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Blogcat’s Take, 6/28

My lord, find me a happier set of weeks in Bobcats/Hornets history since...ever? I guess with the franchise’s recent agreement with the NBA you’re technically allowed to reach back to the original Charlotte Hornets, but those don’t count because I wasn’t there. Yes, I had a Charlotte Hornets baseball cap as a kid, but that’s only because it was issued to me in suburban New Jersey, along with my Appetite for Destruction t-shirt (if you look at my junior high school yearbook, I’d say in roughly one of three pictures of the boys there’s either a partially-visible image of either Hugo the Hornet or Slash’s top hat just creeping into the shot). So I’d be posing if I said this is as good as, say, Alonzo Mourning’s 1993 buzzer-beater, because back then I was mostly doing things like getting excited about the near-certain superstardom of John Starks. So, in the modern Bobcats era, our most joyful moment would be, what exactly? “Make love to pressure”? The Raymond Felton/Sean May draft? Larry Brown’s arrival? Larry Brown’s departure? Let’s face it, this barrel is smaller than a flea’s thimble, and we’re already scraping the bottom of it.

But beginning with the launch of the fantastic uniforms, the unveiling of the new honeycomb court, and (last but not least) executing a spectacularly competent draft, we’re having more moments than a senior. I suppose if I were mean, I could also lump in the firing of Rod Higgins with that list, but...I am mean, so that’s exactly what I will do. Look, when your own boss/sugar daddy Michael Jordan says the following about you: “One of (Higgins’) strong points is not negotiating, leveraging teams,” that’s really damning. Wait, I should clarify, it’s damning if you’re the GM/President of Basketball Operations, which Higgins was (it’s not so damning if you’re a makeup artist). Negotiating with teams is what, 40%, of your responsibilities, maybe? So to be bad at that as a GM is problematic. My guess is Higgins probably wasn’t ever really involved with serious work in the first place, which is the only reason I’m not MORE happy about this. If I had to guess, I’d say he spent much of his time a) “blowing” poker and golf games to Jordan at the last minute, and :cool: calling up Oakley and Sam Vincent whenever they needed a foursome. Meanwhile, Rich Cho was stashed away in a combination panic room/dungeon doing the actual work.

And what fruit Cho has borne us! If you look at our net-PER rankings from last year, power forward was our worst position. The Josh McRoberts-Cody Zeller combo put up a 14.5 PER on offense and surrendered a 15.8 on defense, for a net of -1.3. In fact, if you look at the 27 2-man groupings that played at least 500 minutes together last year, six of the ten worst (6 of the Top 10 Worst? I struggled with the wording on this) featured either McRoberts or Zeller. Critically, Zeller brought out the worst in Al Jefferson, as even Big Al was a net -3 points/100 possessions when paired with Zeller. Enter Noah Vonleh, a 6’10” 18-year-old with hands like satellite dishes, a love of rebounding, and a fetish for 3-pointers. By gobbling up 25% of his Indiana team’s defensive rebounding opportunities, he’ll fit Coach Clifford’s scheme like a singlet. And he should mesh perfectly with Jefferson by stretching the floor with his 3’s. He’s already got a rudimentary post game, having created 29.3% of his offense at IU out of the block, so he’ll also have something to draw on even when he’s not paired with Big Al. Yes, Vonleh’s block rate wasn’t tremendous, but it wasn’t terrible, either; and his turnover rate was higher than you’d like, but a) he was only a freshman, and :cool: the Bobcats had a phenomenally awesome 11.7% turnover rate last year, tops in the league, so we can afford it. And on the intangible side, except for one doo-doo stinker against UConn very early season in which he was limited to just 10 minutes because of foul trouble, and another mild clunker against Michigan State later on, Vonleh put up some of his best stats against IU’s premier opponents. This wasn’t just a guy who feasted on Stony Brook and Samford, so that’s yet another reason to be delighted. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, who has Hoth-levels of cold-blood and wouldn’t swoon if you could teach a puppy to lip-synch “Let it Go,” had Vonleh ranked 8th in projected WARP, just behind Jabari Parker. That works for me.

Do you know who was ranked 9th? PJ Hairston, our other pick! Even better, Hairston didn’t come alone, because there were side orders of additional picks and $2M in cap space that were eventually served with him. Overall, shooting guard wasn’t too bad for us last year, as we netted out a +0.7 in PER. But offensively, we were a wretched 12.5. This is mainly because Gerald Henderson’s offensive numbers dove like soccer players in one of last year’s few puzzling steps backward. Hendo couldn’t get to the rim as he did in years past and settled on a midrange game that wasn’t ever good in the first place (his percent of attempts from 10-feet or less plummeted from 39% to 30%, and his long-distance 2-point attempts rose from 49% to 57%--yikes!). Hairston, whom you may have heard played his college ball at UNC, should be the antidote to Henderson’s mid-range jungle madness. Draft Express had Hairston as the 3rd most-efficient scorer out of the 2014 crop of shooting guard prospects, based on his 1.108 points-per-possession with the NBDL’s Texas Legends last year. I wish he had more of a Nietschean will to dunk on fools’ heads, as he’s been primarily a catch-and-shoot player his whole career. But again, that’s less of an issue when your offense is basically four satellites orbiting Planet Jefferson. And while Jefferson rests, just pair up Hairston with Vonleh in the post and watch him blister the opponent’s second unit like herpes. If Clifford can coax some merely competent defense out of Mr. Samuel Peterson Hairston, Jr., and if Jeff Taylor returns to adequacy, our bench unit might be good for something other than making me develop new and innovative ways to avert my eyes.

So yeah, this has all been surreally fantastic. And I’ve only hinted at the part about our cap space, which is currently the 6th most in the league. With just CDR and McRoberts to re-sign (or not), we’ve got the chance to grab a solid backup point guard and even more ammo at the 2/3 swingman spot. In fact, I’m just going to stop right now before I jinx everything. In the United States of the NBA, we’ve long been the league’s Puerto Rico—nice weather but small and isolated, unable to attract and retain talent, and with a history of bad leadership and decision-making. Now it’s like Miguel Cotto and J.Lo have mated and spawned a protectorate of hyper-attractive, hyper-competent, multitasking moguls. I seriously don’t know if we can handle this kind of prosperity.

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    Yep, I'd say that Thursday night's draft wound up a touch better than the Felton/May fiasco




    Blogcat, about that name...

    Blogcat, about that name...


    BlogHornet.... I don't know if that has the same ring to it.