooting has some versatility too. He’s best as a spot-up shooter as you can see in the above tweet but he has an off the bounce game as well:

Kira isn’t a Dame or Steph level shooter but he’s not the type of guy that you can go under the screen either. He can make defenses pay and that mixed with his speed gives him the potential to be a pretty good scorer in the NBA.

This guy is sure fire top pick right? Unfortunately with Kira, there are a couple things that hold him back on the offensive end and could be problematic in the NBA.

First, it’s his decision-making. Kira isn’t a bad passer. He’s actually shown a lot of flashes that makes you think he could potentially turn into a good one:

However, Kira’s vision isn’t great. He misses passes in P&R and other times just completely turns it over. Here, Kira has the roll man wide open on this P&R but fails to make the pass.

In these plays, Kira just makes the wrong passing decision in general:

You get the point. It reflects in the numbers as well. Kira averages 3.5 turnovers a game and has a TOV% of 17.6. Not great. There is some optimism for Kira as a passer though. Kira is a young guy. This was his sophomore season at Alabama but he was only 18 years old. He’ll be 19 when he starts his first NBA season. There’s a lot of time for him to grow improve. Additionally, those flashes show me that there is potential for him to be a good passer. I’m willing to bet on that.

Kira’s second problem is his finishing. Kira isn’t a great finisher in the half court despite his ability to get there with ease. A lot of this has to do with his strength. Kira’s only around 165 pounds. Because of his lack of strength, Kira has an aversion to contact. He stops just short a lot of time instead of going all the way into the defender:

This can really limit his upside. Again though, Kira is only 18 and can grow a lot especially with an NBA strength and conditioning program.

Kira has a lot to like as an on ball creator in the NBA. He has the speed and quickness. He has the shooting. He just needs to improve the decision-making. Because of his athletic tools, the threshold he has to meet isn’t as high as others who don’t have the same tools as him. Because of his speed and quickness, the windows for passing for him will be a lot wider and allow a higher margin for error. I really buy Kira as an offensive creator. He does come with his weaknesses but in my opinion, those are weaknesses that can legit be improved.

Defense

Kira doesn’t project as just some one-way player either. He has some translatable skills that can make him impactful as an on-ball defender in the NBA. He moves very well laterally and stays in front of guys:

His real talent is his defensive play-making though. On and off ball, Kira just makes shit happen:

Kira is really good at trailing opposing offensive players in P&R and deterring them from behind. He’s able to get blocks this way sometimes which leads to his terrific transition game.

Off-ball, Kira is able to do some similar stuff with his physical tools:

Kira uses his long arms and anticipation skills to get the steal in both clips. He is able to utilize this a lot too. He averages 1.8 steals per game and has a steal percentage of 2.5%.

The downfalls to Kira’s defensive game again relates to his strength. Some players are able to power through him because of his lack of strength and he won’t be able to switch onto bigger defenders. However, this is something that can be improved upon again with an NBA’s strength and conditioning program.

Kira Lewis Jr. has a lot of skills that I buy for a point guard in the NBA. He’s a good shooter. He can get to the paint at will. He moves well laterally and has defensive playmaking chops. With added strength, his weaknesses can be lessened and he can become a special scorer. I buy his upside because the things that hold him back are fixable. This isn’t some prospect that needs a miracle to happen to hit. Improved strength and decision-making is attainable especially for a player that is so young. If he can hit the necessary thresholds for that, he can be a special player.

Kira shouldn’t be one of the main targets for the Hornets as there will probably be better targets on the board when we pick but his fit with the hornets would be interesting. He’d give Charlotte the rim attacker that we don’t have right now and him and Miles Bridges would be really fun in transition. Additionally, he can add some defensive play-making that we really don’t have at the guard position right now. I doubt we will but if we ended up with him, I wouldn’t be upset.

Kira is one of the most fun players in the class. His shot-making and speed can make him a really good initiator in the league with improved playmaking. If his decision-making improves, he could be the steal of the draft.

2020 Draft Preview: Cole Anthony

I’m a UNC fan so I’ve seen quite of bit of Cole Anthony. I’ll try to take out as much of my bias as possible. Being that the Hornets are tumbling down the standings (currently the 7th worst record in the league), it’s time to start to look forward at who we want to add to our core. Cole Anthony is one of those guys near the top of the board and I’m actually very intrigued by him and wouldn’t mind seeing him in a Hornets uniform. Let’s dive into why.

