Lack of talent the major HornCats problem…
This is my first column for a while and I hate that it may, to some, come off as negative but at some point the question of the ‘Cats lack of talent has to be addressed. I’ve just finished a good article from Hoopsworld, “Who Are the Keepers in the NBA? Part 2″ by Nate Duncan that I consider to be a fair evaluation of the talent we have on hand. The problem for me, and this article does a fair job of pointing it out, is that we really don’t have much at this time.
I’m going to start this portion by saying that I firmly believe Steve Clifford was the correct hire to coach this team. He has brought in an assistant coaching staff that, in my opinion, rivals any in the NBA. Our defense has become NBA quality under Coach Clifford after a year as one of the worst in the league. Clifford has the players buying in and this group of players obviously have the skill sets to play solid defense. But this is basically the same group from last year, so it’s a reflection of the coaching change rather than a change of players. Al Jefferson, not known for his defense, and Cody Zeller, a rookie, are the main player changes from last year’s team that was horrible on defense as well as every other aspect of the game. This has brought me to question why we have limited or one-dimensional talent on this roster.
Rich Cho was hired as the ‘Cats general manager in June of 2011 and has guided the Bobcats’ last three NBA drafts. The drafts before 2011 have nothing to do with Cho and he in no way is accountable for those disasters. I will only concentrate on the three drafts since Cho became the GM.
The 2011 draft had the Bobcats with two top 10 picks, number seven and number nine. The Bobcats had glaring weaknesses as a team so just about any BPA, best-player-available, had a good chance to improve this team. The number seven pick was used to draft a virtually unknown player with limited playing time in Spain and a limited time playing basketball in general. Duncan, Hoopsworld, says this about Biyombo; “Though he stands only 6’9, Biyombo is evolving into a solid defender and defensive rebounder. But due to his very limited offense, he can only play center. He will almost certainly never be a post-up threat, and his poor hands and shooting limit his ability to participate in the pick-and-roll game.” I’m not sure what any staff can do with his poor hands though I had hopes that assistant coach Patrick Ewing could help him on the offensive side, but we’ve yet to see any improvement. Biyombo was not the BPA when he was picked; he was a major reach for a team desperate for talent.
Kemba Walker was the number nine pick and the Bobcats certainly needed a point guard. The problem with Walker is he’s 5’11″ and more of a combo type guard rather than a pure point guard. It’s tough to say if he was BPA at number nine though he certainly filled a need. But for a rebuilding team in dire need of talent, does a 5’11″ combo guard really make the team better? I think it can easily be argued that without Walker and his offense the Bobcats would be worse, but could the draft pick have been used more wisely and a free agent stop-gap point guard have been signed? This one is a tough call.
The 2012 draft saw the ‘Cats with the number two and the number thirtyone picks. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was picked at number two. MKG played on a talented Kentucky team and displayed solid athleticism and flashed very good defense. He was not known for his offense and even before the draft the fact he had a broken shot was well known. Mark Price, another assistant coach brought in by Coach Clifford, has a deserved reputation for fixing shots but some are beginning to wonder if MKG can be fixed. So with the number seven in 2011 and the number two in 2012 we have two players that probably can play defense in the NBA but have far from well-rounded games.
The number thirty-one pick was used to draft Jeffery Taylor and I think just about every board had him as the BPA. I was a strong supporter of this pick thinking Taylor might finally be the sixth man this team sorely needed. Taylor has played very solid basketball during the Summer Leagues but that has not transitioned to the regular season. I don’t think anyone can fault Cho for Taylor shrinking when he has needed to seize the moment. Taylor simply fails to seize it when offered.
The Bobcats had only one pick in 2013 and that was number four. It is well documented that Cho has has his eye on the eventual pick, Cody Zeller, for a couple of years. Zeller could turn into a very solid pick if he can become the “stretch-four” he was drafted to play. Zeller has not been impressive for the first quarter of this season but has shown some signs, in the last 6-7 games, that he’s beginning to get it. It’s simply too early to tell if Zeller will be a starter in the league, a rotation guy, or just another wasted high pick by the Bobcats.
These have been Rich Chos’ drafts and I, for one, have not been impressed. I’ll write a follow-up article discussing some of the players that Cho passed over for the players the ‘Cats picked up from these three drafts. I do keep in mind that hindsight is 20-20, so I hope to make the follow-up fair by discussing players I supported from those drafts as well as the choices from forum members.