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In the second round of the NBA draft, team needs go out the window as general managers and front office’s search for any sign that a prospect could eventually crack and NBA rotation or contribute in some way to a franchise.
In Petr Cornelie, the Nuggets 2016 second-round selection, that’s precisely what Tim Connelly and the Denver front office had in mind.
“We had him graded much higher,” Connelly said of selecting Cornelie at No. 53 overall. “Stretch-5, the guy makes a lot shots. The guy kind of turned the corner in terms of productivity this year playing in the top league in France.”
Shooting, like Connelly said is the first thing that jumps out when watching Cornelie. The 20-year-old has a compact release, with great fundamentals and is usually ready to receive the ball and shoot it. Cornelie shot 40.0 percent from three throughout all international competition with Le Mans Sarthe last year and his jumper already looks NBA-ready.
It’s a confident-looking stroke and one Cornelie will tweak and improve over the next couple of seasons, where he’ll most likely play abroad. The Nuggets plan to stash the 6-foot-11 big man in Europe for the foreseeable future.
“Another dive down the road,” Connelly said of Cornelie’s ETA to the NBA. “We’ll develop him and make him part of our organization, but likely to spend a couple years overseas.”
Cornelie shows polish already in catch-and-shoot situations but is also fluid when moving on the perimeter. He’s smooth when getting in and out of a pick-and-pop and projects as more of a perimeter-oriented big at the next level, rather than someone who’s going to at least initially draw a ton of gravity when rolling to the rim.
On defense, Cornelie flashes potential as well.
Cornelie has incredibly quick feet for someone as tall as he is and could eventually be someone who is able to switch out onto smaller guards. Here, the Frenchman closes out on a skip pass, stays with the smaller guard and contest the shot enough to force a miss.
Notice how Cornelie changes direction in one fluid motion to the corner and is still is able to block the shot.
However, there are areas where Cornelie needs to improve upon if he wants to eventually make an impact with the Nuggets.
He’s still too skinny at just 220 pounds to compete with stronger players in the post and routinely gets pushed around even by smaller players inside. Cornelie’s No. 1 priority over the next couple of seasons should be to bulk up.
On offense, Cornelie is fairly limited right now to his jumper and garbage buckets on offensive rebounds. He flashes potential for a post game down the line but isn’t currently strong enough to get good positioning down low. When Cornelie does get decent position, he has trouble backing his guys down and usually ends up forcing a turnaround jumper, turns it over, or passes the ball back out to the perimeter.
Cornelie is a unique prospect, who’s still incredibly raw, but has the shot and athletic ability to one day find a rotation spot in the NBA. He’s also shown the skills and potential as a rim protector and has a developing basketball IQ that will get better with more reps. He’s just 20 and has been playing in the top league in France for the last three years, something that should continue to help in that development.
He has great leaping ability, plus athleticism, and good timing on his block attempts.
Modern-day NBA big man can no longer get by with just being one-way players. Gone are the days of pure defensive players who have zero ability to pass or no feel on the offensive end. Centers with highly developed post games may put up big-time counting statistics, but if they can’t at least be passable on the defensive end, smart opposing coaches will find a way to force them to the bench.
Versatility is vital for today’s big men and Cornelie flashes the potential to be a 2-way contributor in a few years.
“We see the value in shooting,” Connelly said. “And think it was unique to get a guy at that height, with that athleticism and ability to make shots that late in the draft.”
Videos courtesy of DraftExpress