Allright, let's take Embiid, Wiggins, Parker, Randle, Exum, Vonleh and Gordon off the board. Marcus Smart is a definite "maybe off" here, as is Saric. But if any of those guys are on the board, the Hornets should take them. The could play Jefferson at four next to Embiid, Exum at combo guard with Walker, Randle at combo-forward with Jefferson. Those guys should be drafted. Here are the more likely options:
Draft Marcus Smart: I like Smart as a shooting guard infinitely better than I like him as a point guard, and he would fit well here with Kemba Walker. It's two ball-dominant guards, yes, but it's also two guards who can create offense, which they need. If Smart can work off-ball, he could be exactly what they need. In truth, I'm not huge on Smart's specific skillset. I worry about his inefficiency and decision making. Luckily, the Hornets' offense is so horrific that Smart can only help.
Meanwhile, he's also an excellent defender. His strength and versatility on that end means he can stay on the floor, and Steve Clifford's defense is so base at this point that he won't have as high of a learning curve as on some teams.
This makes Gerald Henderson, who is a really quality player on both ends on a decent contract, available. The Hornets can move Henderson for a veteran, salary space, or a big man prospect. He won't garner high rate of return given his shooting inefficiency but could still give them depth, which they also need. And of course, there's the other option. Keeping Smart and trading Walker, who really has made incredible progress his first two seasons. The Bucks have been a friendly trading partner and could use an upgrade at point guard. But really, putting Walker on the market would draw considerable interest.
Draft Doug McDermott: This seems almost "too Bobcats" a draft pick for the Hornets to take. The established college star who was a premier scorer. You can already see Charlotte fans throwing their hands in front of their faces and screaming "Oh, no!"
But McDermoot fits well on this team. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can defend fours who McDermott can't, and McDermott's ability to stretch the floor helps with giving Al Jefferson room and helping out Kidd-Gilchrist offensively. McDermott might, and that's a big key, might rebound well at the next level despite his size. And for a team that needs scoring? McDermott is the guy.
There's a risk here. Adam Morrison is a bad comparison in a lot of ways, but premier scorers for smaller colleges are big busts when they bust out. But McDermott also has better athleticism than he's given credit for and sometimes it's this simple: The Bobcats need offense. McDermott can score. Fin.
Draft Dario Saric: This is really intriguing. 6-10 with ball-handling skills. So he's like a super-athletic, high-upside Josh McRoberts but not as good a shooter. Saric doesn't help them immediately, which has been listed as a priority by Michael Jordan. But his skillset does give them more ways to use the talent they have. And best player available and all. But, man, this would be a funky fit.
Draft Gary Harris: Pure shooter. Many points. Good pick. Harris is the Occam's Razor of this dilemma. They need a shooter, and Gary Harris is a shooter. He doesn't come with the questions McDermott does. If all their preferred options are off the table, this is a simple, effective choice that will garner no criticism.
You could bring Harris along slowly as a shooter behind Henderson who will be a superior defender and Henderson's deal would expire ideally about the same time Harris could be ready to start. If Harris busts out of the gate and is tremendous from the git-go, you're back to having the option to move Henderson, a quality player on a reasonable contract.
Draft James Young: The question here is whether you think Young could be better than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. That's unlikely. MKG gets a lot of flack about a jump shot he's still building, but he attacks on defense, can post up players even his own size, is great in transition and has a through-the-roof motor. Young would give big depth, but the Hornets need offense in a hurry and while I love Young's long-term prospects as a 3-and-D guy, he's not going to come in and light it up, most likely. They're better off here targeting a position of need.
... unless they want to combine the No. 24 pick and MKG in a trade package. Then things get interesting. An athletic, young starter in the third year of his deal plus a top-25 pick could fetch an impact player for the Hornets. For instance, you lob that out there to Houston for Omer Asik and their ears are going to perk up. You might be able to get back additional return in that scenario if Houston's still chasing Carmelo Anthony.
It's a risk, but Young would provide cover for such a move. He's not the athletic wunderkind MKG is, but he can shoot, so here's a reason to review all options.
Draft Adriean Payne: Is this redundant with Jefferson? Maybe. It provides a guy who can play true four, rebound, and stretch the floor to a degree. Payne's not quite 6-10, and Jefferson is big but not tall. The Hornets have Bismack Biyombo, and Cody Zeller. So what's upside here? Well, Payne has a 7-4 wingspan. That's pretty good. It's not the 7-6 wingspan of Biyombo, but you can also play he and Biyombo together in lineups when Jefferson is out and that would be huge.
This is an unconventional choice, but a five-big rotation of Jefferson, McRoberts, Payne, Biyombo and Zeller is really phenomenal.
Draft Nik Stauskas: Do not like. Stauskas is slippery, but not explosive. He can shoot behind screens and could be a spot-up killer, so there's a strong fit here. I'm just not sure you want to expose yourself to that kind of athleticism limitation on the perimeter. He's not a good defender now, nor does he project to improve consistently. He's neither quick nor strong. This team prides itself on defense and while you want balance, you don't to sacrifice what you have.
The idea would effectively be him as Korver for the Hornets' Bulls. But Stauskas and Walker in a backcourt is asking for breakdowns on defense.
Draft Zach LaVine: So say you decide you want a guard who can create offense, and Exum and Smart are off the board. LaVine is under 6-6. So he's a little undersized, like Harris. But he's exceptionally long, supremely athletic, and can do anything on the court. Can do is not will do. The gap between super-athletic bust and Russell Westbrook is not nearly as wide as you would think. It's all mental. This would be a reach, and dangerous one. But if you want a bold move, this is a bold move.
Trade up: The Hornets want an immediate improvement. Let's say they package Henderson, MKG, and the nine. Does that get them top five? Cavs, Sixers, Bucks are out, they're not even returning that phone call. Utah's probably interested, but there's just not an impact guy there and they need one. Boston, however, would probably listen long and hard on that front. You'd have to get something back. Jared Sullinger, Jeff Green, something. And giving up on MKG would be like pulling teeth (and I'd recommend against it). But it's worth at least exploring, especially if they decide Smart is "the guy" and it seems like he'll be gone by No.9.
Trade down: Nope. They don't need depth, they've got quite a bit of it. They don't need future assets, they've got the guys they want to win with. This one's pretty simple. Keep the pick or...
Trade for a vet: There's not an elite center on the market. So that's out. One thing that is legitimately interesting? Henderson, the No.9, and the No. 24 for Aron Afflalo, Andrew Nicholson, and a future second-rounder. That gives both teams a legitimate upgrade in their plans. The Magic get future assets and would have four top-25 picks, the Hornets get the shooter they want without sacrificing defense.
But that tells you about the range of caliber of player the Hornets can fetch if they combine their assets. Kevin Love ain't coming. But a near-All-Star on a small market team might be acquireable.