Charlotte Bobcats: 5 Reasons Michael Jordan Just Had His Best Summer as Owner
Well, it's been a busy week for basketball.
Fans are being treated to the Summer Olympics, getting to watch the best of the NBA take on each other on a different, global stage. Team USA, stock full of NBA superstars, taking on the world—where it has become clear that basketball is becoming a more globally recognized sport, as more and more NBA talent begins rearing its head on most national rosters.
And of course, Dwight Howard has clogged up the news cycle for the most exciting summer event for many fans. Is anyone really surprised? Howard has been in the news constantly for what feels like an eternity, begging his way out of Orlando.
For basketball fans like myself, it's frustrating to turn on ESPN and only hear about Dwight during the Olympics. But as a Bobcats fan, it's also very intriguing. Dwight has railroaded the Magic into the ground, and most believe the Magic ended up with the worst results of the four teams involved in the trade.
What does this mean for Bobcats fans? Well, it just adds to the growing list of why Michael Jordan is having his best summer as the owner of his Charlotte club. Sure, he had nothing to do with the trade (conspiracy theories be damned), but it might just mean his team isn't the worst in the division anymore.
Let's take a look at why the Bobcats have had their best summer under Jordan.
1. The 2012 Draftees
Michael Jordan's Charlotte Bobcats immediately began the offseason the same way they ended the regular season—by losing. For the last half of the season, Bobcats fans were able to keep the "at least we'll have Anthony Davis" argument in our back pockets.
And then, as if destined to fail, the Bobcats had their names drawn at second overall, controversially giving the New Orleans Hornets the No. 1 pick overall, which obviously ended up being Anthony Davis.
But how badly did the Bobcats lose? Not by much, if you ask me.
Davis is a franchise changing player. He's a defensive monster, has unbelievable size and length and very well could be a lankier version of Dwight Howard. Unfortunately for the Hornets, Davis also appears to have inherited D12's ego as well.
Howard drove the Magic into the ground, after several admittedly great years. Davis may very well do the same thing with the Hornets, who also drafted the equally big-headed Austin Rivers 10th overall and have an ever-cocky, ever-unhappy Eric Gordon coming back to the Big Easy.
The Bobcats, meanwhile, got two very humble players from winning schools with winning mentalities, both playing the same position to help lockdown their small forward position for years to come. They drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at No. 2 overall, and added Jeffery Taylor (who many believe is a first round talent) at No. 31 overall.
Two similarly great defensive players, both are ready to start for this team. MKG doesn't quite have the jumper to score 20 PPG yet, while Taylor doesn't have MKG's overall build and talent—but together they form a formidable two-deep at that position.
Saying it was the most important draft in Bobcats history is not an understatement. The quality of this draft will very likely shift the direction of this franchise, and whether it even exists in a couple of years time. This was a must-win for Michael Jordan and his team, and despite being dealt a raw hand in the lottery, they nailed it.
MKG and Taylor are going to come in and have an instant impact on the Bobcats, who were decidedly weak at SF last season with the ever-injured Corey Maggette. Expect both players to be big additions, and expect everyone to realize that MJ can actually put together a decent draft class...albeit with some help.
2. The 2011 Draftees
Speaking of putting together a good draft class...
Last year's Charlotte draftees really got the shaft. Michael Jordan was able to capture two top-10 picks—Bismack Biyombo (via the Sacramento Kings) at No. 7 and Kemba Walker at No. 9. Both of these players were considered risky picks; Biyombo a young physical freak with no refinement, and Walker a winner and driving force at the collegiate level, but offensively raw.
Due to the lockout, neither one of these players got a chance in the offseason to acclimate to the NBA. They had to train on their own, they didn't get a summer league to get a feel for the sport and Biyombo was dealing with a contract issue with his former club in Spain that prevented him from doing much of anything until right before the season began.
Neither one of them were ready to start in the NBA, and at first, neither had to. But injuries and poor play from veterans and key players left Jordan and then-head coach Paul Silas no choice but to start Kemba and Biz frequently.
Both performed admirably...as well as anyone could have expected them to do with the rawness of their game, the lack of other weapons on the floor and the lack of an offseason to get prepared.
But this year, after the shortened NBA season under their belts and additional Summer League, summer training and organized team trainings, both players have a shot to show incredible progress—and they both put together solid Summer League outings that show what everyone already knew—two potentially great players who fell victim to the lockout.
These two guys were drafted as potential centerpieces of the franchise for seasons to come, and the decision to let D.J. Augustin and D.J. White walk shows that MJ and company have confidence in their young guys. They still have insulation, which I'll get to momentarily, but both might be ready to start soon.
What looked like a potential bust of a draft might turn around and prove to the naysayers that MJ (and now Rich Cho) know what and who to look for in a draft.
