Gerald Henderson – The Free Agent

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Gerald Henderson Illustration by Mike S

With the NBA draft just around the corner, this becomes the most important part of the year for the Bobcats. They have yet another top-five selection—the fifth in their ten-year history—and some key free agent decisions. Most notably former lottery pick Gerald Henderson.

It’s impossible to deny that Henderson has been one of the most successful Bobcats draft picks to date. Which is to say, he’s not a total, unparalleled failure.

Henderson came into the league as an elite athlete known for his defensive acumen. That much hasn’t changed in his four years in the Association, but since he’s been given solid playing time (a.k.a. when Larry Brown left), he’s scored at a very respectable clip, too. He hasn’t put up quite the scoring numbers Kemba Walker has (13.6 PPG vs. 15.2 PPG), but he closes that margin on a per-36 minute basis (16.0 vs. 17.4). Hendo’s been particularly good in catch-and-shoot plays coming off screens—he was sixth in mid-range shooting among shooting guards last year at 43.4%.

But even though he’ll never be a 20 PPG scorer, and his numbers are surely inflated since Kemba Walker is the only other semi-reliable scorer on the team, he’s shown steady improvement each year in the league. From his freshman to his junior year at Duke, he improved his shooting line from .451/.320/.627 to .450/.336/.761, and he showed an even bigger improvement in his first four years in the pros (.356/.211/.745 to .447/.330/.824).

For how little love Henderson gets, he puts up top-15 numbers among shooting guards across the board, making him an above-average starter. 10th in PER (16.48). 11th in scoring (15.5 PPG). 7th in field goal percentage (.447). 14th in free throw percentage (.824). 10th in offensive rebounding (0.8 ORPG). 12th in blocks (0.50 BPG). He doesn’t have a marquee name, and he isn’t (yet) an elite long-range shooter, but you sure could do worse at the 2-guard.

Now, Henderson is a restricted free agent, and the upcoming NBA draft features two young shooting guards who may be available for Charlotte: Victor Oladipo and Ben McLemore. One who is very similar to Henderson and one who is completely different.

Oladipo Comparison

First let’s take a look at Oladipo, who has a shockingly similar profile to Henderson.

Both are undersized but long juniors from major programs (6’5” 215 with a 6’10.5” wingspan and 8’6.5” standing reach for Henderson and 6’4” 213 with a 6’9” wingspan and 8’4.5” standing reach for Oladipo). Even Chad Ford’s pre-draft notes on them are eerily similar:


Henderson


  • Versatile 2-guard, does almost everything well
  • Plays the game very smoothly
  • He’s a great athlete, has NBA strength
  • Has a very consistent midrange jump shot
  • Is quick enough to take his man off the dribble
  • Strong enough to post up guys
  • Excellent rebounder for a guard
  • Good basketball IQ
  • Excellent perimeter defender
  • Needs to increase his range
  • Still not a consistent 3-point threat
  • A bit undersized for his position
  • Very inconsistent in his 2 years at Duke

Oladipo


  • Crazy athletic swingman
  • Explosive leaper
  • Tough, physical player
  • Excellent rebounder
  • Tenacious defender
  • Best motor in college basketball
  • Improving jump shot
  • A bit undersized for his position
  • Can be turnover prone

 

 

That’s two different ways of describing the same player. Why draft someone who resembles Gerald Henderson when you could have the actual Gerald Henderson and another player?

There are obviously some differences between them that favor Oladipo (42” vs. 35” vertical and .441 vs. .336 junior year 3-point percentage, although their .338 and .329 3-point percentage throughout college makes it closer). But drafting the Hoosier just seems redundant when there are other players on the board.

The good news (?), though, is that Oladipo probably won’t be on the board when the Bobcats select fourth; Orlando reportedly has an eye on him with the second pick.

McLemore Comparison

Ben McLemore, on the other hand, is a completely different animal. His game is based on shooting instead of defensive intensity, something the Bobcats have been searching for ever since they traded Jason Richardson.

McLemore’s redshirt freshman year was a mixed bag, since he shot 42% from beyond the arc and nearly joined the 50-40-90 club (.495/.420/.870) but also faded in the NCAA tournament and deferred to Elijah Johnson all year. He even had 11 20-point games, although he also had 12 games with 11 or less, including a 2-point performance in the Round of 32 against North Carolina.

