Night of draft decisions arrives for NBA's Charlotte Bobcats

Bobcats have No. 2 pick and several options, including a trade

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comJune 27, 2012 

Charlotte Bobcats executives Rod Higgins and Rich Cho say there’s “a ton of interest” in their No. 2 overall pick, but it “would take something really enticing to trade back.”

Were these guys looking to drive up trade value? Were they lowering fan expectation of a deal happening? Perhaps a little of both, as the Bobcats enter tonight’s NBA draft.

Since it’s a foregone conclusion the New Orleans Hornets will choose Kentucky’s Anthony Davis No.1 overall, the Bobcats control this draft. If they don’t deal, they could go a variety of ways at No. 2: Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson, Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal and small forwards Harrison Barnes of North Carolina and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky all deserve consideration.

There’s been widespread speculation about a trade down, since there’s not a great difference between the player you’d get selecting second, third or fourth. The Cleveland Cavaliers have the fourth and 24th picks tonight, so they conceivably have the pieces to make an offer to the Bobcats.

Higgins, the team’s president of basketball operations, and general manager Cho wouldn’t address specific rumors circulating the league, such as Cleveland’s interest or whether they’re asking teams to take on forward Tyrus Thomas’ contract as a pre-condition to drafting second.

But they certainly didn’t sound unreceptive to offers.

“There’s a ton of interest in No. 2 across the league,” Higgins said at a media availability Wednesday. “We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t listen.”

Higgins and Cho have been searching for ways to add future assets. They found one Tuesday evening when they traded small forward Corey Maggette to the Detroit Pistons for combo guard Ben Gordon and a first-round pick they’ll receive sometime between 2013 and 2016.

That pick, which has declining protection for the Pistons year-by-year, figures to balance off the first-rounder the Bobcats still owe the Chicago Bulls from the trade that brought Thomas to Charlotte. The Bobcats now have a wealth of guards and a hole at small forward, but Higgins and Cho said that wouldn’t decide who they select in the first round.

Translation: Gordon’s presence doesn’t eliminate Beal as an option and Maggette’s departure doesn’t lock them into drafting Barnes or Kidd-Gilchrist.

Higgins said it would be “shortsighted” to think anything except drafting the best player available at No. 2. He noted there are other avenues – trades or free-agency – to find a small forward if they don’t draft one tonight.

The Bobcats added about $15 million to their payroll over the next two seasons by exchanging Maggette’s contract for Gordon’s. This was about more than a future first-round pick. Gordon is a career 41 percent 3-point shooter, and new Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap has said improving the team’s 3-point accuracy was his top priority.

The Bobcats were last in the league in 3-point percentage last season at 29.5 percent.

Cho and Higgins both praised Gordon, who can play some at shooting guard and some at point guard. Cho described Gordon as a “big-time worker who will mesh well with Mike Dunlap’s plan.”

Higgins recalled a pre-draft workout Gordon performed in 2004 that Higgins and Cho both attended.

“That was the best workout I’d ever seen from a college player,” Higgins recalled. “He was very focused and on his shots. I mean, no-rim (swishes). He’s a pretty special shooter.”

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