When the Charlotte Bobcats made their selection in Thursday's NBA draft, Kentucky center Nerlens Noel was available. Maryland center Alex Len was available. If you prefer guards, the best guard in the draft, Kansas’ Ben McLemore, was available.
In other words, the best players in the 2013 draft were still out there. It was as if the Bobcats orchestrated the thing. It was as if they finally won the lottery. It was as if Charlotte’s fourth pick was the first pick. The night was going to be legendary.
And then it wasn’t.
The Bobcats selected Indiana forward Cody Zeller.
Zeller runs well, shoots well, especially for a 7-footer, and is said to be a nice guy.
But this column is not long enough, this sports section not large enough, my fingers not agile enough, to list all the skill sets the Bobcats need.
They especially need a big man who does big-man like things and who imposes himself on the defense. Zeller does not. That's not his game. He’s 20-years-old, so he can evolve and learn. But he is not a tough guy. He was not, in the tough Big Ten, last season.
True, Zeller is the only top candidate to come to Time Warner Cable Arena to work out for the Bobcats. But if there is no next best thing to being there then Louisville’s 6-11 Gorgui Dieng, Pittsburgh’s 7-0 Steve Adams and Gonzaga’s 7-0 Kelly Olynyk should have come to town, even if they had to drive.
I don’t get this one.
Charlotte general manager Rich Cho has to. He has to see qualities in Zeller the rest of us don't.
If he’s right, if Zeller is a court-running, jumper-hitting, tougher-than-we-think rookie of the year candidate, Cho ought to have a job for life.
If he’s wrong, he might not have the job in 2014.
I like to gamble – thus my preference was Noel, whom I would love to see in a Bobcat uniform when he recovers from a torn ACL.
Zeller is a bigger gamble, a big man who doesn’t always play so big. If the Bobcats hadn’t taken him, he might have drifted to – No. 6, No. 8, No. 10?
Will Zeller be a better player than Josh McRoberts, a free agent, was for Charlotte last season? McRoberts is 6-10, a decent outside shooter and rebounder and a superior passer.
Will Zeller be better than Byron Mullens, a 7-foot free-agent, was for Charlotte last season? Mullens has a nice touch from the outside.
Both are tall players with, at least times, the mindset of a guard. So is Zeller. Bring McRoberts back. Bring Mullens back. Collect the whole set.
Nobody wins on draft night. You do your homework, you follow your instincts and, if you're the Bobcats, you hope you get it right. It's not about drafting the famous guy, or the guy people want you to take. It's about drafting the player who is right.
I'll be surprised if this pick is right.
But it could be worse. Remember Adam Morrison, whom the Bobcats selected with the third pick in the 2006 draft? Remember what he looked like?
What would make this worse is if Zeller comes to town with a black moustache.