The draft is just 10 days away — we’re just as anxious as you at this point, so Greg, Mathew and I took some time to give our thoughts as to what’s going to play out leading up to + on June 27th.
1- PLAY GM: Who do you take with the #4 pick? We’re going to assume that Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore & Otto Porter go in top-3.
Spencer: Victor Oladipo. I really like Anthony Bennett + Alex Len upside is undeniable, but Oladipo is going to impact the game is more ways than Bennett & Len — that makes him the safest pick. It’s tough, because Charlotte needs the assets that all three of these players bring to the table — that also tells you what kind of shape this roster is in right now.
I’m really big on character. I’m even bigger on character within a very young locker room — exactly why I think a player like DeMarcus Cousins is an awful fit for a franchise like Charlotte, but that’s for another day.
Oladipo has a killer charisma to him + almost every source out of the Big 10 and college basketball has vouched for this. The biggest knock on Oladipo is his skeptical ability to knock down the outside shot consistently + make plays off the dribble. He shot 60% from the field last season + jumped to 44% 3FG from his 20.8% in 2011-12. I understand that these are really big jumps in shooting efficiency, so yes, this could be somewhat of an outlier — that being said, when you factor in that Oladipo is as hard of a worker as they come then, to me, there’s a direct correlation to the improvement and hard work being put in.
Taking Oladipo would likely mean that Gerald Henderson is gone, but I believe the franchise is already leaning in that direction anyways. Hendo is likely going to get an offer for greater than his qualifying deal and good for him. Charlotte not going to waste their time chasing.
What bothers me about Bennett is his inability to stay in-tuned on the defensive end of the floor + his lackluster effort on occasion. He can score in a multitude of ways and is probably the most versatile offensive player in the entire draft, but again, this franchise needs to be thinking about acquiring players with the ability to impact the game in just about every way + is going to bring the positive attitude/effort combination.
Greg: If that’s how the first three picks play out, it’s basically a decision between Victor Oladipo, Anthony Bennett and Alex Len. I’ve already written a little bit about why I’m scared of picking Bennett, though David Thorpe does make a compelling argument for the Bobcats to take him in this Insider article.
Picking between Oladipo and Len comes down to taking the best player available, full stop, or making a choice that takes team fit into consideration. I don’t think either strategy is necessarily wrong. In the abstract, the best player available is always the correct decision — but real life is a lot messier, even on a team with as little talent as the Bobcats.
Most pundits would probably rank Oladipo as the better prospect; for what it’s worth, Chad Ford lists Oladipo as the second-best player in the draft and Len at fifth. But taking Oladipo almost definitely means giving up on Gerald Henderson — in addition to their similar style of play, there just wouldn’t be enough minutes for the two of them. Wing minutes were already hard to balance last year, and keeping both players would have Oladipo, Henderson, Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions, Jeff Taylor, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist all competing for time at shooting guard and small forward. Ditching Henderson is definitely an option, but swapping him for Oladipo is likely a lateral move at best in the short-term and a question mark in the long-term.
Assuming Oladipo is the pick, and the team moves forward with him and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as the starters, there are still issues with fit. Oladipo projects to bring defense, rebounding, and an efficient but limited offensive game — essentially what MKG showed in his rookie year. They’ll have to hope one or both grow in significant ways, especially on offense; if the pair ends up being good but redundant in a few years, they’ll need to make a trade from a position of weakness, or demote one to the bench.
Len, on the other hand, is rawer but fills an immediate and desperate need. He’d have every opportunity to play from Day 1, and gives the team a balanced roster of young players to develop. Len isn’t the sexiest pick, but he gives the team a big man theoretically capable of doing big man things like catching the ball in the post and consistently rebounding. They don’t really have that right now. Even if he tops out as an average starter, that would still be a huge upgrade.
This has been a long-winded way of saying Len would be my choice, unless the front office feels Oladipo is a significantly better prospect. If they’re viewed as roughly equal, then it’s Len all the way.
Mathew: Anthony Bennett. If this scenario plays out then the Bobcats will most likely be choosing from Oladipo, Bennett, and Len unless they decide to trade the pick. I like Anthony Bennett. If the Bobcats haven’t given up on Biyombo then they should have come to the conclusion that he needs to be paired with an offensive big man. I for one am rather confident Byron Mullens is not the answer. Would a frontline of Biyombo and Bennett pose problems against larger teams? Sure, but how many of those are there really?
Like many others, I am not sold on Len. I agree that he probably has the highest upside of the three, but I just don’t see the demeanor I like out of big man. As far as Oladipo, in my opinion you cannot expect to start both he and MKG on the wings. The Bobcats would suffer from the same spacing problems as last season. If the NBA Finals have taught us anything it’s that you have to be able shoot the three to be competitive in today’s game.
