Tyrus Thomas Trade: Further Analysis

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On a wild NBA Trade Deadline Day, the Charlotte Bobcats swung a deal to get the elusive athletic power forward that Larry Brown has been pining for all season.

The Cats have obtained Tyrus Thomas from the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Ronald “Flip” Murray, Acie Law, and a future first round pick.

I touched on Thomas in an earlier post; the knock on him is immaturity/lack of consistency.  More specifically, Thomas is infamous for “mental lapses.”  This makes him an interesting match with Larry Brown, who demands near-perfection and is a stickler for detail.

Most players in a Larry Brown system take awhile to “get it,” going through a process of assimilating everything before eventually settling back down and really showing improvement.  However, not all players respond, so this will either be the best thing that happened to Tyrus Thomas or a spectacular disappointment.

If Thomas does work out, it will be interesting to see what happens with Boris Diaw.  As we’ve watched Boris since he’s been a Bobcat, it’s clear that he’s struggled this season while playing with Steven Jackson.  Last year, prior to Jackson’s arrival, more of the offense ran through Diaw as he was able to utilize his “point-forward” skills.

Could Thomas eventually start, allowing Boris to move to the bench as a sixth man?  It’s not a perfect solution to the Jackson/Diaw conundrum, as Jack plays so many minutes that it’s inevitable that Diaw will play with him some.  But this way you could maximize the time that Diaw is on the court with the offense running through him, and not Jack.

Furthermore, we’ll be watching to see what happens with Thomas in the offseason (and Diaw, for that matter).  The Cats will be in pretty much the same boat with Thomas as they were with Raymond Felton this past offseason.  Thomas will be an unrestricted free agent, which means any other team will be able to offer him a contract starting at a qualifying offer of $6.2 million.  The Cats would then have a right to match.

But even with all the cap space out there, would any team in their right mind offer Thomas a contract for that much?  Might the Bobcats be able to sign him to a more reasonable deal instead?

Here’s looking forward to seeing Thomas in action for the first time soon; we don’t have any confirmation yet, but one would assume that the Cats will be trying to get Thomas suited up for Friday night’s tilt with the the Cavs.

That’s enough about Thomas for now, here’s a quick breakdown of what the Cats gave up to get him:

Acie Law

Acie Law was thrown in to the Stephen Jackson trade to make salaries match and because Larry Brown is perpetually auditioning “third point guards.”  However, Law had already been a bust in Atlanta, wasn’t getting any playing time in Golden State, and couldn’t break into the Bobcats rotation either.

The few moments that Law did get off the bench were primarily garbage time; even then he looked hopelessly overmatched.  His shot wasn’t falling, he didn’t seem quick enough, and didn’t show any real confidence or “game-managing” ability.

The one significant chance that Law got was in a December matchup against the Knicks in NYC.  Down 2 with seconds left, Law was inexplicably inserted into the game.  Furthermore, the play was drawn up for Law to get the ball on the final play — he took it coast-to-coast and forced up a layup that never really had a chance and was easily swatted away by Danilo Galinari to seal the Knicks win.

I would be willing to bet that Law will be out of the league and playing overseas next year.  He’s just not skilled or athletic enough to make it in the Association.

For Chicago, he simply represents a $2 million expiring contract as they clear room to make a splash in the Lebron/D-Wade/Bosh/Joe Johnson free agency sweepstakes this summer.

Ronald “Flip” Murray

Flip is the definition of a journeyman in the NBA.  The Bulls will mark Flip’s 8th NBA team in 8 years.  It isn’t exactly clear why this hired gun can’t stick anywhere or get a long-term contract.  Offensively, he’s an above-average, sweet-shooting, somewhat undersized 2-guard.  Though ballhandling and distributing are not his strengths, he can slide down to the point in a pinch.  This is how he’s been able to carve out a career in the league.

Defensively, he’s below average, due to his size and lack of elite quickness and athleticism.  This fact probably comes the closest to answering why Flip has, and will continue to have, a journeyman’s career.

Flip was signed to a bargain 1-year $1.9 million deal by the Bobcats prior to the season and was a good fit.  After sitting out several games to start the season, Flip joined the lineup and frequently provided a much-needed scoring punch off the bench.

He is currently averaging 9.9 points per game — exactly his career average, too — but is not shooting as high of a percentage as he had in the past.  Nonetheless, he will be missed.  While the Bobcats blogosphere is undoubtedly hopeful that DJ will step up and Gerald Henderson might even see some playing time, the safe bet is probably on Steven Graham filling in for the bulk of Flip’s minutes.

