Rosterpalooza ’13 | Version 1.0

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No Lottery Luck for the Bobcats

Here’s what the Rich Cho era’s taught us thus far:

1. Full on tanking only works if you absolutely NAIL the Lottery.
The easy part is when Kevin Durant falls into your lap. The challenge is in the mid-Lottery and late rounds, where you find and groom a Russell Westbrook or Serge Ibaka. Charlotte hasn’t done that.

2. Full on tanking without NAILING the Lottery = Toxic Reputation = Lost Opportunities.
Think Brian Shaw would’ve been a better coach than Mike Dunlap? Think James Harden is a slightly better player than MKG? These two missed opportunities are the direct result of the team’s lowly reputation. Desirable free agents, scouts and executives aren’t going to risk their careers in a situation doomed for failure.

Dispelling the Myth

“But we have to be bad to get good!!!” Eh, not exactly. Bottoming out for a year can sometimes work in a Duncan or Lebron Once-In-A-Generation Lottery but good organizations can find and develop guys like Roy Hibbert, Nicholas Batum, Paul Milsap and Ty Lawson late in the first round. “But we want to build a championship team, not a mediocre one!” Newsflash: Only eight franchises have hoisted a Larry O’Brien since 1984, averaging out to a “new” champion every 3.75 years. At this rate, the Queen City can plan on throwing a parade sometime after June 2095. In the meantime, the Bobcats/future Hornets should strive for the more modest goal of being consistently competitive. With name-brand free agents and coaches refusing to lower themselves to the Bobcats current level, maybe we should be saying “You have to be relevant to have a chance at being good” instead.

Two Assumptions

Before I begin the shameless public rosterbating, let’s set the ground rules.

1. The 2013 NBA Draft is superstar-free. Like all drafts, there’s probably a couple of All-Stars tucked away but the mass consensus is that there is no instant franchise changer this year.

2. Big name free agents won’t sign with the Bobcats unless they SEVERELY OVERPAY them. The team will have up to $20m in cap space with little to no chance of signing anyone that matters. Again, if you’re a name free agent and the money was equal (or even slightly better) why on earth would you put yourself in a potentially miserable situation?

So the Bobcats will enter the offseason with $20 million that nobody (of substance) wants and a Top 4 pick in a Draft with no superstars. How in the heck are they supposed to improve?


Bobcats Baseline Presents: Rosterpalooza ’13 – Version 1.0

Part I: The Draft

With the worst record in the league, the Cats are guaranteed to pick in the Top 4. The good news is that there are a few potential All-Stars (Marcus Smart, Ben McLemore, Nerlens Noel) and a few good starters (Otto Porter, Alex Len, Victor Oladipo), all guaranteed to be there when Charlotte picks. The bad news is that players like Porter and Noel basically duplicate what Charlotte already has in MKG/Biyombo so the organization better pray they score in the top two. For Rosterpalooza 1.0, we’re going to assume they pick 1 or 2.

The Case for Marcus Smart.

At one end of the Draft’s risk spectrum sits Noel, a seven footer with no real basketball skills coming off a major knee injury; at the other end a 6’4″, 225 pound, 19 year old point guard/artillery vehicle: Marcus Smart combines Russell Westbrook’s intensity and explosion with James Harden’s strength and handle, he has the potential to be an All-world combo guard in a league that caters to All-world combo guards. Like Westbrook coming out of UCLA, Smart’s shooting and court vision need work – which you can teach. What you CAN’T teach is Smart’s aggressiveness and size. He’ll figure the rest out. You can play him alongside Kemba Walker at the beginning and eventually transition Kemba to his perfect role of 3rd guard/6th man/Closer once Smart gets comfortable running the team. Boom. That’s a hell of a one-two punch.

The Case for Ben McLemore.

