If you were Rich Cho on Wednesday night, you had to be sick to your stomach. The 2011-2012 Charlotte Bobcats' season was full of disappointments, empty arena seats and analysts claiming that the team was tanking to get the No. 1 overall selection in June's draft.
Cho was at the center of this whole mess, and as the general manager of the team it was his fault. However because Michael Jordan owned the team, he probably got a lot less heat than he should have during the season. It might have saved his job.
Both of Cho’s selections in the 2011 NBA Draft had poor seasons. The team had given up a lot to move up and get the seventh-overall selection and draft Bismack Biyombo. Then they took Kemba Walker with the ninth-overall pick, who led one of the greatest NCAA tournament runs ever at the University of Connecticut.
Both picks flopped in their first season. Biyombo averaged an abysmal five points and five rebounds per game, while Walker averaged 12 PPG and shot a horrific 36 percent from the field.
The team as a whole flopped worse than the two players combined. They finished at 7-59, which statistically was the worst season in NBA history. Seats were empty at the end of the season as the team lost its final 23 games, gaining criticism from analysts who claimed Charlotte was tanking to get the top pick during the losing streak.
However with Jordan as the team’s owner, Cho ducked most of the criticism. I have never heard of a GM whose team has the worst season in league history and does not get fired.
Then came the lottery Wednesday evening, a night that Charlotte fans had been waiting for all season. There was a reason people were saying that the Bobcats were tanking all season, that’s because people saw Anthony Davis carrying the Kentucky Wildcats to a National Championship.
Cho and all of Charlotte had to be drooling over the idea of Davis in Bobcat colors. Davis since has been drawing comparisons to the likes of Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett after his championship journey. This was the guy that could turn a franchise around and the Bobcats had the best chance of getting him.
Again, they were not lucky. The New Orleans Hornets won the first pick with the lottery and their general manager Dell Demps looked like he had just won the actual lottery.
The Bobcats might not get the guy they wanted but they still have the second-overall pick in a season where the talent in the draft is incredible. They have several options at No. 2.
They could go with the second-best big man in the draft in Kansas’s Thomas Robinson. Some say that Robinson may end up being a better NBA player than Anthony Davis. They have Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who is an athletic freak out of Kentucky. Gilchrist could be the next great NBA scorer.
The Bobcats are not at all in a bad position. In fact, Rich Cho should know this position better than anyone, because he was in this same position in 2007. He was actually the Seattle SuperSonics assistant GM when the team did not get the first pick and lost out on can't-miss big man Greg Oden. In that draft, Cho helped select Kevin Durant with the second pick. We all know how that one turned out.
Cho might have had the worst season of his young GM career, but it almost seems to me that the Bobcats could be the next version of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Sounds crazy right? It might not be as crazy as you think.
Now that Oklahoma City is fighting in the Western Conference Finals, people forget just how bad they used to be. Now, they never reached the low point that the Bobcats did, but OKC was in the same position for many years.
In 2007, the then SuperSonics finished at 31-51 during the regular season. With the fourth-worst record in the league they jumped up two spots during the lottery and snagged Kevin Durant, but that was considered to be a loss. They could have had big man Greg Oden at No 1.
In 2008, the Sonics finished with a worse record at 20-62 in their final season in Seattle. They again did not get the first pick in the draft, but still took Russell Westbrook fourth overall.
In 2009, the Thunder went 23-59, this was even with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the team. They actually started 3-29 that year, remind you of anyone? But again they were not blessed with the first pick. They drafted James Harden third overall that year.
The Thunder's struggles are very similar to the Bobcats' last year and this year. Russell Westbrook’s rookie campaign looks very similar to that of Kemba Walker believe it or not. Westbrook averaged 15 PPG and barely had a 40 percent field goal percentage in his first season.
The point guard position is a very tough thing to learn in the NBA and it took Walker a few years in college to get in the swing of things. Why would that be any different in the pros? Both Walker and Biyombo could bounce back in their second season like so many former rookies do.
Especially in a shortened season it is not fair to judge either rookie for their performance. Who knows, we could be looking at another Westbrook in Walker and another Serge Ibaka in Biyombo.
I’m not saying the Bobcats will be in the Eastern Conference Finals in two or three years but I am saying that them having the second pick is not all that bad. They have a chance to continue to build on a young core and go out and get a coach that can teach them the game better.
It does not take the first overall pick every year to rebuild a team; Rich Cho should know that better than anyone else.
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