Charlotte Hornets: Is Rich Cho The Problem?


Has Rich Cho Worn Out His Welcome In Charlotte?

It has been almost four years since the Charlotte Hornets hired Rich Cho to be their general manager. During his reign the team has gone 104-208, for a winning percentage of just 33.3%.

That is an abysmal record, but Cho did not exactly inherit a powerhouse roster nor is Charlotte considered a big free agent destination. From the inception of the Charlotte Bobcats until Cho took over as general manager, the franchise had one season with a winning record – going 44-38 in the 2009-10 season.

However, even in the NBA, four years is more than enough time to grade a GM on the job being done. With lots of losing has come lots of high draft picks.

In his first draft, Cho had the number nine pick, the number 19 pick, and the number 39 pick. At number nine, he drafted Kemba Walker. With the 19th pick, he selected Tobias Harris, however, Harris was dealt to Milwaukee in return for the rights to Bismack Biyombo.

This was a key moment for the Hornets. While Biyombo has blossomed into a quality big man off the bench, he is certainly not considered to have lived up to his high draft selection. Meanwhile, Harris is having a nice year for the Orlando Magic.


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Generated 4/22/2015.

Biyombo is a nice player, but look at those numbers for Harris, per 36 minutes. That is a borderline all-star in the Eastern Conference, while Biyombo is a borderline starter for a team that finished out of the playoffs.

Harris is still only 22, so he has plenty of years to grow his game while Biyombo seems to have peaked as a player. Not only is Harris a better player than Biyombo, he is also a better player than Walker.

Charlotte Hornets’ fans love Walker, but he is coming off a disastrous season and is shooting under 40% for his career from the field. You cannot have your starting point guard in the NBA shoot just 38.5% from the field and a pitiful 30.4% from behind the arc.

Walker was healthy down the stretch, better rested due to his knee injury than many of the other players, and yet he was terrible as the team slid out of the last two playoff spots.

Of the three players the Hornets could have had in 2011, Harris was by far the best. He is also the youngest and has the most upside. However, while Harris enjoyed a career year for the Orlando Magic, Kemba Walker missed half the year due to injury and had one of the worst shooting seasons in the NBA.

Worse, look at some of the players the Hornets and Cho passed up to grab Walker. Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kenneth Faried, Isaiah Thomas, and Chandler Parsons are all arguably better players than Walker or Biyombo.

That is also leaving out players like Nikola Vucevic, Markief Morris, Reggie Jackson, and Donatas Montiejunas, all of whom would not cause too much consternation in the NBA world if they were traded for Walker straight up today.

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In 2012, the then Bobcats had the worst record in the NBA, with a presumptive All-Star sitting in the draft, Anthony Davis. However, whether by former NBA commissioner David Stern’s orders or just bad luck, the other Hornets team, New Orleans, ended up with the first overall pick.

New Orleans took Anthony Davis, of course, and he has blossomed into a star. However, with the second overall pick, Charlotte took Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Kidd-Gilchrist is a born leader, and his effort and defensive prowess have turned him from bust to potential building block.

While we love what the guy brings to the court every night, you have to remember that to take Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte passed on Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, Andre Drummond, Terrence Jones, and Draymond Green.

1Bradley Beal15.2.4194.7.4002.9.7864.
2Andre Drummond11.7.5700.0.1674.8.39714.
3Draymond Green10.0.4123.8.3212.5.6858.
4Terrence Jones12.3.5311.7.3123.4.6149.
5Michael Kidd-Gilchrist10.2.4640.1.1674.1.6898.
6Damian Lillard15.8.4296.5.3684.6.8613.

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Generated 4/22/2015.

That is a chart comparing Kidd-Gilchrist to the other quality picks in the 2012 draft, per 36 minutes. Kidd-Gilchrist has the same three point shooting percentage as Andre Drummond, and of the guys listed, an unbiased observer would have to rank MKG as the third best player in the list, at best.

Bradley beal and Damian Lillard are clearly better, and Andre Drummond is close. Kidd-Gilchrist will most likely end his career having been a better player than either Draymond Green or Terrence Jones.

Kidd-Gilchrist has been important to his team, and he is a defensive ace. However, he is not and probably never will be an All-Star. He is a threes and defense type of player who does not shoot threes. He may be fantastic on defense, but he is still a one-way player, and number two was much too high for him to be selected.

The most recent two drafts are hard to quantify just yet. 2013 was considered to be one of the worst drafts in recent history, and while there is some promise in a few players, Cody Zeller has shown enough to justify being taken fourth overall in that particular draft class.

The jury is still out on the 2014 draft class, and Noah Vonleh has not played enough to really give him a grade, and no one taken after Vonleh has done enough to warrant any second guessing, but given Cho’s draft history, Vonleh’s development compared to the other players will be closely watched.

Cho has done a lackluster job in the draft, but what about free agency? We know about the Lance Stephenson disaster this year, and signing an undersized guard who shoots under 40% for his career to a four year, $48M extension is certainly a questionable move.

Really, the Al Jefferson contract has saved Cho from being considered one of the worst general managers in the entire association. Jefferson brought instant credibility to this franchise and took the team on his back and into the playoffs in his first season in Charlotte.

Even this year, as the team struggled, they were still in the post-season hunt through the final week. Jefferson is a quality player, and a borderline All-Star each year. If not for him, this team would still be floundering in the bowels of the Eastern Conference.

Worse, when Jefferson leaves, where will this team be? With him, they are fighting for the eighth seed each year. Without him, it may be a return to the dark days of single-digit win seasons.

Jefferson has saved Cho’s job, so far, but time is running out. If the Charlotte general manager cannot turn lemons into lemonade this summer, then he may find himself unemployed yet again.

Next: Charlotte Needs A Winner