Hello Hornets fans! I sit and I do a lot of reading of tweets, Facebook posts, and other related communication mediums, and I enjoy seeing all of the armchair Coach/GM/Owners discussing who we should trade for or who we should draft because we need a center. Do I agree with them? Let’s just say that aside from Vlade Divac, Alonzo Mourning, and Al Jefferson, when haven’t we needed a center? Now I’m not talking about a tall body to fill a need here, I’m talking about a quality center that can rebound, block shots and score the ball in the post, mid-range jumpers, and the occasional 3-pointers.
Yeah, I can’t think of any either. So, with the 13th and 15th picks in the draft this season, who does everyone see at 13 or 15 that is a starting NBA-ready center that we can draft? I’ve seen mocks where we draft Mark Williams, a 7’, 242lb. sophomore. Would we look to make a trade to move up in the draft to try and get 6’10”, 250lb freshman, Paolo Banchero or 6’10” 230lb freshman Jalen Duren? I don’t know that we want to jettison any of our current assets. All those guys would fit in the age range of what we are trying to do, but I just don’t know that we will make trades to get these guys, unless we see them falling in the draft and we can just move picks for a pick.
Here’s my quick take:
Sometimes the answer is right in front of your face. Granted, I believe it would be a solid move to draft a center, should one fall to us in the draft. I would not object to grabbing Williams, Banchero, or Duren, but I don’t see any of those guys coming in and being NBA-ready to start for 82 games. I do, however, know of a certain, 6’10”, 235lb center that I would welcome to the bench to start getting center minutes, and possibly take the starting role over from Plumlee about halfway through the season.
That center would be Kai Jones. Kai made some crazy noise in the G League this past season, averaging 18.3 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 blocks. He’s 21, so the age range fits the team, his first day in the arena, he kissed the Hornet at center court, and he played a good bit of the season with purple and teal hair. This kid is passionate about being in Charlotte, on the Hornets, and was amazing in the G League. Will the G League stats translate onto the NBA court? My belief is a simple yes. He’s had a season to cut his teeth in Greensboro, had a chance to mature and develop, bulked up to 235lbs, and I believe he has the open mind and desire to absorb every ounce of knowledge he can get from the other players and the coaching staff. If we draft a center, we can still do this exact same plan. It’s not exactly like we are swimming in centers, and it would not hurt at all to get another big guy on the team, in the G-League, prepping to be the backup in 23-24.
I do want to take a step back and mention that we run PJ Washington at center in some instances. He’s 6’8” and 232 lbs. I love his game inside and out, but he’s better suited to be a power forward. Plumlee isn’t a terrible option, as he is an NBA-size center, but I think we need to add some youth at that spot that can grow with the talent we have now.
Adding depth to this team is a necessity as you can see in most of these playoff losses teams are suffering right now, when the starters, or the bench does not contribute, they lose. Depth is key, and the next-man-up philosophy is what will continue to win games. The Hornets had many, many flashes of this philosophy throughout the season, but they need to find consistency from everyone.
So, do I think Kai Jones should be our starting center for the 2022-2023 season? I wouldn’t frown upon it, and if he wasn’t, I don’t have a single problem seeing him gain more and more minutes as the season ramps up, and before the trade deadline, he’s getting most all of those minutes. I’m thinking of another 6’10” player that came from the Texas Longhorns that has had a pretty decent career. Have you guys heard of Kevin Durant? I’m not saying Kai is the next Durant, but if his frame could hold about 242lbs…and even if he doesn’t grow another inch…maybe he’s the next Giannis. No pressure Kai, but I believe the sky is the limit for you. You can handle the ball like a guard, jump out of the gym, a wingspan for days, and you’re improving your range and battling in the paint. You got my vote to take the next step into NBA-Starter.