Valuing the Charlotte Pick

It seems every trade proposal on this site  includes the Charlotte pick.  It's a throw-in, much like Taj was included in every trade proposal this summer.   But what's the real value of the Charlotte pick.  What's the likelihood of the pick turning into a (high) lottery pick.    My original thinking was that the chances were very low.  What were the chances that Charlotte wouldn't have one good year between 2012 and 2016 and ruin it for us?     


Here's the list of the 30 NBA Franchises and their longest consecutive playoff drought over the last 20 years.  (20 years was an arbitrary choice by me to go back)


Atlanta:  8 years  1999 – 2007 

Boston: 6 years    1995  -  2001

Charlotte:   5 years  2004 – 2009  (note, current franchise began in 2004) 

Chicago:  6 years  1998 - 2004

Cleveland:    6 years  1998 – 2005   

Dallas:  10 years  1990 – 2000

Denver:   8 years  1995 – 2003

Golden State:  12 years  1994 – 2006

Houston:  4 years  1999 – 2003

Indiana:  4  years  2006 -  present

LAC:  8 years  1997 – 2005

LAL:   1 year  (two times) 

Vancouver/Memphis:   8 years   1995 – 2003  (began play in 1995)

Miami:  2 years 

Milwaukee:   7 years  2001 – 2008

Minnesota:  6 years   1990 – 1996  &  2004 – Present

New Jersey:  3 years    3 separate times including present

Charlotte/New Orleans:   3 years    2004 – 2007

New York:  6 years    2004 – 2010

Seattle/OKC:  4 years   2005 – 2009  

Orlando:    3 years  1990 – 1993  &   2003 – 2006

Philidelphia:   7  years     1991 – 1998    

Phoenix:  1 year  (3 times)  

Portland:  5 years   2003 – 2008  

Sacramento:  5 years  1990 – 1995  (streak began in ’86)

San Antonio:  1 year  1996   

Toronto:  4 years:  1995 – 1999 & 2002 – 2006  (began play in 1995)

Utah:  3 years 2003 – 2006

Washington:  7 years:  1997 – 2004


Some observations:  

1)  Only 8 franchises avoided playoff droughts of 4 years during the last 20

2)  Bad franchises stay bad for long periods



If basketball weren't a game of skill, and it was simply chance such as a dice game, the odds of making the playoffs in any given year would be 53%  (16 out of 30).   The chances of any one team missing the playoffs based on this percentage for 4 consecutive years would be less than 5%.    


But basketball is not a game of chance (Tony Douglas 3 point streakiness excluded), and franchises are not inherently equal.  The new Collective Bargaining Agreement, if ever agreed to, could dramatically impact the ability of teams to compete for free agents and retain it's own players.  So without knowledge of what will happen, it's kind of a fruitless conversation, but as of today, some franchises have pretty significant advantages in owner resources and or willingness of owner to absorb a temporary loss, market desirability, franchise revenue, tv market, etc.   (I still think the major reason Lebron chose Miami is because the girls in the nightclubs are significantly better looking than Cleveland's or Chicago's - no offense).      Where does Charlotte fit into all this?   Not very well.  


With a small fan base, a small stadium, a small potential tv market, and an owner that has already shown he needs to cut payroll to stay afloat  (i.e.  The Chandler trade, and not resigning Felton),  Charlotte seems to be playing with one hand behind it's back.  Probably it's best selling point is the legend of its owner, but  the current crop of stars knows him more for his failures as a GM than his ring years.   


We really can't compare Charlotte with the Lakers and Heat of the world in terms of ability to turn a franchise around quickly.    Is Charlotte rebuilding and on the upswing?   A look at their current rotation with age  based on their leading players by minutes:


Stephen Jackson     32

Gerald Wallace       28

Boris Diaw              28

DJ Augustyn           23

Nazr Mohammed   33

Tyrus Thomas        24

Matt Carroll             30 

Shaun Livingston     25

Kwame Brown         28   


Is there anybody there to build around?   Gerald Wallace is a fine player, but is he top 30 in the league?   40?   50?The Bobcats made 7 trades since 2008 involving 21 players and about all they have to show for it is a declining Stephen Jackson, a coach killing Tyrus Thomas, a franchise losing money.    OK, don't believe me?  How about ESPN then.  I don't have an insider account, but here's a lines from an (outdated) August article in the Charlotte Examiner:


In fact, even with majority owner Michael Jordan in place, arguably one of the best coaches in the game in Larry Brown and a roster full of young talent, the two ESPN insiders have Charlotte ranked dead last in the NBA in future power rankings – which predicts a franchise’s success through the 2011-12 and 2013-14 seasons.  The Bobcats are not even close to reaching success, according to their system. On a 1,000-point scale, Charlotte scored a 176. The Minnesota Timberwolves, who placed 29th on the list, scored 326 – nearly doubling the likelihood of team success.


Let's assume the Bulls don't have the patience or the gambling habit needed to wait out the string of hopeful losing seasons in Charlotte.  But I think we can safely say that each year the the protection kicks in and pushes the draft choice a year down and lowers the protection, the value of the pick will increase.    A few years down the road, some teams are going to start looking at that pick as a potential top 1  -  5 pick in the not too distant future.    Today, it's a throw-in.  


I know we need to upgrade SG.   But let's not move this pick yet.   Let's invest it for a few years and reap the hopefully much higher rewards later.    


I would hate to see us trade Taj, because I think we are going to need big man depth in the playoffs to have any chance against Orlando or Boston, but he's played himself into a valuable asset and probably is worth as much as he's ever going to be worth on the trade market.   If Houston can turn Carl Landry into Kevin Martin, I'm optimistic.   Buy low, sell high.    


By the way, I realized I oversimplified the protection clauses by just talking about making the playoffs or not.  I realize the protection changes over the years and Charlotte will have to be worse and worse to realize our best scenario.   This post was already long enough.   



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