Imagine Ben Gordon if he were 6’5″, incredibly long and a plus defender. That’s Ben McLemore. He’s not going to put the ball on the floor and create but as a catch and shoot Ray Allen type, McLemore will open up driving lanes for Kemba and MKG, bust zones and double teams and roll off screens for set plays. AKA: all things Charlotte desperately needs.
VERDICT: McLemore’s elite skill (shooting) make him the slightly safer pick and yes, the Bobcats certainly could use some floor spacers but consider this: spot-up shooting is relatively cheap and fairly abundant – skip down to the free agent shooters list below to have a look – you don’t need to spend the 1st or 2nd overall pick in the draft on it. Most of all, Marcus Smart’s size and position could be franchise-defining. He could legitmately be the Westbrook of the Eastern Conference. You can’t pass up that opportunity. If he’s on the board, pick Marcus Smart.

RESULT: Charlotte drafts Marcus Smart, G Oklahoma State.


Part II: Trades

What’s the best way to fill up $20 million in cap space with quality players who wouldn’t sign with you otherwise??? Why, trading for them against their will, of course. But first, a little housekeeping…

$8,000,000.00 per season.

Amnesty Tyrus Thomas.

Like Thomas himself, this move is a no brainer – and also a litmus test. If the Cats don’t amnesty T-Time, we know that Michael Jordan isn’t serious about the team – which would work out just fine for us, we can all check out and follow the Heat, Celtics or Lakers like most NBA fans in Charlotte. That said, I fully expect Tyrus to be gone at the soonest possible moment. And to that I say, good riddance.

Trade Ben Gordon to Chicago for Carlos Boozer (and a little something extra).

A salary dump for the Bulls, shedding Boozer’s deal gives them big cap space next July to re-sign Luol Deng or another near max player. Even if Chicago refused to give Charlotte’s 1st round pick back outright, perhaps they’d be willing to tighten the restrictions to virtually guarantee the Bulls would never receive it in the Lottery. That may seem like small compensation for taking on Boozer’s final two years/$30 million but consider that:

A. The first year is only $2 million more than the Cats would have to pay Gordon anyway – a guy who has attempted to sabotage the lockerroom along with half the games he’s checked into AND…

B. Boozer’s skill set and position are exactly what Charlotte needs: rebounding and post scoring. Think of it this way, would you rather pay Al Jefferson $60 million over 4 years AND pay Gordon $13 million next season OR only pay Boozer $30 million over two? Not to mention that Boozer’s contract expires the very same July the Cats will need to re-sign Walker. Did I mention Boozer instantly becomes the best Power Forward in Bobcats history?

RESULT: Charlotte acquires PF Carlos Boozer via trade.

Trade Portland’s First Round Pick to OKC for Kendrick Perkins and Jeremy Lamb.

Perkins is a one-dimensional player overpaid by at least 40% and with the Thunder approaching the tax line, his final two years, $17.5 million will need to go. So why are the Bobcats giving up a first round pick to take him on?

One of the many photos of Kendrick Perkins squeezing a basketball really hard.

For one, Perk would help bring some real interior defense (as opposed to “defensive potential” defense) to a team that desperately needs to get better on that side of the ball. Again, his contract is perfectly timed with Bismack Biyombo’s extension so the team could make their decision after Biz learns a thing or two apprenticing under Kendrick (first lesson: “defense” is more than just trying to block every shot).

But the real prize here is Lamb. Charlotte gets a Ben McLemore without having to draft one. Long and rangy, Kemba’s former UCONN teammate, has vast defensive potential and can score off the dribble or in the mid-range game. Acquiring Lamb would allow Charlotte to let Gerald Henderson walk, replacing Hendo at around 1/6th the cost.
It’s a deal that nets the team two quality starters and all they have to give up is a mid-round pick and cap space nobody wants. Win-win.

RESULT: Charlotte acquires C Kendrick Perkins, SG Jeremy Lamb via trade.


Part III: Free Agency

Quick roster assessment after the moves:
Guards: Ramon Sessions, Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jeremy Lamb
Wings: MKG, Jeffrey Taylor
Power Forwards: Carlos Boozer
Centers: Kendrick Perkins, Bismack Biyombo, Brendan Haywood

There’s an obvious need for depth at Power Forward and you’d love to have a long distance shooter at the SF spot, thus…

Sign a Shooter.

