CHARLOTTE — There is a lot riding on the name NBA commissioner David Stern announces when Charlotte makes its first-round selection tonight.
If the Bobcats make a poor decision with the second pick, then the rebuilding project owner Michael Jordan and his staff are undertaking will be extended for a few more years.
The right call, however, can help Charlotte make a speedy recovery under new coach Mike Dunlap and once again join the fight for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Ever since the Bobcats made Emeka Okafor their first selection with the second overall pick in the 2004 draft, the team has had spotty success at best when it comes to mapping out its future.
Despite having the best odds to come out of the lottery with the No. 1 pick in tonight’s draft, Charlotte was foiled by New Orleans and will miss out on making Kentucky’s Anthony Davis the centerpiece in the team’s turnaround.
The last time the organization made a selection this high, it completely missed the mark and made Adam Morrison the No. 3 pick in the 2006 draft. Morrison made a small splash in his rookie campaign, averaging 11.8 points a game before suffering a knee injury in the preseason the following year and never returned to form.
After watching his team post the worst winning percentage in NBA history this season, Jordan cannot afford to make any more draft mistakes or he risks turning the Bobcats into the Washington Generals.
Since 2004, seven of the eight No. 2 choices in the draft are averaging at least 8.2 points per game over their career. In fact, since 2000, only two picks fall below that threshold — Hasheem Thabeet (2009, Memphis) and Darko Milicic (2003, Detroit).
Among those picked second in recent history are Kevin Durant, who was selected by the then Seattle Supersonics in 2007, and LaMarcus Aldridge, grabbed by the Chicago Bulls before being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Before the index card is submitted to Stern with Charlotte’s pick, there is a good chance the team will have traded out of the spot in order to stockpile more picks or perhaps another player or two. The team made one trade this week, sending Corey Maggette to Detroit for Ben Gordon and a future first-round pick, which at first glance seems to remove at least one name from the Bobcats’ draft board.
That is not etched in stone quite yet because Charlotte general manager Rich Cho believes in “draft talent and trade for need.”
Once the Hornets take Davis with the No. 1 pick, if the Bobcats still have the second selection, they have to grab a player which would not only make an immediate but a lasting impact on the franchise for years to come.
According to the experts, the Bobcats’ selection will come down to three players — Florida’s Bradley Beal, Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson.
Beal may have slid off the team’s radar following the addition of Gordon. A one-and-done player with the Gators, Beal is being compared to future Hall of Famer Ray Allen because of his ability to shoot from the outside.
If the Bobcats were to draft Beal, he would immediately give them an option on offense they lacked last season. As a team, Charlotte hit 29.5 percent of its 3-point attempts, led by Maggette, who connected on 36 percent. Plus, Dunlap stressed the ability to shoot the 3 when he was introduced as coach last week.
Beal should be a solid NBA player for several years, just like Allen, however, rebuilding a team around an outside shooter is a difficult proposition. Until joining Boston, Allen was the best player on squads destined for early playoff eliminations in Milwaukee and Seattle. A similar fate could befall Beal if Charlotte were to select him.
While he is 10 years ago than Gordon, picking Beal at this time doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Bobcats. Even though it is tough to say a team coming off a seven-win season doesn’t have needs, right now another shooting guard isn’t one of them.
If the draft was to have occurred after the NCAA Final Four, many believe Charlotte would have selected Kidd-Gilchrist in a heartbeat. Another in the long list of one-and-dones out of Kentucky in the last three years, Kidd-Gilchrist has scouts and coaches excited about his non-stop motor and his will to win.
In most drafts, MKG may have been a late lottery pick or a mid-round selection because he isn’t a good shooter, a consistent scorer or a strong rebounder, just a winner. He has won championships at every level in his young career.
For a playoff team, Kidd-Gilchrist is the perfect role player to complete a squad looking to take the next step. He is a stat filler and will give you a balanced scoresheet with his scoring, rebounding and passing. On occasion he will drop 25 points on an opponent, but he is not a first or second option on offense.
Because the Bobcats need more than a role player, MKG will remain on the board when the team makes its pick.
Which leaves just one — Robinson.
The former Jayhawk was in line to become the national player of the year until Davis overtook him in the last half of the year. Robinson was the big reason Kansas advanced to the title tilt against Kentucky and in face-to-face battles with Davis, more than held his own.
In the first meeting between the two, Robinson scored 11 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. In the national championship contest, Robinson put up another double-double, 18 points and 17 rebounds.
Even if Robinson isn’t able to match his offensive output on the next level, his rebounding will be a welcomed addition to the Bobcats. Last season, Charlotte was out-rebounded by the opposition by a little more than six a game.
The one major red flag the Bobcat brass may have about Robinson is he another coming of Tyrus Thomas. The team thought it was getting a power forward to build around when it traded for the LSU product in the 2009-10 season. After re-signing with Charlotte in the offseason two years ago, Thomas is averaging nearly 20 minutes a game. Not exactly what the Bobcats thought they were getting.
With the draft just hours away, it seems Charlotte has put its cross hairs on Robinson. If the Bobcats do work out a trade with Cleveland or another team move out of the second slot, they appear to want to stay close to the top so it can grab Robinson and begin to rebuild.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com