Welcome to Part Three of a five-part look at the 2008 NBA Draft from the perspective of the Charlotte Bobcats. Part One was a basic look at the Bobcats’ needs this offseason. Part Two took a detailed look at the draft lottery process which determines where the team will pick. In Part Three we will examine the Bobcats’ options if they should luck out in the lottery and move up into one of the top three picks. Part Four will be a look at the team’s possible choices if they stay in their spot with the eighth (or ninth) pick, while Part Five will consider the Bobcats’ second round pick.
We’ve established that the chances of moving up into one of the top three picks in this year’s draft are slim (2.8% chance for the #1 pick; 3.3% chance for #2; 3.9% chance for #3) but we’re an optimistic sort here at Bobcats Baseline. Let’s consider the choices the Bobcats would have in each of these situations.
Let me also give credit where credit is due — my favorite websites for researching NBA prospects are NBADraft.net, DraftExpress.com, and ESPN.com’s Draft Central. Significant time was spent on each of these sites in the preparation of this piece.
Like most years, there is no clear cut #1 prospect in the 2008 NBA Draft. On the other hand, it’s not exactly crowded in the top tier. Two guys have long been considered by the draft pundits to be the big prizes this year: Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose. Let’s break each down:
Michael Beasley Forward 6’9” 235 lbs 19 years old (1/9/89) Kansas State
Beasley had a fantastic freshman season at Kansas State, averaging 26 ppg while shooting 53% from the field, 38% from 3-point land, and 77% from the line. In addition, he rebounded well at 12.4 per game (4 offensive) and averaged 1.6 blocks and 1.3 steals per game. He displayed a nice blend of quickness and smoothness and essentially has a complete offensive game. Back to the basket, facing the basket, driving, mid-range jumper, finishing at the rim — it’s all there. Accordingly, Beasley has been compared to Carmelo Anthony and Antawn Jamison.
There are a few generally accepted red flags on Beasley. The first is that there have been some off-the-court issues in the past. To his credit, Beasley was reportedly on his best behavior during his year at Kansas State; thus, this concern has subsided quite a bit. Additionally, Beasley’s general attitude and work ethic have been questioned in the past. Perhaps most importantly for the Bobcats and Larry Brown, a relative lack of toughness and inconsistent effort on the defensive end have been noted. Thus, Beasley has drawn the notorious comparison to Derrick Coleman, the gifted power forward and #1 pick in 1990 who had a largely disappointing NBA career.
Given that one of Charlotte’s needs is an offensive-minded big man, Beasley would seem to be ideal. However, I question whether he’s big enough to pair with Okafor in the frontcourt. 6’9”, 235 sounds big enough, but when I saw Beasley on TV this past year (admittedly only a few times) I noticed that he seemed to play smaller than he is. I worry that he could end up finding his niche in the NBA at the 3 as opposed to the 4, which would certainly be an issue for the Bobcats. However, in today’s smaller, faster NBA, it should be just fine to pencil him in as a 4.
Derrick Rose Point Guard 6’3” 190 lbs 19 years old (10/1/88) Memphis
As a freshman, Rose was able to lead a talented and experienced Memphis team to the NCAA Championship game. In the process, he averaged 15 ppg on 48% shooting from the field, 34% from 3-point land, and 71% from the line. He also averaged 5 assists per game.
Rose is the quintessential “pass-first” point guard. He is able to lead and manage his team on the floor; he reads both his opponent and his teammates extremely well. What makes him a potential #1 pick is that, in addition to that point guard stuff, he also possesses great athleticism and an excellent ability to score. The icing on the cake is that he has great size for the position; he will be able to defend any point guard in the league, and many 2-guards as well. With the current playoff successes of Chris Paul and Deron Williams, it has become fashionable to compare Rose favorably to them. Another comparison I would add to that mashup (mostly due to his size and leadership) is Chauncey Billups.
It’s hard to nitpick Rose these days — after all, he got his team to the NCAA Championship game. Add to that the strong play from Paul and Williams (not to mention Parker and Rondo) in the playoffs this year, and the value of a top-flight young point guard has never been higher. Accordingly, Chad Ford now believes that the lottery teams are split about 50/50 between Rose and Beasley as the #1 pick.