Free Agent Gunners Available this Summer: Kevin Martin, JR Smith, Rip Hamilton, Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow, Nick Young, Carlos Delfino, Martell Webster and… RAY ALLEN HIMSELF! Who needs “the next Ray Allen” when you can get the original at a discount.

THIS IS ANOTHER REASON WHY YOU DON’T DRAFT BEN MCLEMORE!

Why not sign this guy?

All these guys can absolutely light it up from beyond the arc, all will be available in July and a few will come dirt cheap. Of the bargain gunners, I like Delfino. He’s 31 and probably has another season or two of quality game left. Carlos gives the team another ball handler who can play either wing positions and is an underrated defender who can absolutely stroke the 3-ball when he gets hot. He signed a one year $3 million deal with Houston last July, so another one year, $3.75 million overpay from Charlotte will probably get it done.

RESULT: Charlotte signs G/SF Carlos Delfino.

PF Depth.

Byron Mullens or Josh McRoberts? Do we even need to have this conversation? Josh McRoberts has been a perfect fit since his arrival. His abilities as a ball handler, floor spacer and playmaker have vaulted the former Dukie from the end of Orlando’s bench to Charlotte’s starting five. Two years, $7m should do the trick and you could even go three if the team was sold on him as their Nick Collison – Josh is amazingly only 26 years old.

RESULT: Charlotte re-signs PF/C Josh McRoberts.

Let’s Roster-Assess Once More:
Guards: Walker, Sessions, Smart, Lamb
Wings: MKG, Delfino, Taylor
PF: Boozer, McRoberts
C: Perkins, Biyombo, Haywood

That’s a quality 12 man roster that, depending on the young players’ development, could certainly challenge for a Playoff spot in the East and could be one of the Conference’s best teams for a decade. Check out the salary structure:

Nerd Numbers

In July of 2015, Charlotte could have up to $30 million in cap room. Some of the money will go towards re-signing Kemba but the team will have enough prospects and wins under their belt to lure the big name, max-players that they can’t today.

In the meantime, Charlotte goes into next season with:
+ An incredible young backcourt of potential All-Stars Walker and Smart, a veteran playmaker in Sessions and a major prospect in Lamb.

+ Gerald Wallace 2.0 (MKG) improving at the 3 spot with a change of pace ballhandler/shooter in Delfino to back him up.

+ A real deal post presence slash double-double guy in Boozer with McRoberts as a solid backup at Power Forward.

+ One of the league’s elite defensive centers (Perkins) mentoring a still young defensive prospect (Biyombo) with Haywood staying on as an emergency big.

+ Better protection on their 1st round pick owed to Chicago should Charlotte not make the Playoffs and a likely Lottery selection from Detroit still owed to them. They can use either of these picks on a young big to eventually replace Boozer/Perkins.


Part IV: The Final Step

Decide if Dunlap is the guy.

I don’t know the specifics of Mike Dunlap’s contract but it’s doubtful someone at his experience level has any guaranteed money in year two. Dunlap has done his best and is obviously someone who works hard and loves the game but this franchise must decide if he’s the leader this young squad needs or if the job is better left to a veteran coach like Jerry Sloan, Mike Brown, Nate McMillan or Stan Van Gundy: All of whom may find this much-improved Bobcats roster to be surprisingly enticing.

-ASChin
@bobcatsbaseline

Stay tuned for Rosterpalooza ’13 Version 2.0 aka “The Re-sign Gerald Henderson Edition”

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

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

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Goodbye

I owe a lot to my friends here at Bobcats Baseline.

They took a chance on me and my writing skills way back in November when I had basically no real experience under my belt. Sure I had written some things here and there on other websites, but it was nothing serious. They gave me my first opportunity to write on a legitimate, respected Bobcats blog basically on a whim.

