The Charlotte Bobcats haven't been an NBA franchise for too long of a time, so it's relatively easy to comb through the various draft picks made by the team during the last decade. Given that we're still in the heat of a lockout, this seems like as good a time as any to brush off the Bobcats' history book (it's really more of a novella) and analyze how the team has fared with their picks (an important tool to gauge how a young franchise has been run as a whole). Meet me after the jump for fun times with Raymond Felton!
Emeka Okafor- Round 1, Pick 2 (2004): Okafor was the first pick in Bobcats' history, and also the best one. While Okafor was never a "franchise player" in the dominating sense that Chris Paul or LeBron James might be, the performances of Okafor during his five years in Charlotte were mired with consistency. His offensive efficiency improved as time continued (from 44.7% FG in his rookie year to 56.1% FG in his final season with Charlotte), adding nicely to a game that already included solid defense and consistent rebounding. In a league devoid of great centers, Okafor was always good. He could be trusted to give the team 14 points, 11 rebounds, and more than 30 minutes on daily basis. Few centers in the modern NBA have been able to provide that over any kind of long-term span. Considering the track record of 2nd picks in recent NBA history (hint: it isn't a positive distinction to have, beyond Kevin Durant and a few others), the Bobcats' selection of Okafor deserves praise. Grade: A-
Bernard Robinson- Round 2, Pick 45 (2004)- For more than two seasons, Bernard Robinson served as a slightly below-average rotational player for the Bobcats. Because he was a second-round pick, it's fair to say that Robinson achieved moderate success in the league by earning those minutes. After he was traded to the Nets during the 06-07 season, Robinson played in ten games and was out of the league the next season (largely due to a serious knee injury). Beyond that, there isn't much to say. Grade: C+
Raymond Felton- Round 1, Pick 5 (2005)- I'm torn on how to contextualize this pick. With a 5th pick in a typical draft, you're generally expected to get a competent-to-great starter. And to some extent, that's what the Bobcats got. Felton has never boasted a particularly high field goal percentage (it has generally hovered around 40% for most of his career), leading many to say he wasn't (and isn't) an efficient scorer. That's a fair complaint, though Felton's true shooting percentage has generally improved over time. Felton also isn't a particularly dynamic passer, but he's perfectly adequate. What really defines Felton is his impressive propensity to be a perfectly acceptable starting point guard. He's hardly ever been considered a top-tier point guard, but he's also hardly ever been considered among the league's worst starting point guards. Felton was thoroughly ok throughout his career with the Bobcats, and that makes his selection as the 5th pick perfectly neutral. It wasn't a bad pick, but it also wasn't a particularly good pick, which fits Felton well. Grade: B-
Sean May- Round 1, Pick 13 (2005)- There are few players more intriguing and disappointing to me than Sean May. By almost all accounts, May never really panned out for the Bobcats. In three seasons with the team, he played in only 82 games (or one full season). What made May interesting when he did play, however, was his effective contribution. In his first two injury-plagued seasons with the Bobcats, May produced PERs of 15.3 and 19.1, both of which are above average (especially for a young player). When he actually managed to stay on the court, May averaged more than 17 points and about 10 rebounds (per 36 minutes) during both of his first two seasons. If May had been able to stay injury-free, he might have become a competent starter and even a centerpiece for future franchise success. Alas, he was never able to do that, and therefore his career must be categorized as largely a failure. Grade: C-
As always, big thanks to Basketball Reference for continuing to be a fantastic player data analysis tool. Part 2 of this series will likely be coming very soon.