Ultimately, he was included in the trade from the Bulls’ perspective because he is on a one-year/expiring deal, but Flip will probably play an important role for the Bulls the rest of the season.  Remember, Chicago traded away John Salmons for more cap relief, so they have a hole at the 2-guard spot.

The Future First-Round Pick

This one is probably the hardest to part with.  As we’ve said over and over here at the Baseline, the best way for a small-market team to jump-start a run at a championship is to hit a home run with a first round pick (the Spurs and Tim Duncan are probably the best example, here).

But under Larry Brown, the Bobcats are clearly going about business another way.  And with Michael Jordan’s disastrous track record at making draft selections, maybe it’s a good pre-emptive strike to trade away picks for young veterans anyways.

Let’s remember a few things, though.  First, the Bobcats already owe a first-round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves; second, you cannot trade away your first round pick in consecutive years and third, it’s not yet clear if there are any further conditions on the pick used in today’s trade.

The initial pick we have to give up was traded to the Denver Nuggets in the summer of 2008 (for their #20 pick in that draft, which we used on Alexis Ajinca — that’s a whole other story); the Nuggets have since moved it in another deal and it now is the property of the T-Wolves.

The pick is protected somewhat; last year it was protected if it was in the lottery, so we got to use it on Gerald Henderson.  This year it is only protected if it’s even higher, like a top 8 or 10 pick (Note: not exactly sure on that).  Whatever the case, barring a total collapse by the Cats, it looks like our first round pick this year will be the property of the T-Wolves.

So, given the rule about not trading away your first round picks in consecutive years, the earliest that the Bulls will get our pick in exchange for Ty Thomas will be 2012.  That’s a little scary, as Larry Brown will probably be gone by then, and who knows what the roster will look like.  It’s entirely conceivable that the Cats could return to the lottery by then and desperately need some help in the draft.

UPDATE: No sooner than I posted this and sat down for some dinner does Rick Bonnell come through to confirm that the future first-round pick owed to the Bulls for is indeed protected.  The exact nature of the protection is still unclear, but it is assumed to be similar to the protection that is attached to the pick that we currently owe to the T-Wolves (the exact nature of which is also unclear, but whatever…).

-Dr. E


POLL : TYRUS THOMAS TRADE REACTIONS

  • Great Deal for Cats
    (82%, 102 Votes)
  • Better Deal for Bulls
    (5%, 6 Votes)
  • Not Worth 1st Round Pick
    (13%, 16 Votes)

Total Voters: 124

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21 thoughts on “Tyrus Thomas Trade: Further Analysis

  1. reggie

    nice recap/summary.

    most of the same thoughts i had about this trade: CONSISTENCY. that is the key to this trade being a blockbuster or a "holy crap, MJ seriously has no idea about anything".

  2. I agree that in the end, this is a good deal for the Cats, and certainly that you do have to "give to get".

    However, I'd be willing to debate your contention that Tyrus Thomas's impact on the team is "certain". He's a young guy who hasn't figured it out at all yet — he may not ever figure it out.

    He's not a total crapshoot I suppose, because even if he doesn't figure it out, he could still be a 9th or 10th guy on a decent team due to his size and athleticism.

    And while draft picks always have some uncertainty, they don't have to be rife with it like they are with the Bobcats. Some teams do a better job than others at minimizing this uncertainty when it comes to scouting players — just so happens the Cats can't seem to do that.

  3. Jared

    The draft is such a crap shoot even for good GMs. I understand how uncomfortable trading this pick away should make us feel. It case some uncertainty into the future of the team. But a draft pick is always uncertain. What is more certain is the impact that TT will bring to this team. For that reason, giving up a 1st rounder is perfectly justified in my mind. We had to give up something to get an impact player right?

  4. spectre

    A little clarification…TT is like Felton last year. To keep matching rights we will have to tender a 6.3 million qualifying offer; if we do that then he stays restricted…if not he becomes a UFA and loses Full Bird Rights (but we do still have limited Rights…as in we can still go over the cap to sign/S&T him).

    I'm concerned about salary next season. As it stands we're at 59 million with 10 guys and no Felton. If we tender the QO to TT we're already over the LT based on this year (it's supposed to go down next season) with 11 guys and still no Felton.

    There could be some hard decisions ahead.

  5. Jared

    Read my previous post with a little more detail E. I said MORE certain. I thought about making it more clear that I didn't mean completely certain, and guess I should have. TT is far and away MORE certain, in terms of positive impact to the team, than a draft pick 3 years down the road.