McLemore has the raw tools to be an All-Star and a solid defender, but he hasn’t shown the killer instinct of a superstar. Say what you want about intangibles, but McLemore does have one skill the Bobcats desperately need: shooting.

In a vacuum, I like McLemore. But the cost of drafting McLemore isn’t just “missing out” on Anthony Bennett or Alex Len, it’s losing Gerald Henderson, too. Charlotte wouldn’t bring back Henderson after drafting McLemore because there simply aren’t enough minutes for the development of Walker, Ramon Sessions, McLemore, Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Jeff Taylor. McLemore will probably be a good player, but will he be better than whomever else the Bobcats would draft and Henderson? I’m guessing that’s a no.

Gerald Henderson will never be Kobe Bryant, but the Bobcats, according to the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell, understand his value. Three-and-D wings are becoming very important—look at Danny Green in these Finals—and Charlotte understands GH’s value more than any other team.

Interestingly enough, Kemba’s scoring (18.3 vs. 17.8), shooting (43% vs. 41%), three-point shooting (37% vs. 32%), assists (6.0 vs. 5.7), and rebounding (3.7 vs. 3.4) all tick up when Henderson is on the floor.

Gerald’s Price

Henderson won’t cost as much as DeMar DeRozan’s leviathan 4-year $40 million deal—the Raptor was drafted three picks before Henderson in ‘09—he’ll be more in the $5-6 million range, a bit above his $4.3 million qualifying offer. The Bobcats have the right to match any offer another team gives, but it’s hard to imagine him getting an offer much higher than the mid-level exception. The market will likely dictate a four-year pact for about $22 million, although he’s probably worth even more than that.

If the choice comes down to a rookie shooting guard (McLemore) or Henderson and a rookie big man (Bennett, Len, or even Noel), I’m taking the latter every time.

And if that doesn’t convince you, Henderson has my favorite nickname in the NBA: The OG (The Other Gerald). That has to count for something, right?

- Ben

Anthony Bennett: The Next LJ or Sean May?

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Baseliners A.S. Chin and Ben Weinrib on the Pros and Cons of UNLV forward and potential Bobcat/Hornet Anthony Bennett:

ASCHIN: Alright Ben, we’re less than a month away from the least predictable NBA Draft in recent memory. Charlotte has the 4th pick but could easily wind up with the best player in this mercurial 2013 class. Anyone who follows us on Twitter knows that you are high on UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, while I’m dubious of the undersized Power Forward’s potential. So let’s start there: In an age of monstrous frontcourts in Memphis, Indiana, San Antonio and (coming soon) Detroit, can a frontline duo of Bennett (6’7″) and Bismack Biyombo (6’9″) succeed?

BEN: To quote our good friend and Bobcats savior Larry Brown: “you rebound with your arms, not your neck.” His true height is unclear since he didn’t go to the combine–ESPN has him at 6’8″ but DraftExpress lists him 6’7″–but  we do know he has a 7’1″ wingspan. Size-wise, that’s the same as Paul Millsap and bigger than Kenneth Faried who averaged a combined 13 and 8 with a 19.19 PER without Bennett’s offensive skillset. In a vacuum, Bennett’s size shouldn’t be a problem, but you make a great point that he and Biyombo would be tiny frontcourt. Some of that is offset by their combined 14’8″ wingspan and Bennett’s Z-Bo-esque beefy frame. Maybe Biyombo isn’t the long-term answer at center, or the Horncats could run a three-man big man rotation with Bennett, Biyombo, and a seven-footer to be named later.

ASCHIN: Well, if Larry Brown says it, it must be true. I can’t argue with Bennett’s frame or his wingspan, the kid is beefy and those long arms allow him to pull off some impressive put-backs and shots off the catch in the paint. I will argue however with the comparisons to Millsap and Faried. Both of those guys have had to bust their humps just to make it in the league, coming in as later round picks. They’ve built their careers on making those extra hustle plays, basically over-achieving. Meanwhile, Bennett arrives as 19 year old Top 5 Lottery Lock with big questions about his work ethic and a lack of effort on the (unglamorous) defensive side of the ball. Is this just immaturity? Does Charlotte have the right pieces in place to transform Bennett into a worker?

