Draft Night Scenarios for the Bobcats

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The Final Bobcats Draft

The final Draft in “Bobcats History” is less than a few hours away and everyone’s still confused as to what Cho & Co. have planned. Let’s run through the most likely scenarios:

Is Cody Zeller in the Mix?

Cody Zeller’s name has been linked to the Bobcats over the past 48 hours as a sleeper pick at number four. Not really a surprise as Zeller grades very well statistically (remember Cho’s famed database?). ESPN’s Kevin Pelton posted a great Draft Comp piece yesterday that had Cody’s collegiate numbers near identical to Lamarcus Aldridge and Chris Bosh – and neither of those two had a defensive phenom like Bismack Biyombo to develop next two.

Anthony Bennett Destined for Charlotte?

Of course, this all might be a smokescreen to obfuscate the Charlotte’s actual target. Could it be Anthony Bennett? Victor Oladipo? Both of these players are projected in the Draft’s Top 3 but could also fall, especially if Cleveland passes on Nerlens Noel (Orlando would take him at two instead of Oladipo). Bennett and Oladipo can both be plugged into the starting five immediately and help. I’d put Otto Porter and maybe even Zeller in that category as well.

Will Alex Len Slip to the Cats?

Many mocks still have Charlotte staying put at four and taking Alex Len if Cleveland passes on the Maryland center at number one. Next year’s Draft lacks any top tier centers (at least for now) and Cho could elect to grab one while he has the chance. ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla – a guy who’s never been known for clickbait – projects Len as this year’s Jonas Valanciunas. That’s a big deal.

If Bobcats Select a Guard

If the Cats go with either Oladipo or Ben McLemore, everyone please send Gerald Henderson a nice thank you/farewell message on twitter. As a restricted free agent, the team will likely renounce Henderson’s rights as soon as free agency begins in July should they select a SG. Don’t worry Hendo fans, my gut feeling tells me that Charlotte will exit the Draft with either a PF or C and Gerald will be back next season.

An Option to Trade Back in the Draft

Trading back could be another option. We’ve known about the Minnesota “Derrick Williams, 9 and 26″ proposal for a while. There could be other opportunities as well. If the team isn’t sold on any single prospect, then this might be the best option. UPDATE: Oklahoma City is another team that would like to move up and grab Len. They have the 12th pick and a few other nice prospects in Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb and the Bobcats’ 2nd rounder (via the Byron Mullens trade). If Cho isn’t sold on any of the draft’s top talent, his old boss in OKC (Presti) might be the first call he makes.

Will Rich Cho Want to Trade Up?

Less likely could be a trade up scenario. Could an offer of Bismack Biyombo and the number four pick be enough to trade up to Cleveland’s 1st? If the team is sold on Noel and wants to tank another season in hopes of Andrew Wiggins, this might be their best bet.

-ASChin
Twitter: @bobcatsbaseline

Nerlens Noel: High and Low

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Nerlens Noel illustration by Mike S.
Baseliners A.S. Chin and Ben Weinrib debate the merits of Kid n’ Play cosplayer/Kentucky freshmen center, Nerlens Noel.

The Nerlens Noel Pre-Draft Debate

ASCHIN: Noel has been 2013’s projected top overall pick from the moment the 2012 Draft was over. Between the length, athleticism and instincts around the basket at both ends, it’s easy to understand why. But here we are, just days before the Draft and there’s talk that the 19-year old Kentucky center may drop out of the top spot. How is this possible? Has the hate gone too far or have the scouts and doctors just had enough time to properly evaluate Noel as a prospect?

BEN: Could there be a better scenario for the Bobcats than drafting Noel? He’s the guy everyone would have expected Charlotte to take had they won the lottery because of his enormous upside and interior presence. Not all great teams have a rim protector, but almost every team with a great rim protector is very good (Indiana, Chicago, San Antonio, Memphis, and even LA). Furthermore, it’s puts Charlotte in prime Wiggins/Parker/Randle position for next summer. What’s not to love with this pick? The dude was a beast at UK and even blew out his knee chasing down and blocking a guard on a fast break.

ASCHIN: I take it that you haven’t listened to the Bill Simmons Father’s Day podcast with Ryen Russillo. Turns out Noel has some world class “bad dudes” running his show from behind the scenes that make Lebron’s entourage look like a MENSA summit by comparison. Nerlens apparently blew off a dozen of the league’s top agents for months before signing with Andy Miller last Friday. Combine that with Noel’s slight frame (tough to add bulk to narrow shoulders), ACL injury, growth plate surgery, raw-as-Biyombo offensive game and you have potentially the WORST Bobcats 2013 Draft candidate. Frankly, Charlotte can’t afford to draft back-to-back-to-back defense-only projects and even if they could, would you really want to invest a Top 5 pick around “the next Theo Ratliff“?

