Charlotte Bobcats Season In Review – Part 2

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The 2008 NBA Draft in Review

The Lopez/Augustin controversy lingers on.

The Lopez/Augustin controversy lingers on.

DJ Augustin | PG, Texas | First Round Selection | 9th Overall

Let’s go ahead and get it out of the way.  In the 2008 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Bobcats made a big mistake by selecting DJ Augustin over Brook Lopez.  At 7-foot, 260 pounds, Lopez averaged 13 points, 8.1 rebounds, close to 2 blocked shots (1.84 to be exact), shot 53%(!!!) from the field, 79% from the line (HEY!  A big man who hits his free throws!) and chalked up a superb 17.94 PER which placed him fourth overall in a banner freshman class.  The former Stanford center kept an underachieving Nets team in the playoff hunt up until the final month of the season and was later named to the All Rookie first team.

This is not to say that DJ was a bust.  The young point guard out of Texas averaged a little under 12 points and 3.5 assists per game.  While DJ only managed to convert on 43% of his field goals, he shot a spectacular 44% from beyond the arc and finished sixth among all rookies in True Shooting Percentage thanks to his outstanding 89% shooting from the charity stripe.  DJ will be playing in this League for many, many seasons to come.


PPG RPG APG FG% FT% 3PFG% TS% PER
13 8.1 1.0 53% 79% 0% 56.8% 17.94
11.8 1.8 3.5 43% 89% 44% 58.7 14.95

Comparing only player for player, the choice of DJ over Lopez doesn’t look all that terrible.  From an organizational standpoint however, the ramifications may prove devastating.

Had Charlotte gone forward with its draft day plan of selecting Brook Lopez (a durable, multi-talented center) with the ninth selection, there would have been no need to later take on Gana Diop’s $26 million+ over the next four years in a desperation trade midway through the season.  Lopez is the far superior player and is guaranteed (thanks to his late lottery rookie contract) just $8.4 million during the same time frame.  Also, had Charlotte went ahead and drafted Lopez, they could have either moved 6’10” Emeka Okafor to power forward (perhaps his more natural position) or better yet pursued a trade of Okafor during this offseason in an attempt of luring back a top-flight SG or PF.

Drafting Augustin when the team had already invested a high draft choice in Raymond Felton a few seasons earlier made as little sense then as it does now.  Sure, we all have our reservations about Raymond but I highly doubt that anybody is ready to say that DJ is head and shoulders above Felton now or will be anytime in the near future.  The pick was redundant.  Felton is a better passer and a better defender.  DJ is a better penetrator, better free-throw shooter, and 3-baller.  He’s also 5’10”.

If Charlotte had drafted Lopez back in June, they’d be going into the offseason with a roster that looked like:

  • PG: Felton
  • SG: Bell, Carroll
  • SF: Wallace, Radmanovic
  • PF: Diaw, Ajinca
  • C: Okafor, Lopez, Mohammed

Okafor could be dangled as trade bait for a high-priced, high-scoring SG or kept to play PF with Diaw coming off of the bench as a sixth man.  The Bobcats would’ve also shed around $3.5 million per season from the unnecessary Carroll/Diop deal giving them a little more cap flexibility.

At any rate, DJ is here and for the time being at least, it looks as though the Bobcats spent the 9th selection of a very strong draft class on a backup PG.  A very good backup (think Kings-era Bobby Jackson) but a backup nonetheless.

Bobcats Draft Grade: B-

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Alexis Ajinca | PF, France | First Round Selection | 20th Overall

In an aggressive draft day move, the Bobcats acquired Denver’s first round selection (#20) for a protected future first rounder.  With this selection, the Bobcats drafted Alexis “Freedom Fries” Ajinca.  *Sigh* where does one begin…?
UPSIDE?
In retrospect, I can see how Ajinca impressed during those pre-draft workouts.  There aren’t many 20 year old, 7-foot tall former BMX dirt bike champions.  Most guys at that height are more than just a little stiff.  Not Freedom Fries.  At a shocking 220 pounds, Alexis has a smoothness on the court rarely seen from someone his height.  He shoots a nice fifteen foot jump shot and can be an explosive leaper around the basket.  If you were one of the NCAA players working out against Alexis in those pre-draft workouts, you probably had little to no idea how to play a guy like Ajinca.  No wonder he looked so good.

