You are reading this correct. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go to the pre-draft workout in which Thomas Robinson and Andre Drummond were both participating. Having been my first time to EVER experience something like this, I really did not know what to expect. I was told that the workout would start at 9:30 and the media could go in at 11, so, to say the least, I was super excited. I’ve written my “Which Way Do We Go” article, sharing that I thought we should draft Thomas Robinson, so the opportunity to see him in action would be my dream come true, right? Well, not exactly. Take the jump to see why the media experience was not “dream-like”.
Now don’t get me wrong, going to this pre-draft workout was pretty cool. I got to watch about an hour of workouts. It just wasn’t the draft prospects we got to watch. (I’ll explain this later.) The Bobcats have decided this year to not allow any media in to actually watch the draft prospects, and they are not filming and posting any of it at their site. I suppose that makes pretty good sense because if they did, the media makes its thoughts known, fans get their opinions, and teams that are not getting to see players like Robinson or Beal work out, there’s not any “videos” out there that they can watch to see how the workouts went. I’m cool with all of that, but at my time of arrival and all the way up until I walked on the court, I did not know any of this.
When I arrived at TWC Arena, I really didn’t know where I was supposed to go. I did see a sign for where the media entered. I followed WBTV, WCNC, and the rest of the press, right in the door. I went through the metal detector, and continued to follow the WBTV crew wherever they went. Once inside the arena, we were all gathered in front of the practice court, where there was a black curtain in front of the windows. You could see through the curtain, but not well enough to see who was doing what. I sat on Twitter, tweeting my experience minute by minute. At one point I saw a white flash…Rich Cho was in a white shirt, speed walking back to the practice court. In my mind I was thinking that we were getting ready to go on the court and see the prospects in action. At about 11:05, they let us all in. To my surprise, there was Robinson and Drummond, both soaked, and they were shutting it down for the day. We were actually Robinson’s last draft workout scheduled for him. He only worked out for Cleveland, Washington, and Charlotte, and he said that was all he had planned to do. You can watch his interview on the Bobcats website. I learned that you really have to get in there to hear all of the questions asked and to hear all of the answers. In that video, I would have been located to the right of the camera recording Robinson. I made notes during the interview, but there, a half-court away was Michael Jordan…the closest I’ve ever been to the guy, so my star-struck eyes kept drifting.
Let’s get to what stood out for me in the interview with Thomas Robinson. Standout comments would include that his jump shot has improved since the season ended. He also said he loved the up-tempo pace that Dunlap was running. He called Kemba one of the fastest guards in the NBA and he’d have no problem running the floor with him. He also made the statement that he and Drummond were friends off the court, but on the court, they were trying to take each other’s heads off because he is working to earn a job. That really stood out for me the most. I like it when a player understands that this is not something that is being handed to them. When they share that they know they have to work for it, that speaks volumes for me. I have to make some statements about Robison now. Visually I was blown away. I’ve stood face to face with Tyrus Thomas, and he has shoulders narrower than mine. That has stuck in my mind ever since I had the chance to get that close to him. With that said, I was speechless when standing in front of Robinson. He is a physical specimen. Chiseled frame, broad shoulders, and other than being sweaty, he didn’t look the least bit tired. When I was a kid, my perfect power forward for the Hornets was Larry Johnson. He looked like a linebacker in my mind. I was in awe of him whenever I saw him. Fast forward to the current. I am in awe of this guy. He’s a beast. I can sit here and say that I feel our biggest team need is at power forward. Tyrus is not our starter. Bismack fits the position of center best, and Mullens is an off the bench power forward (see broke guy’s Dirk Nowitski). I just believe with all my heart that Thomas Robinson is our guy. Folks say that since he’s a junior, we may be seeing all he has now, and he has a low ceiling. I don’t buy it. There was a pair of Morris brothers that were eating away at Robinson’s time at Kansas, and he was only able to emerge this year, and in doing so, he showed that he could shoulder the load of scoring for their team, and be a leader. If you add this guy to a coach like Dunlap, you’re going to see great things. I believe that he will be better than the Morris brothers are because he just has an unending drive to get better, and open mind to do so. I’d also like to dismiss the thought that he is seen as cocky. Did he say he should be the #1 draft-pick? I believe the word was he COULD be the #1 pick. Seriously though, if it weren’t for Anthony Davis, who would your number 1 pick be? I don’t think that is cocky. I call it smart. If it weren’t for Davis, who would be the #1 pick?
