|Hairston (left) went No. 26 to Charlotte and Antetokounmpo went No. 51 to New York in last night's NBA Draft|
As expected, two out of the six D-League eligible players were selected in the NBA Draft. PJ Hairston made history as the first D-League player to be selected in the first round at No. 26, and Thanasis Antetokounmpo was selected No. 51 by the New York Knicks. Without a doubt, this is a tell-tale sign that the D-League is becoming more viable as the "official" minor league to the NBA, and it will be interesting to see how many high school and college-aged players take the path of going from the D-League to the NBA in the coming years.
For now though, let's take a look at the outlook of Hairston and Antetokounmpo for their respective organizations.
Hairston's Outlook with the Charlotte Hornets
Current Charlotte Hornets Depth Chart:
- Point Guard: Kemba Walker (starter), Luke Ridnour, Jannero Pargo
- Shooting Guard: Gerald Henderson (starter), Gary Neal, Chris Douglas-Roberts
- Small forward: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (starter), Anthony Tolliver, Jeff Taylor
- Power forward: Josh McRoberts (starter), Cody Zeller, DJ White
- Center: Al Jefferson (starter), Bismack Biyombo, Brendan Haywood
After making the playoffs last season, there will be a lot of excitement in Charlotte with the new team name change and their more positive outlook for the upcoming season in comparison to seasons past. While lottery selection Noah Vonleh will have a tough time finding minutes in a rotation with established post players such as McRoberts and Jefferson, and former first round picks Zeller and Biyombo, Hairston's situation is a little bit more optimistic. This is a Hornets team that will need shooting, as Henderson and Kidd-Gilchrist are not prone to shoot much from beyond the arc (2.5 percent 3 point attempt rate for Kidd-Gilchrist and 12.4 percent rate for Henderson). Furthermore, in terms of PER, the Hornets (formerly Bobcats) struggled to get much efficiency from their perimeter players on the offensive end as Henderson, Kidd-Gilchrist and Neal, their three primary wing players, posted PER numbers of 13.1, 12.0 and 14.1, which is below average on the PER scale (15 is considered average). Hairston will provide instant offense off the bench immediately. Hairston's proved to handle himself well at the D-League level, posting a PER of 19.6 and an eFG% of 54%. Also, he is a solid threat from outside the arc, as he shot 35 percent from beyond the arc, and nearly half of his field goal attempts were 3-point attempts.
In terms of fit, Hairston finds himself in a good situation. The Hornets were looking for a polished player who could help them out immediately, especially on the perimeter. It was widely rumored that the Hornets were going to select a player like Stauskas or McDermott considering their outside shooting ability and polish as college players. Instead, it looks like the Hornets reached for potential with their lottery pick (Vonleh) and instead found their polished player late in the first round with Hairston. Expect Hairston to compete immediately in Charlotte and find himself as a sixth/seventh man in the rotation, with potential for more playing time depending on how he progresses over the course of the season.
Antetokounmpo's Outlook with the New York Knicks
Current New York Knicks Depth Chart:
- Point guard: Jose Calderon, Pablo Prigioni, Toure Murray
- Shooting guard: Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, Shannon Brown
- Small forward: Tim Hardaway Jr., Andrea Bargnani
- Power Forward: Amare Stoudamire, Earl Clark, Kenyon Martin
- Center: Samuel Dalembert, Jeremy Tyler, Cole Aldrich
It is difficult to see where Antetokounmpo will fit considering all the roster fluctuation going on. With the Knicks trading Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton for Calderon and Dalembert, and with Carmelo Anthony a free agent, it is hard to determine if the Knicks are going to try to be competitive in 2014-2015 or if they are going to simply tank and play to get a Top-3 pick in next year's lottery. What decision they make could have an affect on the future on the older Antetokounmpo. If they try to be competitive, he most likely will be in Westchester (the Knicks' new D-League affiliate) continuing to develop. If they are punting next season, then it is possible that Antetokounmpo will get a chance to get some playing time at the NBA level.
While the situation isn't prime for immediate playing time like Hairston, Antetokounmpo will benefit from being in an organization that is now being led by Phil Jackson. The Greek forward impressed people last year with his work ethic and improvement over the course of the D-League season with Delaware, and some think the Knicks may be getting a steal at No. 51. Jackson has always been a keen eye not only for talent, but for getting the most out his talent, and it'll be interesting to see if Antetokounmpo will be another success story in Jackson's history book. My bet is Antetokounmpo will be spending another year in the D-League next season, but don't be surprised if he finds a place on the Knicks roster at some point next season, especially if they do not sign Carmelo and begin the rebuilding process in 2014-2015.