BEN: I find it very interesting that he’s such a beast on the offensive boards, yet isn’t as consistent with defensive effort like always boxing out. It’s clear that he can put in good effort down low, and I hope new coach and defensive guru Steve Clifford can brainwash Bennett into fixing that. But Bennett has always reminded me of former Running Rebel and Hornet Larry Johnson. I normally don’t like player comps (He’s the next Jordan!!!) since they often have more to do with looks (see the Tony Snell-Kawhi Leonard comps) or schools (Nerlens Noel-Anthony Davis comps) than actual skills, but this one is spot on. They are both undersized 4s with big upper body strength, surprising speed, and a versatile offensive game. They even put up nearly identical numbers. Bennett has one of the highest upsides in the draft, and wouldn’t you rather gamble on a big who we already know can score?

ASCHIN: Ben, I have to admit it, you’re doing a fine job of ALMOST selling me on Bennett. And I’m glad you brought up the Larry Johnson comp. See, I’m the old man in this conversation, having watched nearly every Grandmama game during his first few seasons. Even as a snot-nosed thirteen year old watching Hornets games on my crappy Zenith CRT TV, I could tell LJ possessed something special. Indulge me for a moment:
BOSTON. November 1st, 1991. Following a contract dispute that lasted the entire preseason, Johnson started his first regular season game opposite Larry Bird. At some point during the first half, LJ backed Bird down into the post and in one move spun around Legend, EXPLODING to the basket for a reverse layup outside the reach of Robert Parish. I’ll never forget that play as long as I live. Pure Power.
The ONLY big man that I’ve seen work in the post like that since is Blake Griffin and even he’s a pale imitation. My point is that Grandmama had an insane back to the basket game and was absolutely, positively EXPLOSIVE once he made his move. He almost won the dunk contest for crying out loud! That’s what allowed him to overcome his height differential at the four spot and is the one thing I’m not seeing in Bennett. In fact, with the young Canadian’s penchant for long jumpers and face-up drives, Bennett reminds me a lot more of “post-back-surgery LJ” than the 1992 Rookie of the Year. Speaking of injuries…
You know that Bennett has dealt with shoulder problems this year and has had some injury concerns in high school. Combine that with the work ethic and potential “beefy” weight issues and we might be comparing this guy to Sean May in four years. (PLEASE TELL ME I’M WRONG!)

BEN: Just the name Sean May makes me shudder! But the big difference between those two is that May’s biggest weakness may be one of Bennett’s biggest strengths. Even coming out of college, the big knock on May was that he was not a very good athlete, and didn’t have very good hops. Bennett has a more muscular frame and is an explosive leaper with much better quickness. He did have some back stiffness in high school, but he never missed a single game when the problems showed up again at UNLV, as he still put up massive numbers. Scouts seem to have no concerns about the surgery on his non-shooting shoulder, and I don’t see why it would be any more concerning than Nerlens Noel or Alex Len’s surgery. Their stocks seem to be doing fine. The three reasons I’m guessing most people aren’t sold on Bennett are because he’s not a fantastic fit next to Biyombo (draft for talent, not for need, especially when this team needs talent so badly), he’s only 6’8″ (already addressed that), and injury concerns (smarter people than us aren’t worried that it’ll affect his projection or that he’ll miss game time). He, unlike Noel, has an NBA-ready body–both size-wise and health-wise–so what’s not to like?

ASCHIN: Have to hand it to you Ben. I was ice cold on Bennett before and you’ve talked me up to lukewarm. Now I’ll only be partially mortified when they take him at four. Expect several desperate emails from me on Draft night.

BEN: As a guy who was also high on Jordan Hill and low on Nik Vucevic, you know I’ll be excited to see how this one turns out. Washington is apparently interested in him at #3, so Bennett may not even be available, and we’ll get to have a fun McLemore/Oladipo/Henderson debate.

They Drafted Who? – The Baseline Guide to Jeffery Taylor

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I watched the NBA draft last Thursday at my friend Reed’s house, and to my shock and surprise, Vanderbilt’s Jeff Taylor fell to the Bobcats in the second round. Baylor’s Quincy Miller may have had a higher upside at the 31st pick, but to have player ranked 15th overall by DraftExpress from my school snatched up by the Bobcats couldn’t have made me happier.

