When the ping pong balls get to bouncin’ at tomorrow night’s NBA draft lottery, I will be pulling for the Charlotte Bobcats to win the rights to the draft’s No. 1 overall pick.
Am I a Bobcats fan?
Absolutely not. But I will be if the balls bounce in Charlotte’s favor. And so will you.
With Nerlens Noel currently projected to hear his name called first and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist already on the payroll, Charlotte provides the best scenario for fans of Kentucky basketball. Nerlens and MKG are two of Big Blue Nation’s all-time favorites, therefore putting them together gives UK fans a professional team to love a little more than others, and the Bobcats franchise could use all the extra support it can get.
You followed New Orleans for the first time in your life this season, didn’t you? I bet you checked Sacramento’s box scores from time to time, too. If Charlotte wins the No. 1 pick and selects Nerlens, the Bobcats’ bandwagon will be mobbed by UK fans, t-shirt money in hand, looking to find a seat on board.
But that ACL injury is a concern, some people will tell you. It’s too much of a gamble with that first pick, they say.
It’s not. It’s the opposite, really. In my opinion, the injury is even more of a reason the Bobcats, and Kentucky fans, need Nerlens Noel in Charlotte. Some say it’s a concern; I see it as a bonus, on top of the incredible athleticism, upside, work ethic, personality and marketability he already offers.
Look at it this way: Noel will be out until Christmas at the very earliest, so whichever team he ends up with will have to play the first half of the season with the same incompetent roster that got them in the draft lottery in the first place. That means another underwhelming season, and in turn, potentially the best odds to win the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. If you’re Charlotte, what’s it hurt to wait another year to make a stab at the playoffs in 2014-15? The team has been near the bottom of the standings throughout all nine years of its existence, it might as well tank one more time to be the favorite in the Andrew Wiggins Sweepstakes. If it works out that way, Charlotte will be on its way to becoming a contender with a young trio of Wiggins, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Nerlens Noel to build around.
Of course, Wiggins to Charlotte isn’t guaranteed if the Bobcats take Noel and compile the league’s worst record next season, which will almost certainly happen. In fact, you and I would love to see another franchise go first and take the soon-to-be Jayhawk. That would bust the gates wide open for the Bobcats to draft one of the four, five, or six Wildcats that will be projected to go in the top 10 in the 2014 draft.
How does a Noel-MKG-Andrew Harrison NBA connection sound? Can you imagine the hustle a frontcourt of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nerlens Noel and Julius Randle would give? I’d drive to Charlotte once a month to see that lineup. The Bobcats would undoubtedly become the unofficial NBA team of the state of Kentucky during a time when Kentuckians have so many to choose from. Former Wildcats will soon be on half of the league’s rosters, but none will compare to a trio of UK stars headlining an NBA starting lineup only six hours away. Kentucky will finally have that professional NBA team it has so desperately wanted.
Not to mention, Charlotte needs help in the paint. Bismack Biyombo is running out of time to prove himself and Josh McRoberts’ deal with the devil to stay in the NBA this long has to be up soon. Nerlens, though too skinny right now, will one day be a defensive force at the next level. He will defend the rim, alter shots and stop drives, just as we saw him do in Lexington prior to the injury. He’ll need to bulk up to be able to bang with the big boys — that’s what the down time is for — but his shot blocking ability is too good to not make him one of the league’s better defenders after a couple of years. And, again, Bismack Biyombo and Josh McRoberts. Don’t even make me mention Byron Mullens.
So when representatives from the NBA’s fourteen worst teams get together tomorrow night to determine the order for next month’s draft, I encourage you to join me and the small group of Charlottonians who aren’t doing something NASCAR-related in cheering on the Charlotte Bobcats. The franchise has the second best odds in the lottery (19.9%) and Nerlens Noel’s fate, and the fate of our NBA fandom is on the line. Last year, if you recall, the Bobcats were in position to acquire Anthony Davis but New Orleans swooped in and stole him away like a bad mascot name. The Bobcats hope to do the same to the Orlando Magic this year.
The NBA draft lottery is Tuesday night at 8:30 ET. It will be televised on ESPN.
The Bobcats might be the Hornets again by then.
Editor’s Note: This is all based on the assumption Michael Jordan doesn’t do something dumb with the first pick. I can easily see M.J. drafting Reggie Bullock No. 1 overall or throwing the pick in a trade for Harrison Barnes or John Henson. Or losing the pick to Charlie Sheen in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em.