Mock: Jonas Valanciunas, No. 9
Some much-needed low-post relief is on the way.
by Jon Jaques / @JJaques25
For better or mostly worse, no one can say Michael Jordan hasn’t put his “Jumpman” stamp on the Charlotte Bobcats franchise. Until the club’s first ever Playoff appearance last spring, it looked like the Bobcats were doomed to suffer the same middling fate as MJ’s first reclamation project, the Washington Wizards. Last April, things were looking up in the Queen City for the first time since the Hornets packed their bags for New Orleans. Sure, the team had plenty of holes, but with a young roster buoyed by one of the League’s most underappreciated and hardworking stars in Gerald Wallace, the ‘Cats looked like a less dynamic and an Eastern Conference version of the 2010 Oklahoma City Thunder.
But 34 wins and 48 losses later, the Bobcats’ organizational momentum came to a screeching halt. The team’s fall can’t be blamed entirely on Jordan. The Knicks overpaid for Raymond Felton, and Jordan wisely let the point guard walk. Felton’s former backup DJ Augustin had respectable season as a first-time starter, but Larry Brown (and later Paul Silas) clearly missed having the option of putting two dangerous penetrators/shooters on the floor at once
Injuries and a complete lack of a viable offensive threat in the post (in terms of pure value, penny-for-penny and point-for-point, is there a more worthless frontcourt triumvirate than starter Kwame Brown, Joel “Vanilla Gorilla” Pryzbilla, and DeSagana Diop?) contributed to a very slow start, turning the once-rising Bobcats into sellers at the deadline. Once MJ pulled the ultimate trigger and dealt team heartbeat Wallace, the 2011 season officially ended and work for the next season began.
If the Bobcats rebound quickly from their disappointing season, it will be because Jordan and the entire front office did their homework/got lucky in the lottery.
This Draft is legendarily anemic; it’s unfair to expect Charlotte to find the franchise savior it desperately needs with the ninth pick. But even wannabe draft guru Michael Jordan might be able to find the Bobcats a nice supporting cast member in the second half of the Lottery.
With the ninth pick in the 2011 SLAMonline Mock Draft, the Charlotte Bobcats select…
The Bobcats have enough holes in their roster that they could honestly pick any of the top players remaining and it would make some sense. A point guard prospect to spell Augustin would work, but after Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker were taken, no remaining floor generals are worthy of the ninth pick.
A rangy, versatile, havoc-wreaking small forward to begin to replace Gerald Wallace and compliment Stephen Jackson was also an attractive notion here… I had my eye on potential Wallace-clone Kawhi Leonard before the Pistons snatched him up at 8.
Without sensible options remaining at the 1 and 3 positions and an additional first-round selection at 19 available to tend to those spots, selecting the best big available at 9 became the obvious route. In the end, it came down to a couple of Lithuanian giants for the chance to don those glorious blue and orange pinstriped Bobcat threads: Jonas Valanciunas or Donatas Motiejunas.
Because Valanciunas is the more physically imposing and traditional of the two big men at 6-11 and 240 lbs (that tells you something about Motiejunas’ build), Jonas gets his named called by David Stern before his countryman.
Charlotte is desperate for some young legs in the paint, an intimidator to clog the middle and anchor the defense. While every GM could use a skilled 7-footer on the perimeter causing matchup nightmares for opponents, Jordan and the Bobcats don’t have the luxury of waiting for Montiejunas to develop into the next Toni Kukoc or (hold your hats) Dirk.
Valanciunas is by no means a finished product either (he’ll turn 20 next May) and like most young bigs will surely need to improve his strength and low post footwork to succeed at this level. But his length and athleticism address some of the Bobcats’ immediate needs while his skill set and potential could solve some future ones as well.
If Michael Jordan finds himself choosing between the two Lithuanian exports on draft night, history tells us he might go with Motiejunas because he probably has the higher ceiling.
But a wise MJ should have to look no further than the career of his own former pet-project Kwame Brown, the team’s incumbent starting center, to know that Valanciunas is the safer pick here. Even though it goes against everything Jordan stands for, Charlotte, one year removed from the Playoffs, doesn’t need a flashy pick … it needs a smart one.
|2011 SLAMonline Mock Draft|