Really good article talking about the team's decision to go for wins now rather than continue to hope for high draft picks and what motivated that decision.
The Charlotte Construction Co.
The so-called “Thunder model” of NBA team-building was never really a discrete, original thing. It had existed before; Oklahoma City was not the first team to bottom out and rebuild around draft picks. And it can only exist as a success if you nab a franchise-changing star with one of those picks.
The Thunder did something almost impossible to replicate in drafting an all-time great player in Kevin Durant at no. 2 and then remaining bad enough in the next two seasons to snag two more top-four picks. They famously nailed them all, with Sam Presti tossing in the Serge Ibaka selection at no. 24 just to taunt everyone else.
That’s not a model. That’s an unsustainable hot streak, and one that required some major luck.
The Bobcats watched from afar while their aging, expensive playoff team maxed out as first-round roadkill, and they hired Rich Cho, once of the Sonics/Thunder, to take his own shot. They traded away almost every relevant veteran, held back in free agency, and went an unthinkable 28-120 combined over the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.
But they suffered the inverse of Oklahoma City’s lottery luck, falling backward in consecutive drawings, including a slide from pole position into the no. 2 slot in 2012 — a draft with one clear foundational superstar in Anthony Davis and a muck of unknowns after that. Close your eyes and you can still see Cho on television, taking the gut punch and wincing when the second-to-last envelope revealed the Charlotte logo.
So, Charlotte entered last summer with a choice: stink again and play for the 2014 draft, allegedly the richest in a decade, or accelerate the process by signing a quality free agent. Al Jefferson was the Bobcats’ target, and the choice his signing would represent inspired serious debate. The discussion wasn’t just about basketball. The Bobcats weren’t sure if they could afford to be terrible again. “It’s always in the discussion,” Fred Whitfield, the team’s president and COO, says of the role of revenue in free-agency decisions. “We felt Al Jefferson could help us win now, and that would clearly improve our business.”