This 2014 NBA Draft class has certainly been in flux over the past six months. Julius Randle started as the second-highest rated player on most analyst's boards. He then had a subpar (by some analyst's opinion) season at Kentucky, but then reconvinced everyone that he was a top-five player by taking Kentucky to the National Championship.
Bill Simmons wrote an interesting article today, and the main point was this: it's really hard to scout players and you need a lot of luck. There have been "sure things" that didn't pan out, and there were "sure busts" that ended up being All-Stars. You just never know.
While Dante Exum is considered the big mystery of the draft, Noah Vonleh is certainly up there as well. The Indiana product was outside of the lottery for most of the college year, but then the combine happened.
Here are Vonleh's "measurables," which were recorded at the Draft Combine. In parentheses are combine class rank.
Height: 6'8'' (9)
Hand Length: 9.75'' (1)
Standing Reach: 9'0'' (6)
Wingspan: 7'4.25'' (2)
While Vonleh is definitely considered short for a power forward in the league, he offsets those worries by having super long arms. In an article I wrote yesterday, I noted that wingspan was historically one of the biggest indicators of future success in the NBA, and particularly as a rim-protecting big. Vonleh has all the tools to become a solid NBA defender.
This is especially important for a young player as it allows him to remain on the court during his early years. Many raw players come into the league, and while they develop offensively, they are such a liability on the defensive end that many coaches can't afford to play them. No minutes means no development. Vonleh will certainly have every chance to succeed in this league.
Fitting In With the Hornets
The biggest trend in the NBA right now is the emergence of stretch fours. That's why Kevin Love and Chris Bosh are at such a high premium in the league. The ability of a power forward to stretch the defense out to the perimeter and make big guys defend them has shown to be a lethal offensive weapon.
This is the big reason why Vonleh jumped from out of the lottery to now in the top 10 - his popular comp is Chris Bosh. Yes, the future Hall-of-Famer who has two NBA titles to his name. If Vonleh can become Chris Bosh, there is a chance he becomes the best player of this draft class.
And the similarities are there. I mean, look at that picture above. He looks so much like Bosh, doesn't he? But seriously, Vonleh could become the shooter Bosh is and could do it a lot quicker.
He shot 48.5% from the three-point line in his one year at Indiana, which is just ridiculous. He was 53.0% with two pointers, so offensively, he has the mechanics to become a very good pick-and-pop guy in the league. Here's the problem: he only took 33 three-pointers last year. In fact, he really didn't shoot or play all that much, thanks to odd coaching decisions by Tom Crean.
However, the tools are there. And the Hornets desperately need shooting. The Hornets shot 35.1% from the three-point line, and only shot 17.9 of them a game, which was the fourth-lowest in the league last year. Josh McRoberts started at the four for them last year, and was able to knock down shots when needed. But the upside of Vonleh as a stretch four is considerably higher, and Vonleh also fits Steve Clifford's defensive system as well.
I love this pick for the Hornets, who got back to the playoffs last year. Vonleh is a guy who should get minutes right away and pair nicely with Al Jefferson. Big Al is a back to the basket type of player and really needs a shooter at the four. The best player in the draft in that regard was Vonleh. The Hornets were probably overjoyed when the Kings took Stauskas and let Vonleh fall all the way to nine.
Hornets fans - be happy, this was the best-case scenario.