In their second session of private workouts of NBA Draft eligible players on Friday, the Hornets hosted their highest rated prospect yet. But can the Hornets afford to select soon-to-be 19-year-old forward Thaddeus Young with the 13th overall pick? That's the question facing Hornets' personnel over the next 2½ weeks. Young, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound freshman out of Georgia Tech, is widely projected to be taken by the Hornets in the June 28 draft. He projects as a prototypical NBA small forward with versatility and athleticism. But neither Hornets general manager Jeff Bower nor coach Byron Scott sounded as if Young could immediately fill the team's void on the wing or be the final piece that lifts the team into the playoffs after a three-year absence. "I don't know if he would be ready,” Scott said. "The one thing that I do like about him and that I saw out there on the court is that he's a very fast learner. He has a great basketball IQ and has a good feel for the game. "Can he accelerate the process as far as the learning curve is concerned? Probably so. It'll probably just be a matter of time.” Time the Hornets don't seem to have on their side after narrowly missing the playoffs each of the past two seasons. Add to that, Desmond Mason likely will sign elsewhere in free agency this summer, and the Hornets will have a pressing need for a quality shooting guard once Peja Stojakovic moves back to his customary small forward position. Scott all but admitted Friday that the Hornets can't afford to wait on a developing prospect like Young, at least not if they want to win now. "If you're San Antonio and you can wait, then you take a Thaddeus, because you can wait two or three years before he really develops,” Scott said. "If you're a team that needs help now, then you've got to take the guy that you feel can help you right away.” Bower, however, whose success rate will be judged on both the short and long term, said Young's inexperience wouldn't dissuade him from drafting him at 13 — even if he isn't a rotation player next season. "The thing we're going to do with the pick is, we can't look at it as a one-year return,” Bower said. "We have to look at it over the long term and over the course of an athlete's projected future. "It's easy to say that anybody in the draft after one year isn't going to be ready to be a piece to put you over the hump. But I don't think that's fair to them or to the whole process.” There's still the chance that Young will pull out of the draft by the league imposed June 18 deadline. Young still has not signed with an agent but said he would stay in the draft if he's one of the top 14 players selected. "If things hit the wall, it's a win-win situation,” Young said. "I could go back to school, or I could stay in the draft. Either way is good. Right now, I'm just looking for some great information and a lot of great feedback. If I keep getting a lot of great feedback, I'll stay in.” Joining Young on Friday were Arizona sophomore guard Marcus Williams, Virginia Tech senior guard Zabian Dowdell and Ohio State senior guard Ron Lewis.
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