Stephen Jackson = STAK5, What?

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Stephen Jackson's Mixtapes

Okay, so I’m calling Time Out from all of the Draft Lottery hype today.

While reading through stories on the San Antonio Spurs, I found myself deep in this (pretty non-PC) article about ex-Bobcat, Stephen Jackson. In Bobcats history, Jack will clearly be remembered for spitting out top grade sound bites. But, this article enlightened me as to the musical prowess of ol’ Cap’n Jack.

Why had I not known about his alter-ego, STAK5?

Why did I not own (via MP3s) his mixtapes – Trill Mixes & What’s a Lockout?

Need to hear it for yourself? Get your fix here:

Trill Mixes – Stack5 / DJ Scream

What’s a Lockout?

I guess it kind of goes without saying, best of luck to the Bobcats tonight!

-Mike

If Not Anthony Davis, Then Who?

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The Bobcats have been looking forward to the 2012 NBA Draft since, oh, about February 2011.  Fortunately, Operation Ping Pong Ball was a huge success and the Bobcats have the best chance at winning the #1 pick (25%) in Wednesday night’s lottery.  And even more fortunately, there is a clear #1 pick this year in Anthony Davis.

Drafting Davis would finally give the Bobcats a franchise player around which to build.  He would complement Bismack Biyombo well; neither one is a prototypical power forward or center, but their talent and athleticism would allow them to play together, freely switching defensively on the other teams’ bigs and concentrating on their strengths on the offensive end.

With Davis, the Bobcats would likely be able to lure a better coach this summer, and would improve appreciably on the court right away.  Then they would have another first rounder (or two) in 2013 and, most importantly, tons of cap room to lure a top  free agent in summer 2013.  Yes, if the Bobcats get Anthony Davis in 2012 I think they very well could be in the playoffs by the 2013-14 season.

Unfortunately, there is a 75% chance that the Bobcats will not win the lottery, and will instead be picking second, third, or fourth.  And most unfortunately, there are no surefire All-Stars after Davis.  The once-vaunted 2012 NBA Draft has turned into a bunch of question marks.

Let’s be clear: it will be an absolute tragedy if (when?) the Bobcats don’t win the lottery Wednesday night.  The players that will be available with picks 2-4 either have ceilings below “superstar” and/or have significant bust potential, making the Bobcats’ road back to relevance even longer.

But there’s no use crying over spilled milk.  And superstar or not, pick 2-4 should still significantly improve the team.  The consensus is that there is no sure #2 or #3 pick this year and that what we have instead is a second tier including Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Andre Drummond, Thomas Robinson and Bradley Beal.

When considering players in the same tier, team needs/strengths necessarily come into play.  While the Bobcats do have the least talented roster in the league, there are some relative strengths that would be foolish to ignore.  Probably the most striking is that the Bobcats have a glut of young and skilled, but either soft or undersized big men: Bismack Biyombo (undersized), Byron Mullens (soft), DJ White (soft), Tyrus Thomas (???).  So basically, power forward is not a position of need — unless that “power forward” is Anthony Davis, a hybrid power forward/center with singular talent a la Tim Duncan.

I also think that Gerald Henderson at starting 2-guard is a relative strength.  He has limitations, especially on the offensive end, and will never be an All-Star.  But he’s cost-effective (and likely to stay that way even after his rookie deal runs out), a good defender, and still has some potential to improve offensively.

With that in mind, here are some thoughts about what the Bobcats might do with picks #2-4.

#2: There is a 21.5% chance that the Bobcats will end up with the second pick.  It’s not a bad place to be, what with your choice of anyone not named Anthony Davis.  But it will come with a lot of pressure to pick the right guy, and not the bust.

I think most teams, the Bobcats included, would probably go with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at #2.  He has prototypical small-forward size (6’7″, 225), plenty of athleticism and is a strong leader.  He’ll be a solid defender, and possibly an elite one, at his position.  Offensively, he’s an amazing slasher/finisher who needs to work on his range and shotmaking.  I really like the “Gerald Wallace, but with more offensive potential” comparison.  Finally, there is low bust potential with Kidd-Gilchrist, which is an important consideration when picking at #2.

For the Bobcats, Kidd-Gilchrist is a fine fit.  At his position, the Bobcats currently have Corey Maggette and Derrick Brown.  The end of Maggette’s time as an NBA starter is rapidly approaching, if it’s not already here.  He’ll be on an expiring contract in 2012-13, so would possibly be a nice trade chip for a contender at the deadline.  Brown is a nice backup.