Let me run through the top guys right quick. The first pick, minus Anthony Davis would be a pool including Thomas Robinson, Bradley Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes, and Andre Drummond. I list these guys in no particular order because I just want everyone to look at this list of players and tell me who is the #1 pick. Seriously, that is exactly what you have to do. I can share that if I went from the Draft Express web site, I have the 2-6 picks listed, in order. It’s no secret that Washington did some trading because of the player they want. Unfortunately, Cleveland wants Bradley Beal as bad as the Wizards do. They have a need for a SG, and Beal appears to be the best SG in the top 6 (the only one for that matter). We, on the other hand need a bunch, but SG isn’t the greatest need. As it would stand, Cleveland would have to give us something pretty nice in order to get the #2 pick to draft the guy they desire most. Washington appears to be pretty high on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Beal was taken, which means that even if we were to grant Cleveland our #2 for their #4 and #24, odds are really good that we could still draft Thomas Robinson. I guess my point is that regardless of who, by opinion, is the best player available, each team has a different need. What if we were to do the trade with Cleveland and then Washington decides they want the hometown favorite in Thomas Robinson. That would put the draft going like this:
#1 – Anthony Davis
#2 – Bradley Beal
#3 – Thomas Robinson
#4 – MKG, Barnes, or Drummond
If this were to happen, I really don’t know what direction I would want to go in. I suppose it comes down to who the front office feels has the biggest upside, and we put complete trust into the scouts and Rich Cho. Realistically, if we swap picks and we land the #4 and #24 for the #2, I could see the draft falling out like this:
#1 – Davis
#2 – Beal
#3 – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
#4 – Thomas Robinson
#5 – Harrison Barnes
#6 – Andre Drummond
With our #24 I’d like to see us snag Tony Wroten (if he’s still on the board), which would give us a combo guard to back up Kemba and Augustin…but if Augustin walks or is traded, we’d still be in good shape at the guard position. That would also open up the #31 pick for us to grab some more young talent. I had even heard that OKC wanted to deal their 1st round pick at #28. Imagine if we swapped our 2nd rounder for their first rounder, and we could snag someone else. Things could wind up very great for us in the draft this year, but I digress. With the trade sending Okafor to Washington, I can’t see Washington taking T-Rob, but I am not a GM, so who knows. It just comes down to that in my eyes, Thomas Robinson is a man among boys. There are 3 guys that are 18, a 20-year-old, and a 21-year-old in my list. Of those 3 guys at 18, Gilchrist needs to unlearn his shooting mechanics, and then re-learn them, Beal struggles with creating his own shot, and Drummond had maturity issues in college. Gilchrist will take time unless you want to let his shooting technique go, and just let him hustle and drive, and become Gerald Wallace 2.0 (which I am not saying is a bad thing unless you look towards concussions and collapsed lungs). Beal seems to be similar to Gerald Henderson. If he can develop like Henderson has, he may be a pretty good shooting guard for the right team, just not us. Barnes, while being quite impressive his freshman year of college, seemed to disappear his sophomore season. I’ve heard excuses made for him that would include anything from his game just was not a good fit for college ball to he didn’t have a good coach (Roy Williams not a good coach? GET REAL!). I don’t know why this rubbed me the wrong way, but when some video footage was leaked of him at the Bobcats practice, I just didn’t like that he was shooting around with no shirt on. I know it’s petty, but combining that with his body language and tone during his interview, I just think he comes off like he feels the NBA owes him something. Call it confident, or call it cocky…I just don’t think we need to draft him.
Right now, the bulk of what we can base our opinions on is the performances these kids put on in college, and Barnes did not perform as he did his freshman year. Everyone knows of Drummond and his need to step up his offensive game. We also know that Drummond was a bit on the immature side. Do we really want that? I mean he’s committed himself to work hard since the season ended, and he’s lost 20 pounds, but is that so he can get drafted and earn a payday? Who knows? I just don’t think Charlotte can afford to gamble right now. Sorry for the tangent, but I had to get it out there.
Andre Drummond was the other prospect that was in the Cable Box for a pre-draft workout. Again, I will state that this guy was also huge. Big, broad shoulders, and he carries an NBA-ready body. Drummond was soft spoken, which made it even harder to hear him answering questions. The interview (which can be viewed at the Bobcats website) was much, much shorter than the one with Drummond. I don’t know why that was. He seems like a great kid. He stated the same as Robinson about battling it out on the floor with Robinson, but being friends off of the court. His interview wasn’t as polished as Robinson’s but I will vouch for both prospects, the questions being asked were being asked too quietly. In a gym where things are going on, you have to speak up. As I was not prepared to actually ask any questions, I just laid back and listened…or tried to…
You can easily see that Drummond has toned up. He also looks to be in great shape. He also stated he didn’t have issues running in an up-tempo offense. He did, however, look tired compared to Robinson. Keep in mind, however, that these guys had been going since 9:30, going through various drills, playing 3-on-3 full court, and Lord only knows what else. Since Harrison Barnes called the Bobcats workout a track meet, you know that big men should be tired. In Drummond’s case, I would feel comfortable in saying that I wouldn’t mind having him on the team either. If we were to run him at power forward, that would be great, but unfortunately, during his interview, when a reporter would ask what he could bring to the team, his answer was hustle, rebounding and blocking shots. He said his offense would come around. We need offense now. Having Drummond and Biz down low would be great on defense, but on offense, the other teams would just set up in a zone defense and force jump shots.
