Charlotte Bobcats: The Top Players Charlotte Should Draft
I love the NBA draft. I hate that the Bobcats have been a high-lottery team two years in a row, but I'm happy they at least didn't finish with the worst record in the league, even if that does mean a smaller chance at the No. 1 overall pick.
This draft isn't that strong, and even the top pick is up in the air. Plus it's not like they have no chance at all—the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) had a 13.7 percent chance (fourth highest) to land the top overall pick in 2012, and they still came away the winners. The Bobcats will still have nearly a 20-percent chance, compared to the Orlando Magic's 25-percent chance.
There are some very important things to take into account while reading this article as a Charlotte Bobcats fan, observer or just general NBA passerby.
- The Charlotte Bobcats—especially the young core of players they have drafted over the past couple of years—have shown great development over the course of the past season.
- The Charlotte Bobcats have had three good drafts in a row—excluding the pick-less 2010—in which they acquired Gerald Henderson (2009), Kemba Walker (2011), Bismack Biyombo (2011), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2012) and Jeffery Taylor (2012).
- There are obvious problems that need to be addressed, most notably in the frontcourt. The backcourt duo of Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson combined to become one of the highest scoring, most dangerous backcourts down the stretch.
- Finally, this draft will not take into account free agency—these are the order of the five players the Bobcats should draft, based off of need, talent, and overall impact on the future. Obviously, if the Bobcats front office decides to go hard for a power forward like Paul Millsap or Josh Smith, draft strategy will change preemptively, but I'm not focusing on that.
Each slide represents which player they should draft in that position...again, this is disregarding free agency and the likelihood of a player being on the board at a specific time. This is just to discuss the five most valuable prospects to the organization entering this year's draft.
1: Nerlens Noel
Yes, I know. If you are a frequent reader of some of my most recent material, you'll notice that this is a serious contradiction to how I believed the Bobcats should approach the draft if given the No. 1 overall pick.
Nerlens Noel is the riskiest player in this draft, and it's not even close. At barely 19 years old, his spaghetti legs are already giving him problems, and the dreadful news of his torn ACL midway through the season only made things worse.
To add to his health, Noel is a huge project player on the offensive end. Once healthy and able to play in the NBA, there's no doubt in my mind that he will automatically become an elite defender in the paint.
He won't block 4.4 blocks per game like he did in his half-season at Kentucky, but he'll block 2.5-3, and he'll make players charging in the paint regret it on a nightly basis.
His motor is extremely high for such a big guy. Depending on the source you read, Noel falls into the 6'10" or 6"11" category (and just turning 19, still time to grow), but he runs the floor like a guard. He also has quick hands and will be able to disrupt passing and lackadaisical ball-handling.
But even at full health, I have my concerns over his ceiling offensively. He already showed solid signs of put-back ability during his time in Kentucky, but he needs to be able to finish at the rim with more authority. He needs to make the paint as scary for defenders as he will on the other end of the floor.
Noel is like a further-developed Bismack Biyombo. He will probably at least match or even surpass Biyombo's statistical output in his rookie season, but both players are going to end up being a defensive-minded power forward/center, and neither are going to be good for 17 or 18 points night in and night out.
Still, he has the highest ceiling, most room for growth and is far and away the best defender in the draft. If the 'Cats can develop him like they have Henderson, Walker, MKG and to an extent Biyombo (who is on a much different learning curve), he might match numbers similar to Joakim Noah. I would be more than happy with that.
2: Ben McLemore
There was a reason I didn't clarify on the last slide who I thought the Bobcats should take with their first overall pick...for about a month (and still partially to this day) I thought McLemore was the clear No. 1 choice. But with Henderson's explosion at the end of the season and the fact that he wants to return to Charlotte would make McLemore a redundancy, even if the Kansas standout is the more versatile of the two.
McLemore really has no weaknesses aside from being a bit streaky. He took a hit in the tournament, but I definitely don't hold that against him. He tore apart opposing defenses for most of the season.
He also has trouble creating off the dribble and making his own plays. He's much more of a spot-up shooter or a slasher to the rim for a hard dunk.
But ball handling and shot creation can be taught by a team with development at the forefront of its drafting plan, and McLemore's overall game is hard to ignore.
He shoots everywhere; he's a fierce dunker with extreme athleticism and freakish leaping abilities. He can take mid-range shots, and he can shoot threes very well. His overall season field-goal percentage (as a 6'5" shooting guard, mind you) was 49.5, the type of number you almost always only see from big men and superstars.
He also shot a fantastic 42 percent from three-point range, many of those three-pointers being NBA distance.
He's an above-average defender, he runs the court well and I don't even remotely hesitate to say that he is by far the most polished player in this draft, and whoever gets him will be getting a shooting guard who will eventually be an All-Star contender.
But with the logjam of guards in Charlotte and its need to fix the frontcourt, McLemore should only be drafted if it's clear Henderson won't be returning. If it is clear before the draft that Hendo won't sign for a reasonable deal in Charlotte as an restricted free agent, McLemore leapfrogs Noel as the top draft choice. If not, he falls. For now, we leave him here.
3: Anthony Bennett
I love Anthony Bennett. He is ridiculously explosive on the offensive end of the ball, he can rebound, and as a freshman, he has shown remarkable signs of scoring ability and offensive IQ.
