MKG is the Future

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Baseline 2012 Draft Review

PART I – What Just Happened?

The Bobcats stunned the internet Thursday night by selecting Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the second overall pick in the 2012 Draft. For those of us glued to Twitter and Hoopshype, the pick was a surprise because:

  • A. Every media outlet in the universe reported the team was working to trade down.
  • B. Out of all the draft’s top seven prospects, MKG is the least offensively polished – not exactly a perfect fit for the league’s worst offense.
  • C. The team’s only power forward under contract is a guy whose effort was so infuriating last season, he provoked a 68-year old man to pull a reverse Spreewell on him.

So why did Charlotte forego dreams of a sure-fire big man starter at #4 (Thomas Robinson) and another prospect at #24 (Tony Wroten, Perry Jones or Marquis Teague) in order to keep the pick and draft an 18 year old with a broken jump-shot?

PART II – Why It Happened

GM Rich Cho is a smart dude. President Rod Higgins is a smart dude.* They played the Wayne Gretzky by way of Steve Jobs card:

Don’t skate to where the puck is, skate to where it’s going. And judging from last month’s NBA Finals, the puck is going to an UBER-ATHLETIC place in which only the crazy-long, high of energy may roam.

Lebron James. Kevin Durant. Paul George. Luol Deng. Rudy Gay. Iggy. Danny Granger. Chris Bosh. Derrick Rose. John Wall.

Thomas Robinson only covers one of these guys on a good day. MKG can match up with ‘em all.

Robinson is an old-school bruiser who could’ve banged with Charles Barkley or Karl Malone back in the day. Meanwhile, this year’s Finals featured James and Durant playing the bulk of his team’s minutes at the four spot. I like Robinson but there’s no chance he’s checking either of those guys.

By adding Gilchrist to a squad which already includes Gerald Henderson (a near lockdown defender at both guard spots) and Bismack Biyombo (still developing but a defensive juggernaut in the making), the Bobcats have three players who could legitimately challenge for All-Defensive team in the near future.

MKG also fits perfectly with new head coach Mike Dunlap’s philosophy of fitness, effort and easy transition buckets. Good news, coach, MKG isn’t just “fit” he’s “relentless”. No player on the roster has been able to make Gana Diop or Tyrus Thomas feel bad for giving less than a 100% thus far but I think Gilchrist the “Culture-Changer” has a shot.

PART III – “Draft for Talent, Trade for Need”

The team just announced it’s extending qualifying offers to both D.J. Augustin and Derrick Brown. I’d bet on Brown being on the roster in November – he fits the mold described above. Augustin? This seems more like a strategic move – He has value but I‘m not certain he’s in the team’s long-term or even short-term plans – so don’t be surprised to see a sign & trade go down later in the summer.

By not qualifying D.J. White, the front office announced that they’ll be going after another power forward via trade or free agency. Again, considering the new philosophy, they’ll be looking at players who can play both big man positions, run the floor and affect the game defensively. Jason Thompson (RFA) and J.J. Hickson (UFA) will certainly be high on the list. Considering Hickson’s perceived character questions, Thompson seems like an ideal fit. I’m also a fan of Ersan Illyasova but expect his asking price to be far north of what the Bobcats can offer.

Potential sleeper: Toronto’s Jerryd Bayless (RFA) is a big-time paint scorer and could be had via sign & trade (Reggie Williams’ expiring – Raps will need shooters around Jonas Valanciunas); especially if Toronto ends up using all of their cap space on Steve Nash in the next few weeks.

Finally, I would love for the team to invite Iona State PG Scott Machado and/or Georgetown C Henry Sims to camp as undrafted free agents – perhaps their agents could be enticed with the promise of playing time.