Cole Anthony, G, 6’3, 190, UNC

Offense

Cole’s role in the NBA will definitely be as a primary initiator. He can improve in the ball-handling department but he has a good, tight handle and a lot of moves in his bag. He doesn’t have the most explosive first step but he has a solid one and that mixed with his ball-handling ability allows him to get to the basket. Cole’s most important skill is his shooting though. Ironically enough, it hasn’t been pretty. Currently, he’s shooting 35.4% from the field, 31.6% from the 3 (7 attempts a game), and 73.7% from the line. The numbers are bad but there is a lot of context for this.

Cole’s situation at UNC isn’t the most optimal environment. First, Roy Williams, UNC’s coach, has long always played two bigs in the lineup. Cole often shares the court with UNC’s best bigs, Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks, and neither are shooting threats. In addition to that, the other players that Cole shares the court with aren’t shooters as well. Only one other player other than Cole, Brandon Robinson, is a shooting threat, and he’s currently out due to injury. So, Cole at this point in time shares the floor with four other guys that can’t shoot.

*Anthony Harris never played in a game that Cole did*

Those numbers from three are just horrible. Cole constantly faces looks like this:

*Pictures from the Stepien’s Spencer Pearlman scouting report which goes way more in depth than I can.*

This is an extremely bad environment to be in and would hurt even the best scorer’s percentages. Cole isn’t as bad of a shooter as the numbers suggest. The numbers aren’t all on the environment though. Cole does have a problem with shot selection. He takes a lot of contested pull-ups and drives into multiple defenders. His situation is poor but there are lot of shots that he just shouldn’t take. Cole is a pretty special shooter though when his decision-making is good:

Cole has beyond NBA range and has the step-back in his bag. His shot-making is what makes him intriguing. He’s in the Damian Lillard mold in that his shooting gravity should be able to open easier lanes for teammates. His shooting opens up a lot for his own passing as he’s not an elite one a la Trae Young or Luka Doncic. He is a solid passer though and if he can shoot with volume and efficiency, his lack of elite passing won’t hold him back:

These are some really good reads from Cole. My favorite is the last one and is the type of flash play that you hope becomes more routine for him. He clearly is a smart player and good passer.

Even still, Cole’s decision-making has been pretty rough as whole this year. As stated earlier, he takes a lot of contested jumpers when he should probably make the extra pass. In addition, he does a lot of dribbling too much. With UNC having no other real creator, he gets doubled a lot and pressured and he tries to dribble through it all:

Cole has a tendency to dribble way too much. Some of it could stem from that he realizes he is the only creator on the team but either way, he just has to be better in those situations. In the last clip, UNC is up by 9 with a little less than two minutes left to go. The smart move would be to dribble it out and let that clock go down. However, Cole goes way too quickly and misses the shot.

The good thing is that there has been growth in his decision-making. His game against Duke was probably one of his best of the year. He made the correct reads majority of the time and took good shots. He also knew when to take over. He didn’t play a perfect game by any means but his growth from the beginning of the season is good to see and bodes well for his future in the NBA. However, he followed that up with 5-19 shooting and seven turnover game against Wake Forest. He’s obviously not there yet in terms of decision-making and it’s the big swing skill for him. If he can become a solid decision-maker, he has all-star upside. If he can’t, he won’t be much more than an average starter. It’s something to monitor.

Ultimately, Cole profiles on offense as a scoring PG. He has flashed the ability to score at all three levels and does a really good job of getting to the line (around seven attempts a game). With good decison-making, he can be a legit engine of a good offense.

Defense

Cole shines as a team defender which makes me a lot more optimistic of him as a decision-maker. He does make mistakes occasionally:

But overall, he’s been a damn good team defender:

Cole has shown the ability to be in the right place at the right time and collect charges. In the last clip, you can see what Cole Anthony could look like on defense when he’s locked in. He gets around the screen and stays in front of his man. Then, he helps down to cover the pass which forces the offensive player to throw an errant pass and turn it over. This is the type of high IQ play that has me excited about his potential on the defensive end.

