Offseason Prescriptions for the Capped-Out Cats (Part 1)

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Chapter I: Diagnosis

First Number of Interest: $680,000.

It’s the number you get when you take the Bobcats $69.24 million in salaries for the ’09-’10 season and subtract it from last year’s $69.92 million luxury tax threshold.  Six hundred and eighty K.  That’s approximately how close the Bobcats came to paying the luxury tax last season.  I say approximately as I’m basing the figures on Hoopshype’s excellent salary database — a database that doesn’t included Derrick Brown’s two year rookie contract.  (For the sake of this column, I’m estimating his cap figure to be equal to Milwaukee’s Jodie Meeks, drafted one spot behind Brown in last year’s second round.)

Second Number of Interest: $1.6 million.

That’s how much NBA teams are expecting to come off the cap next year.  You read that right, the Salary Cap will shrink next year and with it the luxury tax threshold.  According to ESPN.com’s Chris Sheridan, the tax line will lower to around $68 million in ’10-’11 which would put the Bobcats at less than $8 million under the tax threshold before re-signing starting PG Raymond Felton (unrestricted), PF Tyrus Thomas (restricted) or valuable role players Stephen Graham and Theo Ratliff (click chart to see a larger image).

BobcatsCurrentCapSituation

Looking at next year’s salary commitments, three things are glaringly obvious:

1. THE CENTERS OF ATTENTION

The Bobcats have $27.5 million (roughly half of their cap space) committed to the center position and the last time I checked, none of those guys were named Howard, Duncan, Ming or Gasol.  Years of poor financial decision making have finally caught up: overpaying Emeka Okafor when they didn’t have to (Chandler), overpaying Matt Carroll when they didn’t have to (Diop) and bailing out Joe Dumars with the expiring contracts of Walter Herrmann and Primoz Brezec (Mohammed).
THE BAD NEWS: With the a possible lockout on the way in 2011, none of these guys are moveable unless the team is willing to take on another equally bad (if not worse) contract in return.
THE GOOD NEWS: Over $19 million will come off of the books for good in the summer of 2011 if the ‘Cats just hold tight and let Mohammed and Chandler play through their contracts.
Somebody take Larry Brown’s mobile phone privileges away pronto!

2. TYRUS THOMAS AND THE POISON PILL

The Bobcats didn’t send Chicago a future first round pick just to rent Tyrus Thomas for three months.  The intention was always to retain him for at least another season but given the Bobcats’ cap situation that might not be so simple.  As a restricted free agent, Thomas could command a salary north of the $6.2 million qualifying offer he’s due based on his rookie deal.  A team intrigued by Thomas’ potential and armed with enough cap space could offer Tyrus big money up front, signing Thomas to the dreaded “poison pill offer sheet” (see Milsap, Paul) during the summer.  Such a contract could offer Thomas $8 million in year one, $6 million in year two and only $4 million in year three.  The Bobcats would have the right to match but in doing so would essentially be “luxury-taxed-out,” unable to sign any other players (including a starting PG) without paying the dollar for dollar tax penalty — which is something Michael Jordan has repeatedly said that he will not do.  With so many teams flush with cap space this summer, the Tyrus Situation could get tricky.  Watch out for it.

3. WHO’S THE POINT?

Ray Felton is the best point guard available in a weak PG free agency class.  Again, it is entirely possible that a team flush with cap space could offer him $18 million or more over three years and in that situation the ‘Cats would have to fold.
Doubt that the team would let it’s starting point guard walk this summer?  The organization fiercely pursued a T.J. Ford trade during February’s trade deadline and weren’t even close to coming to terms on a long-term offer with Felton’s agent last summer.  If Raymond was a better shooter from outside and could finish with a little more consistency inside (not to mention stay in front of Jameer Nelson) maybe the team would go out of it’s way to sign him but I just can’t foresee it happening.  The ‘Cats will most likely have to acquire a starting PG via trade or from the free agency discount rack.