There are two things holding Bennett back right now, however.
Problem No. 1: Size.
Bennett is what this generation of NBA commentators call a "tweener," or someone who doesn't really fit a position. At UNLV, Bennett played power forward, but at 6'7", Bennett is about two inches shorter than the average NBA power forward, and his size would better place him at small forward.
The only problem is: He plays like a true power forward. Remember the names Charles Barkley and Larry Johnson? Two of the most dominating power forwards during their time, ferocious rebounders and paint scorers who used their muscular frame and length to create space, as opposed to height—that's exactly what Anthony Bennett did in his time at UNLV, and there's a good chance he could do it in the NBA.
Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves would serve as a cautionary tale of drafting a tweener like Bennett so early, but his upside and ability to score and rebound with force can't be denied, especially for a frontcourt that lacked any real offensive threat.
Problem No. 2: Defense. Well, not even defense...just defensive hustle.
Despite being a great athlete with a good motor, Bennett takes his time getting back to the other side of the floor. He loses his man frequently, and he doesn't do a great job of protecting the paint. He's better on the ball, but off the ball, opposing players will burn him. He'll also likely be taking advantage of in the post game when he's forced to guard seven-footers. He's not a terrible defender when he's hitting his spots and/or showing effort, but it's clear that Bennett's strengths lie on the offensive end.
The bottom line is that I'm a huge Bennett fan, and if the Bobcats miss out on Noel and believe Henderson will re-sign, I think he's the guy to draft.
He has some rough edges, but his upside and comparisons to Larry Johnson and Charles Barkley can't be ignored. Neither can the fact that he can spot up for few three-pointers, helping to spread the floor.
The only real offensive tool he lacks is his post game, which can be coached. He's still young, but Bennett played and scored most effectively facing up defenders and cutting to the rim or spreading out and taking a three. To be a power forward in the NBA, you have to be able to back in.
I think he can learn that fairly quickly, given how seamlessly he transitioned into college.
A very good overall prospect; he is extremely undervalued because of his height but makes up for it with muscle and length.
4: Alex Len
Alex Len is probably one of the more underrated prospects going into this draft, due to Maryland's overall disappointing season and the fact that it didn't make the big tournament.
But that wasn't due to lack of effort on Len's part, as he has shown that he is a polished offensive and defensive prospect who could transition to the NBA fairly quickly.
He's certainly the most NBA-ready center in terms of offense in this year's draft. While Nerlens Noel has a higher ceiling both offensively and defensively, he's still extremely raw on offense, whereas Len is capable of good post work, baby hooks and taking some mid-range jumpers.
He has excellent height at 7'1" and 255 pounds, but even with his stature, he still gets pushed around in the paint at times. His overall presence in the paint is much less intimidating than Noel's, which is why he'll go about five picks lower than the Kentucky center.
He's not a great rebounder considering his height, but he's not bad either, and he will probably get better with the right coaching. He's also a good defender, blocking 2.1 shots last year with Maryland.
That's less than half of Noel's 4.4, but still a very good number, and with his height and some added strength, Len could become a good shot-blocker in the NBA.
Overall, he needs to work on presence in the paint, but he's certainly a more polished player fundamentally than Noel at this point.
I'd be surprised if Len is a top-five pick, but along with Shabazz Muhammad, I think he's going to be one of the bigger steals in this year's draft if he goes below sixth.
The Bobcats are guaranteed a top-five pick in this year's draft.
If they get anything below four, they should do absolutely everything they can to either trade the pick for a future pick, trade down or trade for a decent player, because no one else fits their scheme outside of the four players highlighted in this slideshow.
I mentioned briefly that Shabazz Muhammad would be a steal, but I still firmly believe that McLemore is by far the best shooting guard in this draft, and Muhammad lacks a lot of the defensive traits and intangibles that the Bobcats will be looking for.
A lot of people are in love with Victor Oladipo. I'll be brief on him: I'm not.
His jump shot, though possible to fix, is not good, and this team is already littered with guys who thrive on scoring at the rim. Oladipo is explosive and gets to the rim, but lacks a reliable mid-range game and has virtually no value from three-point land.
The only real player the Bobcats should consider if they're unfortunate enough to get the fifth pick is Otto Porter, and I'll admit it: I just haven't seen too much of him, aside from a few late-season games and YouTube videos.
He's a good player—and at 6'8" could conceivably play the power forward position for the Bobcats—but Porter plays the game like his listed position, which is small forward.
In other words, he's a small forward with a power forward's frame. Think Harrison Barnes. The Bobcats are pretty locked at small forward, and drafting Porter and trying to force him into playing power forward probably wouldn't end well.
The fifth pick wouldn't net the Bobcats much in return. Perhaps a couple of mid-first-round picks, maybe a protected draft pick in the future, maybe a team that really wants a shooting guard like Oladipo (coughMinnesotacough) but doesn't want to risk him being off the board when its pick comes. The Minnesota Timberwolves are dangling Derrick Williams for a high-lottery pick, and while I'm not sure if they'd bite for the fifth pick, it's something the Bobcats should strongly consider.
Williams is everything Porter would be with less of a learning curve, and he proved he can play in the NBA last year, so it wouldn't be a bad trade for the 'Cats.
I just know that if they don't get a top-four pick, there is no way they could salvage a legitimate game-changer with that fifth pick.