History Lesson: Grading Former Bobcat First Round Picks

It’s always fun looking back at NBA drafts and grading the work of NBA general manager. Today we can look at the first three first round draft picks in Charlotte Bobcats history:

2004 Draft: Emeka Okafor

Emeka Okafor

(NBA.com photo)

The first-ever draft pick by the Bobcats might very well be the best player in franchise history. In 2004 Charlotte decided to take Emeka Okafor out of Connecticut with the second overall pick. Okafor enjoyed a nice and somewhat under appreciated career in an orange uniform. Okafor had all the tools be a face of an expansion franchise. The Texas native won the NCAA championship alongside Ben Gordon in his junior year. Additionally he was named Final Four Most Outstanding Player. The accolades didn’t stop there; Okafor was named NCAA co-player of the year in 2004 and NCAA defensive player of the year in 2003 and 2004. Okafor was also a high character guy. He graduated with honors in three years while maintaining a 3.8 GPA. Let’s take a look at his Bobcats career: 

Season Age Tm MP FG% FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2004-05 22 CHA 35.6 .447 .609 10.9 0.9 0.8 1.7 1.7 2.9 15.1
2005-06 23 CHA 33.6 .415 .656 10.0 1.2 0.8 1.9 2.0 3.4 13.2
2006-07 24 CHA 34.8 .532 .593 11.3 1.2 0.9 2.6 1.7 3.1 14.4
2007-08 25 CHA 33.1 .535 .570 10.7 0.9 0.8 1.7 2.0 2.9 13.8
2008-09 26 CHA 32.8 .561 .593 10.1 0.6 0.6 1.7 1.8 3.0 13.2
Career 31.7 .512 .584 9.9 0.9 0.7 1.7 1.6 2.8 12.3
5 seasons CHA 34.0 .506 .596 10.7 0.9 0.8 1.9 1.8 3.0 14.0
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/19/2013.

His rookie year was arguably his best, averaging 15 and 10 while winning Rookie of the Year honors. In five seasons with Charlotte the big man averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds per contest. Taking a look at the 2004 draft class, Okafor would rank in the top five in my list.  Dwight Howard, Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala and maybe Al Jefferson would rank ahead of Okafor. Actually, I’d take Okafor over Jefferson because of his defensive ability. The Bobcats didn’t have a chance to draft Howard, so Deng and Iguodala were the only two better players available. The question becomes would Deng and Iguodala been ability to handle the pressure of being the face of an expansion franchise? I’m going to be fair when giving out this grade:

Grade: A

2005 Draft: Raymond Felton

Raymond Felton

(NBA.com photo)

This might be the most haunting draft in Bobcats history and not because Felton turned to be a bust. Actually, Felton had a decent career in Charlotte and ended up being an integral part of their first playoff team.  The reason why this pick is daunting? What could have been. Felton was picked fifth overall in the 2005 draft and two point guards were drafted right ahead of him: Deron Williams and Chris Paul. Imagine if Paul had slipped to five. Charlotte would have drafted the local boy out of Wake Forest–who eight years later may be the best point guard in the game. Let’s take a look at what Felton’s career in Charlotte:

Season Age Tm MP FG% FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2005-06 21 CHA 30.1 .391 .725 3.3 5.6 1.3 0.1 2.3 2.3 11.9
2006-07 22 CHA 36.3 .384 .797 3.4 7.0 1.5 0.1 2.9 2.3 14.0
2007-08 23 CHA 37.6 .413 .800 3.0 7.4 1.2 0.2 2.7 2.3 14.4
2008-09 24 CHA 37.6 .408 .805 3.8 6.7 1.5 0.4 2.8 2.3 14.2
2009-10 25 CHA 33.0 .459 .763 3.6 5.6 1.5 0.3 2.1 2.2 12.1
Career 34.7 .413 .788 3.3 6.6 1.4 0.2 2.6 2.2 13.4
5 seasons CHA 34.9 .410 .782 3.4 6.4 1.4 0.2 2.6 2.3 13.3
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/19/2013.
Felton had a good career, averaging 13 points and six assists  per contest during his tenure in Charlotte. Obviously those numbers are no where near Williams and Paul good, but he was serviceable. It’s not like the Bobcats had many options either. Andrew Bynum, Danny Granger, and David Lee were the only All-Star players drafted after Felton. 
Grade: B
2006 NBA Draft: Adam Morrison
 
And … this is where it all went it wrong. After drafting Okafor and Felton, it was clear the the Bobcats wanted to build their team through winners–both Okafor and Felton had was NCAA title in the prior year. Morrison was well, not necessarily a winner. I will give him credit for putting Gonzaga on the map, but the image of him crying in his final college game will never clear my mind. Unfortunately the Bobcats took a risk by drafting him 3rd overall and failed miserably. Let’s take a look at his numbers(warning this might make you cringe)  
Season Age Tm MP FG% 2P% FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2006-07 22 CHA 29.8 .376 .391 .710 2.9 2.1 0.4 0.1 1.7 2.3 11.8
2008-09 24 CHA 15.2 .360 .378 .762 1.6 0.9 0.2 0.1 0.7 1.7 4.5
Career 20.4 .373 .391 .710 2.1 1.4 0.2 0.1 1.1 1.7 7.5
2 seasons CHA 24.5 .373 .389 .716 2.5 1.6 0.3 0.1 1.3 2.1 9.1
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/19/2013.
I mean, I should give Morrison some benefit of the doubt at he did tear his ACL and miss the entire 2007-08 season, but nevertheless he got traded halfway through year three. He was never the same. Bobcat fans, close your eyes for this next stat. Here are the players that Charlotte took Morrison over: Rudy Gay, J.J. Redick, Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowry and Paul Millsap. Yup, that’s a back breaker.
Grade: F–
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