Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
The Charlotte Bobcats made two surprising decisions in hiring little-known Mike Dunlap to be their head coach and drafting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. But now that their long-term plan is coming into focus, the moves make sense.
The Charlotte Bobcats made two big decisions that will alter their short-term course as the begin this long rebuilding effort. Sure, first-round draft pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and new coach Mike Dunlap are expected to grow into their new roles, but they're both unconventional types that will be used in innovative roles over the next couple years. They aren't like anything we've seen before at their positions, and with the Bobcats expected to be bad, what better time than now to try something new?
Here's a look at their offseason.
DRAFTED MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST
The decision to draft Kidd-Gilchrist with the No. 2 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft surprised a lot of people at the time, but the more one thinks about it, the more it makes sense. For a while, it looked like the Bobcats would opt for the most NBA-ready guy in Thomas Robinson in an attempt to gain some immediate respectability, but once you consider the hiring of Mike Dunlap (more on him below) and the stated philosophy of general manager Rich Cho, Kidd-Gilchrist became the obvious selection.
It's still an open question whether Kidd-Gilchrist can be a superstar or a super role player, but that's kind of besides the point. The Bobcats were so horrible last year that they need more than just good talent to claw their way to respectability. They need hard workers, team players, etc ... basically, all the intangibles that Kidd-Gilchrist already brings at age 19. If you take the approach that the Bobcats are going the slow and steady route, then it doesn't really matter whether Kidd-Gilchrist sets the league on fire this year. Let him do his thing as a role player, live with his initial limitations, and eventually, the Bobcats are going to draft another cornerstone to complement him anyway. Kidd-Gilchrist can grow with his young team over time rather than having to save the franchise right away.
Now, there are some risks in that approach. Kidd-Gilchrist could get affected by the stink of losing, much like John Wall has in Washington and Tyreke Evans has in Sacramento. He could also settle into being less of a player than he could be if he was given more pressure and responsibility right off the bat. But when you look at Kidd-Gilchrist's combination of natural ability (save for his jump shot) and intangibles, you can see why he's worth the risk.
And, heck, he could just be better than anyone expects. He played in one Summer League game out in Las Vegas -- against Robinson's Kings, no less -- and dominated it so thoroughly that it brought back memories of Scottie Pippen in his heyday. Of course, it was Summer League, and it was a wide-open style that suited Kidd-Gilchrist's gifts, but that is the kind of potential he has. Remember that he just turned 19, and his biggest weakness (perimeter shooting) is the kind that is most often improved over time. He could very well be the second-best player in this draft next year, and considering his age, that means the sky is the limit.
HIRED MIKE DUNLAP
Dunlap's qualifications certainly don't scream "NBA head coach," but that's also the beauty of this situation. As long as the Bobcats are going to be bad, why not bring someone in from outside the establishment that will try to implement new ideas with his team? It's not like the Bobcats have anything to lose anyway.
Dunlap has been experimenting with a full-court press, which has historically failed in the NBA, but also hasn't really been attempted consistently since Rick Pitino in the late-1980s with the Knicks. If it doesn't work, the Bobcats will be bad as expected. If it does work, they'll be better than expected. Combine Dunlap's hiring with the selection of Kidd-Gilchrist, and you can see what the Bobcats are trying to do in the short term.
TRADED COREY MAGGETTE FOR BEN GORDON
The Bobcats accepted the extra year on Gordon's contract in return for taking the Pistons' future lottery pick, and it was a worthwhile exchange considering their timeline. They can deal with Gordon's salary taking up space on their cap because they have no plans to splurge on free agents over the next two years.
SIGNED RAMON SESSIONS
I actually liked this signing a lot. Sessions really struggled in the playoffs for the Lakers, but that was never an ideal fit for him. He's more of a pick-and-roll guy that functions best with the ball in his hands, and the Lakers asked him to do too much spotting up on the perimeter in the postseason. The price (two years, $10 million) is reasonable, and Sessions will at the very least provide 25 minutes of professional-quality play at the position. In short: he's just good enough to help facilitate the development of young players like Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo, but just bad enough where he doesn't cost too much and won't lead the team to the dreaded middle of the pack.
CLAIMED BRENDAN HAYWOOD OFF WAIVERS
Haywood fell off a cliff with the Mavericks last season, so I'm not quite sure why the Bobcats were lining up to claim him off amnesty waivers. He's a defensive-oriented center in a game that has become much smaller and more skilled, so his value in defending post players has lessened in recent years. He's also a bit temperamental and doesn't always give his best effort. Then again, the Bobcats had to sign someone to fill out the roster, and Haywood at least won't cost much.
OFFSEASON GRADE: B+