The All Star game is over, and that means the second half of the NBA season is about to begin. The Charlotte Bobcats are basically certain to have a lottery pick in this year’s draft, so how has their Big Board, at least in the eyes of Roberto Gato, changed since season began?
Here are the top five players the Bobcats should be looking at based on need first, talent second, and potential third.
1. Cody Zeller
He’s fallen on some “experts” draft boards, but to me, Zeller is the most complete player in the draft this year. He’s also the best center available and his offensive game (which is pretty good for a sophomore) still has room to grow. If the Bobcats have a chance to grab him, they shouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
2. Ben McLemore
I think he’s the best offensive player in the draft this year. Plus, at 6-5, 195 lbs, he’s big and athletic, a combination no Charlotte Bobcat guard will be able to say they have after Gerald Henderson’s contract expires this summer (or he’s traded). He’s a good three-point shooter, a good rebounder and an exceptional defender. With him and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on the wings, Charlotte would have a solid pair of lock down defenders to go forward with for the foreseeable future.
3. Anthony Bennett
Check these numbers out: 18 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. 54 percent field goal shooting, 38 percent three-point shooting and 70 percent free-throw shooting. 6-8, 240 lbs. They all belong to freshman Anthony Bennett, a monster of a power forward for UNLV. I think he could develop into the best player drafted this year.
4. Shabazz Muhammed
He’s listed as a small forward, and Charlotte took two of them in last year’s draft. One has played primarily shooting guard this season, and Muhammad could play the two next year if the ‘Cats take him. He’s big, 6’6 225, and he’s an offensive machine. If the three players I listed before him are off the board, it’d be hard for Charlotte to pass this guy up.
5. Willie Cauley-Stein
Yup. We’ll get into why some of the better players aren’t listed in this big board, but first just let the advanced statistics wash over you. Per 30 minutes, Stein’s averaging 11 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 blocks. He’s a very good team defender, and, most importantly, I think he has the greatest potential for all-around growth of any player that will be drafted in the top 10 this year.
So why no Marcus Smart, Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, or anyone else?
Well, the Bobcats are set at point guard, and I don’t see anyway they draft one in the top five until Kemba Walker (hopefully never) leaves. That eliminates Marcus Smart and potentially Michael Carter-Williams if he skyrockets up boards come tournament time.
Alex Len is good, but I think he’s about as good as he’s ever going to be. Charlotte would know what they’re getting if they took him, but I don’t see him as a top five player or prospect.
And Nerlens Noel…
I’m just not sold on him. He’s a great defender, and a better offensive player than most people thought he would be, but per 30 minutes, his numbers aren’t much better (and in some cases worse than) Cauley-Stein’s; Per 30 minutes he’s averaging 10 points, nine rebounds and 4.2 blocks. He has plenty of room to grow, and I thought this way about him before his injury, but when you look at the stats, how can you objectively say he’s better or can be better than Cauley-Stein at anything beside blocks?