He’s been up and down with his on-ball defense though which has been concerning:

It seems to be that his footwork is just bad so there might be room to grow but I don’t think he’ll ever be a legit deterrent on-ball on defense. However, his team defense could actually shine in the NBA. He also has shown some shades of rim protection:

Like, what PG is doing that? That play is incredible.

With what I’ve seen on tape, I optimistic that he can be a positive defender in the NBA. He’s only a one position defender but his defensive IQ should help him to disrupt offenses and make an impact.

Hornets Fit

So why are we looking for a guard if we have Devonte’ Graham & Terry Rozier? Well, I don’t see either having the potential of being an all-star level initiator. Rozier leaves a lot to be desired as a play-maker and pull-up shooter which limits his primary guard value. Devonte’ Graham is great as a pull-up guy and play-maker but can’t really score anywhere else on the floor. Therefore, the Hornets are still in need of a guy to lead the offense.

I really think Cole could be that guy. He’s a better play-maker than Rozier and has a more versatile scoring package than Graham (and Rozier really). The Hornets are missing a guy that can really put pressure on the rim and get good looks and shots at the line. Cole could potentially be that guy. With his good team defense and ability to shoot in off-ball scenarios, he could also be able to be on the court for stretches with Rozier or Graham.

At his best, Cole could be a Lillard type of player on offense (he probably won’t be THAT good offensively). He’ll be a solid passer on the offensive end with great shooting gravity and the ability to put pressure on the rim. On defense, he actually could be a positive (which is a rarity among PGs and is valuable) with his team defense and improved point-of-attack defense. If he doesn’t hit right, he’ll still be a stellar shooter I feel like and still add the team defense. However, his decision-making could hold him back and he could be a liability when defending other guards.

I’m optimistic that Cole will land closer to that optimal outcome. He’s such a smart defender that I believe that that should translate to the offensive end and he’s shown a lot of growth as a decision-maker this year. With his defense, he’s shown flashes of actually being good on-ball and if he can clean up his footwork, he could legitimately be good on that end. The Hornets currently have the seventh worst record in the league and I think they’ll pick around that 4-7 range. Cole Anthony would be a great pick in that range and would help us to potentially get the star that Charlotte needs.

Views from the Nest: Trade Deadline Thoughts

Trade Deadline week is one of the best times of the year. The Hornets have already been mentioned in several discussions for potential deals this year. Let’s mention those and see what makes sense for Charlotte.

Here’s from Zach Lowe’s Trade Deadline post:

This is a pretty significant one. Bogdan Bogdanovic is on the last year of his deal and the Kings don’t seem intent on paying him. Bogdan is really good. He is averaging about 14.4 points a game this year while shooting 37% from deep on about seven attempts a game. He’s a good secondary playmaker as well. He’d be a really good fit with Devonte’ Graham & company.

The Kings offered him around 4 years, $51 million this past offseason. This offseason, he’d probably command around $15-20 million a year. I wouldn’t mind signing him to something like 3 years, $50 million. We aren’t looking to contend right now but he’d be a nice piece to help our young guys develop as we transition in this rebuilding phase.

So, I am in on a trade for him but I’m concerned about what we would give up. I wouldn’t give up a first rounder and I’d ideally want to hang on to Malik Monk and just watch him develop as he is still really young. It’s important to note that Bogdanovic is 27. Here’s something I’d like to see. This trade was suggested by @Handles_Messiah was pretty good:

In this case, we’d be doing the Kings a favor by letting them get off Dedmon who has been unhappy and giving up a couple seconds. I really like this deal and hoping this is around what Mitch Kupchak is discussing with Sacramento. I don’t want to give up any young guys for someone like Bogdanovic or a first rounder. However, I’m skeptical that a deal gets done by both sides.

Some have floated around Andre Drummond to Charlotte rumors. I tend to agree with Rick here that I don’t think it’s true. It doesn’t seem to align with the mandates Kupchak set out this offseason. Drummond would probably likely cost more than the Hornets would want to give out currently and he’s eyeing a size-able pay day.