If you have to poke holes in Rose, there are a couple. One is his jump shot; it’s still a work in progress at this point. More important is his limited experience relative to the large role he would have as his team’s point guard. The point guard position, perhaps more than any other, requires a lot of experience in order to be solid and successful at the NBA level. Remember our comparisons (Paul and Williams) had two and three years of college experience, respectively, before coming to the NBA. Billups took years to emerge as an elite point guard. Rose has just one year of college experience, and it will surely show at times early in his career. He still makes bad decisions too often, as evidenced by his lackluster 1.75/1 A/T ratio.
I believe the pick would be Beasley. As we’ve established, the Bobcats primary need is an offensively-minded big man to allow Okafor to concentrate on his strengths (defense and rebounding). The only way I could see the Bobcats passing on Beasley to take Rose is if Larry Brown has major reservations about Raymond Felton’s ability to run his system. By all accounts, Felton’s skill set should match up well with what Brown likes from his point guards. And Felton is smart enough to know that going along with Brown’s program will turn him into a better player.
Winning the #2 pick would probably leave the Bobcats with an easier choice than any of the other picks they might get — you just pick whoever is left between Beasley and Rose and roll with it. Easy as pie.
There are three guys that comprise the next tier: OJ Mayo, Jerryd Bayless and Brook Lopez.
Mayo is a 6’4”, 195 lb 2-guard with great athleticism and star power. His freshman year at USC was somewhat of a disappointment, as he erased any suggestion that he could play the point. However, now that the pundits have refocused on his strengths as a 2-guard, his draft stock has risen again. For a comparison, think Dwayne Wade. The recent commotion about his acceptance of improper benefits from a runner is a nonissue from the standpoint of the NBA Draft. That said, with Jason Richardson entrenched at the 2 for the Bobcats, Mayo doesn’t make much sense and will not be the pick.
Same goes for Jerryd Bayless, a 6’3”, 190 lb hybrid guard (1.5 guard?) from Arizona. He’s more of a scorer than a leader/distributor, though it’s certainly possible that he could become a solid point guard. With his blend of great outside shooting and supreme quickness and finishing ability, he compares nicely to Monta Ellis. Again, he just doesn’t make sense for the Brown and the Bobcats.
This leaves Lopez.
Brook Lopez Center 7’0” 260 lbs 20 years old (4/1/88) Stanford
Lopez had a great sophomore season, leading Stanford deep into the NCAA tournament. For the season, he averaged 19 ppg on 47% shooting, with 79% from the line. Add to that 8 rebounds and 2 blocks a game. Lopez projects as a true center in the NBA, with good size and athleticism along with great footwork and fundamentals. He has a nice offensive repertoire on the block, and can also face up from 10-12 feet. He is a decent rebounder and defender. With this profile, some people are reminded of TIm Duncan. Skillwise it’s a fair comparison, but Duncan’s consistent greatness and championship rings really make it an unfair comparison in the end. Think Tyson Chandler, but less athletic and more fundamental. Or Kevin McHale, but more athletic.
Weaknesses for Lopez? There are certainly some to point out. Most important is the fact that he’s only a good (not great or elite) athlete. This explains several other weaknesses, including a rather pedestrian (for a supposedly dominant big man) field goal percentage. This is mostly attributable to difficulty finishing around the basket against stronger, more athletic opponents and a resulting reliance on mid-range, face up jumpers.
Another weakness (possibly a glaring one for Brown and the Bobcats) is that Lopez is a rather average defender and rebounder. It is possible, even likely, that Stanford purposefully held him back on the defensive end to avoid foul trouble and fatigue. Hopefully, this is indeed the case, as Lopez won’t be able to get away with coasting on defense and the boards at the NBA level.
The worst case scenario for Lopez is if his twin brother Robin were to eventually eclipse him. Robin is a more active defender and rebounder, but limited offensively and thus considered a less intriguing prospect (he is currently projected as a mid-to-late first round pick). Players like that tend to stay like that (think Ben Wallace, Anderson Varejao, etc.) but if Robin were to break the trend and develop an strong offensive game, it would be painful for the team who spends a lottery pick on Brook to watch.
Again, I firmly believe that Lopez would be the pick here; his offensive prowess will be impossible to pass up, and he fits much better than Mayo or Bayless. However, he would create a dilemma when paired with Okafor — which one of them would guard athletic, perimeter-oriented 4s? Just in the Southeast Division, guys like Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith and Antawn Jamison all log minutes at the 4. It’d be a nice problem to have, though…