Without hyperbole, I am eternally grateful to these guys here. And it’s more than just giving me the chance to write and be read. This opportunity has led me to not only to discover that I enjoy writing, but also to the realization that I would like to write for a career.

It is with a heavy heart that I am leaving the Baseline. Starting today, I will be taking the reins from David Arnott at the Rufus on Fire, the Bobcats SB Nation blog.

Once again, thank you to ASChin, Deesdale, Dr. E, Mike and all of you, the readers.

Best wishes,

Cardboard Gerald

The Argument for the Bobcats to Shed Paul Silas’ Interim Status to Become Head Honcho

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“It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times?!?” (Credit to The Simpsons)

If there’s one Simpsons quote to describe this 2010-11 Charlotte Bobcats season, it’s probably that one, though it would fit better if it were reversed.

Regardless, this season for Charlotte fans has practically been a tale of two extremes. While during some games, they’ve looked like the worst team in the NBA, other nights they look like they’re a talented and competitive team.

Undoubtedly, the largest catalyst for this turnaround has been the coaching change from former head coach Larry Brown to interim head coach Paul Silas.

Larry Brown, though one of the greatest NBA head coaches of all-time, just was not effective as the head coach of the 2010-11 Bobcats. He made questionable lineup and substitution decisions and the team that was once known for swarming defense had acquiesced to a very mediocre status. The promising, much-anticipated season declined into a depressing elongated sigh of a year. The team began with a figurative stumble over their own shoelaces, starting the season with a 1-6 record. Then in December, the stumble became a full-fledged fall onto their face as the team dropped games by 20+ points to teams like Memphis, Philadelphia, Washington, not to mention the elite teams like Boston and Oklahoma City.

Change was necessary. Larry Brown was much more melancholy at post-game press conferences. He seemed to no longer enjoy coaching the games and often had a look of resignation plastered on his face.

That look of resignation shortly transformed into a real resignation, as Larry Brown and the Bobcats came to the decision as what was called a “mutual decision” (*raises single eyebrow*) for him to step down from his head coach position.

And so began the momentous organization transition. Paul Silas was hired as interim head coach with Charles Oakley, Stephen Silas (Paul’s son) and Ralph Lewis as assistant coaches.

The effect was nearly immediate. The Bobcats, though playing the dregs of the NBA’s Eastern Conference, were playing more efficient on offense and defense. Interim head coach Silas had decided to try to develop the rotation’s young talent more than his predecessor and gave Gerald Henderson more playing time. Since Silas’ arrival, the Bobcats are 12-10, a respectable record (especially with two recent games against elite teams). More impressive was their 4-2 record on their recent road trip. Considering the Bobcats have suffered a couple of significant injuries during this time, Paul Silas’ record is all the more remarkable.

And that leads me to the point of this article: the Bobcats should offer Paul Silas a contract to become the official head coach and not just on the current interim basis.

I understand that the CBA negotiations complicate the situation, but at any rate, the Bobcats should get Silas to coach in the following seasons.

Just look at the change in the players’ attitudes from Larry Brown to now under Silas. D.J. Augustin has been unleashed, as he flourishes in a faster, more free-flowing offense. The players are more comfortable because Silas is encouraging the players to have more feedback so he can respond and teach them how to better themselves. Plus, look at the coaching staff that surrounds him. They’re doing an outstanding job helping Silas coach up the players. Just look at Charles Oakley’s work with Kwame Brown: about 9 points per game and 9 rebounds per game in the month of January. And that’s just one example; this team’s success is a testament to their coaching ability.

Another quality of Silas’ coaching that can’t be overlooked is his experience. Since his first year as a head coach for the Charlotte Hornets, Silas has compiled an impressive coaching record of 289-240, or about a 55% winning percentage. Winning 55% of your games is usually good enough to get in the playoffs as the 6th or 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. Speaking of playoffs, Paul has also been to the playoffs four seasons, helping the Charlotte Hornets reach the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2001. Don’t doubt the man’s experience.

