2016 NBA draft primer: Charlotte Hornets
The Charlotte Hornets returned to the playoff mix behind Kemba Walker's career season, dramatically improved outside shooting and coach Steve Clifford's core principles: limiting turnovers and defensive rebounding. The positive result leaves Charlotte sitting at No. 22 overall in the 2016 draft, a less favorable position after five straight years of top-10 picks.
The Hornets' team needs are murky without knowing their intentions in free agency. The franchise enters the draft with five unrestricted free-agent rotation players hitting the market next month: Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin and Courtney Lee.
So if Jefferson and/or Williams leaves, they could opt for their fourth big man in four years. If Lin is out the door, the team will need to address the backup point guard position at some point this offseason. And if Batum and Lee will not be returning, the Hornets will be in desperate need of wing help. The return of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist should help alleviate the latter problem, but wing seems to be the safest bet if the franchise's self-proclaimed No. 1 target (Batum) does not stick around.
MOCK DRAFT TRACKER
Draft Express: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
The Big Ten Player of the Year emerged as one of the most productive players in college basketball, averaging a ridiculous 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists per game. What the 6-foot-6 wing lacks in pure athletecism he masks with his high basketball IQ, court vision and play-making ability.
CBS Sports: Taurean Prince, Baylor
A 3-and-D type of talent the NBA continues to mine the college ranks for, Prince enjoyed four productive seasons at Baylor and could fit nicely into Charlotte's renewed focus on outside shooting.
NBA.com: Damian Jones, Vanderbilt
Jones' physical attributes, notably his wingspan, have drawn attention in NBA circles for two years now. Still, as his quiet numbers in the SEC can attest, the franchise drafting him will bet more on his potential than his current productivity. He would be the fourth straight big man from a major collegiate conference the franchise has drafted.
PAST 3 DRAFTS
2015: Drafted Frank Kaminsky at No. 9 overall
2014: Drafted Noah Vonleh at No. 9 overall
2013: Drafted Cody Zeller at No. 4 overall