So Kidd-Gilchrist could step in and own the starting SF spot for the Bobcats for the next decade.  His perimeter defense, toughness and leadership are sorely needed.  And the Bobcats would just pray that the offense comes along.

#3: The Bobcats have a 17.7% chance of getting the third pick.  Things get even trickier here, as you can’t be totally sure of who’s going to be available.  But assuming Kidd-Gilchrist goes second, then Andre Drummond, Thomas Robinson, and Bradley Beal would all be in play here.

I believe the Bobcats would opt for Andre Drummond. Drummond has ideal size (6’11”, 270) and athleticism for the center position and will be able to contribute defensively right away, but will need time and hard work to develop offensively.  A big bonus is that, like Davis, Drummond would mesh pretty well with Bismack Biyombo.  Whoever ends up being the nominal power forward or center doesn’t matter — they can play together and switch freely while defending the opponents bigs.

However, Drummond’s heart, motor, and even desire to excel at basketball have come into question after an underwhelming freshman year at UConn.  Consider what DeMarcus Cousins recently did with similar size and skills in his one-and-done year — he dominated.  But Drummond wasn’t even in the same ballpark in regards to efficiency or impact, and could disappear for whole games at a time.

If teams don’t like where his head is at during workouts/interviews, he could slide down some boards.  Combine the rawness on the offensive end with a motor that doesn’t run very hot and questionable work ethic, bake at 350° for 35 minutes and whala!  Bust.

But if he works out hard and says the right things during the draft preparation process (not that hard), he could be in the mix at #2 for some teams, the Bobcats included.  Even with red flags looming, most teams will be willing to take a chance on Drummond’s combination of size and skills with a high pick.

#4: If the Bobcats slide to the fourth pick (a 35.8% chance), it could get really dicey.  There’s a decent chance that Bradley Beal could go #2 or #3; thus, Drummond would still be available at #4.  That’s maybe a better place to pick Drummond anyways.  But for my purposes here, let’s assume that Kidd-Gilchrist and Drummond go 2-3.  It comes down to Bradley Beal or Thomas Robinson.

Beal is a slightly undersized, but physically solid, 2-guard in the mold of Eric Gordon.  Thomas Robinson is a relatively refined and well-rounded power forward who was productive as the centerpiece of a very good Kansas team last year.  Both are similarly low-risk.  You see the problem though, in that each would duplicate one of the relative strengths that the Bobcats currently have.

The argument for Beal is that he probably has a higher ceiling than Robinson, and would provide some sorely needed outside shooting.

The argument for Robinson is that, while the Bobcats have some power forwards, they don’t have a prototypical, tough, well-rounded one.  But I don’t think he fits well with Biyombo, in that Robinson doesn’t have the size to defend centers.  Any big that the Bobcats consider really needs to have that ability, in order to take some of the load off Biyombo.

It would be a dilemma, but with the Bobcats in search of star power and an identity, I think the pick would be Beal. But it also wouldn’t surprise me to see Perry Jones or Harrison Barnes get a long look if the Bobcats do slip to pick #4.

– Dr. E

Is All the Losing Worth It for the Bobcats?

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So what would be worth a record-settingly uncompetitive season of losing? As a fan, it’s really tough to justify why the Bobcats would be so terrible. The chance to select the next mega-talent in the 2012 Draft is nice. Freeing up some cash to sign one or two upper-tier free agents wouldn’t be so bad, either. Maybe, someone could argue that playing time for some of the Bobcats’ youngsters will  develop them into solid players down the line. It’s all kind of hypothetical, so let’s hope the Rich Cho Rehab Plan works out.

It’s All On Cho

After seeing the Oklahoma City Thunder absolutely dismantle the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, I can only dream that we see the Bobcats shine so bright on national television in the future. The Thunder are the success story, while the Sacramento Kings or Washington Wizards might show you the other side of the coin. Hopefully, Rich Cho’s involvement with the Thunder/Sonics right before they got it going will result in the same amazing kind of turnaround for Charlotte’s suffering franchise.

