Defending The Bobcats

by August 08, 2013

by Jake Fischer / @JakeLFischer

On June 15, 2006, Michael Jordan became the Managing Member of Basketball Operations and a minority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. On March 17, 2010, the NBA Board of Governors unanimously voted to approve Michael Jordan as the majority owner the franchise soon to be re-nicknamed the Hornets.

It’s been a tumultuous seven years for the GOAT while at the Cats’ helm. Media and fans alike have killed Jordan for dozens of personnel moves both on the court and in the front office. Jordan has also received flack for not making his best attempt to turn Charlotte into perennial winning organization.

Most recently, fans stormed out of the Bobcats’ 2013 draft party at the Time Warner Cable Arena after Jordan’s crew selected Cody Zeller at No. 4 overall instead of the likes of Ben McLemore or Nerlens Noel. Then, critics again came screaming about the Cats’ signing of Al Jefferson for three years, $41 million deal. Many chalked the move up as the latest to make the Bobcats the laughing stock of the League.

Stop laughing.

It might not seem like it after a quick glance on paper and when viewing the Bobcats’ roster, but Jordan & Co. have set up Charlotte for a potentially very bright immediate future. This plan has four steps:

1) Draft Efficiently

Laugh at the Zeller selection all you want, but it looks like the Cats might be on to something after the former Indiana big man’s performance out in Vegas. Sure, take that with a grain of salt, but look at Charlotte’s Draft picks from 2009-2012.

2009: Gerald Henderson, No. 12; Derrick Brown, No. 40; Robert Vaden, No. 54
2010: No Picks
2011: Kemba Walker, No. 9; Tobias Harris, No. 19; Jeremy Tyler, No. 39
2012: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, No. 2; Jeff Taylor, No. 31

The Bobcats seem to have drafted their starting point guard, shooting guard and small forward (Walker, Henderson, MKG) of the future over a span of four years, now they just need proper coaching. It also looks like Charlotte has a very solid rotation player in Taylor. Throw in the budding talent that Harris now is in Orlando and the Cats have been a very, very good drafting team in recent years. Now Jordan has to add to that young core…

2) Add An Impact Free Agent

What is the oldest style of basketball? Playing offense inside-out, getting into the paint and then opening up scoring opportunities on the perimeter. Today, stat heads and analysts praise the value in offenses that predicate on layups and three-pointers. With the addition of Big Al, the Bobcats have the potential to play an efficient style of basketball.

Jefferson is a legitimate threat to score 16 points and grab 10 rebounds a night while commanding double-teams on the block. Hate on Jefferson all you want and call him injury-prone as much as you would like, Big Al has started and played in all but 15 of Utah’s 312 regular-season games over the past four seasons, and averaged at least 17.1 points and 9.2 rebounds per game each season. Having that presence in the half court for the Bobcats will provide cleaner looks for Charlotte’s young guards and lanes to penetrate and cut as well.

Take a look at this highlight from Big Al and Utah’s victory over Boston in 2011. Sure, he’s a black hole at times, but you can’t deny the opportunities he creates for slashing teammates, the spacing a Big Al pick and roll makes and the transition chances his post defense forges for other players.

Even if the Bobcats miss the Playoffs, adding Jefferson will be a good addition to this team.

3) Utilize The Deep 2014 Draft

If Charlotte makes the Playoffs—they’ll likely be fighting with the Cavaliers, Wizards, Celtics, Bucks, Hawks and Raptors for the final two playoff spots after the Knicks and Pistons—it’s a win for the organization. But, if they miss out on the postseason, they’ll likely have a top-10 lottery pick (which would then be protected from the Chicago Bulls) and can add another piece in a deep, deep draft class.

And the Cats—then, Hornets—won’t just have their own first-round pick to work with. They’ll likely be owed Portland’s first-round pick that’s 1-12 protected (via 2011 Gerald Wallace trade). Next, Charlotte is also owed Detroit’s first-round pick that’s 1-8 protected (via 2012 Ben Gordon/Corey Maggette trade). The Pistons are almost a lock to make the Playoffs, but even if they miss out, they probably won’t be one of the bottom eight teams in the League, either.

With all that in play, the Bobcats have a very good chance at having three top-20 picks in a historically loaded 2014 Draft. If Jordan can continue to draft well like he and Charlotte have in recent years, the Bobcats could complete their budding starting lineup and rotation.

**Charlotte’s worst-case scenario for the 2014 Draft: Making the Playoffs, and Detroit and Portland totally collapsing.

4) Bring It All Together

If those three steps play out well for Jordan & Co., the Bobcats will simply need a head coach to bring all the troops together.

Jordan hired former Lakers assistant coach Steve Clifford at the end of May to be the Bobcats’ next head coach. He’ll be the team’s third coach in as many years since Larry Brown left Charlotte following ’09-10 season. Clifford is very well respected throughout the League and may have a bright future as a head coach. If he can implement a productive offensive system utilizing Jefferson’s post presence and the speed of his young backcourt, Clifford and his staff will have to work mostly on defense to get the most out of his players. His team’s raw talent and athleticism will help with that task too.

Yes, there are a lot of ifs in this four-step plan to build Charlotte into a playoff contender, but the groundwork is in place and the future can be bright for the Bobcats.

So, before you laugh at the Jumpman’s organization, take a moment to look over the pieces they have in place and what is to come.

Hold your breath.