The Sins of 2012: Hornets Still Paying for Draft Incompetence

Only (5) NBA teams have won less than 10 games in a season. In 1948, the Providence Steam Rollers won 6 games and lost 42. In 1973 the Philadelphia 76ers won 9 games and lost 73. In 1999, the Vancouver Grizzlies won 8 games and lost 42. In that same year, the Los Angeles Clippers won 9 games and lost 41. And in 2012, the Charlotte Bobcats won 7 games and lost 59.

Charlotte was bad at everything in 2011-12. They were the worst scoring team; they couldn’t manage 90 points. (Charlotte was the last team to average 87 points a game.) The Bobcats also couldn’t rebound.

Their leading scorer was Gerald Henderson, 15.1 points a game. Their leading rebounder was Bismack Biyombo, 5.8 rebounds a game. Kemba Walker was a rookie.

It was a strike shortened year in 2011-12. But because they were unlucky, the Bobcats didn’t get the number one pick. The Chris Paul-less Hornets won the Anthony Davis sweepstakes. At number two, the Bobcats were looking pretty good. On the board were scorers, exactly what they needed. Except. The Bobcats mangled that number two pick. They blinked.

They needed offense. They had no one who they could count on to put the ball in the hole. Or who could beat his man off the dribble.  Or iso. Or drive to the rim and dunk. The 2012 draft was awash with playmakers. Bradley Beal. Dion Waiters. Damian Lillard. Harrison Barnes. Pair any one of those scorers with Kemba Walker and you have more than two playoff appearances in the Kemba era. And there would be no need to scape the bottom of the barrel for Dwight Howard.

Howard is having a good year but the team is still losing. Howard doesn’t fit the personnel. He forces you to play half court when Kemba and Nicolas Batum are explosive and athletic. And frankly, all Howard cares about is getting his.

What the Hornets are missing is a scorer, someone other than Kemba who can put the ball in the hole. Someone like, oh I don’t know, Dion Waiters or Damian Lillard or Bradely Beal or Harrison Barnes.

In 2012, the Hornets decided the way they wanted to go was defense and nothing wrong with that except you don’t get a defensive player at the top of the draft unless he has Alonzo Mourning as his name- oops, Hornets already did that.

The top-5 picks in the draft, by nature of that rare air, by nature of their talent, are projected as multiple All-Stars for sure and possibly, fingers crossed, Hall of Famers.

No one projected Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as a special player. A tough player, yes. A hard worker, yes. A coachable player, sure. But he was never going to be special on his best day.

Draft Express said this about Kidd-Gilchrist:

Kidd-Gilchrist ranks near the bottom of the wings we compiled stats for in overall scoring efficiency.

Draft Express said this about Damian Lillard:

His ability to score in a variety of ways from the perimeter should make him a valuable asset for whichever team drafts him.

Regional bias was implied by the pick. Kidd-Gilchrist came from a Kentucky program that was revered and familiar. Lillard was from Weber State who didn’t even make the NCAA Tournament.

The traditional (safe) thinking was that the Bobcats were rebuilding the right way, via defense first. But the logic said there was something wrong with that picture. Defense is good at number seven. But at number 2? You are looking for a star. Someone who can give you 20 points per game. Play 35 minutes. Be your go-to the last two minutes. If they wanted defense, the Bobcats should have traded down and gotten an extra pick out of it. But they didn’t.

Last night, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist faced a number two pick. Both Kidd-Gilchrist and Brandon Ingram entered the league after one college season. Ingram is 20 years old. Nothing is comparable about their numbers at that age.

20 Isn’t Equal Minutes Points FG% 3-Point% PER
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 24.2 7.2 47.3% 11.1% 12.1
Brandon Ingram 33.8 16.2 45.4% 33.3% 12.8

On Saturday night, nothing was comparable about their numbers. Ingram played 36 minutes, took 16 shots, scored 18 points. Kidd-Gilchrist played 26 minutes, took 8 shots, had 9 points.

Kidd-Gilchrist is going to have a long NBA career if he skips the injuy roulette because he has the type of game teams need from their most trusted role players. But he didn’t have #2 in the draft talent in 2012. He doesn’t have it now. The miss by the Bobcats have set them back and already it has been five years of MKG. Consider this about Kidd-Gilchrist.

Of the top-10 picks in his draft class: Only Thomas Robinson, who is currently overseas, has scored fewer points than MKG. Only Thomas Robinson has played fewer minutes. Only Thomas Robinson has a lower percentage from three.

  • Bradley Beal is averaging 23.8 points this season.
  • Dion Waiters is averaging 15.4 points this season.
  • Damian Lillard is averaging 25.7 points this season.
  • Harrison Barnes is averaging 18.5 points this season.

That is what the Hornets are missing, a pure scorer. Scoing talent creates mismatches and defensive havoc and it leads to wins. Free agents want to come and be a part of  the excitement.

It’s no secret that the draft is a crap shoot. Every organization makes blunders. But where the margin of error is really small is if you have a top-5 pick. You need talent and you  need it quick. You can’t afford misses. You have to get it right because it is so hard to find special players.

The CBA makes it near impossible to land an iconic player as a free agent unless you have two other similar talents to lure him with. You have to scout special and then draft special.

The 1998-99 Grizzlies and Clippers, who won single digit games, had their moment to try to pick special. The Clippers selected in the 1999 draft Lamar Odom, an athletic and explosive 6-11 versatile forward who ended up as a two-time champion, despite personal issues. The Grizzlies took Steve Francis, another dynamic scorer who could put the ball in the hole and entertain. He earned the nickname Stevie Franchise.

Franics was a three time All-Star. Besides being a champion, Odom was on the All-Rookie team. The Grizzlies and Clippers went for special and they got best available offense even if Francis forced a trade from Vancouver.

The science of drafting is inconclusive but there are rules. A system. At number 2, scoring matters. So don’t screw it up.