2- FACT OR FICTION: Charlotte will trade the #4 overall pick?
Spencer: There is a FACT, and that is to say that Rich Cho is aggressively seeking to deal this pick. I don’t have a direct source who has told me, but you can find plenty of reading material suggesting this + my intuition tells me so. The Bobcats have expiring contracts to sweeten a deal with the #4 pick, as well. Out of any draft scenario that Cho could draw up, I’d venture to guess that trading this pick is his dream scenario.
Greg: I think they’d like to, but I’d be surprised if they find a taker. If they do move the pick, it’ll likely be for a package built around a young big man on either his first or second contract. Here’s a random list of players that might be worth targeting:
Just to be clear, I’m not proposing a straight-up swap of the pick for any of these guys. But if they can work up a deal that makes sense, it’s the caliber of player that would fit and they might have a realistic shot of getting.
Mathew: Maybe. Again, if the aforementioned scenario plays out on draft night then I could possibly see the Bobcats trading back (or swapping picks, which you see more often) with a team that really wants Len or Oladipo (more than likely Oladipo) given the assumption the Bobcats have decided on Bennett. I would put the odds at under 50%, but don’t count it out.
Could they trade the pick for an established veteran? I would advise against it. When I heard the rumors about Chris Bosh, I cringed. Would such a move make them immediately better? Of course. But for what? To get back in the hunt for the 8 seed? In my opinion that would be short-sighted.
3- WISH LIST: Who’s the one player in this draft you want Charlotte to nab and why?
Spencer: Victor Oladipo. Does Charlotte need a true scorer on this roster? Yes. Do they need a big man on the block who can catch the ball + actually be threat to score? No question. If you haven’t figured it out, those two questions pertained to the arguments being made for Bennett and Len, in order. Fact is this, Charlotte needs a ton, and much like in last year’s draft where there was no sure thing after Anthony Davis, it’s where the team is going to find themselves at #4 this season.
Greg: Nerlens Noel. Noel is a risky choice, and has plenty of legitimate knocks: he’s coming off a horrific injury, he’s underweight at this point, and his offensive game is raw at best.
But! Noel’s talent on the defensive end makes that a worthwhile risk. Charlotte gave up the third-most attempts in the restricted area last year, and an athletic, shotblocking center (with a little more awareness than Biyombo) would do wonders. It’s not hard to imagine a career arc like Tyson Chandler’s, if the team is patient with him.
On offense, if he’s competent and plays within himself, that should be enough. At the very least, his athleticism would let him run the floor with Kemba and MKG if the team plays up-tempo.
That trio would give the team a solid offensive creator (Walker), a very good wing defender (MKG) and a potentially elite anchor in the paint (Noel). Plug in a shooter at SG and an offensive-minded PF through free agency and trades, and you have something that resembles a competitive NBA team.
Mathew: Ben McLemore. I would actually be happy with a host of guys from this draft (Noel, Bennett, McCollum), but McLemore stands atop of the list for me. Some have dogged him for his lack of killer instinct, but in lieu of a “Kobe mentality” you get a guy with by all accounts high character. And to be honest, if a player is not going to be the lead guy on your team (I wouldn’t expect McLemore to be) I’m not sure I want him with that sort of mentality anyway. But I digress. As far as X’s and O’s go, McLemore would give the Bobcats the spacing they desperately need as well as improving the team’s overall athleticism. In my opinion, he’s the guy.
The NBA Finals have begun, the draft is a mere 16 days away and the beginning of free agency is less than a month (July 1) from being upon us — minus the first part of that last sentence, it’s a Bobcats fan favorite time of the year. A time to talk about all of the up-and-coming free agents that Charlotte could land, but probably won’t. A time to debate who the next savior of the team will be with our pick in the top-5. A time to dream about how the future could be, one day, bright for this struggling franchise.
Okay, re-focus with me now. One very important aspect to Charlotte’s summer is going to be in deciding what soon to be free agents that are currently on the roster will be retained. The headline names include Gerald Henderson, Josh McRoberts, Byron Mullens and Jeff Adrien.
Gerald Henderson: This is without question the most intriguing/debateable free agent that will be up for grabs come July 1. Hendo has a qualifying offer worth approximately $4.5 million, but it’s almost certain that there will be a team that offers more than $5mil/year — the ultimate question is where exactly Hendo’s market value is going to fall.
He finished the season very strong — Hendo averaged 18.9 PPG & 4 RPG after the all-star break (30 games). This is a classic case of a player over-achieving towards the end of his contract in search of a fat new deal, but was Hendo’s late season performance as much of a smokescreen as it seems? That’s what GM’s around the league must ask themselves and the majority opinion to that question will give us Hendo’s market value.
