Bobcats Draft Strategy


No idea.  I have no clue what the strategy is, what the plan is, what they want, what they value highly and things they’ll overlook.  I just don’t know.  Bringing in a new GM 10 days before the draft is so bold, so different, so much of a curveball.  I like that it was elevating Rod Higgins and bringing in Rich Cho, not a complete shift and wiping out the prior regime.  He’s an additional, highly analytical, intelligent voice in the room when it’s “On the Clock” time.  But, such little history to go off of, Rich has never run his own draft as GM.  Rod didn’t have any picks last year.  We can look at Rod Higgins’s history as a GM, but his 3 drafts that he actually had picks in he’s had2 different coaches and completely different rosters and needs.  Now a third coaching staff, a different ownership structure, a new general manager and a new title.  It’s hard to say which concepts that will determine the players selected and how they will be utilized but hey, we can speculate can’t we?

The limited draft history of the Bobcats reads like a who’s who of solid college players who haven’t blossomed at the pro level and a sprinkling of “upside” guys that never panned out.  Starting in 2004 with Emeka Okafor, the Bobcats have picked players with outstanding college pedigree.  Okafor and the next year’s second first round pick, Sean May were both MOP in the NCAA tournament.  Adam Morrison was a player of the year in college.  Raymond Felton and DJ Augustin were both Bob Cousy award winners.  Jared Dudley was ACC Player of the year.  Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown were both solid character guys finishing their college careers as First-Team all-ACC and second team All-A10, respectively.

There has only been one real bust, saw it coming a mile away and reached for the guy that would never and has never turned out to be an semblance of a good player in Alexis Ajinca.  That was one, Larry Brown wanted him, Rod went and got back into the first round after taking DJ Augustin and picked Ajinca.  Taking a flier on a 7′ bean pole from France that might have some outside shot at #20 is what Malcolm McDowell or whoever is it calls “an outlier.”

The others you can certainly consider busts are Sean May and Adam Morrison.  Morrison was the Bobcats second highest pick ever at #3 the Bobcats looked past guys like Tyrus Thomas, Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay and took Morrison.  It wasn’t gutsy, it wasn’t outlandish, it wasn’t out of character.  It fell right in line with the Bobcats putting together a core that would both carry them for several years and appeal to the broadest part of an NBA fanbase that it could.  It was a smart pick.  The highest scorer from the NCAA, a white kid, the only guy who had his own commercials on draft night and an impassioned baller who cried when his team lost in the NCAA tournament.  So many people loved the pick.  You see our staff writer Nic Watson’s twitter handle is “MustachioGato” because of Morrison.  There are hundreds of fans that were drawn in by “The Great White Hope.”

Behind all that, the Bobcats should have looked deeper into his personal interviews and gauged his personality better.  It was a glaring hole that festered and turned into a gaping chasm:  passion.  They guy didn’t care much about playing the NBA game.  He was happy to score when he could, but defense wasn’t a priority, rebounding was something other guys did, and taking over games was just meant for just the right moment, moments that rarely came.  Then they should have looked at his physique, his body and his work ethic.  All those led to a horrible injury in pre-season play that landed him out of basketball for an entire year and probably derailed any chance he had of being a star or even a consistent contributor in the league.

Sean May was just fat, lazy and his knees couldn’t keep up with the rigors of an NBA season.  He lived off his size and skill in college, and did well with it.  But at least he wasn’t the basket that the Bobcats put that year’s drafts eggs into.  He was an ancilary player that the Bobcats hoped would work out, it didn’t and he didn’t and they cut ties with him.  I don’t fault them for this pick either.

I just had a thought, who is “them” that I’m referring to?  Over the first three drafts, it was Robert Johnson, Bernie Bickerstaff and then after the 2nd year, the addition of Michael Jordan as Director of Basketball Operations (Rod Higgins’ new title).  The next year, Michael and Bob let Bernie and his staff go, brought in Michael’s buddies Rod Higgins, Sam Vincent and Buzz Peterson as well as Phil Ford and a whole cavelcade of cronies.  Sam didn’t work out so, the next year they brought in Larry Brown.  Of couse, this past year, the whole franchise was shaken up yet again, with Larry out, Silas in and then Rich Cho coming on.  It’s a constant churn, and I don’t think any one of them had any sort of the same concept when it came to drafting.

Bernie’s concept was to get the best that the team could and build, it was great for a franchise starting from the ground up.  Okafor, defensive lynch-pin and rebounding stallwart was first, to add to Gerald Wallace who was a nice surprise coming out of the expansion draft.  Then Raymond Felton as the floor-general and vocal team leader, wise beyond his years and tough as any one you could ask for.  Sean May was the talented PF with the NBA-Pedigree.  Then Adam Morrison, filling the role of scoring and outside shooting threat.  It was a complete starting five on paper, and it worked at the end of Bernie’s tenure.