On the flip side, if there was one main qualm I had about Larry Brown’s coaching style, it was his mule-like stubbornness when it came to playing veterans over the young guys. After all, it’s not often when a coach doesn’t play a first round draft pick more than 355 minutes in his rookie season without injury playing a large part in hindering their season (Henderson). And in this domain, Silas exceeds Brown by miles upon miles. Gerald Henderson already has 250 more minutes of playing time this season than he had all of last season. Even in this season alone, Henderson’s minutes per game under Larry Brown doubled in the Paul Silas era (11.78 to 22). And Henderson has responded, dropping double digit point totals in four of the last nine games. Silas has even managed to get Sherron Collins some experience lately, as well as Derrick Brown. Coach Silas inspires confidence in his young players which encourages their development as NBA players.

For those out there who think there’s someone better out there, who do you think is superior that’s also available? Jeff Van Gundy? Puh-leez. Jeff enjoys his cushy job at ESPN too much to leave it for a developing small-market team. Mike Brown? He’s basically Larry Brown Lite – strong defensive principles and very limited offensive coaching. I can’t think of any other coach with as much experience or versatility as Paul Silas.

How about we just ask D.J. Augustin? “I would love to see him be the permanent coach. He’s great for this team organization and the whole city.”

So there you have it. We’ve already seen the blurst of times. With Paul Silas at the helm, I think he gives the Bobcats their greatest shot at getting to the best of times.

Edit: More than just a few readers have brought up Silas’ age. I don’t see it as much of a factor. I’m not saying we wrap up Paul for the next ten years – just three or four. I haven’t heard any talk of Jerry Sloan ever stepping down, and he’s a year older than Silas. Also, George Karl has had some serious health concerns and he’s currently in negotiations with Denver to re-up his contract for another three years.

- Cardboard Gerald

You can follow Cardboard Gerald, Dr. E, and ASChin on Twitter at @CardboardGerald@BaselineDrE, and @BobcatsBaseline. You can find more of Cardboard Gerald’s writing at Bobcats Break and now at Stacheketball.

Dr. E’s Treatment Plan For The Bobcats

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How (and Why) to Break Up and Rebuild the Team

The firing of Larry Brown and his staff was a step in the right direction for the Bobcats.  Brown put his typical stamp on the Bobcats franchise; which is to say he turned over nearly the entire roster while sending the franchise deeper into salary cap hell, but coached the hell out of the players and pushed them into the playoffs, only to completely lose touch with them soon after that.

Michael Jordan had to let Brown go before the disintegration of the team got any uglier on the court and before Brown talked him into another short-sighted trade off of it.  Pricey veterans, whether they come via trade or free agency, are good short-term fixes for teams that have a superstar/championship core and are making money — not for fledgling small-market teams that barely have a playoff-ready core.

Unfortunately, by the sounds of all the recent rumors, Jordan is apparently considering just such a short-sighted trade.  Even without Larry Brown in his ear, Jordan is ever the gambler, unable to stop himself from doubling down even when he’s only holding 8.

I have a different plan; a smarter plan.  It might be painful, but in the end it’s the best strategy for a small-market team to achieve long-term success and have a chance at a championship.  Let’s start from the beginning and go step-by-step through my plan to break up and rebuild the Charlotte Bobcats.

1) Pick the Right Interim Coach

Alright!  Done and done.  Jordan is already one step ahead of me with the hire of Paul Silas.  The Bobcats don’t get lucky much (ever?) but it works out pretty well that you have a beloved former coach who has semi-retired in your town and has made it known that he’d love to coach the local team again.  Huggy Bear makes a great foil for the departed Larry Brown, and has wasted no time instituting an uptempo offense.

Now I’m sure that Jordan has let Silas know that he still intends to make the playoffs, and Silas would like to prove himself worthy of shedding the interim label, but let’s face it, the pressure is pretty low here.  Mostly, the Bobcats should just be happy that such a nice fit for an interim coach was so available and that they avoided any ugliness with Larry Brown.  The players will get a temporary (maybe sustained?) kick out of playing for someone so different than Larry Brown.  And Paul Silas gets a shot at coaching Charlotte again.  It’s a win-win-win.  And if the team improves on the court, you can add another “win” for us fans.