PART IV – Better Regardless

Lost in the MKG Draft night confusion was this simple fact: The Bobcats are suddenly better. If a few of the above moves go down, they might even be decent:

  • PG: Kemba Walker/D.J. Augustin (or Jerryd Bayless)/Scott Machado
  • SG: Gerald Henderson/Ben Gordon/Matt Carroll
  • SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist/Derrick Brown/Jeffrey Taylor
  • PF: Jason Thompson/Tyrus Thomas
  • C: Bismack Biyombo/Byron Mullens/Gana Diop

Not bad at all. Scoring from the guard spots, MKG can slide over and check fours during small-ball lineups. This team doesn’t win 30 games necessarily but is set up very well moving forward especially if Tyrus rebounds from a wacky ’11-’12 campaign and if Byron Mullens rebounds (at all).

Two lottery picks next summer, another $10-15 million in cap space, amnesty provision card in their back pocket and another year of growth for their young players. The Bobcats’ future is bright and that might be the biggest surprise of all.

-ASChin

*anybody who can manage to get Cory Higgins on an NBA roster is crafty to say the least.

Bobcats Withstand Furious Kings Rally, Again

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Charlotte Bobcats @ Kings 1/30/10

Running diary-style as the Bobcats attempt to go 3-1 on the road trip.  Our Gerald Wallace “SarcophaCrash” t-shirts are moving fast, and we’re not printing many, so get one while you can!

First Quarter

The Bobcats jump out to an early 12-9 lead four minutes in, leading to the first timeout; but the Kings bounce back with an 9-2 run.  Diaw is going to have to sit for awhile after picking up his second foul — Derrick Brown in early.

And now Brown picks up two quick fouls — might see the Bobcats have to go small tonight.  The Kings go on lead by as much as 9, but the Cats finish the quarter strong to pull to within four, 33-29.

Both teams over 60% FG for the quarter, but a few too many easy baskets for the Kings early on and Cats made only 1-5 FT to account for the margin.

Second Quarter

Gerald Wallace starts the quarter off with a tough three point play, defensive stop, then another Gerald Wallace bucket in the paint to briefly take the lead, 34-33.

Derrick Brown with just his second three of the year — Cats 3-4 from behind the arc early.  Make that 4-5 as Flip drains another one to give the Cats a 43-39 lead into a timeout.

Gerald Wallace is up to 14 points, 7 rebounds already — 6-6 FG.

I missed the MLK Day matinee game in Charlotte between these two teams, so this is my first time watching the Kings.  I can see why they’re excited.  They really nailed the draft with Evans and Casspi, huh?  And why does everyone think that Evans and Martin can’t play together?  Evans is a powerful slasher, Martin is a shooter — that’s perfect.  Even better when you want to bring in a backup PG and go small.

It’s 56-54 Cats at the half in a fun one — not much defense being played as both teams are still over 50% FG.  Too much of Kevin Martin and his fugly shot: 21 points on 7-14 FG/3-7 3PT/4-4 FT.  Tyreke Evans has been quiet (2-4 FG) — not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Nazr with 13 points on 6-8 FG and Flip with 10 on 4-6.  Cats need to watch the turnovers — 7 already in the first half.

Third Quarter

Boris Diaw back after sitting most of first half with two fouls — almost forgot about him.  Naz kicks things off with a bucket off a post move.  Now Felton steals an entry pass to Evans, Jack with a sweet feed to Wallace on the delayed break for a layup, and Donte Green fouls Boris underneath trying to get over to challenge the layup.  Boris hits the free throw for the odd “three-point-play by two different guys.”  Another miss for the Kings and Gerald Wallace gets a runout dunk.  7-0 run for the Cats to start the half, 63-54 now — Kings need a timeout.

Gerald Wallace now limping badly, causing enough concern that Larry Brown calls a timeout.  But apparently Crash just banged his knee and is fine.

Raymond Felton is working so hard to deny Tyreke Evans the ball — and he’s been very effective at it so far.  Evans can’t get going.  Cats get a turnover as Hawes can’t get a good angle on the entry pass to Evans and throws it away.  Strong work by Ray-Ray.

Bobcats stretch the lead to 10, 69-59 on Gerald Wallace free throws.  Crash is up to 22/8 halfway through the third.

