State of the Roster & Team Needs
Heading into the 2009 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Bobcats find themselves in some pleasantly unfamiliar territory. Not only does the team have a lot of proven NBA talent, they also have fewer question marks than ever before. With the team very likely to re-sign PG Raymond Felton, the Bobcats will begin the ’09–’10 NBA season with last season’s starting lineup intact with all but Raja Bell entering their prime playing years.
The Bobcats second unit also brings back at least three quality regular rotation players – one of which, second-year point guard DJ Augustin, could start for a half-dozen teams in the League.
Alas, as good as it is in Bobcat-land this offseason, it’s still not perfect. There are several major personnel questions that the team must address during the draft and free agency.
1. $104 million, 5 years, 3 players and 0 All-Stars
The Bobcats have committed a whopping $104+ million over the next five seasons at the center position alone. This wouldn’t be such a nightmare if Yao Ming or Dwight Howard were patrolling the middle but the platoon of Emeka Okafor, Gana Diop and Nazr Mohammed hasn’t even a single All-Star selection amongst them (though Okafor may finally break through this season).
It’s nice to have depth in the middle but a small-market-for-sale franchise like the Bobcats can’t have this type of money tied up at one position. There’s been a lot of conjecture recently about the “inevitable Nazr Mohammed trade” but maybe we’re all looking in the wrong direction. Given Larry Brown’s series of thinly veiled rips on Okafor in the local media added to the fact that Emeka’s status as a base year compensation player is now over and I wouldn’t be the least surprised if Okafor was shopped hard this offseason. He’s by far the most attractive of the group – with a decent contract, good game and a great attitude – and given his large cap number could be the center of a major deal that returned another big-time player, ideally a dynamic shooting guard with a shorter contract.
Maybe a deal that sends Okafor to Detroit for Rip Hamilton makes some sense with Diop stepping in as the starting center.
In fact, if an Okafor trade like this were to happen during the summer, you could argue that the earlier Diop trade was part of the organization’s greater Master Plan. Of course, that would require you to believe that the the Bobcats organization actually plans things.
2. Ten seconds left on the clock, who’s the man?
Well, it sure as hell shouldn’t be Raymond Felton. We appreciate your effort Raymond, seriously, we do. But your inability to get anything done on the offensive end when it matters most was so damn infuriating that it almost made us forget about all the things that you are good at.
If a deal like the one mentioned above can be worked out in order to bring in a ballsy scorer in from another team then the Bobcats should pounce on it because their current lack of a crunch-time scorer will be the difference between them winning 38 games or 50 games.
If a trade can’t be worked out, then there’s only one option. Iverson. Period.
There’s nobody in this draft (save maybe Stephen Curry) who could be the man this year. It may require the team to part with Okafor, DJ Augustin or their lottery pick but a go-to scorer is their most pressing need for certain.
3. Who backs up the Phoen-Ex Suns?
Charlotte’s strong playoff push ostensibly ended with Raja Bell’s calf injury in early April. With Bell out, the Bobcats had to play too small and too young with DJ Augustin and Cartier Martin. The Bobcats clearly need to find some depth at the 2-guard and if a trade like the one mentioned above can’t be made then the Draft has a few quality options.
The Bobcats can either hope one of the “upside” guys like Tyreke Evans or DeMar DeRozan falls to them at pick twelve or try to hit a solid double with Duke’s Gerald Henderson (the “Emeka Okafor” of shooting guard prospects). We’ll have more in-depth previews on all of the collegiate players in our next post.
The same goes for the other ex-Sun, Boris Diaw. The Bobcats were lucky that Boris stayed healthy following the trade because there wasn’t much depth behind him and the team seemed to have finally made good on their promise not to play Gerald Wallace out of position. Coach Brown seemed to be impressed with Pittsburgh’s Dejuan Blair during his recent workout with the team and the big man could be there at twelve when the Bobcats pick.
We also shouldn’t forget the other overweight power-forward with bad knees, Mr. Crab Bread himself, Sean May. If the team and May’s agent can come to an agreement in which May hits the unrestricted market and re-signs with the team for a league minimum one or two year contract, then a motivated, healthy Sean May could be the nice surprise in ’09–’10.
It’s all good.
The fact that I can type “The Bobcats are only a piece or two away from 50+ wins” with a straight face means that there has been considerable progress. Putting aside five years worth of questionable draft selections, poor business decisions and overt cronyism, the ‘Cats find themselves now with one of the League’s best coaches, the promise of new ownership, a lottery pick, a little cap space and a few solid assets to play with during the offseason. For Bobcats fans, the future’s never been brighter.