    You stated that the best way for the Bobcats to become a contender is to "hit a home run" in the first round and then referenced Tim Duncan. How many players comparable players to Tim Duncan get drafted? I'd say once per decade, maybe twice or three times at the most. Given Charlotte's current status as a late lottery team, any shot at a Tim Duncan caliber player is virtually zero.

    Consider it this way: Tyrus Thomas is the bird in the hand while the "home run" draft pick is the two in the bush.

  6. Jared

    Good points Spectre. If TT works out at all this year Charlotte will probably feel obliged to keep him. I see them at the very least making the qualifying offer.

    We will, however, have new ownership by this summer. Who knows what kind of money they might be willing to spend?

  7. Ty Thomas starting at the four with a Boris/D.J./D.Brown/Chandler nine-man rotation looks good.

    Interested to see how long it will take for Tyrus to figure out what he’s supposed to do in LB’s system.

  8. Michael Jordan plus NBA draft is like Stan Van Gundy and Speedos. Just a bad combination at any point in time.

    MJ seems to be pretty adept at trading so I say this is a great strategy going forward until he figures it out.

    BTW, do T2 and Tyson Chandler have one post move in between them? I'm guessing no. Opposing defenses are gonna have to ramp up their "Dunk" defense now more than ever.

  9. spectre: good point, in the rush of yesterday, I got mixed up about the byzantine NBA CBA/free agency rules.

    You are right to be concerned about salary next year. I can't imagine this team without Felton, yet resigning him and Ty Thomas would put us way over the cap, maybe even into luxury tax range?

    You have to wonder about Tyson Chandler's foot/ankle issues – would the Cats ever consider buying him out?

    Tough decisions indeed.

  10. spectre

    Not a problem Dr. E…glad I could clarify it for you.

    If I were TC there's no way I'd take a buyout…he's not getting near that money again on the open market. Maybe he'd take like 90%, but that would still count against our cap.

    I haven't looked at 2010/2011 closely, but sometimes teams get a good deal for an expiring…other times they're paying to dump them. Since we'd not want to be taking any money back I'm thinking it'll be the latter.

    Like I've said on other sites tho…it is what it is and worrying about it won't do a thing. We just have to hope the FO has a plan (heh…really!) to keep our main guys and get thru it.

    Let's just enjoy the fact that we finally have a backup PF.

    BTW…did you guys catch True Hoop (and now others) saying that Mike James will be bought out and that the thinking is he'll come to Charlotte? That'd go a long way to replacing Flip's production.

  11. Jared

    It'd go even further in stifling Henderson.

    Don't get me wrong. I don't think it's the huge deal that others make it out to be, but the guy deserve at least some burn.

  12. Ugh, Mike James? The guy who couldn't get off the Wizards bench? Earl Boykins was/is playing in front of him.

    I'll pass and take my chances with DJ getting some extra minutes, then maybe Henderson (that is, if Henderson can ever solve Larry Brown's Rookie Challenge Cypher).

  13. D.J. looked good tonight. Maybe that tidbit about Flip Murray being too "dominant of a personality" really was the case.

    Mike James would've been a great addition in 2004 but he doesn't really bring much to the table today.

    As for next year's cap situation, I think the Cats will have to dangle Henderson as an incentive for taking Nazr's last year off the books. That will be enough to get them out of the Luxury Tax even after re-signing Felton to a modest deal and extending the QO to Tyrus.

    The team will still have plenty of depth at Center (Chandler/Diop/Ajinca & maybe Ratliff at a veteran's minimum) and then when Chandler's deal expires in the following offseason, the Cats can go after Joakim Noah, offering him $12 mil/per. Coach Brown seems to have a fetish for him and Noah's presence might be enough to make the old man stick around for a few more years. They'll also have a draft pick that summer to use to shore up the roster.

    2010:

    PG: Felton/Augustin

    SG: Jackson/Graham

    SF: Wallace/D. Brown

    PF: Diaw/Thomas

    C: Chandler/Diop/Ajinca/Ratliff

    2011:

    PG: Felton/Augustin

    SG: Jackson/1st Rounder

    SF: Wallace/D.Brown

    PF: Diaw/Thomas

    C: Noah/Diop/Ajinca

  14. spectre

    I think if Hughes hadn't broken his hand he'd be a good choice, but you guys have to know that LB will want his 3rd PG, want him to be a vet and we only have the vet min to offer.

    Adding James would give us some depth…and since we're only talking less than 30 games I don't have a problem with him.

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