And a 20-footer by Wallace extends the lead to 73-59.  Kings need a TO and a momentum shift as they are starting to wilt.

Gerald Wallace is killing the Kings — gets a backcourt steal and draws a clear path foul.  Hits both free throws, then Jack splashes a jumper.  Stop on the other end, alley-oop to Gerald to push the lead to 20, 79-59.  Another Naz bucket, another alley-oop to Gerald and the Bobcats are running the Kings out of the building, 83-59.  28 points on 11-13 FG at this point for Gerald, still stuck on 8 rebounds, though.

Wow, Cats win the third quarter 34-13 and will take a 90-67 lead into the fourth.  About as good of a quarter as you’ll see.

Fourth Quarter

Would love to see Gerald and the rest of the starters get some rest tonight, but remember, these are the same Kings that made a huge 4th quarter run and pushed the Cats to the limit back on MLK Day.  Then again, that was mostly Tyreke Evans’ doing, and Paul Westphal seems to have buried Evans on the bench in the second half tonight.

Right on cue, Gerald comes out: 35 points on 12-15 FG/2-3 3PT/9-11 FT and 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals.  Can’t say enough.  That’s two straight games with 30/10 for the All-Star, on a West Coast back-to-back to boot.

Cats go a little cold without Gerald, but still maintaining a healthy cushion as the Kings aren’t exactly lighting Arco Arena on fire either.  Now Gerald is back in.  Come on, Larry — not only are you needlessly risking an injury, but I’m going to have to retype his line!

Oh no — Kings on a 15-3 run and cut it to 95-82.  Cats have missed 11 FG in a row.  Now 12 in a row and Kevin Martin with a three to cut it to 10, 95-85.  Very aggravating.  Gerald and Jack should be icing their knees by now.  What is it with these Kings and their fourth quarter runs?

Flip finally stops the bleeding with a bucket for the Cats, but then fouls Casspi on the way to the basket on the other end.  Casspi with a three-point-play to cut it to 97-90, 2 minutes left.

Now it’s down to 4, 100-96 with 35 seconds left.  Felton with a layup, and then Jason Thompson misses two free throws, Bobcats end up with the ball after a scramble.  Exhale, Cats lead 102-96 with the ball, 17 seconds left.  Felton inexplicably misses two free throws, but it’s too late for the Kings anyways.  Kevin Martin misses a desperation three, Gerald gets the ball, draws a foul and hits one of his two free throws to end it.  103-96 Bobcats final, box score here.

Postgame

Whew, that was a needlessly heart-stopping fourth quarter.  The story should be about Raymond Felton shutting down Tyreke Evans and Gerald Wallace adding to the legend of Gerald Wallace.  But the lead has to be the fact that this one was almost a clone of the MLK Day game.

The difference was that tonight’s big fourth quarter run was led by Sergio Rodriguez, Kevin Martin and Jason Thompson, not Tyreke Evans.  (Late in the game, word came down that Evans was sitting because of a bruised hip, not Raymond Felton-itis.)

In his post-game interview, Gerald commented that he thought the Cats went into “prevent mode” trying to run out the clock too early.  I’m not sure I agree; with a 22-point lead with 9 minutes left and the opponents’ star player on the bench, you should be able to give the starters some rest and salt the game away.  Maybe Gerald is right, though.  These Kings are young, good, and foolish enough to not know that they’re supposed to lay down when down 22 with 9 minutes left.

Gerald’s final line: 38 points (season high) on 12-18 FG/2-4 3PT/12-15 FT, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks.

The Cats improve to 24-22 overall and 3-1 on the road trip, which guarantees them at worst a 3-3 trip with 2 games left.  Things get hard, though, as we’re at the Blazers Monday night (10 PM ET start) and the Lakers (10:30 PM ET start) Wednesday night.  Brandon Roy will reportedly be out Monday night, but Andre Miller will be coming off a career high 52.

-Dr. E