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Monday, June 19, 2006

NBA: Hornets: In the Lane with Bob Licht (on Carney and Williams)

NBA: HORNETS: In the Lane with Licht: 2006 Offseason

June 14, 2006

Bob Licht

As the Hornets prepare to put on their full-court press for an active offseason, it’s important to remember just how much of an impact the front-office moves had during the summer of 2005: Selecting the best player in the draft was part brilliance and part luck. Three other teams passed on eventual Rookie of the Year Chris Paul on June 29; still, the Hornets did their homework on the 20-year-old point guard out of Wake Forest and immediately reaped the benefits with a 20-game turnaround in 2005-2006.

On Aug. 2 the Hornets pulled the trigger on several moves that impacted their roster. They acquired Rasual Butler and Kirk Snyder in the largest deal in NBA history. The five-team, 13-player blockbuster added depth and athleticism to the roster without deleting any player from their roster (trading the rights to center Roberto Duenas, whose rights were held by the Hornets but who has never played in the NBA). Bostjan Nachbar was also re-signed as a free agent. Although he was injured and eventually lost his starting job, “Boki” was eventually traded to New Jersey for center Marc Jackson and forward Linton Johnson, both of whom played a role in the team’s 2006 playoff run.

By the way, without the Hornets’ involvement in that trade the Miami Heat would probably never have become Eastern Conference champions. Pat Riley’s club netted Jason Williams, James Posey and Antoine Walker in that historic deal. All three played a major role in their late-season playoff run and postseason success.

So what is the Hornets’ outlook for this summer?

Jeff Bower is in charge of his first draft after taking over as general manager last October. The Hornets own three picks in the June 28 draft (12th, 15th, and 43rd). They’ve only held three picks in the same draft twice in franchise history. In their initial NBA season (1988) they selected Rex Chapman, Tom Tolbert (yes, the follically challenged broadcaster), and Jeff Moore. The only other time they had as many as three draft picks was in 1996 when they chose Kobe Bryant (in a prearranged deal, he was subsequently traded to the Lakers for center Vlade Divac), Tony Delk, and Malik Rose. That was arguably the team’s most successful draft-day collection of players picked.

In addition, they must make decisions on free agents-to-be Speedy Claxton and Rasual Butler. That process begins on July 1.

Flagship radio stations KTOK (1000-AM) in Oklahoma City and WODT (1280-AM) in New Orleans will provide live, draft day coverage beginning at 6:30pm on June 28. Cox Sports Television in Louisiana and Cox Communications in Oklahoma will carry a special hour-long post-draft synopsis of the Hornets’ draft beginning on July 1.

I’ve come up with my top 20 list of prospects in the upcoming draft, with a little twist. I decided to mandate four prospects AT EACH POSITION in order to complete my list. So, if one of your favorite players is missing from my list understand that I wanted to provide a well-rounded pool of players that may help you follow the first half of the first round as NBA teams draft for: (1) need, (2) upside, (3) immediate impact, (4) team style of play. Keep in mind…players are listed by position and in alphabetical order.

POINT GUARD

MARDY COLLINS – 6-6, 220, SR, TEMPLE – GREAT SIZE FOR A POINT GUARD. LED TEMPLE TO FOUR STRAIGHT NIT APPEARANCES. SECOND-MOST STEALS AND FOURTH ALL-TIME LEADING SCORER FOR THE OWLS.

DANIEL GIBSON – 6-2, 190 SOPH, TEXAS – SOLID OUTSIDE SHOOTER WITH GOOD SIZE FOR A POINT GUARD; FIRST LONGHORNS FRESHMAN TO LEAD TEAM IN SCORING.

RAJON RONDO – 6-2, 171, SOPH, KENTUCKY – UP-TEMPO POINT GUARD WHO LED THE SEC IN ASSISTS AND LED THE WILDCATS IN REBOUNDING LAST SEASON.

MARCUS WILLIAMS – 6-3, 205, JR, UCONN – PURE POINT GUARD WITH GREAT COURT VISION. AVERAGED 8.6 APG IN BIG EAST GAMES THIS SEASON.

SHOOTING GUARD

RONNIE BREWER – 6-7, 220, JR, ARKANSAS – FATHER RON HELPED LEAD RAZORBACKS INTO THE NCAA FINAL FOUR IN 1978. HAS A QUICK FIRST STEP AND IS AN ACTIVE DEFENDER, HE ALSO LED ARKANSAS IN SCORING (18.4 PPG) AND WAS A FIRST TEAM ALL-SEC SELECTION.

RANDY FOYE – 6-4, 210, SR, VILLANOVA – ASSOCIATED PRESS FIRST TEAM ALL-AMERICA AFTER LEADING ‘NOVA WITH A 20.5 PPG AVG LAST SEASON. FINISHED SECOND ON THE TEAM IN ASSISTS, REBOUNDING AND STEALS. IS A TOUGH DEFENDER WHO CAN GUARD BIGGER PLAYERS.

J.J. REDICK – 6-4 190 SR., DUKE – WOODEN, NAISMITH, AND ASSOCIATED PRESS PLAYER OF THE YEAR. ALL-TIME LEADING SCORER AT DUKE AND THE ACC…16TH ALL-TIME IN NCAA HISTORY WITH OVER 2,700 POINTS.

BRANDON ROY – 6-6 215 SR, WASHINGTON – PAC-10 PLAYER OF THE YEAR AFTER AVG 20 PPG AND SHOOTING 40% FROM 3-PT RANGE. PLAYS UNDER CONTROL, IS A GOOD BALL HANDLER, AND PASSER.

