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Will Rich Cho Be Able to Turn the Bobcats Into the Thunder?

Rich Cho is a numbers guy. All data, all the time. Engineering degree. Law degree. Former Boeing engineer.

Cho was the assistant GM of the Sonics/Thunder, and presided over drafts when Seattle landed Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City snagged Russell Westbrook. Then Cho went to Portland where a reported personality conflict with owner Paul Allen got him fired in one year.

Charlotte snagged Cho this week. I found his press conference comments somewhat funny:

“One of the worst things you can do in this league is be a middle-of-the-road team – in the playoffs one year, out the next. One of the tough things about a middle-of-the-road team is you never get really good draft picks. That makes it hard to have sustained success. Sometimes you have to take a step back to take two steps forward. I’m a big proponent of accumulating assets. That’s how we did it in Oklahoma City.”

Let’s stop right there. The Thunder were built this way: Portland took Greg Oden 1st overall in 2007. If I had to guess, 90% of folks in the same position would have taken Oden. (Me? I advocated taking Durant.) This wasn’t Bowie-Jordan, but who knows, in five years, maybe it is. But the Thunder didn’t really “do” anything to get Durant.

Then, in 2008, the Thunder got lucky again – the Heat took Michael Beasley 2nd overall (a monster in college, Beasley was considered the top pick by many), and Minnesota drafted OJ Mayo 3rd (ended up trading him), allowing the ridiculously-talented Russell Westbrook to fall to OKC 4th.

Unlike 2007, the Thunder actually had a decision to make – Westbrook or Love? – but clearly picked the right UCLA star. Still, we’re talking about the 4th pick overall here. It’s easy to accumulate the right assets when you’re picking that high. The 2009 pick of James Harden (3rd overall) looks like a quality selection, as he fit well with the existing pieces. But did they miss on Tyreke Evans (4th), or just pass because he might not have been a great fit with Westbrook and Durant?

At any rate, here’s where Cho is creative, and makes this happen:

The latest example came on draft night [2010], Presti said. Cho traded Oklahoma City’s No. 32 pick to Miami for the Heat’s No. 18 pick and guard Daequan Cook. In turn, Cho turned the 18th pick into a future first-round pick with the Los Angeles Clippers. [Ed. The Clippers got Eric Bledsoe, who appears to be a keeper.]

I’m actually excited for Cho’s tenure in Charlotte under Michael Jordan. The Bobcats have two picks in the first round (9, 19), but this is a horrible draft. There’s zero chance of getting any talent remotely on the level of what Cho landed with the Sonics/Thunder (forget Durant, I’m talking James Harden here). The question will be whether or not he can find gems later in the draft. Here’s what Seattle/OKC did outside the lottery in 2007, 2008 and 2009:

2007:
Drafted Carl Landry 31st, but traded him to Houston for a 2008 2nd round pick & cash.
Drafted Glen “Big Baby” Davis 35th, but traded him to Boston in the Jeff Green/Ray Allen deal.

2008:
Drafted Serge Ibaka 24th.
Drafted Walter Sharpe 32nd but traded him to Detroit
Drafted Trent Plaisted 46th but traded him to Detroit
Drafted DeVon Hardin 50th
Drafted Sasha Kaun 56th but traded him to Cleveland

2009
Traded for Byron Mullens, who was drafted 24th by Dallas
Drafted Rodrigue Beaubois 25th, who was traded to Dallas
Traded for Robert Vaden, who was taken 54th by Charlotte

Hitting on Ibaka probably makes up for the rest of the non-lottery moves/picks. Cho never got a shot in Portland, so it’s pointless to analyze his one year with the Blazers. I’m rooting for Cho – how many minorities are GMs in the NBA? – but I’ll be surprised if he’s able to pull off anything magical in this draft. Then again, maybe he’s thinking of ways to creatively tank – so the Bobcats can get a Top 5 pick next year. [Observer]

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