Rod and MJ were of the mind-set of win now, get people you know and like, and go with some sure things.  They took Brandan Wright and traded him to Golden State (where Rod had been GM) for Jason Richardson.  They took Jared Dudley, in my mind the best pick this team has ever made, just an incredible value at #22 that year.  That year Sam Vincent was the coach and those two (Jordan and Higgins) ran the draft, I’m convinced of that.  The next year with Larry Brown in the mix was a complete turn around.  Larry, because of his long and rich history and the respect that Jordan had for him, was considered just as loud a voice in the room as any, maybe more.  He came in and was the real talent evaluator in workouts.  Larry pulled the strings and made Rod and MJ do his bidding, I think that’s the consensus out there.  Larry wasn’t happy with just Ray Felton at the point, so he suggested strongly DJ Augustin at the #9 spot that year, ahead of Brook Lopez.  Then the Alexis Ajinca pick was one that we all considered to be all-Larry.  The next year, Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown were safe picks.  Henderson because his defense was solid and he could create offensively and Brown because he was very athletic, defense was a priority and he had a decent outside shot.  Larry was a bit more regined in for that draft.  Then, through a series of trades and who knows what, the 2009 Draft was on where the Bobcats sat out.

So, what does all that history tell us about the people here right now?  Not a lot.  As you can see, I don’t think MJ and Higgins were the decision makers.  I think that the one decision on draft day that was directly theirs was a good one in bringing in Jason Richardson, however, he was so similar to Gerald Wallace that it wasn’t one that set things up for future glory or even a consistent level of success.  The concepts they’ve utilized have been, look at everyone you can, between workouts and scouting.  Mark who you like highly in red ink and if he’s there at your pick, jump all over it.  Listen to as many voices as you can and hope something shakes out that you can use.

It almost seems like the way has been chaos and hope.  You can gather all the info you want but if none of it’s that great and you aren’t sure what to do with any of it, what was the point in gathering it in the first place?  The influence Larry Brown had, his whole concept of taking on guys that he liked, regardless of what anyone else thought bothers me.  The fact that Michael Jordan and Rod Higgins can sit back and sort of let him run roughshod over the draft back in 2008 still makes me wonder about these two guys.

Then you bring in Rich Cho.  A guy who many figure to be one of the best analytical evaluators and a cap-knowledgeable and legal maneuvering master-mind, in the basketball world.  He’s covered both sides of things, the basketball side and the business side.  He worked for years in Seattle and Oklahoma City, his one year in Portland was enough to both get him fired and then rehired to the same position within weeks.  Everyone says he’s sharp and analytical and he keeps the stats as sort of evidence to any of those gut reactions, so it’s not like it’s a gut reaction.  Rich has stated his whole concept is piling up “assets.”  Assets can mean a whole bevy of things when you’re thinking of NBA Basketball.  Players, draft picks, cap-space, cap-holds, qualifying offers, expiring contracts; basically anything that a team can get that another team might want.  That’s how I’d characterize what Rich Cho means by assets.

So, this year, 3 picks in the first 39, I’d call those assets for sure.  Boris Diaw’s expiring contract, asset there.  Cap-Space in that the team is in the range of $41 million or so on the books for next year (without options), in this no-future-CBA world we’re looking at, certainly looks like an asset to me.  So what do they do with all of it?  I still don’t know.

I think Rich Cho has learned from Sam Presti and Rick Sund, who are both GMs today, although Sund was removed in favor of Presti back in 2007.  Presti invented the Spurs Scouting Database that many teams use today.  I don’t know how it works, but I figure you feed it a players stats and some video and stuff and it tells you who to pick or how to value a player in a trade.  Like that machine someone invented in the original Willy Wonka movie to help find golden tickets.  The only thing that bothers me, is judging by the Spurs draft picks, it overvalues foreign players.  But hey, whatever works, they have 4 championships and I have one second place in Fantasy Football.  Then again, it hasn’t yielded as much over-seas talent in Oklahoma City.

What I like about the lineage that Cho learned under, picks like Tony Parker, Manu Ginoblli, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, DJ White, Serge Ibaka, they all went where no one really thought they should and it has worked out tremendously.  The fact Rich would go after a guy like Gerald Wallace and then come over to the other side of the trade as well, makes me think he’s really sharp and sees things a lot of other people don’t.

So, in short (at 1800 words, you’re saying “why couldn’t you have put this at the beginning”) I think that between MJ and Rod’s collective gut feeling, with input from Paul Silas and his staff and Rich Cho’s mind and analytics, I think that the Bobcats will come out of this draft with 3 really impressive and exciting picks for where they sit.  At least 3 picks, they could trade and make it more picks or more picks next year, but I doubt they’ll move up, I doubt they’ll take on a veteran or really, this is bold knowing all that history I spoke of above, they won’t do anything that fans will go “Oh come the hell on, what are they thinking?!”  And as a Bobcats fan, just not worrying about doing something stupid is a really big deal.