Yes, Bobcats fans, your team is in a major salary cap quagmire.

To further complicate the issue, the Bobcats can’t afford to simply allow their free-agents to walk and replace them with low-cost scrubs or cheap rookies.  The team doesn’t have any draft picks (instead they have Alexis Ajinca) and from a business perspective, the organization must improve their on-court product (or at least repeat last year’s success) in order to expand fan support and capitalize on their inaugural Playoff run.

TEAM NEEDS:

The Bobcats head into the summer with three major needs:

STARTING POINT GUARD
D.J. Augustin is clearly not ready to start and the Bobcats are too capped out to pay Raymond Felton market value.  They’ll need to make a trade or find an undervalued bargain replacement in Free Agency (see Blake, Steve).

LOW POST SCORING/REBOUNDING
Boris Diaw has a few low post moves but plays mostly on the perimeter and doesn’t concern himself very much with the art of rebounding.  Tyrus Thomas (if he’s re-signed) is a solid rebounder but has limited abilities as a post scorer.  The team will need to either trade for or sign a traditional low-post power forward to team with Thomas or Diaw.

CONSISTENT PERIMETER SCORING/SHOOTING
Larry Hughes turned out to be an inconsistent version of Flip Murray.  Sure, Hughes was a better defender but what the Bobcats really needed was offense from the bench.  Murray has said that he’d happily return to Charlotte next season.  If the ‘Cats could bring him back for a similarly low priced deal next season, they should.

THE PRESCRIPTION:

So how does a Capped-Out team retain talent and, dare I say it, even improve heading into next season?

Part II: Prescription A (Simple and Clean) — Coming Soon
Part III: Prescription B (Not for the Faint of Heart) — Coming Soon

-ASChin

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12 Responses to “Offseason Prescriptions for the Capped-Out Cats (Part 1)”

  1. spectre
    May 20, 2010 at 2:10 am #

    A lot of this seems to be bad news, at least for next season. Advocating a trade to fill the hole we'd have if we let Felton walk would just weaken another position. I also question what "value" we would be sending out; is Boris' talent combined with his contract (not good) going to get us a starting quality PG? Kinda doubt that.

    Even so, I still don't think it has to come to that…and IMO it all boils down to this point:

    "THE BAD NEWS: With the a possible lockout on the way in 2011, none of these guys are moveable unless the team is willing to take on another equally bad (if not worse) contract in return."

    Since Nazr and TC are expirings, why would a possible lockout (which I don't think will happen) affect whether either of these contracts are movable or not? Both will be off the books at the end of next season so the CBA won't have any affect.

    In fact…wouldn't an impending reduction/lockout make teams want to move multiple year salaries for one that would be gone?

    By my calculations, if we retain TT, sign Felton at a starting rate of around 5.5 (hopefully a little less) and sign 2 vet min players at roughly 1.5 that'd put us at 72.4 give or take. Minus your 68 and that puts us approx. 4.4 above the LT.

    There are so many ways to make that up before the deadline next February and I can come up with multiple scenarios where we can do that (I should; I've been worrying about this since last season).

    I'll leave that to your upcoming "solutions" threads.

  2. Jared
    May 20, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    Is that the contract you think Felton deserves? I've always defended the guy on the court, but last summer he asked for way too much money. Losing Felts isn't ideal, but unless somebody offs Diop we can't afford to keep him for his asking price. There's a good chance some team hoping for a nice off season haul will stretch a little further than we can/should to sign him.

    This worries me as D.J. makes our defense significantly worse, and last year showed that he can really get shook when opposing defenders pay attention to him.

    Chin, I'm sure you've already read it, but a couple of coots over at RoF are having a field day ripping this article apart. It deserves a quick skim and a nice chuckle.

  3. Jared
    May 20, 2010 at 9:49 pm #

    Should we really believe that Felton’s going to accept 5.5 or less? I won’t go into the obvious reasons why we shouldn’t.

