June 10, 2019
For the Charlotte Hornets, Kemba Walker’s free agency isn’t a priority, it is the priority. Everything that takes place this off-season is subservient to Walker’s decision to stay or leave the Queen City, a decision that will almost certainly determine the franchise’s direction for the next three to five years. The uncertain future of the team’s only All-Star has turned the draft into a bit of a dilemma. Does the front office try to trade the pick in an attempt to prove to Walker the team wants to get better immediately, or do they prepare for the post-Kemba era by drafting unproven prospects that could take years to reach their potential? If nothing else, the draft will give fans their first insight on how GM Mitch Kupchak and company will approach Walker’s free agency.
Here are a few prospects that will be on the Hornets’ radar:
Cam Reddish, Small Forward, Duke: A year ago, Reddish falling to the 12th pick would be unbelievable, but after underachieving in his sole year at Duke, it is now at least possible, although still unlikely. Reddish falling to the Hornets would be contingent on the Atlanta Hawks, who have both the 8th and 10th picks, and even then, Minnesota could snag him. But if Reddish does make a Malik Monk-esque drop, the Hornets would be picking up a highly athletic forward with a ton of upside. While he wouldn’t be the answer for Charlotte’s perimeter shooting woes, Reddish is a crafty offensive player and his versatility would be valuable for a Hornets team that has depth issues.
Romeo Langford, Shooting Guard, Indiana: While Kemba Walker’s free agency has grabbed all the headlines, the team’s second best player, Jeremy Lamb, has had his free agency go a bit unnoticed. If letting Lamb walk is the price to pay to keep Walker, then it would make sense for the Hornets to draft a shooting guard. Romeo Langford is bigger than the average shooting guard, standing 6’6 and possessing a 6’11 wingspan, Langford has already displayed good scoring and rebounding ability in his time as a Hoosier. The primary con to picking Langford is that he is an inefficient three-point shooter, shooting a mediocre 27% from distance last season.
Nassir Little, Small Forward, North Carolina: Little could be described as a high-risk, high-reward pick. He fell way short of meeting expectations while playing for the Tar Heels, but showed noteworthy improvement as the season progressed. He has explosive playmaking ability and dependable defensive skills, but if a consistent mid-range and perimeter shot isn‘t developed, he would not be a real improvement over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Sekou Doumbouya, Small Forward, France: While international players never get the hype of the college prospects, the idea of Sekouu Doumbouya being selected by Charlotte should excite fans in Buzz City. At 18 years old, Doumbouya is a rather raw prospect, but his blend of size and athleticism makes him someone to keep an eye on. He can capably defend anywhere on the floor, and is a fiery offensive player who is an effective slasher with a reliable jump shot. The addition of Doumbouya would be a welcome one, as his quickness and versatility could spread the floor and provide the offensive spark Charlotte has needed in recent years.
Bruno Fernando, Center, Maryland: Charlotte could use a long-term solution at center, and this year’s Draft class has depth at the 5 position. Fernando has no glaring weaknesses, showing efficiency with inside scoring, blocking, and rebounding– in other words, every skill needed from a traditional center. Fernando has a proclivity for drawing fouls, but unlike most centers, he’ll make you pay at the line, shooting an impressive 78% in his sophomore season at Maryland. With polished offense and stout defense, Fernando is a player who could immediately make a difference in the Hornets’ frontcourt.
The 2019 NBA Draft takes place on Thursday, June 20 at Barclays Center in New York, NY