Gerald Wallace Is Gone, Who’s To Blame?

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Three months into my self-imposed NBA exile and the Bobcats had to go and blow up the team. I just couldn’t resist. It’s time for a State of the Roster.

PART 1 – WHO’S TO BLAME?

To say that fan sentiment over the trade has skewed negative would be an understatement. Gerald Wallace, the player we all watched grow from an expansion draft castoff to best-kept-NBA-secret to All-Star has been gifted to Portland for what amounts to cap space and a couple of mid first round picks. On the surface this seems both cheap and defeatist. The Bobcats currently sit just a few games outside of the Eastern Conference’s top eight while resting comfortably below the League’s luxury tax line.

So who’s to blame for this sudden and seemingly irrational transaction?

THE SUSPECTS:

1. Larry Brown.

The former coach and (by his estimates) de facto GM kvetched incessantly until ownership added millions in dead weight veteran contracts then griped again when he couldn’t add any more. The moves overwhelmed a cash strapped organization as they found themselves well over the luxury tax line last summer. Owner Michael Jordan isn’t stupid, he looked at the past few seasons and came away with the conclusion that he’d most likely traded five plus years of fielding competitive teams for a one and done with the Orlando Magic.

2. Gana Diop & Matt Carroll.

No, these two weren’t involved in a clandestine operation to overthrow the co-captain; at least not directly. Jordan made a major mistake when he signed Carroll to a then six-year $27 million deal. MJ immediately realized the folly so decided to compound the problem by trading Carroll for Gana Diop’s $31 million albatross contract in a Larry Brown inspired transaction back in ’08.

In an ironic twist, the trade ended up handcuffing the team to the point where they had to take back Carroll’s contract from Dallas simply to get under the luxury tax this summer (see Dampier, Ericka). The two player’s salaries combined make up what the Bobcats would have owed Wallace over the next two seasons at around $10 million per. Ouch.

3. Stephen Jackson

Pretty simple here. The Bobcats’ two best guys played the same position. JAX isn’t getting any younger and the whipper-snappers playing NBA two guard these days aren’t getting any less athletic.

Less obvious is this Dirty Secret: Jackson is the better player, or at least the more indispensable one. More on this later.

4. Draft Picks

During the Larry Brown era, the Bobcats gave away first rounders like they were T-Wolves tickets. The team didn’t have a pick in last June’s draft and won’t have a first round selection in a potentially loaded 2012 class. By getting New Orleans’ first rounder in 2011 and Portland’s number one in 2013, the Bobcats will have four picks in the next three first rounds. Given that MJ hasn’t made a turrible pick since ’06, we can at least expect a few solid rotational players to come out of this stash.

5. Shawn Marion, Richard Jefferson & Josh Howard

What do these guys have to do with any of this? All three were All-Star small forwards who rode their elite athleticism to big stats and massive contracts. The cautionary tale of course is that once these guys crept closer to the big three-oh, their games took a major downturn for the worse. Marion is the oldest and most relevant of the bunch at 32 but hasn’t played like “The Matrix” since “The Matrix” was a cool nickname to have. He’s now a role player on a veteran team.

Jordan must have looked at Gerald Wallace’s declining production, his age, the number of major injuries and the $22 million due and decided to gamble before it was too late to get anything of significance in return.

6. Bruce Bowen & Ray Allen

Defensive ace Bruce Bowen was ostensibly finished as an NBA player at age 36. Sharpshooting Ray Allen turns the same age in June yet played in last weekend’s All-Star game. Guys who make their name on defense (unless you’re a nimble 7-footer like Dikembe or Theo Ratliff) just don’t last as long which pretty much negates the whole “The Nuggs got way more for Carmelo” argument. As little as I care for Melo’s game or his trade demands, his skill set is much more suited for the long haul.

This brings us back to Suspect #3. Efficient, dependable scoring is worth its weight in gold in today’s NBA. Stephen Jackson, despite his flaws, is the only Bobcat currently worth scheming for on either side of the ball. He’s going for around twenty every night in a variety of ways and may even drop 40 on you if he gets hot. Last I checked, the team that scores the most points still wins games and that has never been more true than it is today.

7. Gerald Henderson

It’s only been a month but Henderson has shown enough in his short time as a rotation player to warrant an expansion of the experiment. The other Gerald has looked spectacular at times. His defense against Kobe, Allen and Derrick Rose allowed the Bobcats to notch some wins over the League’s elite. His jump shot has started to fall consistently and by putting up 18, 22 and 15 going into the All-Star Break, Henderson gave management enough confidence to move Wallace while making a sincere run at the postseason.

It’s not a bad gamble. Henderson is on a great rookie deal and looks to be at worst a quality starting two guard.

PART 2 – THE LONG RUN

FISCAL SANITY

If we look at the trade from a cap perspective, we can see that the Bobcats set themselves up for some incredible leverage going in to the offseason.

By shaving nearly $10 million from the payroll next year and the year after, Charlotte can now be a major player in free agency or in landing a star player via trade. The team will be around ten million under the cap come June and potentially in the mix for a max guy if they can find a team willing to absorb Boris Diaw’s expiring deal.

If MJ strikes out this summer, he’d still be in position the following summer of 2012 to try again.

STATE OF THE ROSTER

With the trade of Gerald Wallace, the Bobcats have made their philosophy public:

  • A. They feel that they have enough talent currently in place to challenge Philly, Indy and Milwaukee for one of the East’s bottom seeds.
  • B. At the same time, they are setting themselves up for a potential long-term jump into the top four.
  • C. That they have at least partially learned their lesson when it comes to throwing away future picks and cap space for a few extra wins in the present.

Moving forward, it’s best to look at the roster in the following tiers:

TIER I: PROTO-NUCLEUS

Tyrus Thomas, Gerald Henderson, D.J. Augustin

TIER II: PRODUCTIVE VETERAN TRADE CHIPS

Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw

TIER III: INTRIGUING PIECES

Shaun Livingston, Dante Cunningham, D.J. White

TIER IV: EVERYBODY ELSE

The Expiring and the Overpaid

WHAT TO EXPECT

Look for the ‘Cats to continue their run under Silas. If Tyrus Thomas returns on schedule and can get in game shape fast, then the Playoff odds go up. Same goes for Gerald Henderson. If he blossoms with the increased playing time and if the ‘Cats can get something out of either Cunningham or White then maybe they sneak into the postseason.

Realistically we can only measure the success of this trade once we see what Jordan & Rod Higgins are able to do with the picks and cap flexibility over the next couple of summers. Losing Wallace hurts now but we may look back and see that it’s the best deal MJ ever made.

Until Next Time…

Enjoy the Change Bobcats Fans.

-ASChin

15 thoughts on “Gerald Wallace Is Gone, Who’s To Blame?

  1. RobC

    Wow, finally someone saw this deal with an objective mindset. This was a really good piece of writing, good job. I’m a Wallace fan and he has been my favorite Bobcat ever. On the other hand, I completly get this trade, and as you mentioned, now we need to sit and wait what will Jordan do with this salary cap and picks.

    PS: I still think the Mohammed deal makes no sense. Unless we can trade DJ White for a 2nd Round Pick and save those extra $2M next year.

  2. RobC

    By the way, did you noticed that assuming the Bobcats don’t excercise the options on Livingston and White (which they shouldn’t), by the summer of 2012 they should have enough cap to sign 2 Max deal’s and another decent contract (about $38M in space).

    If the Salary Cap is around $60M in 2012 (which makes sense), the Bobcats will have anywere between $36-$40M avaliable for that summer and that is assuming they pick the options on DJ and Henderson.

    So basically they will have: Augustin, Henderson, Jackson (expiring) and Thomas, plus the ability of signing 2 Max deals plus another contract of around $4-$6M per season. In addition, in the summer of 2013 they’ll have an additional $15-$18M avaliable when Jackson, Diop and Carroll contracts expire.

    • Dr. E

      Couple of problems with that line of thinking, RobC. First of all is the new CBA coming this summer (hopefully, ha). Who knows what the rules are going to be and how it will change what we currently call “soft cap” “luxury tax line” and “max contract”. Second, we’re going to have some draft picks eating into that potential space.

      And third, most important, is: what “max player” is going to sign with the Bobcats at a free agent? Please disavow yourself of the notion that Dwight Howard or Deron Williams would ever think twice about signing here.

      Look, it’s a long shot that the Bobcats will find the next Kobe, Durant or Dwight Howard with their draft picks in the coming years, but at least it’s a possibility. On the other hand, there is literally no chance that the Cats would ever be a destination for a superstar max free agent.

    • Leroy —

      You have to absorb the players that you acquired in the trade first. So its a technicality: to make space for Marks, Peterson, et. al. the Cats had to make room on the roster by cutting Collins, Brown, McGuire first.

      Now Marks and Peterson can and will be cut (waived). Reportedly, the Cats will re-sign Derrick Brown, though it’s not clear to me if he has to pass through waivers or something like that — probably does.

  3. RobC

    Dr.E –

    You’re right, there’s a lot of “unknown things” with the new CBA. However, one of the main topics of it, is that it should give Small-Market teams the opportunity to compete. Also, besides LA, Miami, NY and Boston, there are not too many more big markets avaliable. Those players need to sign somewhere and they will sign for Max money.

    So to your point, it all depends on how the new CBA works out and what we do with our picks. But under the right circumstances, I do believe some max players could be willing to come here if the right guys are in the mix.

  4. chris in u.c.

    Story made sense but the pain won’t go away. Unless we have CP3 or another Olympic style performer, I’ll be unhappy but I will give MJ a chance.

    • Michael Procton

      Concur wholeheartedly, Chris. Good to get value, but it’s tough to lose Crash with so little obvious tangible on-court return.

  5. Charlie

    Dante Cunningham will be a solid player, we should keep him around after this year. Bobcats have stated they are going to pick up Derrick Brown after he clears waivers.

  6. Great comments. Thanks for reading.

    Just wanted to add one more to the list of possible conspirators:

    -The Schedule.
    Even if the ‘Cats traded Wallace straight up for Lebron they’d have a hard time sneaking into the Playoffs with a schedule that includes one more West Coast trip, the dreaded Texas/OKC run and a list of home opponents that includes the entirety of the East’s elite.
    Larry Brown’s slow start may have sabotaged the season. Not saying that they can’t do it but they’ll have to play out of their minds.

    • Correct. People do not mention that our schedule down the stretch is tough. We’re gonna need to go about 13-10 the rest of the way, and while possible, that sure doesn’t seem likely given the way they’ve played thus far with more talent on the roster.

  7. Michael-

    I agree and think last night’s game against Orlando was a prime example of why MJ made the deal. Even with Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Gerald Wallace on the roster, the Bobcats were swept easily by a Magic team that only got stronger and deeper this season.

    Nobody wants to admit this but if Gerald Wallace is your best, second best or even third best player, you’re not going very far in the Playoffs. How can I prove this? Watch Portland during the postseason: they’re vastly more talented than the Bobcats roster was last year and nobody is expecting them to make the Conference Semi-Finals.

  8. Thank you for the effort put into the blog post. It is much appreciated. I will be back to check again on what everybody has to say regarding this. I guess I will have to wait and see if there are any new posts that develop from the commentary left .

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