Charlotte Bobcats Draft Retrospective | Part Three

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Part Three: ’11 and Beyond: From The Ashes, a New CHOpe

Having been so thoroughly fleeced in every trade and flummoxed in every Draft, Jordan & Higgins were at least humble enough to admit that they were clueless.

Just weeks before the 2011 Draft, Trailblazers general manager Rich Cho was fired after less than a year on the job. Blazers owner Paul Allen wasn’t thrilled with Cho’s “communication style” and decided to lay down the axe immediately. Portland’s loss was Charlotte’s gain as Jordan quickly hired Cho to run the Bobcats in the same capacity, “promoting” Higgins to President of Basketball Operations – supposedly due to his steller work as GM. The Cho hiring signified a major shift for Jordan as an owner and he deserves a great deal of credit for it. While Allen fired Cho for not being a “yes man”, Jordan sought out the strong-minded GM for the exact opposite reasons.

Cho’s pedigree instantly re-ignited the hardcore fanbase: armed with an accomplished academic resume in both engineering and law, Cho began his NBA career as a member of the Sam Presti-led Seattle/OKC organization during the mid-’90s. Cho was (and still is) regarded as one of the brightest front office minds in the game – an expert negotiator with a progressive approach towards talent evaluation via proprietary information gathering and advanced statistical analysis. The man’s resume was impressive but the task ahead of him – rebuilding an asset starved franchise – was monumental.

Kemba Walker Illustration by Mike S

The 2011 Draft: Bismack Biyombo C Congo, Kemba Walker PG UCONN.

Cho made an impressive pre-Draft move just weeks after being hired, somehow upgrading from the 19th overall pick (via Portland) to the 7th spot for the slim price of “downgrading” from Stephen Jackson to Corey Maggette. Armed with picks 7 and 9, Cho went the traditional route, nabbing a big man and a point guard to begin the re-building process.

How It Played Out: After two seasons it seems that Kemba Walker has All-Star potential. Whether he gets there or not depends on the front office surrounding him with some legitimate NBA talent. On any given posession Walker has been the team’s best offensive option; to pass to a teammate has been mostly a perfunctory exercise as no Bobcat outside of Gerald Henderson has managed any sort of sustainable scoring. We know that Walker can run the break, we know that he can get to his spot as well as anyone, we know that he’s a leader. Kemba has the heart to get to the next level but he’ll need help along the way. Regardless, he’s already become the Bobcats’ best draft pick since fellow UConn Huskie Emeka Okafor and for this franchise, that’s a bonafide win.

Bismack Biyombo illustration by Mike S

Then there’s poor Bismack Biyombo. Unlike his NCAA Champion “Thunder & Lightning” classmate, Biz entered the league as an extremely raw 19 year old project. He needed consistency, patience, veteran guidance and attention. What he got was a lockout shortened training camp, three coaching staffs in three years, an unearned role as starting NBA center and the youngest, worst roster in the NBA. Yet, through all of this, Biyombo has improved. Ironically, given Cho’s background in advanced stats, Bismack’s advancements are better evaluated with the naked eye than the spreadsheet. During Biz’s sophmore campaign we witnessed the following: at least three step-back jumpers (including a ridiculous call-off fadeaway on Thaddeus Young), dozens of baby hooks over both shoulders, vastly improved footwork, aggressive putbacks and transition buckets. Biyombo even learned how to go straight up for a dunk off the catch – did he even record a clean catch during his rookie season? Don’t get me wrong, Biz is still extremely limited offensively. The maddening habit of bringing the ball way down after an offensive board is still there. But between the elite defensive flashes, the intellect, the youth (Biyombo can’t legally order a drink until August) and the work ethic, we might be looking at an NBA All Defensive First Teamer in the next few years.

How It Should Have Played Out: As nice as Cho’s inaugural Draft was, he did miss out on a couple of gems. Passing on Kawhi Leonard once can be forgiven (thirteen other teams committed the same sin) but passing on him twice? Selecting Leonard with the Biyombo pick would’ve freed up Charlotte to take Andre Drummond the following season, giving them a nice Leonard/Drummond/Walker core going forward. Cho also passed on smooth shooting Klay Thompson, the crazy energy of Kenneth Faried and do-it-all center Nikola Vucevic. But ultimately, when measured against the team’s lurid Draft history, none of these gaffes even register. A solid first Draft for Rich Cho and a solid start to the rebuilding process.

GRADE: B-


The 2012 Draft: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist SF Kentucky, Jeffrey Taylor SG Vanderbilt.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Illustration by Mike SHow It Played Out: When you build from the ground up, you need everything. Cho’s second Draft was all about solidifying the foundation, regardless of current skill level or position. After losing the Anthony Davis sweepstakes, the Bobcats ended up with whom many believe to be the leader of the 2012 NCAA Champion Wildcat team, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. His rookie season played out much as everyone expected. The shooting wasn’t there yet – opposing defenses needed only to protect the paint when MKG and the rest of his brick-laying squad came to town – but the on-ball defense, rebounding and transition offense were at times stellar. Kidd-Gilchrist achieved these modest feats despite being the youngest player in the league (he won’t turn 20 until September) and while playing for the league’s least credible coach (yet another Higgins catastrophe – but that’s another topic for another column). It was MKG’s relentlessness and work ethic that made him the obvious pick for a franchise in need of a massive culture shift.