I believe Robinson can give that to us now. He gives us an offensive presence in the paint that we are desperately lacking. If we have a guy that can score at will in the paint, that allows for a shooter to be wide open for 3-point shots, for a slasher to drive the lane and to get to the free-throw line, or even a dump off to Biz for the powerful dunk. We’ve not had the luxury of an in-the-paint scorer, and this is so necessary to make the defense not just set up in a zone and force jumpers. The problem lies, in part, with Bismack. He’s similar to Okafor in the sense that I believe he is a Center, and just a center. Where Okafor didn’t have the quickness to play power forward, Biz doesn’t have the shooting range…yet. Would I draft Drummond? Yes. But I wouldn’t use the #2 pick on him. If we were at the #5 or #6, then I’d take him on as a project, but with where we are, we need some guys that can score. Drummond isn’t that guy right now.
OK…Know how I said I didn’t get to watch the prospects work out? I didn’t and I hate that, but I did get to see just exactly how Coach Dunlap runs things. I also need to state that Stephen Silas and Rob Werdann are still both there, working with the players. It was interesting to see how they were functioning. Dunlap would work with the group that was there for a while, and explain things that they were doing right and doing wrong, then, all of a sudden, he stopped everything and sent the guards with Silas and the big men with Werdann. He was getting them to give the incumbent coaches feedback as to if his methods were clear and understandable, and if they felt he was being effective. I thought that was very smart to do. It would be best, right from the start, to be sure that he is getting through to his rookies that are the future of the team. If they understand what he wants and appreciates his coaching style, the culture is being set because the players are buying into it. IT did leave me wondering if Werdann and Silas will be on Dunlap’s coaching staff.
You may ask, “What is the culture being built?” Let me tell you Coach Dunlap’s favorite phrase:
Attack, attack, ATTACK!!!
Something as simple as a 2-on-2 drill, he was all over them after the play was done to get the ball back up top and go again. Coach Dunlap is all about movement and going fast. You could tell that the guys that were there were exhausted, but they were learning.
Let me describe the players that I saw:
Kemba, Biz, and Mullens all look like they have been visiting the weight room a bit. I’d go so far to say that each one looks to have gained at least 5 pounds of muscle. Corey Higgins was there and that’s all I have to say about that. Matt Carroll was there and he was getting his fair share of constructive criticism. Coach Dunlap fussed at him for shooting a long 2-point shot. He said he never wanted to see any of the guys taking a shot with their heels on the 3-point line. He said to either drive in closer before they take that shot, or step back and make it be a 3-pointer. He had Mullens posting up Biz, having him fight for position. He did a much better job than he did last season and Dunlap was praising him for it. Kemba still looks as though he struggles to get his shot going, but once it is going, it looks good. Biz is still learning the ropes. Dunlap explained that on his pick and rolls he needs to roll fast and roll away from the ball. Undoubtedly he was basically setting the pick and once the defender was stopped, he was just dropping to the basket. Biz had at least 3 blocks on Mullens, which came from him scrambling off of screens or defensive switches. Biz looked super fast and his athleticism was showing. Even his jump shots looked a bit better…at least his form did, and I’ll take that. Coach Dunlap was preaching to Kemba, Matt, and Corey that coming off those screens, they should be thinking shot. That screen buys them the space to get the shot off, and there should be no hesitation. After getting to see these guys work and listen to instruction, I was ready to take to the court myself and get some reps in…but I had on jeans…and…uh…the PR folks made us leave as it was getting close to lunch time, so perhaps another day.
I’ll make a quick mention of the new color changes. I walked to the team store before I went home, just to see what was there. The new uniforms were down there, as were snapback caps and tee shirts. The new colors look GREAT! You really have to see them in person to appreciate them because a picture doesn’t do them justice. I do, however, have a question for the Bobcats organization: Is Rufus getting a dye job? Since the logos are going to a gray bobcat, I have to ask if Rufus will be gray as well. If so, my Cats Crazy attire will need to be altered even further. I already have to ditch the orange shirt. If Rufus goes gray, I think my wig will need to as well.
All in all it was a pretty cool experience. What I was able to take away from it was that if I get the chance to go to another one of these, I will have a set of questions to ask, and I’ll be sure to get to the front of the line with my questions. I will check my “fan-side” at the door and approach things more as a journalist. It isn’t easy, but I think I could get the hang of it if I had to. Folks, we have LOTS to look forward to this season. Coach Dunlap is going to have some exciting basketball on the court, and hopefully we get a player that fits best with the team. I look at what we have right now, and I look at Robinson, and all I can think of is the days of old with Muggsy, LJ and Zo. Just fast forward to the current and think of Kemba, T-Rob, and Biz. Guys, we are about to turn a major corner this season. This will be a year where we see some improvement and some entertaining basketball on the court. I guess everyone knows about the “Buy a Season, Get a Season Free” season-ticket offer. I’d take advantage of it because this year will be fun to watch, and next year will be exciting because you’re going to see the dawn of a new strength in the East. That strength will be the Charlotte Bobcats!