So when Reed’s dad came in to check on how the Bobcats blew yet another draft pick, I proudly told him: “we got Jeff Taylor, a small forward from Vandy!” He wasn’t nearly so excited, responding, “Oh yeah, well when’s the last time a Vanderbilt player was a messiah?”

It’s a good thing I didn’t tell him Taylor is from Sweden, too.

But don’t be scared off Jeff Taylor because the most famous Vandy basketball alumni are John Amaechi and Will Perdue. And don’t be scared off because only two Swedish-born players have made it to the NBA for a grand total of three seasons. But most of all, don’t be scared off Jeff Taylor because he’s a 23-year old senior.

The second of two SEC small forwards taken by the Bobcats, Jeff Taylor doesn’t have the upside of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but he still should be a valuable role player—or even more. How can he help the Bobcats? In his own words, Taylor is “a guy that plays extremely hard on defense, can attack the basket and finish, and is also able to hit jump shots.” Really, Taylor fits right in with what Coach Mike Dunlap is looking for: energy, defense, athleticism, and shooting.

Despite being just 6’7” with a 6’6” wingspan, Jeff Taylor is one of the more incredible athletes of the draft. Only Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquis Teague, and Miles Plumlee bettered his 40-inch vertical jump, and only three players had less body fat than him (4.2%). Not just that, but Taylor tested in the 87th percentile of all players at the draft combine for bench press and agility drills.

Taylor’s main calling card is defense, where he really shined in the SEC. In his three games against Kentucky, he held Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to a 5.7 PPG and guarded every position except center. What’s more impressive, he earned three straight SEC All-Defensive Team honors thanks to opposing players making just 26.7% of jump shots against Taylor.

He’s not all defense, though; Taylor is a versatile scorer, too. He scores most of his points driving to the rim or in transition, but Taylor is also a very efficient jump shooter—something he’s improved upon each year at college. His 49.3% shooting, including 42.3% from beyond the arch, will be welcomed with open arms in Charlotte, where he can surely find his niche.

So what did the Bobcats find in their second round pick? They’ve got an elite athlete who can be a lock down defender and knock down long-range shots. He doesn’t have the potential to be a superstar like, say, LeBron James, but he can be an extremely valuable role player like Heat teammate Shane Battier.

Sure, Jeff Taylor is the “other” rookie small forward this season, and there’s no precedent for a Swedish Commodore in the NBA. But he should make an immediate impact on both sides of the ball and has the skills to be a building block going forward alongside MKG, Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, Bismack Biyombo, and four potential lottery picks over the next two years.

-Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib)

(Bobcats are one of the 12 worst teams in 2013; Bobcats are one of the 10 worst teams in 2014; Portland misses the playoffs in 2013 or 2014, but isn’t one of the 12 worst teams; Detroit misses the playoffs in 2014, but isn’t one of the 8 worst teams.)

So You’re Going to Draft Andre Drummond

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Baseline 2012 Draft + Roster Breakdown – Part III

We’ve projected how next season’s Bobcats roster could look if they draft Thomas Robinson or Bradley Beal. Next, we’ll take a peek at how things could shape up should Higgins, Cho and company choose a riskier path.

Grab a Lottery Ticket

This time last year the 2012 NBA Draft was deemed the best draft class since 2003—a crazy deep draft featuring LeBron, Melo, D-Wade, and Chris Bosh. We’re less than a week out from selection day and that doesn’t appear to be the case. Anthony Davis may end up having a similar impact to those four players but after him there isn’t another surefire superstar. Instead, the Cats will have their choice of five equally-warted but promising players.

Thomas Robinson doesn’t have the highest ceiling. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has a broken jump shot. Bradley Beal is undersized. Harrison Barnes had a disappointing sophomore year. Andre Drummond has motor issues. With all due respect to Beal (and I’m a huge fan of him), only one of those five has the potential to become a true superstar—one of the three best players at his position. In a season in which the Bobcats can’t get any worse, why not take a chance on Andre Drummond?

