NBA

International Scouting Report: Petr Cornelie

Among international prospects in this year’s draft class, there aren’t many potential difference-makers that are sure to be highly sought after in June. The class is headlined by Dragan Bender, who is phenomenal and likely a top-5 pick in 2016, but after him, a group of highly unproven but intriguing options presents. One of those guys is Petr Cornelie, a French power forward playing for Le Mans in the LNB Pro A league.

Much like fellow international draft prospects Paul Zipser, Furkan Korkmaz and Zhou Qi, Cornelie is a player who could be a nice fit as an NBA rotation player but has some questions that may mean he’s a lifer in Europe.

Prospect Profiles: Marko Arapovic | Cedi Osman | Tomas Satoransky | Paul Zipser

Cornelie has been an impressive all-around player for Le Mans in 2015-16. Through 30 games, Cornelie has averaged 7.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, and is shooting 40.0 percent from beyond the arc. He’s been a regular contributor for the 2nd-best squad in France, a group that includes former NBA players in Mickael Gelabale and Damion James and fellow NBA Draft prospect Jonathan Jeanne. He’s developed well from this year to last, to the point that he’s sitting in the back of the first round of the latest Draft Express mock draft. But he’s still very raw.

Can Cornelie continue that growth and become an impact player at the next level?

Offense

Watching Cornelie play in France, it’s easy to see how he’s a draw as an offensive player. Cornelie’s skill set points to him being a well-rounded role player that can play both as a stretch four and as a pick-and-roll dive man. Teams will always be interested in a 7-0 forward who can shoot 3s, and Cornelie’s been solid there this year — hitting 38.9 percent from outside in LNB play and an impressive 42.1 percent in 10 EuroCup games.

Le Mans began the experiment of using Cornelie in the pick-n-pop and as a spot-up shooter early on in EuroCup play, and now it appears to be a regular staple of his offense. He has a funky release on his shot, but it’s consistent and he has improved as the season goes on at hitting 3-pointers with pressure. With continued development, this should be a big part of Cornelie’s game if he comes to the NBA.

Cornelie also gets used a lot as the screener in the pick-and-roll, and performs well here by using his long wingspan and excellent touch to finish around the rim. He has impressive footwork on releasing from screens and is smart in finding holes in the defense to sink into to be used as an outlet on drives. These skills are also highly coveted and would, in theory, make Cornelie a very versatile big as someone who can space the floor next to a Brook Lopeztype center or run a variety of pick-and-rolls in small-ball lineups. He also has shown excellent instincts on the offensive glass, averaging just under three offensive rebounds per 36 minutes over the past two seasons.

The reason for all the “could be” and “in theory” talk is that Cornelie is missing a major piece of being the type of player who could excel as an NBA finisher and screen-setter: strength.

Cornelie has the height, footwork and finish to be that type of player, but he’s only 220 pounds and has to put some bulk on his frame in order to be a serious threat with these aspects of his game in the NBA. Cornelie has been pushed around at times by bigger centers, especially when it comes to rebounding, and he really hasn’t made significant strides in this department over the past two seasons. If he can get on an NBA strength and conditioning program, I’d feel better about him getting there. But simply put, it’s hard to have DeAndre Jordan‘s skill set when you have rookie Kevin Garnett‘s frame. 3-point shooting is going to be huge for him early on, because he’s not a great passer, either.

Defense

On the other side of the ball, Cornelie has a similar prognosis: the pieces are there, but there are concerns about him putting it all together.

On one hand, you have to like a guy with his wingspan as a potential rim protector, and while he’s not posting overly gaudy shot blocking numbers (0.9 blocks per 36), he has good technique and timing when rotating as a weakside shot blocker. He’s also shown good flashes in defending the pick-and-roll, hedging and switching well onto ball-handlers and showing good quickness on closeouts. Cornelie’s footwork on the defensive end is excellent, and he can cover a lot of ground and stay with guards, making him a potentially strong team perimeter defender.

On the ball, Cornelie isn’t as strong, but he uses his size well to contain penetration and his length to contest shots even when he gets beat. Sometimes he struggles with positioning, and sometimes he doesn’t communicate switches well by attempting to stay with his man over conceding a need to switch and messing up a rotation. He also has issues defending the post, which again is a result of his strength issue. However, Cornelie is probably better served defending away from the post anyway, due to his skills playing as a free safety, and his fundamental issues in isolation are likely correctable with proper coaching.

The major thing holding Cornelie back defensively is consistency and effort. Cornelie when locked in is a good defensive prospect, but he can get lost at times and that leads to him getting beat off the dribble or put in situations where he needs to foul. Cornelie averages 5.5 fouls per 36 minutes, and a lot of that stems from his waivering focus. That’s gotten better as the season’s gone on, but Cornelie really struggled with that early on and it’s still a concern for him moving forward, given that he’s going to face far more offensive complexity at the next level than he will in France.

Overall Impression

Cornelie’s definitely a first round-level prospect. He’s a player with a diverse array of skills that could lend to him being successful as a role player at the next level, and you can easily see a route to him becoming a good two-way third forward. However, he lacks one truly elite skill that would potentially guarantee him early playing time, and it’s hard to see him coming over to the NBA right away, especially if he can’t get early minutes to develop. That creates an even bigger issue because it’s hard to see him building his strength up while continuing to play in Europe, which might make it harder for him to survive when he does come over.

Then again, the right team can mitigate that by negotiating a plan to get Cornelie over and working with him while he’s overseas. Teams like the Atlanta Hawks or San Antonio Spurs, who have experience working with international prospects while abroad, would be great landing spots for Cornelie, and he could even benefit from landing in the early second round on a team like the Celtics or Lakers who could create D-League minutes for him and guarantee time on their roster if he makes improvements.

Cornelie does have some ways to go to be an NBA player, but the raw talent is there to justify his inclusion as a potential 1st rounder.