I’d venture to guess that if that number grows greater than $6mil annually, Charlotte will elect to let him walk. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Cho did try to trade Hendo at the trade deadline for a package that included the names J.J. Hickson & Timofey Mosgov.
– 50% probability Henderson signs a new contract with Charlotte.
Josh McRoberts: McRob came over from Orlando for Hakim Warrick and did nothing but ball out for 26 games — 9.3 PPG (50.5% FG), 7.2 RPG & 2.7 APG. McRob can really see the floor well for a big man and on top of that is a great passer. That’s probably the most refreshing skill he brought to Charlotte. Not only does he have above average athletic ability for his 6’10 frame, but he proved to be a high IQ player who can create offense by passing and shooting.
Not sure that he’s been an unselfish player for his entire 5-year career in the league, but he’s morphed into one + has passing abilities that remind you of a guy like Boris Diaw. McRoberts is going to be cheap + has proved to be solid role player. 2 years/$5mil isn’t outrageous.
– 75% probability McRoberts signs a new contract with Charlotte.
Byron Mullens: Wow. I’m going to do my best to keep this short and snappy, because it doesn’t usually end pretty when I get started on Mully. What can I say, he’s a coaches worst nightmare. Byron can look like the best player on the floor and the worst within back-to-back possessions. Mully took 3.9 3PA/game last season and he’s 7-feet tall — just go ahead and let that sink in.
The Bobcats have one of the more rare commodities in basketball with Mully — a true 7-footer that can stretch the floor. Yet, with the shot selection + decision making that he possesses on both ends, many times that rare commodity is a waste. No team wants a center that consistently lingers around 40% from the field — It’s the true adversary of offensive efficiency.
*Forces self to be optimistic* — Byron did show flashes of improvement last season. He got significantly better on the glass + seemed to have a more polished offensive game around the basket, although the willingness to play from that area wasn’t there. Byron attempted more shots (157) from 25-29 ft. than any other place on the floor.
Charlotte’s most glaring need is a big man that can play near the basket and force defenses to send an extra defender. Otherwise, you’re always very easy to guard. Mullens doesn’t bring this to the table and it’s not smart to assume he ever will.
Mullens basically has the exact same qualifying offer as Gerald Henderson ($4.5mil) because of the fact that he met ‘starter criteria’ in 2012-13 season + met the 41 starts/2,000 minutes required to meet the qualifying offer equal to that of the 9th pick of his draft class (via ShamSports.com). Can’t imagine that the interest around the league is anything more than lukewarm around paying Mullens more than what his qualifying offer is worth.
– 65% probability that Mullens signs qualifying offer deal with Charlotte.
Jeff Adrien: An energetic type of player who is physical/strong + can rebound the ball. Could be a nice role player for many teams in this league.
If Cho does indeed decide to amnesty Tyrus Thomas + Byron Mullens ends up elsewhere due to a sweeter offer, then I could see Adrien back in Charlotte. Although it seems highly unlikely at this point, there is the possibility that both Tyrus & Mullens are on this roster next season — that would leave little, to no room for Adrien.
A lot will depend on how the Bobcats address their frontcourt needs this summer. Do they seek to add a star through free agency/trade, or do they go get a player like Anthony Bennett in the draft? If either of those situations manifest themselves, then it’s hard to imagine that Adrien will find his way back in Charlotte.
Ultimately, it’s hard to see Adrien back in Charlotte due to the fact that all signs point towards Cho addressing some of the frontcourt needs this summer through either the draft, free agency or a trade. On top of that, you have McRoberts, Mullens, Tyrus & Adrien all wondering whether or not they’re going to be back next season — Adrien is likely towards the bottom of that list in priority for the front office, so you do the math.
– 35% probability Adrien signs a new contract with Charlotte.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, Patrick Ewing has agreed in principle to become the associate head coach in Charlotte.
Ewing coached with new head coach Steve Clifford in Orlando and Houston in earlier assistant coaching stops. Ewing was also an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards back in 2002-2003.
Ewing is renowned by most for his ability to develop big men, and did assist Dwight Howard with his development when in Orlando, but Ewing has made it clear that he wants to be known as a basketball coach first.
“I just don’t want to come in and be labeled a big-mans coach,” Ewing said last week.
That being said, it’s still quite clear that Bismack Biyombo’s development hopefully just took a turn for the best.
Regardless of how Ewing is perceived by general fans or others around the league, he’s undoubtedly one of the best post players to ever play in this league + is saturated in basketball knowledge. It’s hard to imagine that this is anything but a great hire for Charlotte and will aid in their player development.
