The Charlotte Hornets surprisingly found themselves in the middle of an upheaval during the 2022-23 campaign. What seemed like a team that was on the rise just couldn’t string together the fortune necessary to sustain a winning outfit, and as a result, the Hornets, after two straight seasons of making the play-in tournament, find themselves high in the draft lottery once more.
Even then, it’s reasonable for some to expect that the Hornets may be a much better team this time next year. It’s difficult to fathom LaMelo Ball having worse injury luck next season (if he does, it’s time to become concerned), while the Hornets could very well decide to bring back Miles Bridges, as contentious a decision as that may be when the time comes.
But it may be too early to be counting eggs, as the Hornets’ nest hasn’t even incubated just yet. For now, the Hornets will be setting their sights on the 2023 NBA Draft, which could prove to be a watershed moment for a franchise looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
As is the case with every team atop the draft lottery, the Hornets will be hoping that the basketball gods find favor in them and bless them with the number one overall pick. That would transform the franchise big time, as Victor Wembanyama projects to be an otherworldly two-way force. Imagining a duo of him and LaMelo Ball will make even the most cynical talent evaluator drool.
Nevertheless, the odds are not in the Hornets’ favor. The Hornets could very well retain their current lottery spot (number four). And when that happens, this is the talented youngster they must target.
Here is why the Hornets must target versatile forward Jarace Walker out of Houston with the fourth overall pick of the 2023 NBA Draft.
Why Hornets must target Jarace Walker in 2023 NBA Draft if they stay in No. 4 lottery slot
A cursory glance at the Hornets’ 2022-23 season shows that what the team needs the most are reliable bucket-getters. There wasn’t a single team in the entire NBA that was worse at scoring the basketball this past season. So it definitely makes sense for a team that didn’t really plan to become one of the worst teams in the league to draft with the intention of prioritizing what the roster needs at the moment.
With that in mind, the Hornets could very well target one of the Thompson twins to fill their wing-scoring need. Ausar and Amen Thompson are both bouncy athletes with polished ball skills compared to their peers. In their stint at Overtime Elite, they showed the ability to fill the stat sheet and light up the scoreboard with ease.
However, their output from beyond the arc leaves a lot to be desired. Their free-throw percentage also doesn’t bode well for their development in that regard. Adding to those concerns, the opposition they faced over the past year or so may not have been the toughest as well.
Make no mistake, any team that will be drafting either Thompson twin will have a high-potential blue-chipper on their hands. But for the Hornets, prioritizing skill scalability may end up being the wisest move. And to that end, targeting Jarace Walker may be the best course of action.
Walker just does a lot of things well on the basketball court. Standing at 6’8 and weighing at 220 lbs., he has an NBA-ready body from day one. And he’s yet to turn 20, so there’s still a ton of room for him to grow his current game.
What is his current game anyway? At the moment, Jarace Walker’s offensive game is limited to attacking the space others create for him. He doesn’t really have the best off the bounce game. But Walker’s first step is explosive, he already moves into the direction of the pass which gives him a running head start towards the hoop, and his strength allows him to create space that his ball-handling simply doesn’t allow at present.
But alongside LaMelo Ball, Walker won’t need to create too much offense for himself anyway. And that’s where he shines on that end of the floor. He has shown an incredible ability to find the right timing for cuts to the hoop, and if his three-point shooting improves (34.7 percent at Houston), he could be an even more devastating weapon for the Hornets to put alongside their franchise point guard.
And that’s without even going deep into his playmaking ability; he is quick to move the basketball and he is quick to react to how defenses are configured.
His bread and butter, however, is his defense. At his size, he projects as a versatile defender capable of matching up against bruising post presences and staying with quicker ball-handlers on the perimeter.
These abilities of his can certainly scale the more the Hornets win games. Jarace Walker may not be the flashiest prospect, but he just screams winning basketball, and the Hornets need more of those kinds of players.
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