Friday, June 27, 2008

Bobcats Thoughts, 6/27

Sorry it’s been so long since you’ve heard from me (or in some cases, you’re welcome!), but I’ve been in the process of moving. When the supposedly edgy, punk-y, and cheap East Village is renting studios at $1,800 a month that are smaller than my old Army barracks room, that's when it’s time to move to…Brooklyn! And because I knew very little about the borough other than to avoid any neighborhoods shouted-out in a Jay-Z song, there’s been moderate-to-very-little sleep 'til Brooklyn while we’ve searched for a place, preferably with at least one bedroom.

So we moved last week, and in a touching ceremony that really made my wife and I feel like family, our historic and beautiful old neighborhood promptly welcomed us with an ancient ritual: burglarizing my car. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this traditional native custom, it involves showering the sidewalk with tiny, intricately-cut shards of your car’s passenger-side window, followed by the delicate removal of your radio, and finally the spreading of your glove compartment’s contents to complete the coronation. In certain cases for those with a prized vehicle, the natives will also open your trunk as if it were a flower in bloom and set free whatever is inside; unfortunately, our 2002 Corolla (with manual roll-down windows) didn’t qualify for this treatment, but it was a special event nonetheless.

Anyway, before I make you all jealous, let’s get to this draft. “With the #9 and #20 picks in the 2008 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Bobcats select…a bunch of really angry fans no matter who they pick.” I thought long and hard about this draft, and early yesterday morning I came to the following two conclusions: 1) every one of these picks after the first two (and maybe even the first one) has at least one serious flaw, either in general or with the Bobcats in particular; 2) it’s the 9th and 20th picks, so there’s no real point in fretting about it.

If you concede that our two most pressing needs are a point guard and a rebounding center (and everyone except possibly the team itself has conceded this, considering they were also the same two needs before last year’s draft), then you knew going into this thing that we weren’t going to get a very satisfying pick either way, especially with our higher pick. The options at center were discouraging, as the only lottery-worthy 5 was Brook Lopez, who has a questionable attitude about anything other than Disney characters and—oh yeah, can’t rebound. The other possible center draft candidate was Kevin Love, whose physical fitness seems to fluctuate like Oprah’s and who seems more suited for the 4-spot, where Emeka Okafor is calling home, at least for now.

As for the 1, after Derrick Rose, four of the top five guards (OJ Mayo, Russell Westbrook, Jerryd Bayless, and Eric Gordon) were not even true point guards. This was worrisome, because last year we didn’t even know what to do when we DID have a true point guard: Raymond Felton played virtually the whole year at the 2-spot. The last thing we need is more “trans-guard” ambiguity. Thus, the fifth of the bunch and our eventual pick, DJ Augustin, was a serviceable choice.

Augustin’s size and defense are a concern, but even more alarming were the reports that our incumbent guard, Raymond Felton, is suddenly fighting for his job. Chad Ford even calls Augustin an “upgrade” over Felton!? Really? Size-wise, Augustin is barely an upgrade over David Stern! DJ is one of the few draftees Stern didn’t have to squint up at like he’s reading a billboard advertisement for Gossip Girl and trying to figure out what “OMFG” means. Everyone is asking if the Augustin selection (and some guy named Kyle Weaver with the 38th pick) means we’re now shopping Felton, but what I’m really curious is Earl Boykins. We can’t possibly be retaining Earl with Augustin now, are we? How’s that team practice going to look? For the 5-on-5 scrimmages it’s going to be Arnold Drummond covering Webster.

A clear-cut strategy of “guard-first/big man-second” was illuminated earlier in the day when the Cats obtained the rights to the #20 pick from the Nuggets, meaning they could use it to take from the pool of late-round 7-footers who are generally undeveloped and largely indistinguishable. Except…we STILL managed to throw a curveball-zinger in there by selecting France’s Alexis Ajinca over the more logical choice of Ohio State’s Kosta Koufos. Coach Larry Brown (sort of) explained the rationale behind the pick to the ESPN crew later by saying he “fell in love” with Alexis in a private workout. Besides being unintentionally funny and vaguely homoerotic, I’m not sure if this explanation did much for me. Exactly how bad was Koufos at Ohio State that he warranted a snub from a 5-point scoring Frenchman? Unless points in French convert to American points like Euros to dollars, this move seems a little batty.

And say what you will about Koufos, at least he was guaranteed to show up at training camp. Going that low in the draft puts Ajinca at risk to stay in Europe—let’s hope LB’s love for AA is similar to Andie MacDowell’s love for Gerard Depardieu in Green Card and convinces the Frenchman to come to the States permanently. But even if he does, are we now going to have a bench squad of Ryan Hollins, Jermareo Davidson, and Ajinca? That’s three 7-footers who can’t rebound, and who all shoot/peg the ball exactly like Kevin Garnett’s and-one just before half-time of Game 6, except our guys do it even if they’re wide open (and they miss). Finally, someone better make sure those three, Boykins, and Augustin are distributed evenly along the pine, otherwise we’re going to have a see-saw going.

But for everyone who's agonizing about what we did last night, just remember, all of this muck and angst is mollifiable if you go back to my Conclusion #2, which is, hey, it’s the ninth and twentieth picks. Forget about the 20th for a second, do you know who the last five ninth-overall picks have been? Joakim Noah, Patrick O’Bryant, Ike Diogu, Andre Iguodala, and Mike Sweetney. With the exception of Andre, none of these guys is destined to make much of an impact, so fretting over these picks is like fretting over which Combo Meal to get at McDonald’s: it’s cheap and it’s probably going to be mediocre no matter what you take, so just pick something and let’s go. And who knows, if either Augustin or Ajinca can do anything other than blow out an ACL, think of it as that rare Happy Meal with the cool toy.

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