2) Trade Stephen Jackson for Cap Space/Draft Picks/Young Talent

Here’s where we get get down to business.  The Bobcats are not going deep into the playoffs with a top three of Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw. Many, if not most, fans have accepted this.  The best way to kick off a proper tear-down would be to trade Stephen Jackson for cap space/draft picks/young talent.  Jack is making $8.5 million this season, $9.6 in 2011-12 and $10 in 2012-13.   He’s enough to keep a mediocre team competitive on some nights, but not enough to make us great.  He would be great as the final piece to a team that’s looking to make a serious run at a championship this year or next.

I’m thinking mostly Chicago or New York here.  Chicago runs Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer at 2-guard amidst Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.  Enough said.  The Bulls don’t have any good expiring contracts, so the Cats would have to take back a couple of young role players to make salaries work.  Most importantly, the Cats would look to get back the future first round pick that we sent to Chicago for Tyrus Thomas.

As for New York, suppose the Nets really are able to secure Carmelo’s services.  The Knicks would have to move on from their fantasy; wouldn’t adding Stephen Jackson to Felton, Stoudemire and Gallinari in D’Antoni’s offense be a nice reality for them?  The Knicks could offer Eddy Curry’s huge expiring deal; if the Cats threw in another salary maybe we could have a look at the enigmatic Anthony Randolph?  Or better yet, Wilson Chandler?

And I’m sure there are some Western Conference teams that might work, too.  Or maybe it’s Boris Diaw who goes out?  Just not Gerald Wallace if it can be helped — that might even test my limits as a fan.  Whatever the case, the idea is that the current core isn’t going to get it done and we need to get cheaper and collect young talent and/or draft picks in exchange for them.

3) Play the Young Guys

This is the easiest, most no-brainer part of the plan.  No doubt, the psyches of DJ Augustin, Tyrus Thomas, Gerald Henderson and Derrick Brown must be traumatized by their time with Larry Brown; but they’ve also learned a lot.  And there is talent there.  Paul Silas is the perfect coach to loosen the reigns and instill confidence in this crew.

I would try to limit Gerald Wallace’s minutes to around 30-35 per game to preserve him and to give Brown and Thomas a little extra run.

Hopefully everyone emerges as a better player for the long haul; on the other hand, if someone flames out, at least you know.

4) Be Prepared to Miss the Playoffs This Year… and Next

And here’s the real problem.  Jordan is in a tough spot here; you have to believe that at some level he knows that it’s time to blow it up and rebuild the right way.  But he doesn’t have the stomach for losing, even temporarily if it’s in the service of a bigger goal.  And he can rationalize what is really his inability to stomach losing by saying that the Bobcats’ cache with the fans in Charlotte is so tenuous that they couldn’t stomach losing either.  That they’d just turn away for good if the team doesn’t make the playoffs again this year.  So he needs to keep finding expensive band-aids; but for what?  First round playoff blowouts?

Bull.  I’m not saying it wouldn’t be painful to watch a rebuilding team for a couple of years — the Bobcats would probably fall back to the 25-30 win per season range for this season and the next.  And it would hurt Jordan financially, I’m sure.  But I would argue that it would be more painful to watch a patched-up, veteran core muddle through a couple more 35-40 win seasons — and that the financial reward Jordan would reap from building an upper echelon team in the long run would more than offset a couple of lean years.

5) Draft the Right Guys

And here’s the lynchpin of my thesis — the most important part is also the most difficult.  In my plan, the Bobcats would have lottery picks, potentially high ones, in the next two drafts (even if we didn’t get the Tyrus Thomas one back from the Bulls, it is lottery protected in 2012).  The Bobcats would need to find a superstar — or at least a new blue-chip core — in those drafts.