Ewing and Michael Jordan are very close and played on the 1992 United States ‘Dream Team’ together, but this wouldn’t appear to be a ‘yes man’ hire by Jordan. Ewing is hopefully another hire that falls into the category of Jordan’s ‘hands off’ approach.
As has been noted when the Bobcats hired Steve Clifford as their head coach, Ewing and Clifford have coached together in Houston and Orlando, so the relationship runs rather deep.
“I have worked with Steve for many years in Houston and Orlando and I consider him to be a friend. We’ll see what they are looking for and see if it’ll be a good fit,” Ewing told CSNNW.com.
Numerous people have commented how good Ewing would be for the youthful bigs in Charlotte and add the needed toughness that the front court lacks in many ways, but Ewing seems as if he’d rather be respected as a basketball coach, in general, first.
“I just don’t want to come in and be labeled a big-mans coach. We’ll sit down and see what we can offer one another and go from there,” said Ewing.
At the time, the comments sound like Ewing is somewhat lukewarm to the idea of coming to Charlotte. That being said, he’s also been contacted by Sacramento about interviewing for their head assistant position as well, but no meeting has been scheduled as of yet.
I think most would agree that adding Patrick Ewing would be quite a catch for this coaching staff and it’ll all come down to Steve Clifford convincing the hall of fame center of how much he truly needs him in Charlotte.
The nice part about following a team that’s terrible is that there are plenty of avenues for improvement. Pretty much no matter what happens this offseason, the Bobcats are going to start next year with a better team. (I realize I’m tempting fate here.) Let’s take a look at where they were the worst, and how they can get better through internal adjustments, the draft and free agency:
First, some “good” news — the Bobcats weren’t the worst team in the league from long range. They ranked 27th in three-point percentage, beating out the Suns, Magic and Timberwolves. The team only had two above-average players from three: Ben Gordon and Jannero Pargo. (Tyrus Thomas’ 3-for-8 mark doesn’t count.) Ben Gordon is Ben Gordon, and it’s unlikely Pargo will return. At 34 percent, Jeff Taylor was the team’s next-best option.
Improving from within: The Bobcats can’t really adjust their rotation to address this, other than giving Ben Gordon more minutes (probably a bad idea). Instead, they’ll need to see growth from their young players, mostly Kemba Walker and Jeff Taylor. Taylor especially showed some promise, shooting reasonably well from the corners:
If the team can get him more looks at those spots, it’ll improve his efficiency. Likewise, better ball movement and fewer isolation plays will create more open looks and improve the shooting overall.
Improving through the draft: This one’s obvious; if Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore is available when the Bobcats pick, he’d be an ideal fit. His outside shooting and athleticism would make him a good complement to both Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, giving Charlotte a well-constructed backcourt to build around. If they end up trading down (or feel like giving their fanbase an aneurysm), Shabazz Muhammad could also be an option.
Improving in free agency: What happens with Gerald Henderson will determine a lot. Henderson is well-rounded and still young, but he seems best suited to a sixth-man role where he can play 20-25 minutes a game between the wing spots. I’d be afraid of overpaying him. The team seems to agree, since they reportedly shopped him for a first-round pick before the trade deadline.
If his contract demands creep up too high, that’s money that could be better put towards a player that can shoot, like J.J. Redick, O.J. Mayo or Kevin Martin. Henderson’s three-point shooting improved to 33 percent this year, but pairing him and MKG will likely always cause spacing issues. Even a short-term flier on a veteran like Kyle Korver might be better than giving a big-money deal to Hendo.
[Sidenote: Attracting free agents, even mid-tier players like those listed above, is going to be a challenge. Play along for now. A quiet offseason wouldn’t necessarily be a failure, though — it’s just one of the growing pains that comes with rebuilding a team from scratch. Better to save the money and live to spend another day than give out an inflated contract because you’re desperate.]
A big part of the team’s offensive struggles was due to the complete void in the post; Charlotte shot a league-low 54.5 percent within five feet of the rim, and Byron Mullens was the only frontcourt player that averaged more than 10 points per game. (He had 10.6.) Teams could basically ignore the big men, especially Biyombo and Haywood, and focus on preventing the outside shot.
Improving from within: Keeping Josh McRoberts around would be a good start. With the Bobcats, McRoberts hit 62.7 percent of his shots less than eight feet from the basket, and showed some promise in the pick and roll. Ball movement was also noticeably better with him on the floor. His mediocre rebounding and defense mean he’s probably better suited for a bench role in the long term, but right now he’s a much better option than Mullens.