With the first pick in the second round, Cho nabbed another defense-first wing stopper in Vandy’s Taylor. Armed with tremendous physical size for his position and a solid stroke from long distance, Taylor provides an intriguing “three & D” combination at the two guard spot. He’ll need to improve his handle to thwart close-outs but the defensive intensity is there. This guy could be a legitimate Danny Green-type player in two years.

How It Should Have Played Out: Given his age, it’s still way too early to second guess the MKG pick. Harrison Barnes or Bradley Beal would have immediately provided the spacing and scoring the Cats desperately need. Andre Drummond has the imposing size and hops to be a Dwight/Amare hybrid if he can kick the injury bug. Damian Lillard’s ceiling may have already been reached but he’ll remain one of the league’s top point guards nonetheless.
Regardless of how it all plays out, the 2011 and 2012 Drafts represent a massive shift for the franchise. Cho’s Drafts demonstrate a measured strategy and philosophy. The Bobcats are now in the business of drafting hard-working, uber-athletes with great attitudes and sky-high upsides. Two years later, we still don’t know if the strategy works but, for the first time in franchise history, we at least know there is one.

GRADE: B-

-ASChin


Up Next: The 2013 Draft – The Final Draft in “Bobcats” History!


POLL : Best Bobcats Draft Pick

  • Emeka Okafor (9%, 27 Votes)
  • Kemba Walker (62%, 188 Votes)
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (11%, 32 Votes)
  • Raymond Felton (4%, 13 Votes)
  • Gerald Henderson (14%, 41 Votes)

Total Voters: 301

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End of the Gana Diop Era

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Gana Diop Illustration

As NBA enthusiasts across the globe get ready for the exciting action and intense competition of the Playoffs, Charlotte Bobcats fans should take pause to reflect on the end of an era – The DeSagana Diop Era. It’s not often that a team says goodbye to one of its Big Three (salary bandits). So, this is a great opportunity to survey the impact that the giant’s departure will have for the club.

Oh, how time and paychecks fly by. It seems like it was just yesterday that the Bobcats were pressured by Larry Brown and duped by the Dallas Mavericks into swallowing Diop’s ridiculous contract in exchange for Matt Carroll and Ryan Hollins. Since then, ‘Gana has eaten up over 11% of the team’s salary cap with few contributions to justify it. Acquiring the Senegalese seven-footer immediately hamstrung the ‘Cats efforts to retain their much better Center, Tyson Chandler in the 2010 off-season. Regrettably, Charlotte had to take back Matt Carroll, Eduardo Najera, and Erick Dampier’s contract in a financially-driven trade, delivering Chandler to the Mavs where he went on to win the championship. Oh, and then Tyson picked up the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2012. But, those wiry ol’ Bobcats still had Diop on their bench! Another fun fact – Ryan Hollins is a contributor off the bench for the Playoff-bound LA Clippers and played over three-times as many minutes as ‘Gana did this season.

Gana Diop Era Highlights

Okay, let’s take a moment to look at some Gana Diop highlights:

Next Step for Diop

It’s highly likely that Diop will step away from the NBA, and walk off into the sunset (after he collects the last of his $7,372,200.00 from the Bobcats this month). Despite the pain that he’s caused Michael Jordan’s wallet, it looks like the guy has actually done some pretty good things off the court with the NBA Cares program.

Nevertheless, ‘Gana is gonna leave a big hole on this team’s payroll. It’s fair that fans have concerns about how the team will use their salary cap numbers to improve this summer. But, when the time comes to announce the next signing, Charlotte’s front office needs to measure their offer and ask, “Is that guy worth Gana Diop money?”

-Mike

Charlotte’s Dampier Day Is Here

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The Charlotte Bobcats’ Key Offseason Asset Will Likely Be Dealt Soon

Over and over this summer, we’ve heard that the Bobcats could package up Erick Dampier’s rare $13 million expiring contract to help acquire another talent to strengthen their roster for the upcoming season. Initially, it seemed as though the club would have been fine to simply waive Dampier, get under the luxury tax level and then resign the veteran Center for a bargain deal.  The 6′ 11″ Dampier wasn’t too interested in working out such a sweet deal with Jordan and the Cats, and Charlotte had to bring in another big man for security – Kwame Brown. Due to NBA rules, the Bobcats were unable to combine Dampier with another player in a trade for a period of 60 days. That period is over on Monday, September 13th.

Now, the clock is ticking and it appears that the Bobcats have two options.

Option 1: Pick Up The Phone.

Charlotte can work their tails off to line up a deal (likely involving multiple teams) to get some type of return for Dampier’s expiring contract. For many teams, the contract could be the fastest way to get their finances in order. Such an asset could help a team initiate a “rebuilding cycle” or simply get below the luxury tax level while assembling a championship contender. At the moment, the Bobcats seem interested in testing the waters to determine if they can benefit more by getting a solid player in return for Dampier’s rare contract terms.