Drummond is one of the tougher players to grade in the draft because he has so much talent but didn’t leave a spectacular impression after one year at UConn—not to mention how volatile young big men can be in the draft. He could be the next Andrew Bynum or even Dwight Howard, but a more realistic projection might be former Bobcat Tyson Chandler. Then again, he could fizzle out like the man who went directly before Chandler in the 2001 NBA Draft: Jordan’s nemesis Kwame Brown. The Bobcats had two main problems last year: they couldn’t stop teams from scoring at the basket at will, and they didn’t have a star. Drummond can fix both problems.

RESULT: Charlotte Selects Andre Drummond, C Connecticut

Biding Time

Points: D.J. Augustin is a restricted free agent and I can’t see him returning to Charlotte. When he wasn’t hurt last year, Augustin looked disengaged and the team clearly sees Kemba Walker as the future. Charlotte won’t be able to trade him in time to pick up an extra draft pick this year, so I expect them to deal him later in the offseason to a contending team for a mid-to-late first-round pick (think Dallas, Memphis, or the Lakers). In D.J.’s absence, Cho will then need to add another point guard or two, so I expect him to pick up a big, veteran guard (perhaps Royal Ivey or Keyon Dooling) and a Shannon Brown-esque reclamation project (maybe Jonny Flynn).

Wings: Charlotte still needs offense from somewhere, and the perimeter would be a good start. I have a feeling some quality wing players will be on the board for the #31 draft pick. Maybe that’s John Jenkins, Will Barton, Quincy Miller, or Jeff Taylor (who Chad Ford’s latest mock draft has slated to go 31st). Additionally, the Bobcats still need more three-point shooters, so Cho could take flyer on another young guard: James Anderson. He never got much playing time in San Antonio but the 23-year old lit up the Big 12, averaging 17.9 ppg on 37.5% shooting from beyond the arch over his three-year stretch at Oklahoma State. Brandon Roy would be a fantastic addition (and would help cast away demons from the ‘06 draft), but he’d likely prefer to go to a contending team like Miami or Boston.

Bigs: Bismack Biyombo, Andre Drummond, and their combined 14’11” wingspan will immediately alleviate Charlotte’s interior defense problem. There won’t be much offense immediately, but they should grow to emulate OKC’s defensive frontcourt of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. Byron Mullens and D.J. White can bring short spurts of instant offense, and anything Tyrus Thomas brings will be gravy. It’s not a fantastic group, but there’s a lot of potential down low, and they won’t give up nearly as many easy buckets as last year.

RESULT: Charlotte signs James Anderson and Jonny Flynn to 2-year $5 million deals and Royal Ivey to a 1-year $1.25 million deal, drafts Jeff Taylor, sign-and-trades D.J. Augustin for a future 1st round pick, and extends a qualifying offer to D.J. White.

Bottom Out

  • PG: Walker/Flynn/Ivey
  • SG: Henderson/Anderson/Williams/Carroll
  • SF: Maggette/Taylor
  • PF: Biyombo/Thomas/White
  • C: Drummond/Mullens/Diop

If Rich Cho is trying to follow the Oklahoma City rebuilding plan—which, by the way, I fully support—the Bobcats need to stay bad for now. OKC picked up their stars because they were bad enough to get the 2nd pick to get Kevin Durant. Then Durant played off-position at shooting guard and the team was bad enough to get Russell Westbrook. Then Westbrook had his rookie struggles and the team was bad enough to land James Harden. (Editor’s Note: I’m sensing a pattern here)

The bottom line that winning 15 games and winning 25 games isn’t much different—neither team makes the playoffs. But the 15-win team gets a better draft pick. This Bobcats team is better than the dreadful 2011/12 Bobcats team, but then again, you could multiply last years win total by two and a half and still have the worst record in the league.

Charlotte probably won’t find their Kevin Durant in this draft. That ship sailed when Adam Silver announced those fatal words: “The second pick will be made by… the Charlotte Bobcats.” But their Kevin Durant may come around in the next draft in the form of Shabazz Muhammad—or even two years in the future in the form of Jabari Parker.

The worst thing the Bobcats could do is eat up their precious salary cap space with a terrible contract while they’re not competitive. Michael Jordan needs to bide his time until his Kevin Durant comes along. And until then, I think they should roll the dice on a potential superstar (Drummond) and some potential role players (Taylor, Flynn, and Anderson).

Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib)

Trading Boris Diaw

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After sixteen games and thirteen losses for the Bobcats, we’ve learned three things:

  1. Charlotte is headed for a Top-5 draft pick
  2. Byron Mullens has way exceeded his expectations as the token awkward white guy off the bench
  3. Boris Diaw has officially worn out his welcome.

With the loss of Kwame Brown, Diaw began the season as the starting center. To his credit, he played like a man possessed in the first three games, posting a 11.7-11-7.7 line. He even showed up big in the two games at Madison Square Garden with a total of 46 points, 13 boards, and 13 assists on 74% shooting. But the rest of the games have been downright ugly. 4.8 points. 5.1 rebounds. 2.3 assists. 30% shooting, including 13% from beyond the arc, and just six free throws in eleven games. It doesn’t even look like he’s trying very hard.

But this is Boris “The Enigma” Diaw we’re talking about; the big man who doesn’t dunk has never been predictable. Then again, he’s predictable in one way: he’s got a bit of Baron Davis in him. If he’s in a losing environment, he’s huddle into his shell. But if he’s playing in an important game—say against a former team like Atlanta or former coach like Mike D’Antoni—he plays above and beyond his normal abilities.

Normally, an enigmatic big man would be no problem for a bad team. Even at $9 million it wouldn’t normally be a big deal. But he’s eating up valuable minutes that Mullens, Bismack Biyombo, D.J. White, and Tyrus Thomas could really use. Now, none of those four are spectacular, but all four need playing time to grow and mature. Diaw is in the final year of his contract, but it’s more than apparent now that he needs to be moved before the season ends.

There is, however, one major issue when it comes to trading Boris Diaw: the $9 million pricetag on his head.

Most contenders don’t have that much cap room just lying around, so they have to ship off another big contract to take on Diaw. Not only that, but among players making around $9 million per year, most are either a) worth about $9 million, and wouldn’t be in a trade for Boris Diaw or b) have multiple years left on their contract, which the Bobcats don’t want to take on.

With that in mind, there are a handful of teams interested in Diaw. They are going to be a contender with a need for a big body off the bench. The Knicks, Celtics and Lakers would all fit that mold, but none of them have any cap room—unless they’re willing to move Tyson Chandler and Kevin Garnett, or get someone inebriated enough to take on Metta World Peace. In other words, it’s not going to happen.

There are two realistic types of trades that will set Boris Diaw free from the temptations of Carolina Barbeque: a straight salary dump for a draft pick or swapping contracts in return for a young player. Let’s take a look at each possibility.

I’d like to think that around the trade deadline, some contender will get desperate. Maybe one of their bigs goes down, so they offer the Bobcats a late-first round pick for Diaw’s expiring contract. But that’s not happening. Again, the Lakers would have been a great fit once Andrew Bynum inevitably goes down with a knee injury, but they’re nearly $30 million over the cap. Realistically, no one will offer a late first for Diaw, and nobody picking at the top-half of the second round will want an aging, expensive forward. So the Bobcats will be looking at a late-second round pick. Joy.

In my opinion, swapping contracts is a much more realistic, even productive, way to try and trade Diaw. Think the Nazr Mohammed trade that landed Morris Peterson and D.J. White. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many matches. Memphis was a good match—O.J. Mayo would’ve been a sweet return—until they acquired Marreese Speights. Denver would also be a good fit, too, but the only contract the Bobcats would conceivably take back would be Andre Miller, who the Nuggets wouldn’t want to move for Diaw if they had to give up someone like Jordan Hamilton.

In the end, I only found one team that was a good trade partner Boris Diaw: the Los Angeles Clippers. After Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, their best big man is Brian Cook. Yes, that very same Brian Cook whose career highlight is being traded for Trevor Ariza. Los Angeles has the cap space to take him on, provided they can find a new home for Mo Williams.

