Charlotte Bobcats Season In Review – Part 3

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Trades & Acquisitions

The All New, All Improved Bobcats

Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Vlad Radmanovic

The Charlotte Bobcats made three major in-season trades during the ’08-’09 season involving eleven different players. Coupled with the free agent signings of Juwan Howard, Cartier Martin and assorted other D-Leaguers, Charlotte suited up a total of 24 players – most in the League. One anonymous fan commented on SI.com that “the Bobcats make more roster moves than a fantasy team.” It sure seemed that way.

In the previous Season in Review entry, I examined the Bobcats management’s failure in drafting DJ Augustin over Brook Lopez. I argued that the move was a mistake both financially and in talent, both long and short term. The Trades & Free Agent Signings of ’08-’09 aren’t quite as definitive. In terms of pure talent, the Bobcats won big on every trade they executed. In terms of cap space and long-term financial flexibility, the results were mixed.

Trade #1. December 10, 2008.
CHARLOTTE trades SG Jason Richardson and SF Jared Dudley to PHOENIX for PF Boris Diaw, SG Raja Bell and PG Sean Singletary.

Wow. Although everybody, their grandmother and Bill Walton ridiculed the Bobcats for making this move at the time (everybody except Rick Bonnell and the Baseline that is), in retrospect the trade couldn’t have been more perfect for Charlotte. A team desperately in need of better ball movement, a starting PF and perimeter defense nets all three while saving long-term salary cap space to boot. Diaw and Bell provided an instant attitude adjustment, bringing their winning ways from Phoenix and within three weeks the Bobcats started playing real-deal NBA basketball going 27-29 from December 16 and flirting with the playoffs until late April. While Raja was shutting down Kobe and Boris was threatening a nightly triple double, J-RICH was drinking and driving the Arizona highway system and Jared Dudley regressed to the end of the Suns bench.

Check out Boris and Raja’s Individual Floor Time Stats over at 82games.com.  Two best on the team  And how about the Bobcats most winning 5-Man Units?  You guessed it.  Felton/Bell/Wallace/Diaw/Okafor.  Add to this the fact that Raja’s contract expires after next season and that Boris’s deal pays him $9 million a year for the next three seasons – expiring when he hits the ripe old age of 30.  Great, great value for a starting PF.
Easily the best roster move the Bobcats have made in their 5 years as a franchise.

Grade: A

Trade #2. January  16, 2009.
CHARLOTTE trades SG Matt Carroll and C Ryan Hollins to DALLAS for C Gana Diop.

We need to re-work the standard “never trade big for small” adage into something like “never trade mediocre big for mediocre small unless you can save a buttload of cap space and you are dealing with the Charlotte Bobcats.”  For the second consecutive year, the Bobcats took on a high-salaried backup center (Nazr Mohammed) in exchange for an under-achieving, lesser-salaried wing player (Walter Herrmann) and a third-stringer with an expiring contract (Primoz Brezec).  Unlike last season’s one-sided exchange with Detroit, this one wasn’t quite so disastrous.
Before I begin, let’s check out John Hollinger’s scouting report on Diop:

Though he’s 7-foot and 280 pounds, Diop has no post game whatsoever and is an erratic finisher who struggles to go up right away after the catch. He’ll lose his grip on the ball, too, which is why you see so many of his dunks hit the rim six times before rattling down.
Nearly all his value is on defense. He’s huge and so can battle with any center in the league in the post, but what really makes the difference is how well he moves for his size. While Diop isn’t a shot-blocker, he gets in the right positions to stop the pick-and-roll and cut off penetration, and his size makes him a huge obstacle even if he stays on the floor. Additionally, he’s a very good defensive rebounder.

This is exactly why it’s so hard to classify “DIOP–IT–LIKE—IT’S–HOT.”  Measuring his production by standard NBA statistics, he looks either invisible or just plain terrible.  But check out the same 5-man lineup stats mentioned above.  In terms of Winning%, the Bobcats are a lot better off when he’s on the floor banging bodies and altering shots.  Quantifying Diop’s effect on an NBA game using his PPG or RPG averages is a little like ranking NFL fullbacks by their YPC.
Sure, Diop is quite possibly the worst free-throw shooter in the history of the League (no offense to Chris Dudley) and he basically turns the offense into a 4 on 5 whenever he’s on the court but the key is that he doesn’t allow any opposing team’s big men to kill you when Emeka is on the bench.  At age 27, he’s also a nice insurance policy if Okafor misses any time due to injury.

The only downside to this trade is that the Bobcats essentially took on another $3.5 million a season (on top of Matt Carroll’s contract of the same length) and, unless they can coerce the next sucker into taking on Mohammed’s contract (“Chris Wallace, please.  Yes, I’ll hold.”), they’ll be paying their backup centers a combined total of $24 million over the next two seasons.  Ouch.
Quick, somebody blame the Mohammed trade on Sam Vincent while he’s still in Jamaica!

Grade: B

Trade #3. February  8, 2009.
CHARLOTTE trades SF Adam Morrison and SG Shannon Brown to LOS ANGELES for SF Vladimir Radmanovic.

Adam Morrison.
In the summer of 2006 I was traveling and due to some pesky time-zone conflicts  I actually missed the first part of the draft.  After a quick breakfast, I rushed off to the nearest internet cafe and called up Baseline correspondent “E” for an update.
“Who was it?  Rudy Gay?  Brandon Roy?”
“Adam Morrison.”
“No.”
“Yes.”
“No.”

