Charlotte Hornets mock draft 1.0: Who will the team select with the sixth overall pick?

Break out the crystal balls.

As the annual NBA Draft rapidly approaches, pundits and so-called experts from all over attempt to decipher every little nugget, hoping for the slightest insight on which player is bound for a particular destination.

This year seems particularly tricky.

With no definitive star player in the class, it could be one of the most unpredictable drafts in league history due to the sheer amount of ambiguous chatter. There are rumblings the No. 1 overall selection could be either of the top two French prospects, Alex Sarr or Zaccharie Risacher. Atlanta is on the clock first and will set the table for everyone else.

We’re just over a month away from the league’s initial foray into making the draft a multi-day event, taking a page from their NFL counterparts, and undoubtedly things remain murky at the top of a draft considered the weakest in at least a decade.

But we’ll give it a go.

Here is our initial Charlotte Hornets-themed mock draft:

No. 6 pick

Name: Stephon Castle

Position: PG/SG

Team: Connecticut

Viewed as a combo guard by scouts even though he’s projecting himself as an NBA point guard, Castle stands 6 feet, 6 inches and could be a perfect fit for a team in dire need of backcourt depth behind LaMelo Ball.

In the midst of the league’s longest playoff drought — at eight years and counting — the Hornets need to add players who can help reshape the team’s culture. Bringing in Castle, who was a key part of the Huskies’ national championship team, could be a boost given the pedigree he displayed under Connecticut’s no-nonsense head coach Dan Hurley.

Castle averaged three assists per game, displaying a knack for getting the ball to others. And he can help crash the glass, pulling in 4.7 rebounds per outing for the Huskies. But if Castle is going to see extensive action at shooting guard at the pro level, he’ll have to improve his outside shot.

At UConn, Castle sank 26.7% of his 3-pointers. The reigning Big East player of the year connected on an impressive 15 of 23 attempts in the 3-point star drill at the NBA Draft Combine and made 56.7% shooting off the dribble.

“I can do it on both ends and I take pride in doing it on both ends,” Castle said at the combine. “I feel like I have a pretty good offensive skill set and I feel like I wasn’t able to showcase it as much as I probably want to. But at the end of the day, we still won a national championship. And I feel that shows that I can be on the court and play in so many different ways and still impact the game.”

Some mocks suggest Castle’s ex-teammate Donovan Clingan could land in Charlotte instead. But that seems unlikely due to the roster’s current composition.

Mark Williams is entrenched as the starting center and unless the Hornets are concerned about his long-term health — and there have been no indications that’s the case from either side — it doesn’t make sense to draft Clingan. Unless the Hornets plan to move backup Nick Richards to another team, Clingan isn’t a fit because today’s NBA game isn’t built around two 7-footers. Spacing just isn’t at a premium.

Sure, Charlotte could use help on its front line due to trading PJ Washington to Dallas for Grant Williams, Seth Curry and a top-two protected first-round pick in 2027. They need someone more in the line of Washington, who mostly played power forward but also saw extensive action as the reserve center during his four-plus seasons with the Hornets.

No. 42 pick

Name: Dillon Jones

Position: SF

Team: Weber State

Two years ago, the Hornets drafted a South Carolina native in the second round, taking Bryce McGowens. The stage is set for them to potentially do it again.

Jones, who hails from Columbia, could provide the Hornets with another option to use on the wing. He had a fabulous fourth season at Weber State after electing to return to school following his sophomore year. He’s blossomed since leaving Keenan High School following his junior season — where he propelled his team to a 3A state title — to play his final year of prep ball in Kansas.

Dillon Jones (51) and Jamir Watkins (5) participate during the 2024 NBA Draft Combine at Wintrust Arena.
Dillon Jones (51) and Jamir Watkins (5) participate during the 2024 NBA Draft Combine at Wintrust Arena.

Named the 2024 Big Sky Conference MVP, Jones was a well-rounded player for Weber State, checking in as the school’s all-time leader in steals, He ranks second in assists and made free throws, third in rebounds, and fifth in points, and the 56 double-doubles he amassed in his career are the second-most in program history.

In his final year, he averaged 20.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 5.2 assists, starting in all 31 games. According to Sports Reference, he is one of two players to record at least 600 points, 300 rebounds, 150 assists, and 50 steals in a single season since 1992-93.

A finalist for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year award, Jones finished 23rd in the nation in scoring and overall rebounds per game. He was also the lone player to lead a conference in all three categories.

Those accolades should be enough for the Hornets to possibly take a good peek at another player from the Palmetto State.