SMALL FORWARD

RODNEY CARNEY – 6-7, 205, SR, MEMPHIS – HOLDS THE MEMPHIS RECORD FOR CAREER MADE 3-POINTERS AND IS THE SCHOOL’S THIRD ALL-TIME SCORER. HE’S A TREMENDOUS ATHLETE WHO GETS GREAT ELEVATION ON HIS JUMPER AND IS AN ACTIVE DEFENDER.

RUDY GAY – 6-9, 220, SOPH , UCONN – ALL-BIG EAST FIRST TEAM SELECTION AFTER LEADING THE HUSKIES IN SCORING LAST SEASON (AT 15 PPG). HE’S VERY LONG AND VERSATILE WITH SHOT-BLOCKING ABILITY. HE HAS RANGE TO KNOCK DOWN 3-POINTERS, AND ATHLETICISM TO DRIVE TO THE BASKET.

ADAM MORRISON – 6-8, 205, JR, GONZAGA – HAS A COMPLETE OFFENSIVE REPERTOIRE. LED DIVISION I IN SCORING (28.1 PPG) AND SET A SCHOOL RECORD FOR POINTS IN A SEASON WITH 926. HE SCORED 40+ POINTS FIVE TIMES…AND 30+ POINTS 14 TIMES. HE SHARED A PAIR OF NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE YEAR HONORS WITH DUKE’S J.J. REDICK.

SHAWNE WILLIAMS – 6-9, 225, FROSH, MEMPHIS – CONFERENCE USA FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR AFTER LEADING ALL CONFERENCE FIRST-YEAR PLAYERS IN SCORING (13.2 PPG) AND REBOUNDING (6.2 RPG). WAS THE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT MVP. HE’S LONG AND ATHLETIC WITH BALL-HANDLING AND PASSING SKILLS.

POWER FORWARDS

ANDREA BARGNANI – 6-10, 225, 21 YRS OLD, ITALY – HE HAS BEEN COMPARED TO DIRK NOWITZKI BECAUSE OF HIS COMBINATION OF SIZE, ATHLETICISM AND LONG-RANGE SHOOTING ABILITY. ACCORDING TO EUROBASKET.COM HE CAN BEAT DEFENDERS OFF THE DRIBBLE, HAS A FLUID SHOT AND A QUICK RELEASE.

CEDRIC SIMMONS – 6-9, 235, SOPH, NC STATE – NAMED TO THE ACC’S ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM AFTER BLOCKING 80 SHOTS IN JUST 32 GAMES, WHICH WAS SECOND-MOST EVER IN WOLFPACK HISTORY. HE HAS A 7-4 WINGSPAN.

TYRUS THOMAS – 6-9, 215, FROSH, LSU – THIS BATON ROUGE, LA NATIVE AND MCKINLEY HS GRAD WAS THE SEC FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR AND THE CONFERENCE’S CO-DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR AFTER RECORDING 99 BLOCKED SHOTS IN JUST 32 GAMES (3.1 PER GAME). ONLY SHAQUILLE O’NEAL BLOCKED MORE SHOTS IN TIGERS HISTORY. HE HAS TREMENDOUS LENGTH AND LEAPING ABILITY. NICKNAME IS “T-TIME”.

SHELDEN WILLIAMS – 6-9, 250, SR, DUKE – THIS OKLAHOMA CITY NATIVE AND MIDWEST CITY HS GRAD IS ONE OF JUST THREE PLAYERS IN NCAA HISTORY TO RECORD 1,500 POINTS, 1,000 REBOUNDS, 350 BLOCKS AND 150 STEALS IN A CAREER. DAVID ROBINSON AND PERVIS ELLISON ARE THE OTHERS. HE WAS NAMED FIRST-TEAM ALL-AMERICA BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS AND WAS THE ACC’S DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR. NICKNAMED “THE LANDLORD” FOR HIS DOMINATING PRESENCE IN THE PAINT.

CENTER

LaMARCUS ALDRIDGE – 6-11, 240, SOPH, TEXAS – WAS THE BIG 12’S DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR AND FIRST-TEAM ALL-BIG 12 AFTER AVERAGING 15 PPG AND 9.2 RPG. HE RECORDED 16 DOUBLE-DOUBLES. HE’S AN ATHLETIC BIG MAN WHO CAN SCORE FACING THE BASKET AS WELL AS POSTING UP.

HILTON ARMSTRONG – 6-11, 235, SR, UCONN – WAS THE BIG EAST DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR AFTER BLOCKING 107 SHOTS IN 34 GAMES (3.2 BLOCKS PER GAME). HAS GOOD HANDS AND A LARGE WINGSPAN. HE ATTENDED PEEKSKILL HS IN N.Y – SAME AS ELTON BRAND.

PATRICK O’BRYANT – 7-0, 260, SOPH, BRADLEY – HAS A NICE COMBINATION OF SIZE AND ATHLETICSM.

AARON GRAY – 7-0 270 JR., PITTSBURGH – WAS NAMED THE BIG EAST’S MOST IMPROVED PLAYER AFTER BECOMING THE FIRST PANTHER EVER TO AVERAGE A DOUBLE-DOUBLE FOR THE SEASON (13.9 PPG/10.5 RPG). HAD NEVER STARTED A COLLEGIATE GAME UNTIL LAST SEASON WHEN HE STARTED ALL 33 HE PLAYED IN.

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