Option 2:  Waive & Save.

The Bobcats can waive Dampier, taking advantage of his expiring deal to get their own financial house in order. After letting Dampier go, the team could focus their efforts to trade Boris Diaw or Nazr Mohammed (who is in the last year of his deal) in exchange for any necessary roster pieces.

Can They Screw This Up?

Ultimately, the only thing the Bobcats could really do wrong would be to pick up a bad contract in exchange for Dampier. Charlotte tends to swap a lot of players and take on financial baggage along the way. This is an opportunity for Charlotte to straighten out a few of their missteps and get their financial footing for their next wave of building a better team.


POLL : What Should Bobcats Do With Erick Dampier?

  • Waive & Save $13 Mill
    (16%, 35 Votes)
  • Waive & Resign
    (12%, 26 Votes)
  • Trade For Point Guard
    (55%, 124 Votes)
  • Trade For Draft Picks (17%, 39 Votes)

Total Voters: 224

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What To Do with Dampier? – Part 1

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Mo Williams ©2010 NBA

Michael Jordan bragged openly last month that the team had acquired the League’s “most valuable contract” when they sent bust Tyson Chandler to Dallas in return for Erick Dampier and a couple of overpaid 12th men.  How valuable exactly?  MJ and GM Rod Higgins will have at least another month and a half to mull over the decision as they wait the mandatory 60 days before Damp, Eduardo Najera or Matt Carroll can be traded again in a package.

So what will they do with all of this “value”?
In order to answer the question, we need to first look hard at the team’s present situation.

Continue reading

Bobcats Sign Shaun Livingston

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Shaun Livingston (Jose Argueta/Wizards Photos/Wizards.com)

The Charlotte Bobcats signed free agent point guard Shaun Livingston to a two-year, $7 million dollar contract today.  Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Cats will hold a team option for a third season.  Here are links for the AP story and Bonnell’s for the Observer.

Livingston is best known for the horrific knee injury he sustained in 2007 while playing in his third season for the Los Angeles Clippers.  Sadly, getting to “S-h-a-u-n L-” in a google search gets you suggestions of “Shaun Livingston” followed by “Shaun Livingston injury”.

After coming into the league straight from high school and seeing limited playing time his first two years, the skinny, 6’7″ point guard had begun to fulfill his potential during the 2006-07 season, averaging 9 points and 5 assists in almost 30 minutes a game.

However, disaster struck on February 26, 2007 as the Clippers were hosting (ironically) the Bobcats.  After Raymond Felton made a clean challenge on his breakaway layup attempt, Livingston landed awkwardly.  His left knee buckled medially, shredding his ACL and PCL and completely dislocating the joint in the process.

I remember being up late watching that game and cringing.  Video is readily available on the internet, as is a particularly gruesome photo that’s worth seeking out if you’ve ever wondered what the distal end of your femur looked like.

Livingston spent the 2007-08 season out of basketball rehabbing.  Since then, he has bounced around from the Heat to the Grizzlies to the Thunder before winding up with the Wizards late last season.  It was there where Livingston seemed to get his groove back.  He played in 26 games down the stretch in Washington’s lost season, starting 18 while averaging 25 minutes, 9 points and 4.5 assists per game.

Prior to today’s signing, the Bulls had shown interest in Livingston this summer, while there was sentiment in Washington that he should be resigned to back up John Wall.

Livingston makes sense for Larry Brown.  Whether it’s horrific injuries or horrific off-the-court troubles, LB loves a reclamation project.  He also likes long players who see the court well.

And there’s no question that the Cats needed some point guard depth, but Livingston’s signing is curious nonetheless.  We now have two backup-quality point guards on the roster, both being paid backup (and not “end of the bench emergency third point guard”) money.  I don’t think it’s too pessimistic to say that we are in trouble if we enter this coming season with DJ and Livingston battling it out to be the starter, nor can we realistically afford to pay one of them what they are owed for being the third point guard.

What I’m trying to say is that I think Jordan is still in the market for a starting-caliber point guard, and that the writing may be on the wall for DJ here.  Just sayin…

And here’s a couple other tidbits before I hit the sack:

  • Here’s a quick note by Bonnell regarding a small hitch in how we can use Dampier’s contract in a subsequent trade.  Essentially, Dampier’s contract can be traded anytime, but it can’t be packaged with another player/contract for 60 days.
  • Larry Hughes says he’s talked to the Bobcats about returning, but that he’s “waiting for the right situation to come up.”  Replace “the right” with “any” and I think the statement will be more accurate…

-Dr. E



POLL : What Should Bobcats Do With Erick Dampier?

  • Waive & Save $13 Mill
    (16%, 35 Votes)
  • Waive & Resign
    (12%, 26 Votes)
  • Trade For Point Guard
    (55%, 124 Votes)
  • Trade For Draft Picks (17%, 39 Votes)

Total Voters: 224

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