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The Charlotte Hornets traded a protected future first-round pick to select Kai Jones 19th in the 2021 NBA Draft, leaving the franchise with the possibility of having zero first-rounders in 2022 if the Hornets finish with a top-12 winning percentage in the league this season. The bright side; if Jones hits, along with James Bouknight, the Hornets won’t need it.
At The Hive Live interviewed Jones on the most-recent episode of the podcast, which can be found here for those interested in listening.
The Nassau, Bahamas native moved to Orlando, Fla. as a high schooler to dedicate himself to basketball and later wound up at Brewster Academy for a post-grad year. He committed to Texas and spent two seasons with the Longhorns, in which he started 14 games and hit 55.3 percent of his field goal attempts. Following his sophomore year, Jones declared for the 2021 Draft alongside teammate Greg Brown III.
Considering this was literally one of the first things Jones did in a Hornets uniform, it’s hard for fans not to be really excited about his potential. A 6-foot-10 athlete with eye-popping verticality, open-court speed and potential floor-spacing ability is not an easy find these days, and judging by his media availabilities, he seems to have a remarkable work ethic. Provided he reaches his ceiling — and there’s a reasonable chance that happens in the environment the Hornets developmental staff has cultivated — Jones is a perfect running mate for LaMelo Ball.
The frequency at which Jones contributes to the Hornets this season remains to be seen, but he believes in his ability to make an impact and the coaches do, too. At 221 pounds, there will be nights where the sheer physicality of the NBA hinders his effectiveness, which is the biggest reason why we might see him in Greensboro this season. There have been a few less-than-stellar defensive possessions so far during his preseason minutes, but all rookies struggle on defense and if there are going to be clips like the one below, those struggles are a lot easier to stomach:
In last year’s season-opener, head coach James Borrego employed a 10-man rotation. I think it’s safe to assume the minutes distribution will look similar in this year’s opener, meaning we may see Jones on the floor opening night. If he’s a regular member of the rotation from the outset, fans can assume that he’s absolutely crushed it in practice; if not, we can give Jones some time to grow, which we knew he could need the moment he was drafted.