With the playoff series against the Heat well over, the next big event for the Charlotte Bobcats is the NBA Draft on June 26th. Avoiding a lottery relegation for the first time since 2010, the Bobcats are locked into the 24th overall slot for their first round pick, which was acquired in the Gerald Wallace trade with the Portland Trailblazers.
However, due to another trade with the Detroit Pistons that included a protected first-round pick, the Bobcats have a small chance to obtain the 9th overall pick as well. That small chance is about 17.6%, so definitely within the realm of possibility, but still very unlikely. If the Bobcats are awarded that pick following the lottery, we will cover the prospects that could be on the board for the 'Cats at the ninth spot. Until then, the mock drafts use only the spot that the Bobcats are guaranteed, and I am only writing about the prospects that could be available then.
So who do some major sports media outlets have the Bobcats drafting?
Draft Express - PJ Hairston: Well, I'm sure nobody in the Bobcats fandom will have a strong opinion about this. Hairston has some controversy around him after his dismissal from the UNC and going to play in the D-League, after which he becomes an automatically eligible entrant in this year's draft. He does have his strengths; his strong frame belies a body full of athletic potential, which could turn him into a legitimate asset with a consistent jump shot, and his burgeoning ability to get to the rim on offense. While he has the ability to knock down long jumpers, he does struggle with poor shot selection, though that may be a problem that could be worked out once he joins an NBA team. Despite his issues with basketball IQ, he has the skills to have a well-rounded scoring game. However, he truly struggles with the ball in his hands, failing to show an ability to create his own shot in the half-court game, and ranking as one of the worst passers in the D-League, by assist rate. He doesn't have particularly good ball control, and despite the athleticism I referenced earlier, he lacks a certain explosiveness that would help him gain some separation from his defender. He can be a good one-on-one defender when his effort is there (and, for what it's worth, I don't believe effort would be that big a problem for him in the NBA, though I still have questions about his motor), but doesn't appear to have good team defense instincts. From what I've seen, Hairston is a high-risk player, but the reward doesn't seem to be nearly as high. I'd try to stay away from him in the first round.
Bleacher Report - Jerami Grant: Grant is an interesting case. A sophomore small forward from Syracuse, Grant has been measured from 6'6" to 6'8". The most apparent thing with Grant is his athleticism; much more able than Hairston, Grant is quick, explosive, and graceful as he moves across the court. This allows him to get to the rim pretty easily, as he made over 50 percent of his two-point attempts, while almost exclusively in the three spot. And while the average Syracuse product has the defensive reputation of Byron Mullens, Grant is the rare player with the athleticism to overcome the lack of professional-caliber defense taught by a zone-only college team. He's a high-motor type of guy, and it's clear that he's a very teachable player, both mentally and physically. He is limited, though. With no outside shot to speak of (shooting only twenty attempts from three during his career; he made none of them in his sophomore year), he will have to work on stretching the floor, and this is a big issue. He's not very strong, getting most of his rebounds through consistent effort, and doesn't always make the right basketball play. While this would be understandable if it was limited to defense (though still hard to overlook), this issue remains on the offensive end as well, often taking bad shots (though he hits more of them than I would expect). At this point, I'd hope the Bobcats stay away from Grant, because I don't see how he'd complement a team that already has Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Sporting News - Bogdan Bogdanovic: Bogdanovic has moved up and down on both scouts' draft boards (if mock drafts are any indication) and in my mind throughout this season. A lengthy 6'6" shooting guard, Bogdanovic seems most comfortable around the perimeter, and his 6'11" wingspan means he has a little positional versatility. Like the two others I broke down above, he has good physical abilities, but unlike Grant and Hairston, Bogdanovic puts his athleticism to great use on the defensive end. His size and quickness allows him to prevent drives to the basket as well as defending multiple positions, but his ability to cut off passing lanes at just the right time is reminiscent of a player like Kawhi Leonard. He's a quality three-point shooter too, with a natural shooting stroke and quick release, hitting 37 percent of his long-bombs in the Euroleague this season. While he does have a tendency to shoot too much in these situations, he has experience as the primary ballhandler, and his court vision does translate into assists; he can also create his own quality shots, but he's better off in an off-ball role for that. His naturally aggressive playing style can have high payoffs when he attacks the rim, but also has some drawbacks. Namely, the turnovers. Bogdanovic gives up the ball pretty often, averaging 3.4 turnovers per game (to 3.7 assists) in the Euroleague this season. He's not that good of a facilitator on offense despite typically seeing the court well (although he has a tendency to become too singular-visioned on both ends), although I think this skill could be improved with NBA coaching. He also has a problem with taking many contested jumpers, and shoots the long two far, far too often. I think he'd be fine in the NBA in an off-ball role, but there are questions concerning his likeliness of coming overseas; namely, will Partizan allow him to come to the NBA rather than sell him to a bigger European team, who will give the team more money than the NBA would? I'd like to know a bit more about his status on that front, but Bogdanovic seems worth taking a flier on either way, although I think I'd prefer him in the second round rather than the first.
