Potential Draft Options for Hornets: First-Round Forwards/Centers

Matt Rochinski and Sam Perley of hornets.com will be following the Hornets throughout the 2017 NBA offseason and keeping fans up to date through the Buzz Words | Hornets Notebook. Keep checking back to see what the latest is as the season unfolds.

By Sam Perley, hornets.com | Thursday, May 25, 10:01 a.m.

While the Charlotte Hornets could elect to choose a guard with the 11th overall pick in next month’s NBA Draft, there are also a number of promising forwards and centers who could be available when the organization is on the clock. The NBA has been transitioning to more of a run-and-gun, shooter’s league in recent years, but that doesn’t mean the big man has become obsolete. Now more than ever, teams are on the lookout for post players that can stretch the floor, rebound, block shots and defend – something the 2017 NBA Draft provides plenty of.

Lauri Markkanen (PF, Arizona) – Jyvaskyla, Finland isn’t exactly known to be a hotbed for NBA talent, but it is in fact the hometown of Arizona freshman power forward Lauri Markkanen, who averaged 15.6 points on 49.2 percent shooting and 7.2 rebounds in 37 games last season. Possibly the most skilled shooter in the entire draft (42.3 percent from three-point range last year), Markkanen has the ability to score from almost anywhere on the court and possesses an excellent combination of size, skill and basketball intelligence.

Markkanen might need to adjust a bit to a NBA role that requires more rebounding, shot-blocking and defending, but his overall offensive and scoring capabilities make the Finn an ideal fit for the modern NBA landscape. 

Zach Collins (PF/C, Gonzaga) – Zach Collins is another highly-touted big man in the 2017 NBA Draft class despite having not started a single game during his freshman season at Gonzaga. The first one-and-done player ever from the Spokane, Washington program, Collins averaged 10.0 points on 65.2 percent shooting, 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks for the National Championship Runner-Up Bulldogs.

Collins is capable of scoring in a multitude of different ways, plays high-level defense and also possesses great shot-blocking instincts. Still a bit of an unknown and also prone to getting into foul trouble on the defensive end, Collins is a uniquely-skilled frontcourt player with a huge amount of potential at the NBA level. 

OG Anunoby (SF/PF, Indiana) – A season-ending knee injury prematurely concluded OG Anunoby’s sophomore campaign and eventually his tenure at Indiana, but he’s still a potential lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. In 16 appearances for the Hoosiers this past year, Anunoby racked up 11.1 points on 55.7 percent shooting, 5.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per game before getting hurt in January.

The biggest glaring concern with Anunoby is how quickly he’ll be able to recover from his knee injury. Although it’s entirely possibly he rehabs his entire rookie season or spends much of it in the G-League, Anunoby still offers substantial upside as a potential high-level, two-way NBA player. 

Ike Anigbogu (C, UCLA) – Perhaps overshadowed a bit by some other one-and-done players at UCLA this season, Ike Anigbogu might be the first true project player taken in the NBA Draft. Still just 18 years old, the 6-10 Anigbogu tallied 4.7 points on 56.4 percent shooting, 4.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 13.0 minutes over 29 games for the Bruins during his freshman season.

An extremely gifted player with great physical dimensions and athleticism, Anigbogu is still very raw and it might be some time before he’s ready to contribute at the NBA level. Like Anunoby, Anigbogu’s intrigue might make him enticing enough for the lottery, provided the selecting team has the resources and patience to thoroughly develop him. 

Jarrett Allen (C, Texas) – Jarrett Allen is also another big-bodied, young center who came into his own the further along his freshman season at Texas progressed. Having measured 6’10” with a massive 7’5” wingspan at the NBA Draft Combine, Allen put up 13.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 32.2 minutes over 33 games for the Longhorns this year.

Allen’s overall biggest strengths are his rebounding, physical attributes and long-term potential. He might need to put on some weight (234 lbs at the NBA Draft Combine) and expand his offensive game a bit, but Allen has all the tools to become a high-level big man at the next level. 

John Collins (PF, Wake Forest) – One of the biggest surprises in the ACC last year was the play of sophomore John Collins, who helped lead Wake Forest to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010. A double-double machine (17 in 2016-17), Collins averaged 19.2 points on 62.2 percent shooting, 9.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 26.6 minutes across 33 outings for the Demon Deacons last year.

Collins is a talented, all-around scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker with a high motor and great physical dimensions. While he’ll need to improve on his facilitating, defense and overall size, he’s capable of becoming quite the dynamic big man in the NBA. 

Justin Patton (C, Creighton) – Another relatively unknown draft-eligible center is Justin Patton, who averaged 12.9 points on 67.6 percent shooting (NCAA’s fourth-highest mark overall), 6.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.4 blocks on his way to claiming 2017 Big East Rookie of the Year honors. Patton, a lightly-recruited high school player, has improved dramatically the last few years after redshirting his freshman season with the Bluejays in 2015-16. 

One of the nation’s most efficient scorers, Patton also possesses great hands and the ability to rebound, defend and block shots. Much like the other projected first-round centers, Patton will need some time to develop his size in addition to his offensive post game and free-throw shooting (51.7 percent).

Ivan Rabb (PF/C, California) – Despite being a potential lottery selection in 2016, Ivan Rabb returned to California for his sophomore season, where he averaged 14.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 block in 31 total appearances. Although his field-goal percentage took a dip his second year with the Golden Bears (61.5 percent to 48.4), Rabb still has an overall strong offensive game in addition to great rebounding abilities.

Rabb also fits the mold of a big man who will need to get stronger and expand his offensive skillset (particularly shot creation) in order to hold his own in the NBA. That being said, Rabb already has the foundation to be a great, all-around player at the next level. 

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