Ease the Pain

When it comes to free agency, we should just take two steps and jump straight to the point. Dwight Howard’s not coming. Deron Wiilliams wouldn’t be worth the trouble even if would join the club. No superstars are targeting the Queen City, but a load of mid-level talent could find a a club like the Bobcats a good place to show their skills if they can be sold on the team’s direction. Some role player types like Matt Barnes, OJ Mayo, or Marco Bellinelli might see the Cats as a good fit for their career if the team shows that they’re putting the right pieces into place. If the front office could pull the strings, they might even land a player like Nicolas Batum or Ersan Ilyasova that could breakout and veer toward All-Star status one day. So, rather than betting it all on the NBA Draft Lottery ping-pong balls over the next few years, a few smart steps in free agency could leave the Cats with a bit more control over their destiny.

Alternately, an argument could be made that a star player would be well worth this embarrassing season. Honestly, the Bobcats could really use some luck in this game. Despite their regular appearances in the Draft Lottery, Charlotte just can’t catch the big one. It’s a shame to think that Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, and Derrick Rose have all landed in the league since the Bobcats’ first tip in 2004, and Charlotte didn’t snag one of them. Will Kentucky’s Anthony Davis prove to be worth this embarrassing season? He’s putting on a show right now in the NCAA Final Four. As Bobcats fans, we’re probably all hoping to catch a legendary performance in Monday night’s Championship game. Could Davis suit up as a Bobcat, and play like the next Chris Bosh? Would that scenario make us all forget about how bad the Bobcats were this season? And if the Bobcats don’t get the coveted first pick, does any other player help to ease the pain? Davis’ teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Connecticut’s Andre Drummond wouldn’t be bad consolation prizes. Whoever the Bobcats might pick, the team will need him to be a guaranteed starter and a potential All-Star – someone that can sell jerseys and win games. That’s not so much to ask, right?

POLL : Does a Top Draft Pick Justify This Season?

  • Definitely Does (38%, 56 Votes)
  • No Way (34%, 50 Votes)
  • Hope So (28%, 46 Votes)

Total Voters: 149

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Bobcats Prepare as NBA Lockout Ends

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It’s over.

The NBA owners and players reached an agreement today that tenatively reopens the NBA’s $4 billion-a-year business. The season will begin with a tripleheader on Christmas day. The Bobcats could begin training as early as December 9th.

On nearly every count, the deal favors the owners, who had sought an eoverhaul all along. The players made significant concessions, including a reduction of up to $300 million year in salaries, $3 billion over the life of the agreement.

Read more in the New York Times.

“Michael Jordan is a sellout!”, The Lost Season and Other Thoughts on the NBA Lockout

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Decertification, Ultimatums and BRI. Not exactly the sort of basketball news you’d expect to be reading about in October. The Great War of Billionaires vs. Millionaires has moved on to the next stage, a nasty PR nightmare with a potentially nastier outcome: A LOST SEASON.
I say bring it on.

Our own resident team owner, G.O.A.T. and Global Icon Michael Jordan, has over the past week been cast as the quintessential hardline antagonist — the Severus Snape, turning against his own at Hogwarts. He’s been subsequently made the media’s whipping boy as he dared turn his back on the players in search of greedy profits…“MWUA-HA-HA!”

Too bad because MJ is absolutely, positively right on this. This is Anti-Kwame Logic. Anti-AMMO. He should be applauded for his perseverance and foresight. He should be celebrated. But he’s not. Let us look at the reasons why…

PART I: The Lost Boys.

A quick list of those effected by a potentially LOST SEASON:

1. The Fans. NBA basketball is great. I love it. I’ve devoted a ridiculous amount of hours in my life to it. From Tripucka to Biyombo. From Salt ‘N’ Peppa on Inside Stuff to salt and pepper in my beard. I sometimes write about it. I don’t get paid a dime. In fact, I spend a chunk of my income just to catch the games. I’m like a lot of you out there. Busy with life, goals to be achieved, work to be done. Watching hoops is a great cherry on top at the end of the day during those dark winter months. But that’s it. It’s just the cherry. The whipped cream, nuts, fudge, and two scoops are still there. We will find other cherries during a lost season.
VERDICT: MINIMAL EFFECT.

2. The Owners. This a diverse group ranging from ultra-achievers like Mark Cuban to professional scumbags like Donald Sterling. Two major things in common: WEALTH and NON-BASKETBALL RELATED INCOME. The outside income also brings outside interests. These guys love basketball, sure, but they didn’t achieve this level of wealth sitting on their asses waiting for TNT Thursday Nights. Even Jimmy Dolan has to run a massive telecom business. They have plenty to keep themselves occupied with and financially comfortable during a lost season.
VERDICT: MINIMAL EFFECT.