With Kemba here for the long-haul and D.J. (at least momentarily) still here, it doesn’t make sense to trade for free agent-to-be Mo Williams. But if they could find a third team, this trade could work out. And that team is the New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets still need a point guard after (twice) trading Chris Paul, so Mo Williams would be a perfect fit. Here is my proposed trade:

Charlotte gets: Xavier Henry (NOH) and Randy Foye (LAC)
Los Angeles gets: Boris Diaw (CLT) and Trevor Ariza (NOH)
New Orleans gets: Mo Williams (LAC)

From Charlotte’s prospective, they’re going to lose Diaw at the end of the year, so anything they can get in return for him is a plus. Xavier Henry may not have lived up to his rookie expectations, but he didn’t get any burn last year—not so far off from Gerald Henderson’s rookie campaign. Randy Foye is not a major piece in the deal, he’s just a salary equalizer, he’ll depart through free agency next summer.

This works out for the Clippers on two fronts: they get a very nice backup big man and an answer at shooting guard. Chauncey Billups won’t make it through the whole season at the 2, and he certainly won’t be able to guard the likes of Kobe Bryant and Manu Ginobili in the playoffs. Ariza is a prime perimeter defender. Plus, this allows Eric Bledsoe to finally get some extra PT.

New Orleans finally finds a replacement for Chris Paul, plus salary relief from the nearly $22 million left on Trevor Ariza’s contract. Henry wasn’t playing, since he was buried behind Marco Belinelli and Eric Gordon on the depth chart, so that’s not a huge loss. What this comes down to is saving a bit of cash while figuring out the point guard situation.

However the Bobcats deal with this Diaw Dilemna, it’s unlikely to end out great. The best they can hope for is to pick up a young player or draft pick—someone around the level of Henry may be the best they can do. That is, unless they are intent on trading D.J. Augustin before he hits restricted free agency, opening all kinds of possibilities.

I’ll be pretty surprised if Boris Diaw ends the season a Bobcat. He can certainly help some contender as a 6th or 7th man; the only question is whether or not GM Rich Cho can find a big enough bite for a chubby, lackadaisical, finesse forward.

-Ben Weinrib
you can follow Ben on Twitter @benweinrib

Kemba Walker – Expect Big Things

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At just 16 years old, Kemba Walker out-dueled Derrick Rose in front of 20,000 fans at a jam-packed Madison Square Garden.

Three years ago, he led his AAU team, the New York Gauchos, to finish tops in the nation.

The very next season, Kemba was the third guard on a #1 seeded UConn team that he helped lead to the Final Four.

And just a few months back, Kemba returned to MSG to win five games in five days to win the Big East Tournament before putting a team with seven freshmen on his back to win the NCAA Tournament.

To say the least, Kemba Walker loves the spotlight. But now, the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player steps onto the biggest stage of his life. No, not Apollo Theater. Not Madison Square Garden. The National Basketball Association.

Sitting in a mostly empty Time Warner Cable Arena, it doesn’t take long for the average viewer to figure out that the Bobcats don’t have the greatest fan base. The crowd rarely makes much of any noise unless egged on by the cheesy “Let’s Make Some Noise!!!”  Meter on the jumbo-tron. Even a fast-break dunk will only slightly elicit more claps then the Lady Cats and Rufus throwing $5 T-Shirts into the crowd.

But the loudest I’ve ever heard the Cable Box wasn’t all that long ago. In fact, it was just about one month ago on Draft Night when the Bobcats made the ninth selection. When the words “Kemba Walker” left the lips of Commissioner David Stern, the entire arena exploded with jubilation. Moms hugging kids. Grown men jumping up and down. Possibly the best atmosphere I’ve ever been around since Charlotte’s all-too-short playoff stint last summer.

All of these festivities for an undersized point guard who stands at 6’1” on a good day. But ultimately, his stature isn’t really what makes his game; he’s a tough-as-nails warrior, and a true leader of men. And on a roster full of unproven young talent, has-beens, and never wills (I’m looking at you, Eduardo Najera) I think that it’s fair to expect Kemba Walker to be a bright spot in an overall gloomy season.

For sure, Kemba Walker is not your prototypical point guard. Now, that’s not a bad thing. Most point guards don’t have the tenacity, quickness, or pure scoring ability that Walker possesses, even if they are a few inches taller.

Offensively, his height should not prove to be a problem. Thanks to a nearly 40’ vertical jump, a high release, and high arcing shot, Kemba is harder to block than most players his size. Plus, with an array of isolation moves most notably including a jab to create space then a step-back jumper, he’s remarkably good at creating his own shot.