CBS Sports - KJ McDaniels, Sam Dekker, CJ Wilcox: Bear with me here, as CBS compiled three mock drafts, from Gary Parrish, Zach Harper, and Matt Moore, respectively. I'll go through these three players one at a time.
KJ McDaniels: I'm getting the indication that writers think the Bobcats should draft perimeter players. McDaniels, in another common theme, is a terrific athlete, with some of the best physical skills of anyone in the draft. While his three-point shooting has yet to develop, he has a versatile scoring arsenal. One thing that McDaniels has in his favor that the others do not is the weight he had to carry the previous season, as Clemson...shall we say, did not have a dearth of talent outside of their star player. McDaniels is a quality rebounder for his position, and is pretty productive defensively, even ranking 6th in blocks among Draft Express' top 100 board- and that's including all positions, not just wings. He plays good defense both on the wings and in rim protection help (and while he's able to keep wings out of the lane, he doesn't have the ability to match up against bigs). Unfortunately, his decision-making is also pretty questionable, and he isn't all that good at creating offense for himself, being much better in an off-ball role. Despite that, I think the potential that he can't be an asset to a playoff-caliber rotation is pretty low, so I'd be totally fine with the Bobcats taking him. He's got a ceiling lower than you might expect from a first-round pick, but I'm very confident that he'd be a productive role player.
Sam Dekker: Sam Dekker has not declared for the 2014 NBA Draft. I would be very disappointed if the Bobcats drafted him. That would be a terrible decision.
CJ Wilcox: CJ Wilcox has his positives, and I don't want to diminish that, but I'd be very skeptical if the Bobcats took him with the 24th overall pick. Now, he is an athletic player, and had terrific shooting numbers in his senior year, so I don't want to take that away from him, but here's a few reasons why I'm really opposed to taking him with the first-round pick.
- He's 23 years old. That might be a bigger factor than you think, as the age difference between the average 23-year-old athlete and his 20-year-old counterparts is astronomical, if you believe the age progression curve (and I do). Here's a complete list of recent 23-year-olds taken in the first round of the draft, from 2010, 2011, and 2012: Andrew Nicholson, Miles Plumlee, Festus Ezeli, Nolan Smith, Norris Cole, Wesley Johnson, Ekpe Udoh, Craig Brackins, Trevor Booker, Damion James, Greivis Vasquez, Lazar Hayward. Quality players on that list are few and far between, and each one of these guys was a star in college. Occasionally, one of them will become a productive player, but the list of 23-year-olds who were team stars in college (and while a team star, Wilcox was not dominant) and didn't do anything of note in the NBA is pretty gigantic.
- I don't believe that any team thinks of him as a first-round pick. Besides his shooting numbers, his skills are pretty limited (Even if he is more well-rounded than he often gets credit for, I don't think any one of his skills will prove to be legitimate assets in and of themselves in the NBA), and teams know this. Draft Express, who I think of as pretty accurate, project Wilcox to be drafted in the second round (coincidentally, by the Bobcats). If Rich Cho & co. really do like Wilcox that much, then okay, but I'm fairly confident he'd still be available to the Bobcats for their second-round pick.
When it comes down to it, those are the two biggest reasons that I'm not sure I want to see Wilcox with the first-rounder. He's a pretty well-rounded player, and his abilities are clearly defined, so you'll know exactly what you're going to get with him. While I'd be pleased if he was an option in the second-round, I think the Bobcats would likely be passing up too many players with higher ceilings and stronger skill sets if they took CJ Wilcox in the first round.