3. The Players. So let me get this straight, Kevin Garnett marches into a safe, public environment (conference room) and stares down slash yells at people who he knows won’t fight back? Hmmm…KG would never do that on the court now, would he?
For every KG or Kobe or Paul Pierce — guys who’ve pocketed near or over nine digits during their playing careers — there are ten times as many Stephen Grahams, D.J. Whites and Kemba Walkers. Guys who haven’t struck it rich on a big contract or, in Kemba’s case, haven’t been paid a dime. Unless Garnett, Kobe and Pierce start handing out game week checks to all of the other players who pass them the ball then I doubt there’ll be a happy players coalition for much longer.
VERDICT: MAJOR EFFECT

4. The Agents. Blll Simmons brought this up a few weeks ago and nobody else picked up on it (for reasons I’ll get to soon enough). The agents get paid on percentages. A lower BRI percentage combined with a “flex cap” results in agent fees going down. Top that off with an end to sign-and-trades with limited Bird Rights and agents lose BIG in what would amount to an INVERSE Tony Montana Equation: “First you lose da money. Chu lose da money, then you lose da power.”
The halcyon days of agents strong arming teams into dealing or signing players? Long gone friends. If Stern, Jordan and company are acting to neuter the agents in order to prevent a MLB Scott Boras situation from ever occurring, then I stand and applaud. NEWSFLASH: Agents do not act in or care about the best interest of the fans (aka NBA’s customers). Starve the leeches gentlemen.
VERDICT: MAJOR EFFECT

5. The Media. This, folks, is the wagon driving the cart. The guys who cover the NBA for a living, many of whom I admire, are ABSOLUTELY dependent on the NBA playing a season. These guys make less than Stephen Graham. They have mortgages. They have families. Their future prospects are wholly dependent on how popular the NBA is. They don’t want the season to be cancelled and in some cases, can’t afford for it to be. Their employers could potentially furlough them without pay. The overextended could find themselves in financial ruin.
While this is very sad and I do feel for these individuals, I can’t help but wonder if their own circumstances have colored their reporting. We should keep this in mind as we read the news coverage.
VERDICT: MASSIVE EFFECT

PART II: Why Michael Jordan is Right.

Cancel out all the noise and you can find the lockout’s seminal question: “Is the NBA a business or is it not?” The owners put up the non-guaranteed capital at a risk and in turn receive a profit or are burdened by loss. The players guaranteed salaries are wholly dependent on the Association’s infrastructure to package and deliver the basketball product. Without a majority of the world’s best players, the NBA could no longer charge for a world-class product. They must strike a healthy balance between operational cost and product quality. Simple.

The fundamental difference between the two sides is that the players don’t see the Association as being a business but as a “Mega-Agency”. They conveniently forget that agents take money off the top and are paid regardless whereas the Association must generate all income with little to no guarantee of profit. They run a business, the players are professional salarymen. The risk/reward ratios are currently unbalanced. MJ and the other hardline owners want to stand pat until the balance is within reason. Of course not all owners are created equal. Some of the mega-rich see their teams as luxury yachts to be flaunted. Still, in the end, we are dealing with businessmen and while they may be accused of being greedy, they aren’t stupid and will thus tweak the Association’s business model until it becomes financially sustainable and financially attractive for all.

Ultimately, the owners will win this War and the NBA will be much different because of it:

  • Agent powers will be diminished. Maverick Carter and “Worldwide” Wes will go back to being “Those dudes who are always trying to hang out with Lebron.
  • Some players will go overseas to earn more, most will stay here and play harder — incentivized by shorter contracts.
  • Competitive balance will be restored; parity will find more teams hoisting Larry O’Briens.
  • This in turn will create more league-wide popularity, boosting revenue as teams in all markets attract more fans to the arenas for intense, competitive basketball. TV revenues will follow suit.
  • High profit franchises will entice new ownership groups seeking to profit through professional basketball — thus innovating upon the product, improving the experience for fans.

Sit tight Bobcats fans and don’t believe the hype, a Lost Season may hurt short term but long term could elevate a marginal domestic business into an international phenomenon that will yield terrific results for everyone involved.

-ASChin

Bismack Biyombo Out For Season?

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Bismack Biyombo Not Cleared By FIBA To Play For Bobcats At End Of NBA Lockout

Bismack Biyombo will reportedly not be eligible to play for the Charlotte Bobcats until he settles a contract dispute with Spanish club Fuenlabrada. The Spanish contract for the Bobcats’ first-round pick deemed enforceable by governing body.

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.