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Sorensen: Unlucky ping-pong balls for Bobcats

By Tom Sorensen
Tom Sorensen
Tom Sorensen has been a columnist at The Observer for 20 years and has been at the paper for 25, writing about nearly every sport in the Carolinas.

I don’t believe in conspiracies.

NASCAR is not fixed. NFL officials do not favor New England or other elite teams. The NBA does not skew the lottery to accommodate organizations it favors.

I have a logical explanation for Charlotte’s lottery failures.

Ping pong balls hate us.

Last season, when the Charlotte Bobcats had the worst winning percentage in NBA history, they could do no better than the No. 2 pick in the 2012 draft. You’re that bad, you ought to draft first. They didn’t.

This season the Bobcats had the league’s second-worst record. So the odds were that Charlotte would draft second. Is that really too much to ask?

Well, yes. The Bobcats will pick fourth.

There’s good news. Among the players who were picked fourth: Chris Paul (2005), Russell Westbrook (2008), Chris Bosh (2003) and Tyrus Thomas (2006).

Last year the Wednesday after the lottery was a day of mourning in and around Charlotte, and we are not talking about Alonzo. I had no idea until I felt our anger and angst how deeply fans cared about the team.

This year the letdown is not as epic. The draft is not as strong. And there is no consensus No. 1. If the Bobcats won the top pick, I had hoped they would invest it on Kentucky center Nerlens Noel.

But Noel, a quick jumping and instinctive defensive player who tore his ACL in February, undoubtedly will be selected by Cleveland with the first pick, Orlando with the second or Washington with the third.

Who should the Bobcats take fourth?

They have only one star, and that’s Kemba Walker. So the only qualities they don’t need are a point guard and a nickname.

They can take anybody they want regardless of position. Even though Victor Oladipo’s game is similar to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s, they can invest the pick on the Indiana shooting guard.

More than Oladipo, I like Georgetown small forward Otto Porter.

One other player intrigues me, and he will be available – Maryland’s Alex Len.

Len is a center, not a power forward pretending to be. He is 7-foot-1 and weighs 255 pounds and started playing basketball at 10 in his native Ukraine. He’s 19, and he understands spacing and passing.

The Terps at times last season seemed as interesting in playing Keep Away From Len as they did basketball. But Len still averaged 11.9 points and 7.8 rebounds.

He’s a legitimate big man who can do the things legitimate big men do.

Yes, I realize that Len is coming off surgery on his left ankle.

But no matter whom Charlotte selects, or how healthy he is, the Bobcats will not be good next season.

The 2013-14 season will be Charlotte’s last as the Bobcats and last as an NBA bottom feeder.

The 2014-15 season will Charlotte’s first as the Charlotte Hornets and first as a team that will, or should, compete for the playoffs.

Next year’s draft will be as strong as next month’s draft is weak.

The Hornets – that feels good to write, Hornets – will have multiple picks and, presumably, a shot at Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins.

If the Bobcats finish with the NBA’s worst record next season, and if Wiggins is the obvious No. 1 pick, and if Charlotte has better odds than any other team of going first – well, the Hornets will still get a good player.

Sorensen: 704-358-5119
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