Lack of talent the major HornCats problem…
I’m going to wrap up the three drafts that Rich Cho has directed for the Bobcats with a look at the teams with top ten picks in two of his three drafts. Those teams were Utah, Toronto, New Orleans, and Portland. I’ll also have a comment about a couple of teams that got it right in those three drafts. My final article in this series will look at the trades Cho has made and free agents Cho has brought to the team as the General Manager.
Utah picked Enes Kanter with the third pick in 2011 and Trey Burke with the ninth pick in 2013. Kanter is having a solid third year for them with 11ppg and 5.7rpg. Burke is having a very good rookie season with 13.5ppg, 3.4rpg, and 4.9apg. Many draft pundits consider Burke to be one of the steals of the 2013 draft though other players have had drops after their first season; but it appears that in those two drafts the Jazz have two starters from two picks.
Toronto picked Jonas Valanciunas with the number five pick in 2011 and Terrence Ross with the eighth pick in 2012. Valanciunas is finally having a good year posting 10.2ppg and 8rpg. He is now the starting center for the Raptors who lead the Atlantic Division. Ross plays about twenty one minutes a game for Toronto, 8.4ppg with 2.7rpg, and appears to be a solid rotation player for them.
The New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans had two top ten picks, Anthony Davis with the first pick and Austin Rivers with number ten, in the 2012 draft. The Pelicans traded their number six pick in 2013, Nerlens Noel with a 1-5 protected first round pick in 2014, to the 76ers for Jrue Holiday and the 76ers second round pick, number fourty two Pierre Jackson. The Pelicans have a starter in Davis who is averaging a double-double this season, 19.3ppg and 10.3rpg. Holiday appears to be a good pick-up for them with 15.1ppg, 4.3rpg, and 8.1apg. Rivers has had minimum impact and has been mentioned as a trade candidate. The Pelicans turned three top ten picks into two starters.
Portland drafted Damian Lilliard with the sixth pick in 2012 and CJ McCollum with the tenth pick in 2013. Lilliard as the unanimous (he received all 121 first place votes) winner of the Kia rookie of the year trophy. He had an outstanding rookie season and is posting 21.5ppg, 3,7rpg, and 5.8apg. The Trailblazers appear to have drafted a franchise player with the sixth pick in 2012. CJ McCollum, who has been injured, has not played this season. You have to applaud the Trailblazers for getting a franchise player at number six.
There are a couple of picks, past the tenth from the 2011 draft, that I’d like to look at before we close the three drafts. Klay Thompson the eleventh pick, Kawhi Leonard at number fifteen, and Nikola Vucevic at number sixteen. Three years is a pretty good rule-of-thumb time period for evaluating a draft. All three of these players have had solid careers to this point and have proven they could start for at least half the teams in the NBA. All three of these players could arguably start for the Bobcats.
Thompson has posted scoring numbers of 12.5ppg, 16.6ppg, and has 19.6 so far this year. Leonard has posted 7.9ppg with 5.1rpg, 11.9ppg with 6.0rpg, and has 12.3ppg with 6.3rpg so far this season. Vucevic started slow with 5.5ppg and 4.8rpg, but then increased to 13.1ppg with 11.9rpg, and has 13.5ppg and 11.4rpg this season. These players were not passed over by the ‘Cats alone. They all are NBA starters that were drafted after the top ten and performed much better than players picked before them. The point is that you don’t have to pick in the top ten, or even the top five, to find a starter from the draft. It’s tough to impossible to get a “franchise player” after the top five picks but Portland did it with Damian Lilliard with the sixth pick in 2012. Top ten picks guarantee nothing. That’s why an NBA General Manager can’t simply be evaluated from draft picks alone.
The final part of my evaluation of Rich Cho will look at the trades and the free agent signings he’s made as the GM of the Bobcats. I’d like to add that his drafts have been no worse than average. He has picked a starter, Kemba Walker, and three players that are still works-in-progress. Bismack Biyombo has been on the team for three years but has not had coaching consistency, so even he is difficult to judge at this point. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has proven he can play defense at the NBA level but has to elevate his overall game. Cody Zeller has begun to demonstrate, over the last several games, a skill set that can justify being picked number four in the 2013 draft. Players take time to develop and with these three we’ll know more after possibly this, and probably next, season.
Correction: I incorrectly had the Suns listed with two top ten picks in article #2. They only had one top ten pick in the last three drafts.