Personally, I’m okay with not signing Drummond. He’s definitely good and would make the Hornets better but I wouldn’t want our long-term money tied up into a player like him. I’d rather the Hornets invest money into a cheaper option or an option that lines more up with the ages of our current core. Speaking of a cheaper option that lines more up with the ages of our current core:

I’d be really interested in Myles Turner’s fit with the Hornets. Myles is 23 currently and turns 24 in March. He matches up perfectly with our core age wise and is the type of center that would help a lot of our defensive concerns. Turner was fifth in defensive player of the year voting last year. He regressed some this year as Sabonis has taken the reins for the Pacers but I think PJ Washington would be a much better fit with him. Turner has also upped his three point attempts to over four a game and in Borrego’s scheme that would be very much encouraged (Turner is at 35% from 3 this year). I’d love to see a deal like this for Turner:

I’d also add a second going to the Pacers. First, I want to address Miles because I feel like I’ll get a lot of backlash for suggesting trading him. I’m 100% sure we won’t trade him as he just was selected to the rising stars game and management seems to like him a lot. However, I think this also points to that a lot of other teams around the league view Bridges positively as well.

I’d be okay to sell high on Bridges because I don’t think he reaches the impact that Turner has. For the Pacers, Marvin is a really good fit with Sabonis and a really good playoff big. They need wing depth as well for the future and Bridges will help them there. I’m not even truly sure this would be enough for Turner but I think it’d be a good deal on both sides. Just want to highlight that this won’t happen (at the trade deadline at least) and it’s all speculation. However, I think the Hornets should pursue Turner in some way realistically because he’d be an awesome fit for our core.

Also, from Lowe’s post:

I think it’s organizational malpractice if Marvin isn’t traded by the deadline. I love Marvin and he’s really good for our culture here. But, he’s a real asset and he also should be given the opportunity to play for a contender. He’s the perfect big for the playoffs. He can play either spot and hold up on switches, shoots 3s and makes good decisions. I think the teams that misses out on Andre Igoudala and Robert Covington should definitely look here. I could anticipate something like this for Marv:

Add one or two seconds to the deal with the Bucks and one second to the deal with the Clippers. Both of these are really intriguing. Rotations shrink in the playoffs so Marv can soak up the Lopez-Ilaysova minutes. I think Marvin is flat out just a better option than either of those in the playoffs. The Hornets get two seconds because their taking longer term money and for Marvin.

For the Clipper deal, Marvin is a much more reliable shooter than Harkless and can serve as a small ball five or play at the four spot. Kabengele is just there to make the money work and the Hornets get a second. I think this is a really good deal for the Clippers and they should look hard at it if they can’t acquire Marcus Morris or Igoudala.

In regards to Monk, I’d prefer to hold on to him. He’s shown a lot flashes this year that I like and would love to see him sign a reasonable extension next year. But, I would move him for a deal that makes sense. Let’s say the Pacers valued him (probably not because they have enough guards). I’d move him to get Turner. But, that is the type of player I’d move him for. I still think he’s an important part of our future.

Not a big fan. Think this deal would probably be centered around Monk (Knicks have reportedly been interested). Randle is fine but not really a good fit with our young core. He’s a bucket-getter for sure but I don’t think he really would be good for the development of our young guys. He’s not really a ball mover more of a ball stopper. I think he’s ideally a center for us but not particular to him on the defensive end. Who knows what MJ would do but would prefer for this not to happen.

Should the Charlotte Hornets pursue Brandon Ingram in the offseason?

Even with GM Mitch Kupchak stating that the Hornets wouldn’t be building through free agency, I felt that a certain owner who will not be named would still be chomping at the bit to try and make a splash. With the Hornets being one of the few teams with max money this offseason and Brandon Ingram being from North Carolina, I thought the Hornets would look into trying to get him. At the beginning of the season, I was against this happening. In the preseason, BI seemed to be the same type of guy that couldn’t shoot from deep and didn’t make the best decisions. However, we’re almost halfway through the season and I’ve changed course. Ingram seems like a different guy and I think we should look into pursuing him this offseason.

Let’s just start with the basic counting stats. Brandon Ingram is averaging over 25 points a game, seven rebounds, and right around four assists. Those already look like star wing numbers. He’s not quite there yet but he just might be on his way. Coming into the league, BI was looked at as this star wing who could fill it up. While he has filled it up in his time in the league, his lack of a three point shot really held back his efficiency. This is why I had a lot of reservations about him as a player. All of the top guards & wings in the game are supremely efficient. They get to the rim well, they draw fouls, and they can bomb from deep. BI was always pretty good at the rim and utilized his length well there. The other two he wasn’t so good at. It seems like he has that now.

