NBA draft: Are Charlotte Bobcats looking to trade back?

rbonnell@charlotteobserver.comMay 18, 2013 

— The NBA and NFL drafts are very different processes.

The basketball draft is typically all about quality. You get much past the 15th pick, and you might just be paying someone who might never really help your franchise. It’s a surgical process, where 30 picks in you’re looking for someone who can just make an NBA roster.

The NFL is a bit different for several reasons: There are 22 starters, versus five in the NBA. The violent collisions that define pro football mean constant attrition, which puts depth at a premium.

So dealing down in the NFL draft for additional picks makes perfect sense. You seldom see that in the NBA, and when it does happen, it tends to be perilous. And that’s what might make the 2013 draft an anomaly.

I spent Thursday and Friday at the NBA Draft combine. These things become numbingly repetitious , so when an oddity sticks out, you tend to notice. Here’s what I noticed: The Charlotte Bobcats, a team assured of drafting no lower than fifth in the first round and having no second-round pick, seem oddly curious about players projected to be drafted in the middle of the first round.

They interviewed Duke center Mason Plumlee, Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams and Gonzaga center Kelly Olynyck. It’s a stretch to draft any of those guys in the top-five.

This might be just zealous due diligence. General manager Rich Cho is meticulous to a fault, so chatting up too many draft prospects could be in his wheelhouse. But there was something that raised my radar about how curious the Bobcats seem to be about players who could be drafted 10th through 20th.

So I asked several writers covering teams with similarly high picks if they thought their general managers were receptive to trading down. “Absolutely,” I kept hearing.

No one is particularly excited about this draft. I’m not saying it’s a write-off, but it’s clear what you historically expect to get with the third, fourth or fifth pick is not what this NBA draft figures to produce.

So, more than usual, teams might be receptive to trading the fifth pick for the 12th pick if the other team is willing to pass back something valuable.

The question is, how valuable? You wouldn’t trade down five spaces in the first round in return for an extra second-round pick. The buyers and sellers in such a transaction will both be pretty picky.

Still, there’s something different about this draft worth monitoring.

Five passing thoughts on the NBA and the Bobcats:

• I’m not saying there’s no difference between what happened in Charlotte in 2002 and Sacramento in 2013. But those were similar circumstances and the results – the Hornets being allowed to move to New Orleans, the Kings being told to stay in Sacramento – were quite different.

• Phoenix and Philadelphia seem to have very similar lists to the Bobcats in their coaching searches.

• Kansas’ Ben McLemore was grilled throughout the combine media sessions with questions about AAU coaches. He handled each question – many of them redundant – with calm and patience.

• The combine in Chicago used to be the NBA’s version of a coaches convention. No more. I’m guessing that’s a mix of budget trims and the fact that so many coaching staffs are currently in turnover mode.

• Having said that, I noticed Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau at the combine bright and early Friday morning. That was just 11/2 days removed from being eliminated from the playoffs.

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