Improving through the draft: Many mock drafts have the Bobcats taking UNLV’s Anthony Bennett here, and he was a polished all-around scorer in college. I’ll be honest, though: he kind of terrifies me. Similarly versatile tweener forwards such as Derrick Williams, Thomas Robinson and Michael Beasley have struggled to adapt to the NBA in recent years, and Bennett could have trouble against taller and stronger athletes. I’m not saying he won’t find a place in the league, with similarly sized players like Carlos Boozer, Carl Landry, Dejuan Blair and Jared Sullinger finding varying levels of success, but the potential to bust feels high.
A player like Maryland’s Alex Len might be a safer pick. At 7’1, he obviously has the size for the pro game. A soft touch around the basket and good shotblocking make him an attractive choice, as well. From his college career, it seems unlikely he’ll ever be an explosive offensive player, but the team just needs someone competent and steady in the post at this point.
Cody Zeller might end up being the best big man scorer in the draft, but feels like a bit of a reach at No. 4. He’s a possibility if the team trades down.
Improving in free agency: If the team really wants to make a splash, they can make a play for a top free agent like Josh Smith, Paul Milsap, Carl Landry or Al Jefferson. All are in their prime, and they’ll all command big, long-term contracts. It’s been a long time since the Bobcats had even a league-average big man, so improving here would be very welcome.
Rather than splurging on an aging semi-star, though, it might make more sense for the team to focus on some of the younger players available. J.J. Hickson, Brandan Wright (remember him?), and the previously mentioned Dejuan Blair are all coming off their rookie deals and seem like a better fit with the developing Bobcats. That they’ll be cheaper is just an added bonus. If they take off, that’s terrific. If they wind up coming off the bench, that’s fine — the overall talent level in Charlotte is so poor that the team needs to be building depth, too. They can always go big next year.
These are separate but related issues. Rebounding is easier to quantify: Charlotte was 29th in DRB% last year, and were outrebounded by an average of around four boards per game. Letting opponents have that many second-chance opportunities doesn’t help a defense, especially one that was already struggling.
Teams didn’t have much trouble getting to the rim, either, with the Bobcats giving up the third-most attempts in the restricted area. As the defense collapsed on the open man inside, it often led to uncontested jump shots — a big part of why Charlotte ranked 29th in three-point defense.
Improving from within: The first step is an easy one: give MKG full starter’s minutes. The team was significantly better at rebounding on both ends when he played, and his often-sketchy offense shouldn’t be enough of a drag to keep him off the floor. He was also a solid post defender in limited attempts, according to MySynergySports.com, and the team’s defense was better in general when he played.
Most of the improvement will probably come from changes to rotations and coaching. The small-ball lineups, usually featuring Walker next to Sessions and/or Gordon, were crushed on the boards and didn’t see enough of an uptick in offense to justify the experiment.
I think we’ll see Steve Clifford shift Sessions to more of a back-up role and stick with a more traditional lineup. It’s also possible Ramon could be traded; he’s practically the only desirable piece on the Bobcats at the moment, and his $5 million expiring contract would be easy to move. The front office has made major deals in each of the past two offseasons, so we’ll see if that streak continues.
Improving through the draft: Nerlens Noel is the ideal choice here, but it’s doubtful he’ll still be available when the Bobcats are picking. The previously mentioned Alex Len would be a plus, too.
He’s not a big man, but Victor Oladipo would likely help to some extent. Like Kidd-Gilchrist, he’s an excellent rebounder for a wing and would bring tenacious man defense. I think he’s a little too similar to MKG to be a realistic option, but he’d be a good value and could probably replace Henderson’s minutes without too much of a dropoff.
Improving through free agency: This big man crop is heavy on scorers but doesn’t have too many elite defenders. Dwight Howard is out there, but I think even the most optimistic Bobcats fan isn’t holding out much hope for him.
One option is chasing a post defender in restricted free agency: Minnesota’ Nikola Pekovich is available and is a solid defensive presence, though the Timberwolves will likely match any offer for him. While he isn’t a standout on his own, San Antonio’s Tiago Splitter has shown he’s able to play his role well as part of an elite defense.
Just as the day turns to night, we’re at it again with the DeMarcus Cousins trade rumors. And wouldn’t you know it — Charlotte is right in the middle of the circus.
The Bobcats were linked to Cousins back at the beginning of the year and QCH discussed it. Personally, I hated it at the time + it still makes me sick to my stomach to think the rebuilding effort would end with this franchise investing in this troubled athlete.