    We do have some trade chips to get a vet PG. Nazr, with his performance last season and expiring deal alone should fetch us an average quality starter.

  4. ASChin
    May 20, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

    The problem with expiring contracts in a lockout year is that they have considerably less value. Especially if the NBA shuts its doors for an entire season. There would essentially be no free agency period in July of ’11 while the owners and players union hammer out a new deal. During the lockout the League would cease payments to ALL players regardless if they were on the first year of a multi-year deal or a free agent without a contract.

  5. spectre
    May 20, 2010 at 11:36 pm #

    Jared think "conventional" contract where he gets a 10.5% raise every year. Starting at 5.5 would equal a 7+ per contract.

    ASChin that doesn't make sense. No FA period in '11? It'd move to '12. As you said they wouldn't be paying any salaries so they'd all move forward one year wouldn't they?

    Either way, expiring salaries would be GONE. Since the whole conversation revolves around player salaries, expirings should still have the value they've had in the very recent past.

    Besides, so what if we have to add "value" to the expiring if it keeps us below the LT and returns the same group who got us 44 wins this year? Teams like Minnesota and Sac live for that as they aren't a destination for FAs.

    Again though…you're talking worst case scenario. From all I've read no one really believes it'll come to a lockout. Just like you're showing that the cap/LT won't fall as far, the NBA has now revealed that they're not losing as much money as Stern's dire predictions a year back

  6. spectre
    May 21, 2010 at 1:39 am #

    "Again, the point is in a lockout situation a 2011 expiring contract would carry an equal worth to a 2012 expiring contract (in the event of a year long work stoppage). So now the League has a much larger stock of “expiring deals” as you’d have to include deals that expire in ‘12 and ‘11."

    But you're ignoring the fact that TC or Nazr's contract would be gone before a supposed lockout and before a new CBA is even negotiated! If a lockout occurred neither would be with the team they're traded to at that point!

    The trade and the ending of the contract would all occur beforehand.

    The tax isn't calculated until the end of the season. Just because we go into the season 4 million over doesn't mean we'd end the season over.

    Jordan might not want to take the chance going to the deadline however…so a deal could be done now or at any time before the start of the season. Personally I'd wait until up to the deadline as there is always a team like Memphis (with Utah last year) or Minny who will provide cap relief as a last resort.

  7. spectre
    May 21, 2010 at 4:40 am #

    It's the same contract we offered him last offseason and he played significantly better afterward. I certainly think he deserves it more now than he did then.

    Maybe he gets a bigger offer, but there are only two or three that can. At least half if not more of the teams needing a PG only have the MLE and that contract is slightly more than that.

    If he's offered/takes another contract THEN we worry about alternatives.

  8. ASChin
    May 21, 2010 at 9:59 am #

    Jared-

    Thanks for the link. I had a look at the thread and am flattered! Some very nice things mentioned about the Baseline there and those thoughts are appreciated.

    As for the “negativity” of his column, not sure that I ever foresaw that kind of reaction. It’s just a sober, realistic look at the team’s finances. In parts 2 and 3, I’ll break a few scenarios that could paint a much rosier picture relative to the salary scenario that the team is in now.

    spectre-

    Again, the point is in a lockout situation a 2011 expiring contract would carry an equal worth to a 2012 expiring contract (in the event of a year long work stoppage). So now the League has a much larger stock of “expiring deals” as you’d have to include deals that expire in ’12 and ’11.
    NOT TO MENTION the fact that teams have no idea what the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will be. Is the MidLevel now $6.5 per or $4.2? After the first few major free agents are off the board (followed by a run on young talents like Tyrus) I just don’t see many teams throwing big money at mediocre players. Instead they’ll make their plays in the summer of 2012 (back to my original point) once the cap situation is fully understood.
    Oh, and do you really think that the Bobcats are going to go $4 million over the luxury tax limit for next season? Really? Make that extra $8 million dollar payment to the League?

  9. aaaaa
    May 21, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    We should trade boris diaw for kobe bryant

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