3. The Ben Gordon Trade
Is there anyone still holding out on the fact that the Bobcats got the better end of this deal? Maybe a few hopeful Detroit Pistons fans, but that's about it.
In addition to Ben Gordon, the Bobcats also acquired a protected first-round pick from Detroit in exchange for...wait for it...Corey Maggette. That's it. Just Maggette.
People who look at his stats last season and believe that Maggette is anything more than dead weight are wrong. He was ineffective on the court, and was rarely able to make it there in the first place. He was a good presence in the locker room, but that's about it—and even he couldn't change the morale of the Bobcats.
The Pistons got a broken SF at the very end of his career. The Bobcats got a first-round pick and a still highly-viable Ben Gordon at a position that the Bobcats aren't very certain about behind Gerald Henderson.
Ben Gordon gives the Bobcats two things they never had last season—depth and three-point shooting.
While I am not in favor of starting Gordon over Henderson, I am in favor of him coming off the bench much in the same way he did in Detroit, possibly to greater effect. This way, Charlotte's best player from last season still gets plenty of minutes, and Gordon still gets 25-or-so minutes as the sixth-man, and a huge boost off the bench.
Having Gordon on the floor instantly opens up the Bobcats to experiment, forcing opposing defenses to constantly have a perimeter defender on Gordon, leaving more lanes for guys like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions to cut to the rim and/or make easy mid-range shots.
Gordon is good for hitting around 42 percent of his three-pointers, giving the Bobcats more veteran leadership, and all the while, the Bobcats still get what will end up being a high first-round pick in the future.
There is no one in the world that could convince me that the Bobcats didn't win here, sorry Corey.
4. Solid Showing in Free Agency
The Bobcats are not a big market name, and after a 7-59 record and the worst winning percentage in NBA history, it's hard to draw big names to the Queen City, which was proven evident time and time again this offseason as high-level free agents chose to go elsewhere.
Still, Jordan and Cho put together a quality couple of additions and subtracted some unnecessary parts to save money and move towards the future.
They added Ramon Sessions, who spent the previous year as PG with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and later the Los Angeles Lakers, and they claimed Brendan Haywood, former center of the Dallas Mavericks, from waivers at only $2 million a year.
Both deals are low risk and provide security and depth at the positions they are filling.
The teams also subtracted D.J. Augustin and Derrick Brown.
After first submitting qualifying offers for both players, the Bobcats quickly withdrew them when they realized that both players would become redundancies on this team. While both players are decent and will have okay careers elsewhere, they weren't really needed in Charlotte anymore.
Haywood will fill center probably right off the bat for the Bobcats, who could be looking to give future center/power forward Bismack Biyombo another year to develop and learn the position behind Haywood, while starting Byron Mullens at the PF, a position the Bobcats are thin at (a position Mullens is more suited to playing anyway).
Sessions could also start initially for the Bobcats, depending on how training sessions go for him and Kemba Walker, but either way, Sessions is more of a veteran stopgap to prepare Kemba for the starting role. It's very likely that they will switch nights starting and coming off the bench, quite similar to Ben Gordon and Gerald Henderson.
The point is that, while the Bobcats missed out on a few big name free agents (though not for lack of effort), they still added a couple of quality veterans to help the rookies develop and to take good minutes—and they were added at low-risk contracts.
Some good moves by addition and subtraction for Michael Jordan and the Bobcats in free agency have made the team better.
5. Optimism Springing Forth in Charlotte
After a couple of embarrassing years as owner and primary talent scout for the Bobcats, Michael Jordan realized he had to change some things. Bringing in Rich Cho to do the scouting and player selection as general manager was a surprisingly unselfish move for MJ, and Cho has done a brilliant job with the 'Cats this offseason.
Just the mere fact that Jordan was willing to take to the passenger seat, if only partially, is proof that he is maturing as an owner, and is realizing that he can't build a team on his own.
For the first time since Michael Jordan took over, fans are beginning to think that they might actually have a shot at having a good club very soon. Between the good moves made over the last two years (this offseason especially), it's hard not to be optimistic about the future of this team.
This brings us to the ultimate question, why did Michael Jordan have his best summer as owner of the Bobcats?
Because for the first time under his tenure, they got much better, and they stand to get much better in future seasons because of moves made this offseason. He and his team have assembled a wily group of veterans to go along with some very strong, young and thirsty rookies and sophomores who are ready to prove themselves as viable NBA players.
This will not be the worst team in the league this year. It could be argued that the Bobcats had one of the better offseasons of any low to mid-market team, and with the disastrous collapse of the Orlando Magic, the Bobcats might night even be the worst team in the division anymore.
I'm still not predicting much more than 30 wins next season, but there is reason to be optimistic. It would appear that Michael Jordan has figured it out, and that this team is heading down the right path.