Jason Zengerle shoots back on the question of the Charlotte Bobcats’ draft picks agreeing with many commenters here that Raymond Felton and Sean May are pretty good basketball players. And so they are. The point, however, still stands.
For one thing, I should say that the more egregious fan-appeal draft choice Charlotte made wasn’t actually for a UNC grad it was for Adam Morrison who, like Felton and May, seems to have been selected in part due to his appeal to admirers of amateur basketball. The trouble, of course, is that facing the best athletes in the world, Morrison has played . . . absolutely horribly, offering the exceedingly poor defense and rebounding he was known for in college combined with a total inability to get open for quality shots, leaving him with a 44.8 TS%. To make things even better, he’s old for a rookie (22) and has no upside so things will never get better, but Charlotte, in order to capture fan appeal and avoiding admitting to having made a mistake, keeps giving him major minutes even though he’s terrible. What’s more, I dare say this was all entirely predictable to anyone with a healthy skepticism about the college game.
As for Felton, he’s a fine player and not a wildly implausible number five choice in that draft. Then again, Andrew Bynum (10), Charlie Villaneuva (7), and possibly Channing Frye (8) are better and also taller and in Bynum’s case substantially younger. Indeed, May is better than Felton. I would, however, rather have David Lee or Hakim Warrick. What’s more, had you packaged the two picks in that draft and made a trade for, say, Chris Paul you’d be in much better shape.
My intention, however, wasn’t actually to criticize those draft choices per se. All things considered, I think the Felton looks like an underperformer for a number five pick and May like an overperformer.
The problem really is the message it sends to the players, to the staff, to the fans, and to the community when you run your team in that way. The right message for a new franchise to send is that we intend to become popular by becoming the best possible basketball team. The right way to piggyback on the local popularity of college hoops in North Carolina is to say that the local fans like basketball, expect excellence from their preferred college programs, and should expect nothing less from the new pro team. Instead you get local sports heros and a college star who obviously can’t hack it in the pros and, literally, the Michael Jordan gambit. Even worse, players like this, once on your team, can’t have their performances evaluated objectively. When the team business concept isn’t “we’re going to try to play well” but rather “we’re going to put these popular guys on the floor” you can’t coach properly, can’t design rotations properly, and can’t evaluate your team’s prospects properly. Zengerle, for example, neglects Gerald Wallace when discussing Charlotte’s assets, even though he’s better than several of their used-to-be-famous college stars.