Of all the facets of the Oklahoma City blueprint that Bobcats general manager Rich Cho hoped to follow, landing the No. 2 pick in the draft wasn't one of them.
Kevin Durant was the key piece of the Thunder's resurgence, of course, and was selected second behind Greg Oden in the 2007 draft by the then-Seattle SuperSonics, for whom Cho was assistant general manager. But there's no one like Durant in this year's draft, and Cho, who will make Charlotte's choice with owner Michael Jordan and fellow executive Rod Higgins, doesn't have a clear-cut pick after New Orleans' expected selection of Kentucky power forward Anthony Davis.
After suffering through a season with a record-low winning percentage (.106) and then losing out in the lottery on May 30, the Bobcats are believed to be considering Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson, Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal and perhaps even North Carolina small forward Harrison Barnes (if they don't trade the pick, which is also a possibility). Robinson and Kidd-Gilchrist are widely regarded as the most likely options, and the workout process continues to play a part. Kidd-Gilchrist and Beal worked out against each other in Charlotte on Monday, and Robinson is expected to work out for the Bobcats on Friday. It's not yet known when Barnes will make his visit.
In an attempt to get a sense for which player is generally perceived as the second-best in the draft, I reached out to a group of general managers, assistant GMs and other personnel men who have been hard at work studying the 2012 crop. The results, unfortunately, only complicated the situation even more.
Among the 16 responses, the results were mixed: Robinson and Beal tied for the lead with six votes apiece, while Kidd-Gilchrist came in third with four votes. Beal was the surprise winner in terms of perception, and the feedback seems to support the fact that his agent, Mark Bartelstein, only made the 18 year old available for workouts with teams picking in the top four.
In all, the differing opinions reinforced what we already knew: After Davis, there's no consensus second-best player in the June 28 draft. The executives polled were asked to vote without taking rosters into account (theirs or Charlotte's), and some of the arguments for each player can be found below. Some executives contacted, not surprisingly, did not participate because they simply couldn't make up their minds.
The breakout star of the 2011-12 season, Robinson saw his production soar after the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, left Kansas for the NBA last year. The Jayhawks' strong NCAA tournament showing helped boost Robinson's stock, and he had 18 points and 17 rebounds in the national championship loss to Kentucky. Robinson averaged 31.8 minutes, 17.6 points and 11.9 rebounds (second in the nation) for the year, all significant jumps from his sophomore totals of 14.6 minutes, 7.6 points and 6.4 rebounds.
• "Although he's undersized [6-7 ¾, without shoes], he has a big wingspan [7-3¼] and has good-sized hands. He has great feet, which will allow him to get to the rim from the elbow, or out of the mid-post. He will be able to make the 17-foot jump shot. Great body, excellent runner, had the second fastest three-quarter court sprint at the combine Chicago. Good motor overall."
• "He will be a solid player. Not spectacular, just solid."
• "Competitor. Athlete. Will get better with work."
• "Robinson is the most NBA-ready, I think. Great body, plays hard, athletic, will be a solid power forward for the next 10 to 12 years. I really like Bradley Beal and think he could play point guard at some point -- he shoots it, is athletic, tough, can defend and rebound. If you're looking long term, he could be the guy. Kidd-Gilchrist is good too."
After a celebrated high school career at Chaminade College Preparatory School in St. Louis, Beal's freshman year with the Gators was underwhelming in the sense that he didn't live up to his reputation as a long-range marksman. But he still averaged 14.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.4 steals and played some of his best ball in the NCAA tournament, where Florida fell to Louisville in the Elite Eight.
• "He has the chance to become a complete guard. He's athletic, is a good shooter, and can make plays off the dribble. Solid defender. Long arms will allow him to play 'bigger' than his height. High character and intelligence round him out as a prospect."
• "Character, translatable skills, production."
• "Shoots it deep, can handle and create for himself and others. Decent, not great size [6-3¼ without shoes]. Really good athlete. Great rebounder for his position. Seems to be a great kid."
• "He has star potential. Really good all-around player already. Solid shooter, above-average rebounder for his position. Can attack the rim off the dribble. Great kid off the court as well. Well grounded. Nothing that you can really dislike about the kid or the player."
• "My instincts tell me Brad Beal. But depending on what my team is, I would go with Kidd-Gilchrist. And if I was looking for energy, power and the attraction of athletic ability, I'd take Thomas Robinson. But my gut feeling is Beal. He's the whole package. Shooting, can make plays for other people. He's strong and will be able to defend in the NBA. His size came out well [at the combine], and then he's just an unbelievable kid and person."
For all of the attention paid to Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist was widely regarded as Kentucky's glue. Coach John Calipari routinely praised him for his role as the emotional leader, and Kidd-Gilchrist was the captain of the Wildcats' 8:30 a.m. workouts before scheduled practices. His inconsistent perimeter game remains a concern, but he's aggressive in attacking the rim. Kidd-Gilchrist also saved two of his best offensive performances for the NCAA tournament: He scored 24 points on 7-of-15 shooting against Indiana in the Sweet 16 and 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting against Baylor in the Elite Eight.
• "He's a defensive warrior and will come to a team and make plays at both ends of the floor. I love his energy."
• "Tough, defends. Good make-up and character."
• "Robinson has a big motor, plays hard, has developed some skills. I think he's going to rebound and defend and run the floor. And I think he'll be an adequate offensive player. But I don't see him taking over games and controlling games. He could end up in somebody's starting lineup, but I don't see him being David West or somebody like that. [Kidd-Gilchrist] has the motor also, and he's so tough. And there's a lot to be developed there yet. I just think that he's the one who's going to rise to the top out of those three."