Here’s what ESPN’s Chad Ford had to say about who might be interested in trading for Cousins now that the new ownership might look to wash their hands with the failed (so far) experiment –
The Cavs won’t be the only team calling the Kings once they get a new GM in place. Sources say that the Charlotte Bobcats and Dallas Mavericks also will have interest in Cousins if Sacramento’s new management decides to cut ties with Cousins.
Bobcats owner Michael Jordan doesn’t want to be mired in the rebuilding process forever. If the No. 4 pick could net him an established low-post scorer, he’d bite. Cousins would be more of a “Plan C” for the Mavs if both Chris Paul and Dwight Howard decide not to join the Mavs this summer, but Cousins would give them a young presence in the paint to build around.
Cousins has enormous talent, but his off- and on-court antics caused major issues in Sacramento the past few years. Will new ownership, management and coaching be able to help him right the ship? Or would the Kings be better off trading him now and get a high pick in this year’s draft? They won’t get a huge offer because he’s a perceived troublemaker who is going into the final year of his contract before he hits restricted free agency. Getting a high lottery pick might be the best the Kings can hope for.
Cousins is a very talented player and is one of the best frontcourt scorers the NBA, but any team is playing with fire by trading for him. To me, he fits with a franchise that already has demanding veteran personalities that won’t allow Cousins to act like a baby everytime something doesn’t go his way. That’s obviously not the culture that’s in place in Charlotte currently, and it seems as if trading for an immature player would be shooting yourself in the foot since a large portion of the rebuilding effort has been based around high character, youthful players.
There’s no denying Cousins talent — 2012-13: 17.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 46.5 FG% & 20.21 PER. There’s also no denying the fact that there are talented players in the NBA that you simply don’t win with — Cousins fits in that category, and in my opinion, always will.
Steve Clifford has now been named the new coach of this young rebuilding movement in Charlotte and now all eyes are set towards the June 27th NBA Draft. Although the draft isn’t loaded with elite talent this season, the Bobcats cannot afford to strikeout on landing a prospect that will help the team moving forward.
Last Tuesday, Charlotte learned that they’ll draft 4th next month — unless they find a way to trade back, which would probably be ideal for just about any team in the top-5. With the 4th pick, there are a few presumptions that we can make about the first 3 — 1) Nerlens Noel + Ben McLemore will more than likely be off the draft board. 2) One team in the top-3 is going to make every attempt they can to move back in the draft, and with this field of underwhelming talent, that’s going to be a very difficult sell to other teams/buyers.
When considering those factors, it’s fair to assume that the Bobcats will be stuck with the 4th pick and choosing from these list of prospects — Otto Porter, Victor Oladipo, Anthony Bennett, C.J. McCollum, Alex Len, Cody Zeller & Steven Adams. Len probably has the most potential of this group because of his 7’1 frame + athleticism for a player of this size.
– ESPN’s Chad Ford on Len following the Draft Combine
Len was on crutches during his visit to the combine. He measured well with a nearly 7-foot-4 wingspan and was impressive in interviews by virtually all accounts. If he could work out, I think he’d have a shot at going No. 1. However, from what I’m told, he’s still in the mix with the Cavs for that top spot anyway. It’s hard to imagine him falling out of the top 10.
Well, if the Cavs are seriously considering Len at #1 overall, then certainly every team drafting soon after them would have to take a long look at the Maryland center, right? Yes and no. If Len was available at #4 then there’s no doubt that Charlotte would have a very difficult time on him, but let’s all remember that smokescreens are a seriously tool in every draft — especially valuable in a draft that doesn’t feature any shoe-in stars. If Cleveland could convince a front office that Len is really worth the top pick (which is highly unlikely) because of his athleticism/mobility for his size, then they’d have a chance of cashing in on that #1 pick. Again, that’s highly unlikely, and the only realistic scenario that would get any team out of the top-4 picks would include Cleveland, Orlando, Washington or Charlotte taking on a player salary that has multiple years left to give ‘X-team’ salary cap relief.
ESPN’s Ryen Russillo has thrown out a theoretical trade scenario that’s a good reference point to how one of these teams would be able to move back in the draft — Cleveland trades #1 overall pick for Luol Deng. Deng has approximately $28mil over 2 seasons left on his contract.
Charlotte really has no assets to package in a trade in order to move back, so let’s bank on the fact that they will be drafting at #4 unless they find their way into a deal that help two other teams facilitate some kind of trade. Most mock draft boards currently have Charlotte selecting Victor Oladipo with the 4th pick, and I couldn’t be anymore on-board with that idea. It sounded like a fit before the hiring of Steve Clifford, but Oladipo seems to be an even better fit since we’ve learned who the new head coach will be for this franchise. It should be obvious to most now that Cho is trying to build this roster with youth that are of a high character model — Oladipo is that. Along with the fact that there isn’t a player that brings more energy to the floor + great two position defender + a rapidly developing offensive player — this is as close to a no-brainer selection with the 4th pick as it gets to me (assuming he’s available).
