The Charlotte Bobcats selecting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the second overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft was the start of a process. It’s a familiar process and one that’s only necessary in Charlotte because of years of questionable front office moves. It’s the process of rebuilding.
Maybe it would actually be better to say that the Bobcats are still building. This isn’t a storied franchise like the Boston Celtics that bottomed out in the late 90s and early 2000s and were rebuilt themselves into a contender. Since they were introduced to the league in 2004 as an expansion franchise, the Bobcats have made the playoffs only once, in the 2009-2010 season, which was also the only season that they finished with a winning percentage over .500 at 44-38.
One of the reasons that the Bobcats’ time in the NBA has been associated with futility is their lack of a superstar. In the 2004 expansion draft, they selected Gerald Wallace who was their centerpiece for several years. However, Wallace is by no means considered a superstar in the league. The problem really is that Charlotte isn’t a desirable destination for most marquee free agents.
North Carolina doesn’t offer the luxury of no state taxes. Charlotte isn’t one of the major markets in the NBA. The Bobcats don’t have a storied history that players desire to be a part of. Essentially, there’s nothing that makes the Dwight Howards and LeBron Jameses of the league consider Charlotte as a viable candidate for where they will take their talents.
The difficult part about not being a franchise that offers those types of things is that most of those factors aren’t things that are going change. So, how are the Bobcats going to rebuild without being able to bring in big-name free agents and superstars?
I think the first thing that they have to do is to be savvier with their draft picks. When they selected Kidd-Gilchrist, I applauded them for making the smart choice. You know that you’re getting a player with high-energy, high-basketball-I.Q. and a well-rounded basketball player with Kidd-Gilchrist. The Bobcats hadn’t made a pick like that in recent years.
In 2010, the Bobcats didn’t even have a pick in the draft. In 2011, they left the draft with Kemba Walker, a solid player who’s developing, and Bismack Biyombo. The problem with picks like these is that these players still have so much development left. All rookies, even Kidd-Gilchrist, have to develop, yes. However, with guys like Biyombo and, to a lesser degree, Walker, it’s more about harnessing raw skills and athleticism into becoming a basketball player.
Those aren’t the types of picks you want to make when you’re trying to build your team into a contender. Charlotte needs to continue to draft players that have proven basketball-skill-sets that they can further develop rather than guys that have talents that must be translated into the game of basketball.
But more than the draft, the Bobcats need to also become more competent in their trades. They’re not going to be blockbuster trade candidates for guys like Pau Gasol, however they must become defter in trades to acquire proven undervalued players.
They tried one of these moves early this season when they traded Matt Carroll for Hakim Warrick. Sure, Warrick hasn’t really panned out and is now buried on the end of the bench for the Bobcats, but that’s not the overall point. At least the Bobcats were attempting to make a trade to acquire someone under the radar that could assist the team.
While the Charlotte Bobcats have been associated with losing for the majority of their brief history, it’s not a pattern that has to continue. This past year, they’ve taken baby steps in the right direction. For their sake, maybe those tiny steps will soon turn into huge strides toward success.