DOWNSIDE.
Alexis Ajinca has absolutely no idea how to play NBA basketball.  In his limited minutes, Ajinca has shown a few shining moments of potential but for the most part looks completely lost.  He is grossly underweight for an NBA frontcourt player and will need at least two more seasons of professional strength and conditioning expertise in order to achieve an NBA body.  Unfortunately, he plays for the Charlotte Bobcats (you know, the team that just moved training camp back to their home city to cut costs) and not the San Antonio Spurs so he shouldn’t expect to see any specialized nutritionists showing up anytime soon.  Hell, instead of hiring a translator the Bobcats traded for a bilingual French PF to pull double duty.  Alexis also plays for Larry Brown who is not exactly known for developing foreign project players (see Milicic, Darko).

The good news for Freedom Fries is that Coach Brown was the one who apparently urged management to trade up and select the youngster from Saint-Etienne and that will probably give Ajinca at least another season or two to show us what he’s got.  The bad news is that the Bobcats (in need this offseason of a rugged, defensive SG to eventually replace Raja Bell) could have drafted a much more ready NBA caliber player in either Courtney Lee or Mario Chalmers either one of whom could’ve contributed from the beginning of training camp 2008 until the end of their rookie contracts in 2013.
Alexis Ajinca is one of those high-risk/high-reward stocks that your financial advisor warns you about.  In economic times like these, I’m not sure if that’s where a money-pit franchise like the Charlotte Bobcats should be investing.

Bobcats Draft Grade: D+

-ASCHIN

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E’s Take:

I’m a little more bullish on DJ Augustin than my colleague, ASChin.  DJ is quicker and faster than Felton, and is a vastly better shooter.  I think he has the potential to be a better starting point guard for the Charlotte Bobcats than Felton.  If this team continues to go forward using Larry Brown’s Pistons championship squad as a model (no superstar, scoring responsibilities spread pretty evenly across the starters) then it would behoove the club to give the starting job to Augustin, the more efficient shooter/scorer.

However, if (as I expect) the Bobcats drag their feet on the matter by bringing Felton back and using DJ as a backup, then it will go down as a bad pick.  A money-losing, talent-challenged franchise like the Bobcats can’t afford to have the #9 pick in a pretty good draft and just get a backup out of it.

And yes, the rookie year that Brook Lopez put up makes the DJ pick that much more sketchy.  I still suspect that a Lopez/Okafor frontcourt wouldn’t have been a good fit (especially in the increasingly faster, smaller, more guard-oriented NBA of 2009), but it would have been a nice problem to have.

The Alexis Ajinca pick may eventually go down as a bigger joke than the Adam Morrison one.  We’re all rooting for Freedom Fries, but the guy is a long way from being able to contribute to an NBA team.  And a big part of the distance is his body habitus, which he may not be able to make up.

It’s also a bad thing that there’s really no precedent for Ajinca.  He’s taller than most centers in the league, skinnier than most guards, and has the skill set of a finesse combo forward.  Now, if you’re a singular, dominant basketball talent, it’s cool to not have a precedent in the game; think Lebron James, Shaquille O’Neal.  Those guys were/are so good that they dictate the way the game is played around them.  But Ajinca is not that skilled.  It would be helpful if there were other players like him in the league; i.e. there would be a template for how a 7’2″ small forward could be developed and utilized.

Even more concerning is that we’re eventually going to have to give up a draft pick to pay the Nuggets back for this one.  With our luck, it will probably be another lottery pick in a great draft.

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See also: Bobcats Baseline – ’08-’09 Season in ReviewPart 1: The Coaching Change

7 thoughts on “Charlotte Bobcats Season In Review – Part 2

  1. Teddy Green

    Clipper fan with a trade proposal:

    Chris Kaman and Ricky Davis' expiring contract

    for

    Vlad + Nazr + 12th pick in the draft

    Charlotte would get a low post center that would fit alongside Emeka Okafor

    Charlotte's roster:

    Kaman/Diop

    Okafor/Diaw

    Wallace/Diaw

    Bell/Davis

    Felton/Augustine

    Thats a solid eight man rotation. Nine man rotation if Ricky gets healthy.

    For the Clippers: This trade would give the Clippers the pieces to fill out their roster. Vlad can start and stretch the floor for Blake or Randolph or the penetration of Gordon and Davis. Nazr can backup Camby and with the 12th pick the Clippers can draft a backup point guard for Davis. The fact that Nazr and Vlad contracts ends in 2011 is a bonus.