But unlike many other small guards, spot up shooting isn’t Kemba’s most dangerous weapon. What makes him so lethal is his quickness.  This makes Kemba tough to plan against in two ways: the kick and drive game and fast breaks.

Throughout his collegiate career Kemba has been very tough to guard. If you leave him in single coverage, he’ll drive to the bucket where he can unleash his litany of post moves (tear drop, up-and-under layup, floater high off the glass…) and draw a foul. If you put him in double coverage, he has the court vision to penetrate and still find the open man.

Defensively, however, there is cause for concern. In this day and age of big, athletic point guards—Deron Williams, John Wall, and Derrick Rose to name a few—Walker will have problems stopping them, particularly when he is posted up. This size disadvantage may force Charlotte into running a zone, especially when Coach Silas opts to play Kemba and D.J. Augustin together.

Just like how he plays to his strengths on offense, Kemba maximizes his speed on defense, as well. He is a bit of an opportunist defensively—he’s aggressive trying to intercept passes—which can leave his teammates in a tough 4-on-5 position when he whiffs, but also jumpstarts fast breaks when his gambles pay off.

And when he does trigger a fast break, boy does he make you pay. Between his speed, court vision, and ability to absorb contact, Kemba really is a nightmare to guard. He’s creative in the paint, fearless getting to the bucket, and isn’t afraid to defer.

Yes, Kemba has freakish speed. Yes, he has an uncanny ability to just get the ball in the bucket. But what really impresses me about this young man is his intangibles.

Every year at college, Kemba got better. Coming off the bench in his freshman year, he shot 47% from the field in his limited time, putting up 8.9 points, 2.9 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game. Each of the following seasons, he saw his points, assists, and rebounds grow in number while he got more aggressive, seeing his free throw attempts and percentage rocket up. Before long, we were looking at an All-American who put up a 23.5-4.5-5.4 line.

Not only does he improve every year, but Kemba also showed that he is adept to play in any role. Need him to carry the scoring load while leading the team? Check. Need him to come off the bench behind steady starters? Done it before. Thanks to his non-stop motor and tenacity on both ends of the floor, Kemba can be plugged into any role and be able to run the offense from the minute he steps on the court.

But the spot that he really takes to the next level would have to be during crunch time. When the light shines brightest on the biggest of stages, Kemba is there. He’s cool under pressure, confident, and capable. While some superstars will defer in the waning seconds—cough cough LeBron—Walker had led his UConn team to countless victories on last-second heroics.

As good as that sounds, Kemba’s confidence can sometimes escalate to a fault. He can take over games completely for minutes at a time, which can lead to forced shots, ignoring teammates, and overly-aggressive defense.

But those are just small blemishes on what I believe can be a very promising career. And at the end of the day, Kemba Walker does have one of the most valuable assets an NBA player can have: the Heart of a Champion. I know it sounds clichéd, but a winning mentality can never be over-valued, especially on a team so replete of “winners” as Charlotte (see: Maggette, Corey). Remember, you never doubt the Heart of a Champion.

For his rookie season, it’s reasonable to expect big things from Kemba Walker. Whether he’ll be coming off the bench from the start of the season or if Augustin will be shipped out of town before the first game, we don’t yet know. But as long as Maggette and the enigma that is Boris Diaw remain two of the biggest scoring threats, Kemba will assuredly receive major minutes.

If and when the season resumes, my best guess is that Kemba starts the year as the third guard in the rotation. But as the year creeps on, I expect him to usurp more and more of D.J.’s minutes until by the end of the season he is the starting point guard. I have a feeling Augustin will be a popular trade target among teams like Utah, New York, and Houston in search of a young point guard. I don’t think that it’s time to give up on D.J. per se, but even though he’s 23-years old, it doesn’t appear that he’ll ever be a top-15 or even top-20 NBA point guard.

Similar to the rookie seasons of Brandon Jennings and D.J. Augustin, I think Kemba Walker is looking at about 14 points and 5 assists per game for his rookie campaign. Not only will he bring much needed scoring to an anemic offensive team, but he will bring toughness and a winning mentality that this team has been searching for since its inception.

Editor’s Note:
This article is the first by the newest Bobcats Baseline contributor,  Ben W.