Ok – I started with Diop (a couple of weeks ago) but I will try to make it a little more coherent this go around. Oh, and now that the first one is out of the way – these are going to come in the order of their standing as the Bobcats MVP, starting at the bottom. Nothing against DeSagana Diop, but among the players who finished the season with the Charlotte Bobcats, I think it is a fair ordering so far (though not terribly controversial).
Alexis Ajinca played just under 30 minutes this season for the Bobcats, contributing a total of 10 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal, and 2 turnovers to the cause. And that was it – not much to get from a very recent first-round draft pick for a club headed to the playoffs. But it is that status as relative unknown that causes me to bump his ahead of Diop – and the way Alexis was performing in the D-League this season before a thumb injury cut his year short. Alexis' D-League numbers for your review – and they are not bad: 14.6 points per game on 54.6% shooting, along with 7.5 rebounds and 3.1 blocks in just 26 minutes a night. And do not forget about his biggest night, when Alexis put up a triple-double. Promising numbers for the lanky Frenchman.
The Bobcats just hope that potential starts to turn into actual production this coming season, because Alexis Ajinca is going to cost them – what exactly has yet to be determined, but the Timberwolves will be taking someone with the 16th overall pick in this year's draft thanks to the Bobcats decision to swap first rounders with Denver 2 seasons ago. DraftExpress.com currently has Minnesota taking Damion James of Texas at the spot – you can see their full mock draft here. And Damion James sounds like a Larry Brown type guy – gets to the free throw line, athletic, disruptive defensively.
There lies the conundrum Alexis presents: Can he provide enough value to the Bobcats to allow them to not feel regret on missing out on a projected role-player? Alexis was and is an intriguing talent, with a decent jump shot and solid athleticism for a player standing over 7-feet tall, with a wingspan of eleventy-bajillion feet. But will Ajinca ever be ready to contribute at the NBA level? Steve Weinman of D-League Digest gave a review of Alexis during the season for us – and since Alexis got hurt not too long after that, it remains relevant: Checking in on Alexis.
That said, I still have the same question offensively as I do defensively when it comes to Ajinca at the next level: Is he strong enough? As a legit 7-footer in – again – a league strapped for big-time bigs, Ajinca was going to have his way offensively so long as he committed to going inside…but as he's currently constructed, even if he does the right things mentally, I feel like Ajinca will be giving up too much strength.
Steve still was not seeing enough from Alexis at the mid-point of the year to have any confidence he was ever going to be a capable contributor to an NBA-team. Considering the Bobcats have no picks this year and will be losing another first round pick soon (probably 2012 to Chicago), they cannot afford to waste draft picks – and Ajinca is getting close to that status.
Why? Because the Bobcats have Tyson Chandler, Nazr Mohammed, and DeSagana Diop under contract for next season at the 5, and Boris Diaw locked up at the 4, along with first dibs at signing Tyrus Thomas. Which of those players would Larry Brown sit to get Ajinca, a defensive liability, on the court? From what I saw last year, none – and it is on Alexis to make Larry change his mind. That Ajinca might be able to pull it off is what he keeps him from being the Bobcats least valuable player of the 09-10: No, he did not contribute to the playoff run – but he showed enough in the D-League to think, just maybe, he might the next time.
Previous Season Reviews: