The Charlotte Bobcats have only one decision concerning the 2013 NBA draft, but it’s a huge one:
What’s the best use of the fourth overall pick?
The Bobcats addressed a major issue last week when they hired a new head coach, former Los Angeles Lakers assistant Steve Clifford. Now they turn their attention to the June 27 draft. Free agency starts next month.
The draft lottery was not kind to the Bobcats; though they had the league’s second-worst record last season (21-61), they slipped to the fourth pick, with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards picking ahead of them.
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That might not be the worst thing. The 2013 draft is not considered particularly strong, with no player as sure a bet as the 2012 top pick, Anthony Davis. So the player the Bobcats choose fourth might not be a big step down from whoever the Cavaliers choose first.
The Bobcats front office – president of basketball operations Rod Higgins and general manager Rich Cho – didn’t say a lot about this draft on lottery night, with this potentially significant exception: Cho said the makeup of the current roster should not influence who the team takes with the fourth pick.
As Cho put it, you draft for talent, trade for need.
Asked about those needs, Cho said improving the rebounding and getting more outside shooters are priorities. But those areas might just as well be addressed in free-agency; the Bobcats can create as much as $21 million in space under the salary cap after July 1.
If the Bobcats operate by Cho’s philosophy, then the presence of Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist wouldn’t dissuade the team from picking a point guard or small forward at No. 4. There’s probably only one point guard worthy of such a high pick – Michigan’s Trey Burke – but there are several potential options at small forward: Georgetown’s Otto Porter Jr., Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Nevada-Las Vegas’ Anthony Bennett all would play at least part-time at the position Kidd-Gilchrist was drafted (No. 2) last summer to fill.
Porter and Bennett were projected as lottery picks long ago. Oladipo, a 6-5 shooting guard-small forward, might be the biggest riser in this draft. While he’d ideally be a little taller for his position, his energy level and intensity have become a big attraction in this draft.
Most mock drafts project either Kentucky center Nerlens Noel or Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore as the top pick. So it’s a strong possibility both those players will be chosen before the fourth pick.
Who that third player would be is more of a mystery. The Magic, picking second, need a point guard, but would they use such a high pick on Burke? The Wizards, picking third, have a solid backcourt in John Wall and Bradley Beal. So would they go with Oladipo or Porter at small forward?
The Bobcats greatly need rebounding and low-post scoring, and Maryland center Alex Len could address that. But could the Bobcats justify using the fourth pick on Len, who might be closer to the seventh-best player in this draft?
Len is hurt (surgery to address a stress fracture in his ankle), so he can’t work out for teams going into the draft. The same applies to Noel (knee surgery) and Bennett (torn rotator cuff), so the Bobcats might not hold a lot of workouts before this draft.
The Bobcats don’t have their second-round pick. It goes to the Oklahoma City Thunder to complete the trade that sent Byron Mullens to Charlotte.