June 25, 2021
Photo: Ethan Hyman / AP
The Hornets entered Tuesday’s 2021 NBA Draft Lottery with the eleventh-best odds at landing the No. 1 overall pick, and 11th is exactly where they’ll select in the draft on July 29. Last season, the lottery gods gifted the Hornets with a leap from eighth to third in the draft, and then the Timberwolves and Warriors were kind enough to gift them with LaMelo Ball; we can only hope things work out that well this year.
The 2021 Draft will be the fourth time in the last five drafts the Hornets pick either 11th or 12th, where they’ve taken Malik Monk, Miles Bridges (acquired in a draft-night trade with the Clippers) and PJ Washington. Next month, Mitch Kupchak and his staff have another opportunity to add an impactful member to Charlotte’s young core and help support Ball with a mid-lottery pick in a talented draft pool.
— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) June 23, 2021
Upon the conclusion of the lottery, the mock drafts began to flood in. Here are what some of the draft experts and analysts have the Hornets taking:
Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Givony: Moses Moody (SG), Arkansas
ESPN’s Jonathan Givony: Isaiah Jackson (C), Kentucky
Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo: Corey Kispert (F), Gonzaga
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie: Moses Moody (SG), Arkansas
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor: Jalen Johnson (F), Duke
— NBA (@NBA) June 23, 2021
In a way, the Hornets are lucky to have two distinct needs at center and on the wing. Per The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie, the Hornets are more likely to use their cap space to acquire a proven big that can help them win next season, so it makes sense that most of the writers listed above went with a perimeter player.
Now let’s get into the prospects; first, Moses Moody. Moody is a 6-foot-6 wing out of Arkansas that started alongside Cade Cunningham and Day’Ron Sharpe at Montverde Academy in high school, and is the highest-rated of the bunch as a consensus top-12 prospect. At 210 pounds with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, he excels as a defender and projects as a high-level 3-and-D threat in the NBA. He has the potential to diversify his game by improving his free throw generation, which he did towards the end of his season, reaching double-digit free throw attempts three times in six games during February and March.
Much of America’s basketball-watching population was introduced to Corey Kispert last season as he and the Gonzaga Bulldogs rode an undefeated season all the way to a blowout loss to Baylor in the national championship game. Kispert put up a near 50/40/90 season with a 67.4 true shooting percentage as a 22-year-old senior, cruising to a WCC Player of the Year award and being named a consensus first-team All-American. Not only is he the best shooter in the draft at 6-foot-7 and 223 pounds, he’s an underrated team defender and connective playmaker due to his high basketball IQ and feel for the game.
Jalen Johnson will be referred to as a Duke player during the draft process, but he left Durham after 13 games last season for personal and medical reasons. Johnson has intriguing potential as a 6-foot-9 point forward that can protect the rim, grab a rebound, and make plays in transition. His 44.4 3-point percentage is a bit of fool’s gold with only eight total makes, but he does offer impressive verticality, above-the-rim finishing and defensive versatility, posting 2.2 steals and 2.3 blocks per 40 minutes in college.
Last but not least, Kentucky center Isaiah Jackson, a former teammate of LaMelo Ball at Spire Academy. Jackson is a development project offensively, going 0-for-2 from deep in 25 college games and lacking any real go-to scoring option beyond relying on his elite athleticism for lobs and put-back finishes. However, Jackson will likely be one of the best rim protectors in this draft class if he reaches his ceiling. With a Robert Williams-esque bounce, an eagerness for shot-blocking, and shooting at a 70 percent free-throw clip in college, Jackson shows the potential to space the floor down the line in the NBA.
If the Hornets go with a center in the lottery, Jackson, Kai Jones and Alperen Şengün are likely the best options. If Kupchak and company want a wing, Moody, Kispert and Franz Wagner will be a few of the popular names. But, as Kupchak has said repeatedly during his tenure as general manager in Charlotte, the organization has to draft for talent. The Hornets aren’t in position to reach for players that fill positional holes yet, and the roster could still use one more infusion of lottery-level talent.
The 2021 NBA Draft will air July 29, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. EST on ESPN and ABC.