After hours of canvasing the NBA, looking for a deal to trade down from the No. 2 pick in Thursday night’s draft, the Charlotte Bobcats decided it just wasn’t worth it.
Instead, they chose Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to be their next small forward and then picked his likely backup, too, grabbing Vanderbilt’s Jeffrey Taylor.
There was rampant speculation through the day that the Bobcats would deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, converting the second overall pick into Cleveland’s Nos. 4 and 24. Nothing came to fruition.
“We just didn’t feel it was worth the risk to lose Michael,” said general manager Rich Cho, who earlier in the week sent small forward Corey Maggette to the Detroit Pistons for guard Ben Gordon and a future first-round pick.
Kidd-Gilchrist is a 6-foot-7, 232-pound forward who was a key player in Kentucky’s national championship run in his only college season. The Wildcats supplied the draft’s first two players, with the New Orleans Hornets selecting Anthony Davis No. 1.
This was the first time in NBA history two players from the same school went 1-2.
Taylor (6-7, 225 pounds) is a strong outside shooter, which the Bobcats considered a priority even after adding Gordon. Coach Mike Dunlap wants an upgrade on a Bobcats roster that was worst in the NBA last season in 3-point shooting (29.5 percent).
Taylor averaged 16.1 points and shot 48 percent from the field and 42 percent from the 3-point line as a senior.
“They have a great chance to come and play right away,” said Rod Higgins, Bobcats president of basketball operations. “At the defensive end, Michael can play multiple positions. And we really like (Taylor as) a perimeter shooter.”
Kidd-Gilchrist should be a good fit in the up-tempo style Dunlap plans to implement. However, he’s limited as a jump-shooter and ball-handler for the small forward position.
At the draft in Newark, N.J., Kidd-Gilchrist said he has leadership qualities that can help a team coming off a 7-59 season.
“I did it this year (at Kentucky). So I mean it’s going to be a challenge at first. But I’m ready to lead the team.
“I’m just so happy right now, man. And I’m blessed. I’m blessed.”
Apparently the Bobcats gave no advance warning to Kidd-Gilchrist that he was their man: “No. I was shocked at first.”
He averaged 11.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks over 40 games in his one college season, helping the Wildcats win the national championship. He shot 49 percent from the field, mostly on drives to the rim or transition baskets.
The Bobcats were deep in trade discussions in the hours leading up to the draft. The Cavs, picking fourth, were apparently looking to trade up to the second pick to select Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal. He went third to the Washington Wizards and the Cavs drafted Syracuse guard Dion Waiters fourth.
With Maggette gone, the Bobcats’ only small forward entering the draft was Derrick Brown, who will become a free agent July 1. The Bobcats would have to make Brown a qualifying offer of about $1 million in the next two days to restrict his free-agency.
In this reconfigured lineup, it looks like Gordon, Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker will share the backcourt. Assuming Kidd-Gilchrist starts at small forward, power forward and center figure to be a combination of Bismack Biyombo, Tyrus Thomas and Byron Mullins.
Kidd-Gilchrist is best offensively finishing in transition. He’s excited about playing with Walker, who is adept at driving the ball.
“I can’t wait to play with Kemba,’’ Kidd-Gilchrist said. “He’s fast. And I mean, I just can’t wait to play with him.’’
In their discussions about trading down, the Bobcats were looking to move the remaining three seasons on Thomas’s contract, sources said. That would have trimmed about $26 million in guaranteed money. Discarding the final, $3.5 million season on guard Matt Carroll’s contract was also discussed.
The Bobcats now head into free-agency next month. Cho was asked what holes he’s still like to fill on the roster.
“We can always use more big men,’’ Cho replied. “And more size in the backcourt, also.’’