Henry Abbot of ESPN's Truhoop just posted one of the most interesting and thought-provoking pieces on basketball that I've read this season: Young NBA players need minutes. It's a long read but well worth it and as a matter of fact just stop reading now and click the link and come back here later.
Finished, good. The thing that jumps out at me about Henry's piece is that it underscores Malcolm Gladwell's book “Outliers” and the theory about needing 10,000 hours to achieve greatness, but more importantly it's something that these Charlotte Bobcats should take to heart if they want to improve after this season.
Right now everyone is basking in the afterglow of the team clinching it's first ever playoff spot, ironically over the New Orleans Hornets. But if there is going to be a repeat performance next season or even some growth then at some point Michael Jordan and Larry Brown are going to have to come to the conclusion that Gerald Henderson, Derrick Brown, and whatever player they draft in the second round this year have to be the focus.
I've written about my concerns about the Bobcats before, but let's be clear any improvement moving forward has to come from the younger players. Gerald Henderson can't shoot that's a fact made clear with every cringe-worthy 20-footer he's taken this season, for that reason he is a tough fit for this team already full of athletic non-shooters. Still I believe shooters are made and not born and all you need to do is look at the team's new owner to learn that lesson. Jordan himself went from super athletic guard to super athletic guard that can make six three pointers in the NBA finals.
Derrick Brown has certainly shown glimpses of his ability to be a small-ball power-forward, despite the fact that he hasn't played more than 10 minutes in any given game since March third. Next season Derrick Brown and Gerald Henderson will need to play more for the Bobcats to build on their progress.
But I believe that this summer may provide a unique opportunity to find good players in the second round and as undrafted free agents. The collective bargaining agreement ends after next season and there are plenty of whispers that there will be a lockout for the 2011 season. If I'm a freshmen, sophomore or even junior in college that wants to get my family out of a tough financial situation I have to keep that in mind, and even though I may be a second round pick or go undrafted at least I'll have the opportunity to earn some kind of pay check for a season prior to a league work stoppage that could lag on for an indeterminate amount of time.
That being said the second round pick the Bobcats hold or even the open roster spots they fill will likely hold plenty of promise. Without granting these guys consistent playing time that talent will go to waste and the prospects for a stronger team in the future will likely do the same.
I spoke with DJ Augustin during the low point of his season where he was passing up every open three-pointer he could get and missing all the ones he took, and while he never blamed anyone or showed any frustration the one thing he mentioned was that if he could continue to earn playing time things could get better.
We saw that happened last night against New Orleans as the Brother Martin High School star made the game winning shot amongst family and friends court side. To Brown's credit every minute that DJ played when he finished with a doughnut in the boxscore led up to that moment. Here's hoping Coach Brown remembers that lesson next season when expectations will rise or this year could be the exception and not the rule.