BEN: I actually don’t see the weight issue as such a big deal. Dr. James Andrews recommended Noel drop weight to expedite the recovery, and Noel said he was 228 pounds before the injury. That means he put on 13 pounds in a half year at Kentucky, so he’s shown he can put on weight. But the Bobcats just need to add talent at this point, and he’s the most talented guy on the board. Sure, he may miss two months, but that’s a small sacrifice to make in an otherwise non-competitive season to land the most talented player down the board. He may be Theo Ratliff at the very worst but who is Alex Len if he doesn’t develop an offensive game? Timofey Mozgov? Noel offers the best interior defense in the draft – something the Bobcats desperately need – and he would give them a high-upside 7-footer, something the team has never had. As for the offense, Memphis seems to be doing just fine with about two offensive options, and one of those is Mike Conley. Mike Conley!

ASCHIN: 228lbs?! That’s losing 15% of his body weight in three months – if this were Sean May we were talking about maybe I’d buy it, but a beanpole like Noel? Sounds fishy. Regardless of his physical or mental makeup, I think all this Nerlens talk is doing a severe disservice to the team’s incumbent young rim protector, Bismack Biyombo. Am I crazy for expecting big things from the STILL ONLY 20 YEAR OLD former Lottery pick? Biz really improved his fundamentals this year even if it didn’t show up in the stat sheet and he’s becoming a better on-ball defender game by the game. Also: Biyombo weighs in at a chiseled 245 and still sometimes struggles with uber-bigs like Roy Hibbert (listed at 280). I can only imagine what Hibbert would do to a sub-225 pound bamboo shoot like Noel. #biznation

Bismack Biyombo Illustration by Mike S.

Bismack Biyombo | #biznation

 

BEN: I’m a huge Biyombo apologist! Serge Ibaka didn’t break out until age 21 or 22, so I’m not totally concerned he’s having trouble catching the basketball just yet. But imagine how tough it would be to score down low with Biyombo and Noel awaiting. Charlotte could finally stop guards who thrive off penetrating, which has been one of the teams biggest issues. Imagine the two growing together under the tutelage of Steve Clifford–who has a great reputation of developing big men–and Patrick Ewing. Even newly hired Mark Price may help their embryonic offensive games. The only concerns I’m hearing are that Noel won’t play for part of this season (oh no, they won’t win a championship next year!) and his defense is way ahead of his offense. Given that he’s a year younger than Alex Len, don’t you think Noel will be better than where Len is right now in a year? Len has put up back-to-back pedestrian season, including nearly identical offensive numbers to Noel, despite getting much more praise. Len’s line was 12-8-1-2-0 on 53.4% shooting versus 11-10-2-4-2 on 59.0% shooting for Noel. Age matters, too.

ASCHIN: Well, I’m only a little younger than Tim Duncan so by that rationale, I should be drop-stepping Chris Bosh sometime before I hit 40. At some point you realize guys either have elite offensive instincts or they don’t and Noel clearly doesn’t. As well as Serge Ibaka has developed, he’s still very limited offensively. When’s the last time you saw Serge put it on the floor for a straight line drive? High posts? He sticks with his bread & butter 15-20 foot jumpers and finishes around the rim – both firmly in his wheelhouse. I think both Biz and Noel have that type of potential going forward but it would be damn near impossible to play them together without some world-class offensive phenoms surrounding them (see Ibaka & Perk in OKC). I’m not the biggest Cody Zeller fan in the world but I at least understand the philosophy behind considering him as the pick. You’d love to pair Bismack or Noel with a highly skilled floor spacer – especially with a short-range player like MKG at the other forward spot. So it’s gotta be either Biz OR Noel. And I’ll take Biyombo’s work ethic, attitude and physical size over Nerlens any day. #biznation

Also, Noel wouldn’t be able to suit up for the team until at least the All-Star break. I know that you are firmly in the pro-Tank ’13 camp but don’t you think it’s a tad bit disrespectful to ask thousands of fans to spend their hard-earned money on a team BUILT TO LOSE for a THIRD CONSECUTIVE YEAR?

BEN: I don’t believe for a second you’d rather take Zeller over Noel because he’s a “better fit”. I’d rather find fits for elite talent than fit together lesser talent. Just look at when Minnesota drafted Wes Johnson over DeMarcus Cousins because they needed a wing player. As for the last question, I think you can lower ticket prices as a good will offer if you’re really worried about fans, since winning will ultimately draw in the most money. That’s why I’d rather take the best talent (that also allows the team to capitalize on its likely three draft selections next year). Sure, Andrew Wiggins is far from assured, but from the looks of it, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, and Marcus Smart will be very good, too. A top-five choice if you draft Noel? That’s almost assured. Nearly every NBA superstar was taken near the top of the lottery, so why not go all-in on the best talent in this draft and the most hyped draft in 11 years?

ASCHIN: You lost me at “elite talent”. Chad Ford has Noel grouped with a half dozen other prospects in his 3rd Tier – that usually means starter not superstar. I just think Biz and Noel are the same player with similar upside. Nerlens has the edge in finishing instincts around the bucket while Biyombo has the will and physical size that will allow him to defend the league’s elite centers. As for the ’14 Draft, Marcus Smart was projected to be selected behind Noel all season long before he decided to return to OSU. And don’t forget, this time last year Shabazz Muhammed was everyone’s favorite savior. Remember all those “2012: The Greatest Draft Ever” articles? Didn’t exactly turn out that way.