And like most Bobcats faithful, I’m still in denial.  We all thought that the Morrison rumors floating around pre-draft were a smokescreen.  There was no way Michael Jordan was going to select a shaggy-haired white kid from Gonazaga as his initial draft pick as GM of the Charlotte Bobcats.  No way.  Brandon Roy, the SUPERSTAR in the making, was sitting there, waiting to be taken.  Rudy Gay, the perennial ALL-STAR in the making, was sitting there, waiting to be taken.  And the Bobcats selected a 6’8″ kid who had less confidence in his game than Earl Boykins.  Somebody find me a couple of investors, ’cause I’m developing a new documentary.  It’s called “Don’t Tell Me Yes, the Adam Morrison Story.”  This sad account will no doubt be chronicled in full detail in some future Baseline post.  Until then, let’s move on to the trade.

In pure basketball terms, this move was a huge upgrade for the ‘Cats.  Even though Vlad finished up his half-season with Charlotte by shooting an ice-cold 30% from the field in April, his Feb/March stats of 8.6PPG on 42% shooting showed us what the Radman is capable of when he’s loose.  Also take a look at those Individual Floor Time Stats and look at how bad Morrison was killing the Bobcats when he was out on the court.  Morrison’s -98 PLUS/MINUS make the Radman look like Rodman in comparison.

Oh, and those of you who would rip the team for throwing Shannon Brown into the deal as an after-thought should remember how erratic he was when he played earlier in the season.

The downside of this trade (like the Diop/Carroll deal that preceded it) is that the Bobcats take on another $2 million in salary next season and Vlad’s $6.8 million salary in 2010 where Morrison’s deal would’ve already expired.  That said, Radmanovic’s history in the League suggests that he is capable of averaging near double figures off of the bench for a playoff team and there’s a good chance that he’ll be doing that over the next two seasons for Charlotte.  Who knows, maybe after his contract expires Vlad can play out his career in Europe, perhaps educating a young Adam Morrison on the intricacies of the Israeli League.

Grade: C+

–ASCHIN

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E’s Take

I think my colleague hit all the high points here.  From a talent standpoint, the trades simply can’t be knocked.  The Cats turned Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley, Matt Carroll, Ryan Hollins, Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown into Boris Diaw, Raja Bell, Gana Diop, and Vladimir Radmanovic.  Just take a look at how many minutes Dudley, Carroll, Hollins and Morrison got on their new teams post-trade to get an idea of what the rest of the NBA really thinks about their talent level.

It’s also impossible to quantify just how important it was for the Bobcats to get Adam Morrison off the roster.  He was just an albatross around the neck of the whole franchise, a constant reminder of a blown lottery pick.  When he was here and struggling we felt obligated to cheer him on, if only to prevent a full-fledged, on-the-court emotional meltdown (wouldn’t have been the first time).  Come to find out, the guy didn’t even want to be here.

But as mentioned above and discussed extensively throughout the season, the drastic improvements in talent level may eventually be negated by the damage done to the Bobcats books.  Just take a look at the carnage (seriously, tool around on there and look at some of the other teams — I dare you to find another franchise in worse long-term financial shape than the Cats).  To sum it up, three years from now in the 2011-12 season, we are committed to paying Okafor, Diop, Wallace and Diaw a total of $39 million.  The cap was $58 million this year and is actually expected to drop over the next few years.

This means that in the coming years, unless the new ownership is willing to go into luxury tax territory (highly unlikely) we’ll generally have less than a third of the cap available (roughly $15 million/year, maybe less) to fill the other nine spots on the roster around Okafor, Diop, Wallace, Diaw, Augustin and Ajinca.  Read that again.  Be afraid, be very afraid.  Sign Raymond Felton to a new deal this offseason and it gets even tighter.

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See also:
-Bobcats Season in Review Part 1 – The Coaching Change
-Bobcats Season in Review Part 2 – The 2008 NBA Draft

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2 Responses to “Charlotte Bobcats Season In Review – Part 3”

  1. mike15
    June 2, 2009 at 6:38 am #

    So the overall outlook is that the Cats got better players through their deals but committed way to much in future expenses for their upgrades.

    Kind of sounds like they were just staying true to the patrotic buy-now-pay-later mindset. Why do you guys hate America?

    Additionally, the team probably never expected to see the cap freezing or declining in the near future.

    Still, Larry Brown has worked to put a system in place that may not rely entirely on a single player to fill a mega-star role. We have to realize that a superstar player has no incentive to join the team even if they had the money to sign someone.

    The Cats financial crunch should actually serve them from making any major mistakes this off season. Seriously, think of how much they would overpay for Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, Jason Kidd, or Mike Bibby if they had the money. This team would shoot itself in the foot this off season.

    With such a week draft and few teams with real money for free agents, I can't imagine that there will be too much of a shake up when you compare the standings for this past season vs. next season. Therefore, the Cats can make some headway by playing a full year with their current line-up. Then, with their small amount of cap space, they could serve a "facilitator" role to help other teams move pieces in the 2010 free agent free-for-all.

    After that, everyone gets better in 2010 but the Bobcats!

  2. mike15
    June 2, 2009 at 11:44 am #

    Two More Questions :

    Question # 1 :

    What the hell is Shannon Brown doing playing so well for the Lakers this post-season? Really, who saw this coming? I know he was Jordan's pet project (discovered by MJ at a Chicago ballers gym), but he has seriously earned some money by playing so well on the big stage.

    Question # 2:

    Will Adam Morrison lay weeping on the court if the Lakers are beaten by the Magic? If he doesn't, will that reflect on his "passion" for the pro game in comparison to his "passion" for college ball?

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