NBA Rookie Countdown: No. 9 — Frank Kaminsky

As we continue our 2015-16 NBA Preview, we’re taking a look at the top ten picks of the 2015 NBA Draft and what they mean to the teams that drafted them.

In case you missed it, here’s our profile for Justise Winslow.

Today, we delve into the Charlotte Hornets, who surprise (!!!), for the third year in a row drafted a “stretch” big man when they took 2015 Naismith Award Winner Frank Kaminsky.

Why He Was Drafted?
As I stated above, Kaminsky was among the top players in the nation last season, averaging an impressive 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, while posting an unbelievable shooting line of 55/42/78. If you’re new here, Kaminsky’s shooting line/skillset is made most impressive by the fact that he’s 7-feet tall and weighs almost 250 pounds. Translation: he has legit NBA center size.

However, as you can probably tell from his ability to shoot threes and my labeling of him as a stretch big, the former Badger’s greatest strengths comes more from his ability than his size. Drawing comparisons to everyone from Pau Gasol (because white) to Channing Frye, Kaminsky’s greatest attribute in college was his offense, as he could score from a number of different places on the court, and is a well above average passer and ball handler, which he showcased by leading the way for the nation’s top offense last season.

Whether or not Kaminsky’s game translate to the next level is yet to be seen, but there’s a legitimate chance that if he reaches his potential, he could be one of the best inside-outside big men in the league. Let’s take a look at what he’s capable of:

Impressive…now let’s see what he does well on the hardwood:

Alright…enough joking around, now as a basketball player:

As you can see, Kaminsky looked very comfortable knocking down the NBA three, as he shot 7/18 (39-percent, not too shabby) from deep in Summer League. Granted it’s only Summer League, but if Pacers fans can deem Myles Turner the future and Knicks fans can be over the moon about Kristaps Porzingins, I think Kaminsky’s averages of 15.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game should give Hornets fans something to be excited about for this season.

How Does he Fit in with the Hornets?
After finishing the 2013-14 season with a 43-39 record and making the playoffs, then landing Lance Stephenson in the offseason, I don’t think anyone could have predicted that the Hornets would take such a huge nose dive last season. Stephenson bombed, the teams’ three best players in Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist combined to miss 64 games, and the team wound up missing free agent departure Josh McRoberts’ offensive diversity more than expected en route to a 33-49 record.

The good news is Steve Clifford’s squad maintained a top-ten defense despite being the third worst team in the league scoring the ball, and former number two overall pick Kidd-Gilchrist (who’s expected to miss probably the entire 2015-16 season with a torn labrum) really took a step in the right direction.

As you can tell, there was a lot more bad than good heading into this season, which caused some major roster overhaul once the year was over. The team traded Stephenson essentially for Spencer Hawes, ANOTHER stretch big, they gave up on last year’s lottery selection, big man Noah Vonleh, who they packaged with Gerald Henderson for Portland’s Nicolas Batum, a decent three and d wing who’s best known for his defense, and sort of hitting his ceiling early in his career. They also traded for unproven wing Jeremy Lamb, and signed combo guard Jeremy Lin to replace Mo Williams, who was actually one of the Hornets’ bright spots last season. And what would a Michael Jordan owned franchise’s offseason be without the addition of a Tar Heel, as the team signed Tyler Hansbrough, who’s outstanding at doing things like this:

I don’t know that the transactions Charlotte made this summer really give them any more direction than they had last season when they stunk, but after finishing along the bottom of all three-point categories, swapping Batum in for Henderson and adding Hawes and Kaminsky into the mix should help them improve slightly in terms of outside shooting.

That’s about the best thing I can say about this team for now. It’s really a shame that Kidd-Gilchrist won’t be able to contribute to this team, because he and Cody Zeller seemed to be coming along nicely. With that said, maybe this opens up more opportunities for Kaminsky to play, as he seems like a perfect pick-and-pop partner with Walker, and is really a great complimentary piece in the front court next to Al Jefferson, who’s one of the NBA’s best interior scorers.

It’ll be interesting to see how Kaminsky fits defensively with this team, as he and Zeller seem to have relatively similar skill sets (I swear I’m not just comparing two guys because they’re white and from Big Ten schools), and Clifford is a coach who thrives on defense. With both of these players being so young, I don’t really expect them to be fighting for minutes, as I think Kaminsky’s versatility should earn him playing time regardless of who else is out there.

What Should We Expect Out of Him?
In terms of actual basketball, not fantasy basketball or glory stats, I don’t think it’s a great look for a rookie to come into the league without a definitive role. On one hand, this team will probably be about as bad as they were last season, so Kaminsky will be able to play a ton of minutes and try to figure the NBA game out, but I think that could turn into him also struggling a lot both mentally and physically.

Offensively, this isn’t an efficient team, and having noted their struggles to shoot the ball, Frank the Tank may already be their most gifted shooter (aside from Troy Daniels who probably won’t see as much playing time as he should). With that said, I’m almost expecting Kaminsky to be an opening day starter, as he should be able to help them score better than Zeller or Hawes.

Again, as much as there seems to be a logjam of stretch bigs on this team, Hawes stinks, Zeller is still a relatively unknown commodity, and Jefferson had knee problems last year, so I think there will be plenty of minutes to go around for Kaminsky to feasibly play around 30 a night. With the way this team struggled to score last season, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wisconsin product finishes the season as a top five rookie scorer, and with his athleticism and ability to score from all over the place, I don’t think he’ll be one of the rookies that we label a disappointment in his first year.

Unless he starts dancing.

About Jared Mintz

Jared has worked in ESPN's Production Research and Stats and Analysis Departments, and has contributed to websites such as IamaGM, SBNation, FanSided, and Bro Jackson. He's a Knicks fan, so he's been forced to watch the NBA objectively for the last 15 (going on infinity) years. Follow him on Twitter at @JMintzHoops

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