The Charlotte Bobcats will get a top-five pick via Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery (8:30 p.m., ESPN), and based on the odds, they’ll most likely choose fourth.
Will the Bobcats select a long-term keeper? History suggests the odds aren’t great.
Since their inception in 2004, the Bobcats have made top-five selections four times. An Observer study last spring demonstrated top-five picks are precious: Thirty-six of the top 100 players in the league, as identified by that study, were top-five picks, including 15 of the top 20 players.
The Bobcats’ top-five picks haven’t been precious: Three of those – Emeka Okafor (2004), Raymond Felton (2005) and Adam Morrison (2006) – are gone. Okafor was a solid center who was traded to New Orleans in 2009. Felton left in free-agency in 2010, with the Bobcats receiving no compensation for his loss. Morrison – chosen third overall – was one of the great busts in recent NBA draft history and is out of the league.
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Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was chosen second a year ago. He had an uneven first season and was chosen second-team all-rookie team.
The Bobcats’ draft pick retention history is pretty threadbare. Of the 10 players chosen in the lottery (the first 14 picks) six are gone (two no longer in the NBA). Gerald Henderson will be a restricted free agent and three others – Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker – are still playing in Charlotte under their rookie contracts.
These next two drafts could provide the Bobcats’ a do-over. Along with the 2013 pick, the Bobcats might have three first-rounders in 2014 and all could be lottery picks. The Bobcats figure to miss the playoffs next season and are owed picks from the Portland Trail Blazers and Detroit Pistons that could come due in ’14.
Luck of the draw
The Bobcats need to execute picks better, but they’ve also been unlucky.
After the worst season in NBA history a year ago (7-59), the Bobcats hoped to get Kentucky center Anthony Davis as their consolation prize. But the weighted lottery gave the New Orleans Hornets the first pick, dropping the Bobcats to No. 2. The difference between Davis and Kentucky teammate Kidd-Gilchrist seemed considerable.
This season the Bobcats went 21-61, finishing one game better the Orlando Magic to avoid the worst record a second year in a row. With the second-worst record, the Bobcats get a 19.9 percent chance at the top pick tonight. The odds most favor them getting the fourth pick, at 31.9 percent.
The Magic get a 25 percent chance at the top pick. They can do no worse than fourth, a 35.7 percent chance.
Davis so distinguished himself in one Kentucky season that he likely would have been the top pick no matter who got it. The 2013 draft is neither as clearly defined nor as talent-filled.
It appears either Nerlens Noel, who replaced Davis as Kentucky’s center, or Ben McLemore, a Kansas shooting guard, figures to be the top pick June 27. But questions remain regarding both.
Noel suffered a severe knee injury last winter and likely won’t be available to play before January. While he demonstrated a knack for blocking shots, his frame (206 pounds over a 7-foot frame) is so slight he might struggle to hold his ground under the basket.
McLemore had a solid regular season, his only one in college basketball, but he did little in the NCAA tournament, shooting 2-of-14 in his first two tournament games.
It’s less clear who would interest the Bobcats if they pick outside the top two. Possibilities include Georgetown small forward Otto Porter, Indiana big man Cody Zeller, Maryland center Alex Len and Nevada-Las Vegas forward Anthony Bennett.