What will the Bobcats do with the No. 4 overall pick in next month's NBA draft? This is the second of a five-part series looking at why Charlotte should and why it shouldn't take some of the top prospects available. For a preliminary evaluation of Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore, click here:
OTTO PORTER, SF Georgetown, Soph.
2012-13 stats: 16.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists
Didnt the Bobcats draft Michael Kidd-Gilchrist a year ago? Thats probably what youre wondering reading this as you roll your eyes at the thought of drafting Porter. Surely, the Bobcats dont draft a small forward again ... right?
Dont rule out Otto Porter so quickly, though. General manager Rich Cho said after the draft lottery was announced that his mottos always been: "Draft for talent, trade for need. If you believe him, Porters clearly in play here. Most draft sites have Porter as the third-best player available, and theres even been chatter that hes in play with the Cleveland Cavaliers top pick.
It would be foolish to think that any position is not one of need on a team that currently does not have a single top-10 NBA player at his respective position. At this point, everythings in play. And the Pacers are currently showing the value of having multiple athletic, long wing forwards who can defend.
The scariest part of passing on Porter, though, might be what he could become if his improvement moving forward comes anything close to matching his freshman-to-sophomore leap. His points per game jumped by 6.5 per game and his percentage from deep rose from 22 percent to 42 percent as a sophomore. If that jump shot is here to stay, Porter might be too enticing to pass up for Bobcats management.
He already rebounds at an elite level for a wing, a skill set that translates immediately, and has prototypical size at 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan. The question with Porter: Is he the budding star about to undergo a Paul George-type improvement spike? Or was he just too big and talented at the college level and is now heading for a return to Earth when faced with similar size and athleticism, much like what Evan Turner's gone through?
Regardless, hes a winner, taking a Georgetown team that likely wasnt projected as a top-20 club and didnt have another future NBA player to a 25-7 record and No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Thats got to be enticing for the Bobcats Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or not.
Why not Porter?
The debate is always talent over need but a lot of times you can address both by drafting players with position flexibility. Porter doesnt have that. Neither does Kidd-Gilchrist. Theyre both strictly small forwards.
If Cho think Porters too good to pass up, he almost has to trade Kidd-Gilchrist. Putting yourself in that situation leaves you with no leverage and theyll never get the value they need for Kidd-Gilchrist until he proves he can hit the three-point shot.
Theres a lot to love about Kidd-Gilchrist. Hes a competitive, tough defender and great off the bounce for his size, but his jumper has to improve to at least a level of respectability if hes ever going to become more than a capable role player. The Bobcats have to take the risk that it will develop under their watch and cant afford to draft Porter if so. Theres also the unspoken issue lurking in the shadows: Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker both will likely be available in the draft next year so why reach when either of those two could fall in your lap a year from now.
On a team with gaping holes at shooting guard, power forward and center heading into free agency, why force the issue here with Porter?
Sure, theres some who argue that Porter may be the most talented player in the draft, but he doesnt have the driving ability that you see in elite NBA wings. And hes only 198 pounds, so hes going to struggle finishing in traffic for a while.
The Bobcats absolutely cant afford to draft another role player. This pick needs to be a scorer and Porters ability to do that at a high level remains a major question mark.
Eastern Conference Scouts Take
I love all the things Porter does for you on the floor. He gets his hands on everything, has a great feel for the game, rebounds as well as any wing in this class and has really, really improved his stroke. But can he get to the rim? I have heard people make the Paul George comparisons but hes nowhere near as explosive with his first step or vertically as Paul. My other big concern is he could camouflage that if he could shoot off the bounce, but hes strictly a spot-up shooter at this point. I just dont see him being the difference-maker that teams are going to need to spend a top-five pick on him.
ANTHONY BENNETT, PF UNLV, Fr.
2012-13 stats: 16.1 points, 8.1 rebounds.
Why Anthony Bennett?
Whether it comes through free agency or the Draft, the Bobcats must address the power forward position. Josh McRoberts and Byron Mullens are both free agents and to be frank, neither are starters in this league. Thats why to me Anthony Bennett makes more sense than anyone in this Draft for Charlotte outside of Ben McLemore. So much of the Bobcats struggles in recent years come from a complete inability to get a bucket in the halfcourt. They havent had anyone late in the shot clock they can throw the ball to who can create their own shot. Bennett can be that type of face up power forward. He was a monster at UNLV as a freshman and has an NBA body. To me hes the most ready prospect on the board, and thats what Charlotte needs - someone who can contribute right away.
Thats why Bennett seems the ideal prospect to me: He can contribute meaningful minutes while developing. That hasnt been the case often in Charlotte recently with their prospects and likely wouldnt be the case if they take McLemore, Noel or Porter.
Sure, at only 6-foot-7, his ceiling might not be as high as some of those guys, but as strong and long as he is, his height seems like just an excuse to doubt him. Especially in this NBA day and age where Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James have played power forward for long spurts and the face-up four is in vogue. Its convenient to forget that the kid is only 20 as well.
His best basketballs in front of him and if Charlottes looking for the best scoring post player in this class, Bennett would be the prudent choice.
Why not Bennett?
The dicey thing with Bennett is an offseason shoulder surgery wont allow him to work out for teams before they select him. Will the Bobcats feel comfortable drafting a guy they can only judge off of tape?
Bennett becomes an even trickier potential selection for the Bobcats because the Draft is before free agency. If you know youve got Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson or another starting power forward free agent signed, then you could divert your reasons accordingly in the Draft. But thats not the case as theyll be forced to pick a week before free agency starts this summer. Thats why its going to be so hard to pass up on a power forward like Bennett. Landing a big-time free agent is hard enough each offseason, it becomes even that much more difficult in a small market like Charlotte where the player knows hes heading into a situation where the Playoffs arent likely for a couple of years. Your free agency status is essentially forced: overpay and get crucified by the pundits and fans or miss out and pray that youre heading down the Spurs or Thunder path of franchise building.
What makes me nervous about Bennett though is completely out of his control. One name: Derrick Williams. Two years ago I thought Derrick Williams was going to be a monster in the league. He was undersized height wise but made up for it with similar strength, length and athleticism to Bennett. He had an advanced face up game but needed to hone his back-to-the-basket game. He didnt always play hard but could turn it on and posted his best numbers in his biggest games.
Thats almost identical to the description Bennett gets coming out and thats what would make me nervous if Im the Bobcats. At power forward in college, Williams was a matchup nightmare that no one could check. In the NBA, hes a matchup liability that cant score inside but isnt agile enough or explosive enough off the bounce to be a pure three. That could be Bennett if he doesnt develop more of a back-to-the-basket game.
Eastern Conference Scouts Take
What stands out to me with Bennett is the main holes in his game are correctable: effort on defense, shot selection, and a limited post game. His strength and athleticism is pro ready right now and much of his game is transferable immediately. You just cant teach how naturally he moves on the floor and how comfortable he is with the ball in his hands for his size. Hes really advanced for his age offensively.
I do worry about his post game but with that body and footwork he should be fine developing a back-to-the-basket game. Id have him watch Zach Randolph tapes all summer. I really think hell become an even better shooter with more reps as well. Hes got good form for his size.