There’s always next year.
It’s the easiest four words a fan can say after a disappointing season.
For NBA fans it leads to the Draft Lottery, where up to 14 teams cling to statistical odds that could change the luck of their franchise. The Charlotte Bobcats have the third-worst record and likely will be one of those teams in May.
Some years it’s rewarding to be a bad team. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all went top five in 2003 and changed the course of their teams for many seasons.
But in other years, it’s comparable to taking two steps back and falling down.
Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Drew Gooden and Nikoloz Tskitishvili were top five selections in 2002. Unfortunately none of them had the impact that #1 pick Yao Ming did in that same draft.
Usually each draft has at least one cant-miss prospect. In 2012 it was New Orleans forward Anthony Davis. Then there’s the all-star talent who seemingly comes out of nowhere, like Portland’s Damian Lillard. After that, there’s a bunch of players who should have long careers as solid NBA rotation players, a category our own Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would fall into.
2013 could repeat the same model. UCLA guard Shabazz Muhammad might be the crown jewel. Athletic Kentucky freshmen Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin could challenge him. Jayhawks guard Ben McLemore has been very impressive. There’s always the chance that a few players shift the balance with tournament play in March.
But a few scouts don’t foresee a game-changer for 2013.
Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer picked the minds of two team scouts who are currently projected to be in the top ten of this year’s draft.
“I don’t think this is a good draft,” said one scout. “This is the year you should consider trading your draft pick – no matter where it is.”
“The draft lottery was always supposed to be about exceptional players going to the worst teams,” said one of the scouts. “We’ve eroded the concept of ‘exceptional’ – exceptional doesn’t really exist anymore.”
In the past the Bobcats have struck out on key picks in the draft lottery, one of the reasons they’ve made the postseason once in eight seasons. Sure solid draft pick, like say Gerald Henderson is under team control for four years, improves his game all while being relatively inexpensive. But ultimately that player doesn’t and hasn’t progressed a franchise.
Are the Bobcats in store for more of the same in this draft?
Trading the draft pick doesn’t always guarantee an immediate upgrade in talent. 2009 wasn’t regarded as a great draft class and the Wizards traded the fifth pick for two bench players in Randy Foye and Mike Miller. You could always deal for future picks in an upcoming draft, and the Bobcats could certainly combine picks they have now to sweeten their pursuit of DeMarcus Cousins.
More of the same though isn’t great. Hoosier’s big man Cody Zeller would certainly fill a need of a frontcourt player, but how much does he legitimately change your picture?
“That’s what we all do,” the scout concluded. “We draft guys who are a lot like the ones we already have, only the guys we already have are better at least right now.
Whether it’s spending big in free agency or making a gutsy trade, the Bobcats need to find a way to get an exceptional talent to push their young nucleus out the Eastern Conference cellar. This time of year fans of bad teams are increasing their views of prospects and the usage of the word “potential” is at an all-time high. But this could very well be another year, where being bad isn’t so good.
“But these guys are younger, so we get excited in the moment. And then you come to realize you haven’t changed much with your high pick.”