The other name I’d like to focus on is Anthony Bennett. At 6’8, 240 lbs. he’s got a wide frame and is a terrific scorer from numerous spots on the floor. Very versatile offensively. Bennett is very explosive around the rim + can beat most defenders off the dribble to get there — he’s drawn comparisons to Larry Johnson, an ex-Charlotte Hornet great. Bennett really believes in his game and sometimes that can come back to bite him. One of his biggest weaknesses is his spotty shot selection + being a bit out of control on the offensive end from time-to-time. Although he’s versatile offensively, he doesn’t have great size (height) and lacks an effective post game offensively. Bennett is also spotty defensively with his effort — as you could imagine, that’s the biggest concern to me.
– Chad Ford on Bennett following the Draft Combine
Bennett wasn’t able to play at the combine, nor did he interview. The shoulder surgery doesn’t appear to bother teams much; it’s more about the fit. He has an NBA-ready game and should be a terrific scorer at the next level, but his lack of ideal size makes him a little more difficult to plug in. The Wizards, Bobcats, Suns and Pistons are all taking a serious look.
When we talk about guys who have star potential in the NBA out of this draft class, Bennett’s name is without doubt one that jumps off the page. Below is the DraftExpress scouting video for Bennett.
So, there’s the early outlook on what I can gather leading up to next months draft. Again, this draft isn’t loaded with talent, but don’t let that fool you — the Bobcats must capitalize on every opportunity they get to improve the roster at this point of the rebuilding process.
Charlotte has hired their 3rd coach in the last 3 seasons with Steve Clifford. Unlike the last hire, Clifford does possess quite a bit of NBA coaching experience. He coached with Stan Van Gundy in Orlando, Jeff Van Gundy in Houston and Mike Brown + Mike D’Antoni with the Lakers. Clifford has been an assistant throughout the NBA for 13 years.
Steve Clifford has drawn many Tom Thibodeau comparisons due to the fact that he’s a defensive minded coach and he coached with Thibs on Jeff Van Gundy’s staff in Houston.
“When you work with a guy for a while, you just know when he has “it,” and this guy has ‘it.’ When he gets his opportunity, he’ll knock it out of the park.” — Jeff Van Gundy on Clifford.
“But I’ve always said – Some GM is going to make a lot of money off Clifford because he is going to get the maximum level output from his team, and the organization will benefit greatly from that.” — Jeff Van Gundy on Clifford.
Clifford’s contract is reportedly worth $6 million over 3 seasons, with the final season being a team option. Clifford is also expected to bring Patrick Ewing with him to Charlotte to be a member of the coaching staff, according to Adrian Wojnarowski.
Let’s go roundtable with the QCH Panel and dissect what to expect from Steve Clifford in Charlotte –
1- Tell us what impresses you the most with Clifford?
Spencer: The accolades that he’s receiving from the rest of the NBA coaching fraternity. Some of the comments that the Van Gundy contingency are making is extremely encouraging and suggests that Clifford knows what he’s doing in this league — although I still believe that Dunlap is a very good coach and probably should have gotten one more year, it’s encouraging that Charlotte now has a coach who has experience in this league + has a reputation of getting the most out of individuals in a much more egotistical saturated environment.
I’m a sucker for defense, so I’m probably most excited about the fact that this is the area we will see the most improvement in. It didn’t seem as if Dunlap was able to get consistent effort/energy from players, but if the rumblings about Clifford being a player’s coach who can get maximum effort from more guys than not are true, then we’ll see immediate defensive improvement — regardless of the scheme.
Greg: Clifford seems to have a pretty solid resume; he’s coached under both of the Van Gundy brothers, and caught on with the Lakers as a top assistant after Stan Van Gundy’s tenure in Orlando ended. He’s not a high-profile assistant like Mike Malone or Brian Shaw, but he has a lot of experience under some top-flight coaches. At the very least, he should have a better sense than Mike Dunlap of what makes sense and what doesn’t in the pro game.
Mathew: What impresses me most is the amount of time he’s spent coaching under a host of successful defensive-minded coaches such as Jeff Van Gundy. Given the years he’s put in as an NBA assistant, he appears adequately prepared for the challenge that is the Charlotte Bobcats head coaching position.
2- What drastic change should fans expect in Charlotte with the implementation of Steve Clifford?