He’s shooting around six free throw attempts a game this year which is similar to last year but the big change is the efficiency. Last year, he shot 67.5% from the line. This year, he’s shooting 85.7% from the line. This boost makes him way more effective as a scorer. In addition, BI’s three point volume & efficiency has jumped as well. Last year, he shot just under two attempts a game from three and converted them at a 33% clip. This year, he’s shooting around six attempts a game and is converting them at a 41% a clip. That is a staggering jump. This has moved his TS% from around average at 55.5% to 60.6%. He is truly a lethal scorer.

Here all the guards & wings from the past two seasons that have played 30 minutes a game, had a TS% of 60 or above, & attempted 15 or more shots a game:

That’s truly elite company that Brandon Ingram is in right now. His scoring is his best skill and it’s a skill that the Hornets really need. Look at his bag:

BI has always had these midrange jumpers but the addition of his efficiency from the line and beyond the arc makes him a true bucket-getter and three level scorer. BI is shooting 67.1% from 0-3 feet, 48.5% from 10-16 feet, and 41% from behind the three point line. The guy just knows how to put the ball in the basket.

There’s still room for improvement too. His handle is too loose sometimes:

He could make some better decisions about when to drive & when to attack:

Imagine what he’ll look like in his prime when he tightens these things up. BI looks like he’ll be a lethal scorer for awhile.

The thing that does differentiate BI from wing types say like Jaylen Brown on the offensive end is that he has really good feel for the game. BI is a really good passer for a wing and it was one of his best traits while he was on the Lakers. That with his scoring can make him lethal. Look at these reads:

The first one is my favorite one and really shows flashes of advanced feel. He manipulates the defense with his eyes and moves the defender to get the easy shot for Favors. BI has legit passing feel (19.3 AST%) which bodes well for him as a + creator down the line.

BI’s not perfect but he has the indicators to be one of the top offensive players in the league one he hits his prime. He’s a terrific isolation player and is in the 81st percentile in those situations (1.06 PPP, 3.8 possession a game), he can handle the rock in P&R (77th percentile as P&R ball-handler), and he can spot-up for others (81st percentile, 58.6 eFG%). If he can keep this up, he’s going to be a terrifying offensive player in the years to come.

Ingram also has some value on the defensive end. He has gotten stronger but he’s still thin which hurts him on that end sometimes and he does seem to get blown by every now and then:

These two blow bys stem from some bad technique from Ingram. However, Ingram’s length is a legit deterrent and helps him even when a player gets by him:

His length is legit functional and it causes troubles for players:

He also isn’t a low IQ player and makes some good rotations sometimes:

BI averages about a block and a steal a game. His block percentage is actually pretty good but ideally, you’d probably want him to get some more steals. He doesn’t always consistently blow-up plays so I wouldn’t call him a truly impactful defender. However, his length is a deterrent and he’s a smart guy which I think makes him a potential positive on that end.

To sum it all up, Brandon Ingram is a lethal scoring wing with real passing chops and average to above average defense. That’s a really good player that has the outlines of all-star impact when he hits his prime. It’s also something that the Hornets really don’t have on the wing right now. He’d be a nice fit with Devonte’ Graham and would be able to take the burden off of him on the offensive end. He’d give the Hornets an efficient volume scoring wing which we haven’t had in a long time if ever.

BI isn’t giving max impact right now so giving him the max this offseason would be a definite overpay. In addition, there are only about 40 games of evidence of showing that BI is this type of player. So this isn’t a clear open and shut case. However, being the Charlotte Hornets, this is the type of overpay that you have to make sometimes to get special talent. Also, this is the type of player you max. A young guy (BI is only 22) that has a lot of talent and looks to be on a clear growth curve to becoming a star. If I was the Hornets, I’d take the chance. With a lottery pick on the way, the Hornets would look to have a bright future. A core of Devonte’ Graham, Killian Hayes/Tyrese Maxey, Brandon Ingram, and PJ Washington would be terrific. BI is defintely a guy to keep your eye on this year. I mean look at this:

I’m not saying BI will ever be Kevin Durant or anything (can pretty confidently say that he will never be KD) but it is encouraging to see graphics like this to showcase his good play. Make that move @MJ.