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Posted: Saturday, Jun. 16, 2012

Bobcats’ NBA draft history not picture perfect

By Tom Sorensen
Published in: Building the Bobcats

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Not all pictures are worth a thousand words. The picture above of Emeka Okafor, Raymond Felton, Sean May and Adam Morrison is worth six.

Charlotte Bobcats: What were you thinking?

Okafor, a Connecticut center, is the first player the Bobcats drafted. They took him with the second pick in the 2004 draft. He was the obvious choice and, while never a star, he’s solid. He plays for New Orleans.

The Bobcats took Felton with the fifth pick in 2005 and May with the 13th. They had an opportunity to trade both picks, move up to No. 3 and select Illinois point guard Deron Williams, whom they ranked ahead of Wake Forest point guard Chris Paul. Charlotte chose not to.

Felton has played for four NBA teams the past four seasons. May plays for faraway teams I can neither spell nor pronounce.

Okafor, Felton and May were selected before the Bobcats named Michael Jordan to run their basketball operation. One of Jordan’s first acts was to, with the third pick in the 2006 draft, select Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison.

Morrison had a large moustache but little talent. He was woefully overmatched and like May is out of the league. No matter what anybody tells you, Morrison was Jordan’s pick.

On June 28 Charlotte will draft in the top three for the first time since Morrison, the top five for the first time since Felton and the top two for the first time since Okafor.

The pick is the most important in franchise history because the 2011-12 season was the worst in franchise history.

The Bobcats no longer are new. They’ve had nine years to assemble talent. Yet if I’m ranking the NBA’s top 100 players, all the Bobcats are among other players receiving votes.

Maybe Gerald Henderson is a top 100 player.

D.J. Augustin is a good backup point guard on a good team.

If rookie Bismack Biyombo becomes the player the Bobcats envision perhaps he emerges as a defensive specialist such as fellow Congo countryman Serge Ibaka. Ibaka, who plays for Oklahoma City, is a player every team craves.

I like Charlotte rookie Kemba Walker. He can get his shot against anybody but has yet to establish that it will go in. Maybe he becomes a starter. Maybe he becomes a second-unit standout, all gall, offense and energy.

Walker, Biyombo, Augustin and Henderson are not stars. They are players you fit around your star. The Bobcats don’t have a star. They don’t have anybody who can keep them in a game, lift teammates and offer fans hope that, as long as he’s in town, the franchise has possibilities.

Whatever Charlotte does with the No. 2 pick, it can’t fail. I know how trite that sentence is. That it is trite doesn’t make it less true.

If the NBA had a Class AAA franchise, it would be Charlotte. The beauty of minor league baseball is watching players develop. If they reach the major leagues, you feel as if they’re yours.

Should the Bobcats trade the pick? If they do, it should not be for lesser picks. In the NBA a very good player is worth at least two good players and a good player is worth at least two players who are pretty good.

The Bobcats need a star and they need him now. I like Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but acknowledge that he’s a gamble. Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson is safer. He might be Okafor. Be still my heart. Kidd-Gilchrist could be much more.

No matter what Charlotte does, life will continue to be unfair. Finish last in the NBA and you’re in the lottery. Finish last in the NFL and you’re assured the top pick.

In 2010 the NFL’s consensus top pick was Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck was to the NFL what Anthony Davis is to the NBA. They were once-in-a-decade talents and they were going to be drafted first.

The New Orleans Hornets will take Davis first June 28.

The Carolina Panthers had the NFL’s worst record in 2010. But Luck surprised them when he decided to stay in school. That left the Panthers where the Bobcats are now – guessing.

Georgia receiver A.J. Green quickly moved to the top of Carolina’s draft board.

He didn’t stay. The more the Panthers looked at Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, the more they liked him. They, of course, invested the top pick on Newton and he changed the NFL in Charlotte.

To expect the Bobcats to find a player who will make a similar impact is unrealistic and unfair.

But there are three qualities Charlotte’s pick has to have.

He has to offer promise right away.

He has to have the potential to be a star.

And when we look at his picture six years from now, he still has to be in the league.

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