The Hornets selected Noah Vonleh with the ninth pick in the NBA draft on Thursday. Here’s a look at Vonleh and how he fits with Charlotte:
Bio: Indiana | Freshman | Power forward
Vitals: 6-9, 247 pounds
2013-14 stats: 11.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 52.3 FG%
Strengths: Perhaps Vonleh’s greatest strength is his work ethic. He once refused to go to Disney World with his family so that he could practice at a local YMCA. He also has an ideal physique for an NBA forward, with monstrous hands and a 7-4 wingspan. He is an exceptional rebounder, he hustles in transition and he showed great growth as a defensive player during his year at Indiana. Vonleh also displayed smart shot selection, connecting on 52.3 percent from the floor and a surprising 48.5 percent from beyond the arc (although he fired from deep only 33 times). Best of all, he won’t turn 19 until August, so the team that drafts Vonleh can expect even more gains.
Weaknesses: Despite that wise shot selection, Indiana would have liked for him to shoot -- and score -- more often. He has the skills and size to be an elite scorer, but still seems to lack confidence. In addition, he’ll have to transition from playing on the wing (in high school and at Indiana) to making a home in the low post. Fouls (he fouled out of two games and registered four fouls in eight more) and turnovers (2.1 per game, versus 0.6 assists) could be trouble as well.
Team Fit: Charlotte has no shortage of power forwards, but Vonleh will be the best among them in balancing out the strengths and weaknesses of center Al Jefferson. With Big Al, the Hornets have an interior workhorse to anchor their offense. What they needed was a frontcourt complement who could both space the floor and protect the rim defensively in a way that Jefferson cannot. The intersection of those skills among NBA players is rather small, but Vonleh -- who feasted on jumpers last season while averaging 2.1 blocks per 40 minutes -- resides squarely within it.
This is an exciting pick. Charlotte was a top-six defense last season with Josh McRoberts holding down the frontcourt alongside Jefferson, a testament to this team's collective feistiness and the systemic smarts of coach Steve Clifford. Vonleh can't be expected to improve Charlotte's defensive standing immediately, but in time his length and rebounding prowess bode well for this core.