  2. Jaxon

    "DJ is quicker and faster than Felton, and is a vastly (at times) better shooter".

    But you failed to mention the easily forgotten "intangibles". Felton is a game winner… and oddly, yet often the big play go-to guy on a team that lacks a go-to Superstar. Augustine has only provided an every now and then spark. It won't kill us to let him be backup for another year.

    I agree with the Lopez analysis. That is exactly what they need. Everyone thought so on draft day, and it holds true. Emeka will always struggle as a center.

  3. reggie

    id be willing to debate this "lopez over dj" argument until the cows come home, but either player would have turned out to be a good pick. heres why:

    at first glance, Lopez always looks like the better choice. always. but had we drafted Lopez, im sure that we would not have traded Jason for Diaw and Bell. drafting Lopez wouldnt have gotten us into the playoffs, but it would instead create a charlotte version of the Trailblazers, which is creating a skilled team out of youngsters.

    as we all know, the city was hungry for a playoff/completive team NOW, and waiting for another two years was not going to quench the city's thirst.

    make no mistake, Lopez can ball, but i dont think he would have been a cure-all in the middle. i think hes more of a PF than a C and is better than Okafor because he actually cares about the game and can hit free throws.

    as for DJ, this pick is hella confusing. but DJ can play. will he become our PG of the future? most likely. i say this because Felton will probably be traded by the time DJ's contract is up, and yes, this move will OBLITERATE team chemistry. but DJ is a scoring PG and could help out in that department in time. Felton is more of a passing PG and while he almost doubles DJ's assists per game, he is not a dependable scorer.

    but drafting DJ has brought us Diaw, and i am content with that. drafting DJ has also driven Adam Morrison (who?) out of town, which is good because it helps me forget about the Gay/Roy should haves. but drafting DJ has also brought us Diop and Vlad. not that they are complete garbage, but thier contracts are. Vlad was good for about a week, and im sure Diop will be great friends with the pine if we get somebody better.

    so heres where i stand: Lopez was great for a long term building phase, but DJ was the catalyst for a NOW team.

    as for trades: there are a number of possibilities that im thinking about. if we could find a guard-needing team, we could ship out Felton and Bell and possibly one of our picks depending on the player for a strong C. not PF, a legit C.

    we could also ship Okafor and our first rounder for a (star?) SG. this move doesnt quite solve our payroll problems.

    we could ship all of our picks and Okafor for a legit star C. possibly Amare Stoudimare. but i dont think Amare will solve all of our problems. his contract may blow up our payroll, but this move would be amazing. we would also still need a closer, but we could find one later.

    i dont know what we will wind up doing this offseason, but i hope to god that its the right moves.

  4. CharlotteHokie

    It's hard to weed through the folks around Charlotte who are both Carolina and Bobcats fans, because it seems like Felton gets support much more in Charlotte than he would in any other NBA city.

    While Felton is a solid player, I think DJ has the higher ceiling, along with having more star power. If the cats can deal Felton for a player of need I think it's something they should look into, because I could see DJ becoming the face of this team for a long time. Other than winning, it's the big time scorers who sell the most tickets in the NBA, and that's something DJ has that Raymond just doesn't.

  5. Jared

    A few reactions to this post:

    1) If Charlotte drafted Lopez, Ajinca would not be on the roster, likely a guard would have been drafted or Charlotte may not have even traded for a second pick.

    2) Okafor cannot play the 4. Not against Bosh, Jamison, Rashard Lewis, Josh Smith, etc.

    3) In hindsight Lopez was the best player for us to pick last year, but Okafor would have still gotten his deal becuase NOBODY could definitively say that Lopez was going to have such a good rookie year. I do agree that Lopez instead of Diop is much better as a backup center.

    Also, the Clipper trade as it is doesn't work. Again, we don't need to have Okafor starting at the 4. Diaw and Wallace make a much better starting line at the 3 and 4. Kaman hasn't exactly been lighting it up lately and Davis is no help at all.

    I actually like the trade because it gets rid of Nazr, but we'd have to get a third team involved to either get a player of Kaman's quality at another position or get an equal return on Okafor.

    Okafor and Kaman on the same team makes less sense than say Kaman, Randolph, Camby, and Blake Griffin on the same team.

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