When you combine the Lottery’s odds with perpetual Draft class uncertainty and the Bobcats’ less than stellar Draft record (Cho has been better but far from perfect), you are basically playing the PowerBall with your fans’ time and money. It’s irresponsible and short-sighted. Case in point: during the Hornets’ heyday, NOT ONCE did the team’s fans have championship aspirations. Not once. All the sell-outs, all of the love from the Muggsy to Divac to Mashburn and B-Diddy eras was earned from simply being competitive and hard-working. That’s really all the city ever asked from ’88-’98 – before the lockout and all the Shinn nonsense. Charlotte isn’t Vegas, it isn’t a win-or-gome home town. It only wants you to compete, play hard and not embarrass anyone. That’s pretty much the opposite of tanking.

BEN: Looks like we just differ in philosophies, and that’s okay. However, judging by Cho’s history and reported philosophy, I’m guessing he’s firmly in the Noel camp. Sure, he’s warted, but everyone else in the draft is warted, too. The one point I keep coming back to is that the potential three draft picks next year are among Charlotte’s biggest assets. You make a good point about overrating drafts, but no prep player recently has received the hype of Wiggins or even Parker. They can’t afford to squander having multiple high draft picks in such a highly-touted class, an opportunity that won’t come around for years. Since they already owe Chicago a first-rounder, they have no choice but to go all-in on the 2014 draft. And Nerlens Noel represents the chance to land the best talent in both drafts combined.

Eight Ways To Win Without Actually Winning – Part 2

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Bobcats Baseline 2012-2013 Season Preview

It may not show up in the standings but the Charlotte Bobcats can find success in Year Two of the rebuild. Check out Part 1 here.

Win #5. Veterans with Class

Let us hope that Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon and Brendan Haywood have patience. The three vets are all roughly in their primes and could be providing valuable minutes for Playoff contenders. There won’t be any postseason in Charlotte, and there may not even be a starting job.
The coaching staff will have to juggle the responsibilities of developing young talent (Henderson, Walker, Biyombo, Jeffrey Taylor and Mullens) while satisfying the egos of the three quality newcomers. If the vets don’t buy in, they could provide to be rookie head coach Mike Dunlap’s greatest challenge.
WIN SCENARIO: Gordon, Sessions and Haywood fully sign-on to the organization’s long-term plan, playing well enough in somewhat limited minutes to entice a generous trade offer from another team or stay put providing valuable leadership to the youngsters and much needed scoring.

Win #6. Good Enough to Excite, Bad Enough to Get Good

Shabazz Mohammed and Nerlens Noel are the early candidates for top pick in next June’s draft, and chances are they’ll be selected by a team with less than 25 wins. Should Dunlap’s Bobcats exceed expectations, this could be tricky as the team is still a few major assets away from building a longterm nucleus. Certainly last year’s double digit blow out squad isn’t an option – the team must stay in games and be competitive – but scrapping out 30 wins and picking at the bottom of the lottery may not be much better in the grand scheme.
WIN SCENARIO: The Bobcats close their brutal point differential to something in the single digits, win a few big games and play fast and fun, winning between 20-25 games in the process while setting themselves up for another bluechip prospect come June.

Win #7. PDX to DET

For once, Bobcats fans will want to keep a close eye on the standings come April. Charlotte owns Portland’s first rounder this summer if the Blazer’s finish outside the top twelve picks (thru 2015, unprotected in 2016). Given Portland’s “retooling” efforts of late, put the odds at 50/50. Charlotte also owns Detroit’s first rounder if the Piston’s make the Playoffs. Should both scenarios play out, consider it a major LOSE scenario for the Bobcats.

The 2013 Draft is already being touted as the definitive “weakest in a decade and the Cats are unlikely to find a difference maker in the mid-first round. More likely is a scenario that sees Portland’s first (via the Gerald Wallace trade) arrive this June and Detroit’s in 2014 when it’ll reduce to a top 8 protection (top 1 protected in 2015, unprotected in 2016).
WIN SCENARIO: Portland’s season collapses as they finish in the bottom third of the league; the Bobcats acquire the pick in a potentially stronger 2014 Draft. Detroit continues its struggles, missing the Playoffs for two more seasons; the Bobcats acquire an additional Top Ten pick between 2014-16.

Win #8. MKG, Dunlap and Culture Change: A Future Destination for FAs?

From the day Coach Dunlap conducted his first offseason training program, one message has been consistent: He wants players to get better, and he’s available 24/7 to make that happen. Combine this with 2nd overall selection Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s fiercely competitive on-the-court demeanor, instantly likable personality and Charlotte may be on its way to building something real; a culture change as they say. This is the sort of thing that can lure free agents to a small market – see David West’s signing with Indiana last summer – players can sense when something special is happening. The combination of Dunlap’s style and MKG’s relentless effort might be enough to make that happen in the Queen City.
WIN SCENARIO: Coach Dunlap makes good on his promise to develop players games while building accountability. MKG arrives as advertised, a Kevin Garnett/Scottie Pippin/Gerald Wallace hybrid; soon to be free agents take note and put the Bobcats on their wish lists next July.

-ASChin