Charlotte Bobcats: NBA Draft

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In the lottery again, the balls never bounce how they should for this team.  It seems rigged.  David Kahn of Minnesota joked about it, then everyone had a say about his comments.  I mean what can you expect?  They tried to make the playoffs, not land in the bottom 3.  But couldn’t we hope for a little luck?  Just a little?

When you think about the draft, there is so much hope, so much of the team’s future success riding on it.  The Bobcats are keeping a lot of their coverage in house this year, I think because it is a rebuilding year and if you determine the story lines you can determine to an extent the public perception.  With this team needing to make waves in Charlotte, you’d want them to share as much information as possible.  The perception is that they compete with the Panthers in a small market, for attention, money, corporate sponsorships.  It’s hard for anyone outside of say Bank of America or Wells Fargo/Wachovia of the major players in Charlotte to spread their corporate dollar between the two.  The Panthers had the #1 overall pick in a loaded NFL Draft last month.  Viral videos, analysis, commentary and all that goes with it are abundant surrounding young Cam Newton.

Now the NBA is a different beast.  The worst team doesn’t get the #1 pick automatically.  The NBA used to let untested high school kids in, now they have to spend a year somewhere, college or overseas before.  Overseas is another huge impact on the NBA game.

Rather than players you’ve looked at, seen on New Years day and heard picked apart for months following the Super Bowl and seen them come up through 3 years, at least of consistent play, you’re looking at college freshmen, International players who have played against who knows what, upside, potential, uneven stats, wildly varied coaching styles and playing styles.  To put it plainly, the NFL Draft is a science, the NBA Draft is a modern art expo.

So what are the Bobcats’ plans?  We aren’t so sure.  At pick number nine there are a plethora of options.  I would take the best available player regardless of position.  No one is safe on the current roster, there are no protected positions.  You could go by need.  What are the Bobcats biggest needs?  Scoring?  Definitely.  Second to last in points per game last year, third from the bottom the year before.  Rebounds are needed as well.  25th in total rebounds last year, 22nd the year before.  Three point shooting was lacking last year, 29th in the league, on step above the bottom in 3 point percentage.  You aren’t likely to find a guy who puts up big numbers, stretches the defense to the perimeter and gets a lot of rebounds, oh and the defense let up from best overall in 2009-2010 to 11th in 2010-2011, so you can’t have a slacker on that end.

There is no perfect player for the Bobcats needs.  Luckily, or rather fortunately, the Bobcats made a trade that will open things up and gave them an additional pick this year at #19.  19th overall is no slouch position to be in.  Check out the Draft History of the 9, 19 and 39th picks that Bobcats.com has compiled.  Names like JJ Hickson, Hakeem Warick, Zach Randolph, they all give hope to that “other” pick in the first round.

I’m confident, I’m hopeful and I’m optimistic.  All those are hard to be when you’ve seen the draft, what’s out there this year, when you look at Michael Jordan’s history of drafting, when you think that the only 2 players the Bobcats drafted that are still on the team are DJ Augustin and Gerald Henderson.  It’s a big leap of faith to be optimistic with those likely negatives creeping into the argument.

This draft is regarded as weak simply because there are no game changers as labeled by the masses and by ESPN.  None of the guys towards the top were on ESPN in high school games.  I don’t remember hearing Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams mentioned in the “elite” players coming into the NCAA season.  I don’t remember if Jay Bilas had them as the “Best Available” when they wrap the Draft coverage by saying “it’s never to early to look towards next season.”  So, it doesn’t mean this is a bad draft, in my mind anyway, it just means that these players aren’t overhyped.

Look at previous years.  Last year it was John Wall, Evan Turner, Derrick Favors and Demarcus Cousins.  None of them made an impact and the Rookie of the Year was an injury hold over from the year before’s draft.  You can’t really fault John Wall for not getting rookie of the year when Blake Griffin made such an impact and no one could help him being held out his actual rookie year, but the point persists.  When is the last time a rookie buoyed a team’s hopes out of the lottery?  Today’s NBA if you need an analogy is more about building blocks or puzzle pieces than about rockets and elevators.

Michael Jordan gets a bad rap when it comes to drafting.  Kwame Brown, his first ever pick, didn’t work out.  He didn’t suck but he didn’t work out like a #1 overall pick.  No one wants to label the Raptors a bad drafting team because of Andrea Bargnani.  Andrew Bogut isn’t an All-Star, have the Bucks been labeled horrible at drafting?  I don’t know actually, I am not in either of those fan bases to hear the gripes and to feel the trepidation.  Kwame has come around since 2001.  Hell, the Lakers liked him, he averaged 10.2 in his third season, he’s always been around 1 block per game and his rebound numbers never sucked.  Get over Kwame.  Adam Morrison, at #3 back in 2006, Jordan’s first year involved in basketball operations, it was a good pick.  At the time, Morrison was the only player on commercials, in people’s minds.  He was the best pick in that position on draft night, no doubt in my mind.  The positions of Center (Okafor), Point Guard (Felton), Small Forward (Wallace) were set, with a hopeful look to Sean May to be the Power Forward everyone hoped he’d be, the only spot open or missing was shooting guard and Morrison fit that bill.  His head wasn’t in it and his knee exploded when he tried to make a simple defensive shift, that doen’t make it a bad draft pick.  Augustin over Lopez, ehh wash.  Trading Brendan Wright for Jason Richardson was brilliant, taking Jared Dudley at 22 might have been even more so.  Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown, quality, value picks in their time.

Show me how awful the picks were, without bias and without acting like you knew more than everyone else at the time and I’ll fully agree with you that Michael Jordan and this team has a hard time drafting.  Otherwise, I don’t see evidence of poor drafting.  Letting Larry Brown take the reigns and shake the roster up and down and to go with no draft pick last year and all that, yeah that is a question.  But looking at where the Bobcats have landed, regardless of how they got there, and looking at the players they took, I can’t find major fault with any of it.

So, through a series of trades and injuries, refusing to resign and throwing in players, the Bobcats are left with only 2 players that they actually drafted themselves.  That’s fine.  To me, a team is built as much through trade and free agency as through the draft.  Because of the subjective nature of the NBA Draft, players don’t often pan out as they are scouted to be.  The NBA isn’t like the NFL in that regard and while the Hornets had limited success with several high profile draft picks back in the early 90’s, the city of Charlotte tends to forget that teams don’t often build gradually through the draft.

So yes, I’m confused.  I don’t know what they’ll do and I don’t know how they’re going to go about it, but I have faith as a fan and I have hope for the future.  I don’t know about all this “Own Tomorrow” stuff I’ve seen around websites and on twitter, as a marketing campaign anyway, but I do think tomorrow can be good for the Bobcats.  Whoever they take at #9, #19 and #39 could be cornerstones of this team for years to come.  Or they could be the potential that hooks a major free agent.  Or they could be trade bait for a team looking for a little spark or a little help that will give up future flexibility to enable us to be in this position all over again.  Potential and Upside, hate it, but it’s the best we can go off of today.