Spencer: Defensive style. Clifford appears to be an old school style of coach in the sense that he wants his teams to be very disciplined and tight on the defensive end — he was strictly the defensive coordinator for D’Antoni and the Lakers. As you see with Thibs teams in Chicago, they rotate defensively as well, if not better, than any team in the league. I’m not suggesting that Clifford will come in and have Charlotte looking like the Bulls on the defensive end, but if he draws comparisons to the style of Thibs + has a reputation of getting maximum effort/being a players coach, we’ll likely see vast improvement defensively.
Greg: It’s difficult to find much information on Clifford’s preferred style, but it makes sense that he’d try to install a system similar to the one he helped run in Orlando. Here’s how Eddy Rivera at Magic Basketball summed up that team’s defensive philosophyin the past:
With Dwight Howard manning the middle, some of the Magic’s defensive tenets are as followed: limit shot opportunities at the rim, don’t foul as to prevent free-throw opportunities, and coerce as many jumpshots as possible. Also, rebounding the basketball and getting back in transition (thus sacrificing chances for offensive rebounds) are things that matter a great deal to Van Gundy. Rarely will you see Orlando try and go for steals, for example, because Van Gundy would rather rely on fundamentals on defense than gamble and be out of position.
On offense, the Magic relied heavily on three-pointers and installed shooters at every position but center. Clifford won’t have the luxury of Dwight Howard or many long-range specialists with the current Bobcats, so it’ll be interesting to see how he adapts to their roster. A better-organized defense will probably be the most immediate change.
Mathew: Better defense. The NBA’s final four post-season teams all finished in the top seven in Defensive Efficiency, with the Pacers and Grizzlies boasting the League’s best two ratings. It’s not a sexy sell to the team’s fans but this is the direction the NBA is headed. There are certain to be more Tom Thibodeau’s and less Mike D’Antoni’s moving forward. The Bobcats finished dead last in Defensive Efficiency last season. Of course a team needs the right players to execute lock-down defense, but coaching matters. Look for Coach Clifford to immediately put his stamp on the defensive end of the court.
3- Will Clifford last 3 years (contractual agreement)?
Spencer: I don’t think Charlotte has a choice but to allow Clifford a fair amount of time. At some point, the organization is going to have to be invested in a coach and allow him time to prove his system can work. With a roster like Charlotte’s, it’s obviously not reasonable to expect results overnight (still why I’m confused about Dunlap firing), but I think that the front office feels as if they truly have ‘their guy’ now.
Remember this — this is the hire that the team has made on the heels of the announcement of returning to the Hornets + one year prior to a draft that could field the team 3 1st round draft picks. Those factors would suggest that Cho & Higgins truly perceive Clifford as the man to help Charlotte turn the corner in this exhausting rebuilding effort.
Greg: I don’t see why not. You can look at the Dunlap firing and say that management has an itchy trigger finger, but I’m not sure they were ever that happy with the hire in the first place. It came after two of their top candidates, Brian Shaw and Jerry Sloan, removed themselves from the running. It’s always possible that it doesn’t work out, but Clifford won’t have the extreme learning curve that Dunlap had. That alone gives him a better shot at sticking around.
Mathew: I’ll say yes. The third year is a team option, but I’ll continue to be play the role of optimist and say Cho & Co. know what they’re doing this time. As Greg noted, there’s plenty of evidence out there that suggests the team was not all that thrilled last year when they brought Coach Dunlap on board. Was Clifford the Bobcats’ first choice this time around? Who knows, but he boasts infinitely more NBA experience and seems to generally be held in relatively high regard across the League. I say he’s in the market to buy, not rent – well, at least rent to own.
Charlotte was given a small dose of disappointing news tonight when we found out that the team will select 4th next month in the NBA draft.
There’s good and bad news here. The bad news first — well, it’s rather self-explanatory. Once again, the Bobcats had an opportunity to land it’s first #1 overall selection ever. The good news is that this summers draft is presumably filled with role players on the next level. There will obviously be some very good players in the NBA from this draft, but it’s very unclear who that’ll be and cannot be said that Charlotte won’t find that diamond in the rough at #4. This will be the teams 4th pick in the top-4 in their 9 year existence.
A few names that quickly pop into my mind are Victor Oladipo, Alex Len and Anthony Bennett. Out of these three players, only one worked out in the draft combine in Chicago last weekend – Oladipo, and he dazzled. I wrote a month ago about why I think Charlotte should draft Olapdipo. Victor is one of the most elite athletes in this draft, impacts the game in as many ways as anyone on the board and has as good of a character as you will find. On top of that, Oladipo has arguably one of the biggest upsides of any player in this draft due to the way he impacts the game on both ends — an excellent/energetic defender that scores with his above average jump shot + elite finisher at the rim. The obvious upsides of Len and Noel, due to their size, is well documented.