Editor’s Note: As we get closer to the draft, it’s time to talk about possible draft picks for the Hornets. Over the next month, we will preview guys that could end up going to the Hornets at either picks number 9, 24, or 45, culminating in two mock drafts. Also during this time span, we will preview other options the Hornets have such as trading picks or available free-agents. Stick with us for original analysis and predictions all summer long!
Player Essentials: Zach LeVine
Strengths: That main draw to Zach LaVine is his tremendous athletic ability that has helped the UCLA product draw comparisons to former Bruin and current NBA All-Star Russell Westbrook. As one could imagine, any player that has been compared to Westbrook must be a pretty damn good athlete. Not surprisingly, LeVine plays above the rim, using his incredible 41.5 inch vertical to elevate over defenders and throw down dunks similar to those seen by only the NBA's best. And while dunking isn’t everything in the NBA, I don’t think any Hornets’ fans would mind seeing an athlete like LaVine complete a highlight real windmill dunk in purple and teal next season.
While LaVine will never be the traditional scorer that shooting guards Nik Stauskas or Gary Harris are, I was very impressed on tape with how the UCLA product used his athleticism and quickness to create unique opportunities for himself. In college, LaVine not only could score by beating defenders down the floor, but he also could use his quickness in the half-court to blow by opponents en route to highlight dunk. But the most impressive part of the guards’ offensive game was LaVine’s surprising shooting ability, hitting 37.5% of his three-point attempts last season in college. It’s not often that you see guys who are as freakishly athletic and as talented a shooter as LaVine is, making him a "can't miss" prospect in this year's draft for many NBA teams.
Weaknesses: Despite LaVine’s glaring offensive strengths, when he’s not shooting a spot-up three or dunking, the guard struggles to create his own offense. This includes his inability to knock down the mid-range shot or finish contested layups, as LaVine only connected on 44% of his shots from around the rim last season at UCLA. While these shortcomings can be fixed with time, LaVine’s lack of offensive creatively should be concerning to NBA general managers.
In addition, LaVine was very susceptible to making poor shooting and passing decisions, averaging 2.1 turnovers per 40 minutes last season as a Bruin. Many of his tendencies to take poor shots came as a result of taking “the long two” while many of his passing mishaps came from trying to do too much in transition. Overall, LaVine will have to become a more conservative player in the NBA to avoid constantly costing his team with silly mistakes.
The Bottom Line
Overall, I’m a big fan of Zach LaVine’s athletic ability and overall body of work as an NBA prospect. While I’m a little concerned with the UCLA product’s inability to create his own shot, I won’t be complaining if he’s drafted by the Hornets later this month at the 24th slot if he falls that far in the draft. Regardless of where LaVine is picked, I expect him to be a great NBA player who can become a nightly member of the “Sportscenter’s Top Ten Plays” list and win at least couple dunk contests over the course of his career.
Lead Hornets Writer: Jonathon Hoppe