The Charlotte Bobcats set an NBA record for futility this past season and also failed to land the top spot in the draft. So they go into the draft Thursday with a new coach hired last week and the second overall pick.
Given that the team’s needs are so extensive, what should they do with that first-round pick?
If Bobcats general manager Rich Cho and president Michael Jordan choose to keep the pick, the best bet is to take Kansas forward Thomas Robinson. At 6-foot-10 and 237 pounds, Robinson is big enough to excel at power forward, considering the brute toughness he will bring to the floor every night.
His game has many functions, and he’s pretty smooth, too. But his motor sets him apart from others. After Kentucky’s Anthony Davis goes to the New Orleans Hornets as the top overall selection, Robinson is the best bet.
It’s quite possible that Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Florida guard Bradley Beal and Connecticut center Andre Drummond will have better careers. Even North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes could stick around longer. But each of those players has more question marks, too. Robinson is more NBA ready, and he has a nice upside.
Kidd-Gilchrist would be the next-best choice. He’s a terrific athlete, fearless, attacks relentlessly and has courage. A speech impediment has made life tough at times for Kidd-Gilchrist, so an additional asset any team gets with him is someone who has handled serious adversity.
Charlotte traded Corey Maggette to the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night for Ben Gordon, who has eight years of NBA experience and averaged 12.5 points per game this past season. So Beal might not be an option for the Bobcats at No. 2, though he remains an interesting prospect who doesn’t carry the name recognition as Robinson, Kidd-Gilchrist or Barnes. But he can play.
Beal is a shooting guard with beyond-NBA range. He is also athletic, smart and can be a combo guard in a lot of situations. New Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap wants to run and collect as many perimeter shooters as he can. Beal probably appeals to him, especially if the team has more plans to move players and doesn’t mind trading down.
The belief among many pundits is that Drummond and Barnes don’t justify a No. 2 selection, so if the Bobcats are interested in acquiring either of them, they would be wise to drop down, which also means picking up a draft pick and more.
Beal could be had at Nos. 3, 4 and maybe 5. If the “Cats,” as their home jerseys will now read above the numbers, can land an intriguing player or future first-round pick in addition to Beal, it might be a great move.
The Bobcats already have guards D.J. Augustin, Gerald Henderson, Kemba Walker and now Gordon in the backcourt. Beal, however, would give the unit more range.
Dunlap wants to shoots a lot of 3-pointers. Given that Charlotte made good on only 29.5 percent of its attempts on the way to a 7-59 campaign, Beal and a host of other long-ball threats would be welcomed additions in the Queen City.
Of course, one of the recent trends of the NBA Draft is that teams work out deals in advance and draft for one another. So it’s conceivable the Bobcats might take Robinson or Beal and deal them to another team with a lower draft spot for their top selection and more.
That nobody has a handle on what Charlotte will do makes its situation compelling. And that the team’s roster has nobody on it who should influence what the team does makes it even more fascinating.
But in the end, the Bobcats need to add significant talent to begin layering the franchise’s foundation. Because their most gifted players currently reside on the perimeter, it’s wise to go big. Thomas Robinson should be their man.