I know you’re all laughing, and rightfully so as visions of Adam Morrison and Sean May dance in your heads.  But eventually, sheer luck dictates that Jordan will make the right call one of these days, right?  Doesn’t it?  And even if he doesn’t get so lucky as to have a superstar fall into his lap, he must have learned something about scouting/evaluating players over the past few years that will help him to make better picks, right?  Even if the lesson is as simple as: “I shouldn’t be a part of this — lemme hire some better scouts.”

Maybe that’s wishful thinking, and maybe the Bobcats are doomed to be poor drafters forever and ever.  But it doesn’t change the fact that the draft is how small-market teams become contenders.  Whether it’s San Antonio with Tim Duncan, Orlando with Dwight Howard, Utah with Deron Williams, New Orleans with Chris Paul, Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant, or even the Cleveland Cavaliers of years past with Lebron, a small-market team has to get a game-changing player near the top at the draft to become a contender.  That guy’s presence then allows you to utilize trades and free agency to shape the team around him.

Only LA (Lakers, that is), Chicago, Boston, New York, Miami, Phoenix, and possibly Dallas and Houston could realistically hope to construct the core of a contending team without the benefit of a great draft pick.  And despite that, most of those teams do indeed count a player they drafted among the core of their team (Rose & Noah for Chicago, Pierce for Boston, Wade for Miami).

So it’s time for Michael Jordan and GM Rod Higgins to abandon their plan of building through trades.  If they were aware of and taking advantage of some sort of market inefficiency, we’d have seen better results.  Instead, the Bobcats need to get back into the lottery to get back into the playoffs.

6) Hire the Right Long-term Coach

To boot, here’s one more thing Jordan has struggled with as an executive: hiring coaches.  As noted above, Paul Silas as a placeholder is fine; and the Larry Brown hire is/was defendable.  But going back to Sam Vincent, and further back to Leonard Hamilton, Jordan has struggled to evaluate coaching potential as much as he’s struggled to evaluate player potential.

Again, we have to hope that he’s learned something from his mistakes.  The rumor mill has suggested that Jordan contemporaries/current NBA assistants Patrick Ewing and Tyrone Corbin are in line for a shot at a head coaching job.  And Nate McMillan might be divorced from Portland by the time the Bobcats would be looking.  Would Phil Jackson recommend any of his assistants to Jordan?

Anyways, if the Bobcats followed a comparable blueprint and got to the point where hiring the right coach seemed like a crucial piece to the puzzle, I’d be overjoyed.  As it stands, we’re a long way off.

Unless the Bobcats come out like gangbusters for Paul Silas (and he does have a favorable slate with home games against Detroit, Cleveland and Golden State this week) I think you’ll see Jordan pull the trigger on a big trade soon.  What the Bobcats get back (a pricey veteran versus expiring contracts/draft picks/young talent) will tell you whether he’s sticking to the same M.O. — or moving on to a proper rebuilding plan as I’m suggesting.

-Dr. E

Breaking News: Larry Brown Steps Down

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AP/Bob Leverone

Just prior to 4:00 PM ET, the Charlotte Bobcats announced that Larry Brown has stepped down as head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats.  Here are some initial links:

Official Press Release |  Letter to the fans

Sam Amick of AOL is reporting that the entire coaching staff has been let go.  Amick goes on to report that the new coach will be in place tomorrow.

This is a bit of a surprise.  I honestly thought that if Brown left, assistant coach Dave Hanners would get a chance as an interim coach.  I have no idea who will be stepping in.  Keep an eye out on this post and our Twitter feeds (Dr. E, ASChin, Cardboard Gerald) for updates and further discussion.

-Dr. E

UPDATE 5:00 PM: Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! and Ken Berger of CBSSports.com are reporting that former Hornets and Cavs coach (and current Charlotte resident) Paul Silas is the leading candidate to take over as coach of the Bobcats.  Former Hawks coach Mike Woodson, current Magic assistant/former Jordan rival Patrick Ewing, and current Pistons assistant Darrell Walker are also under consideration.

-Dr. E

Update 7:00 PM: And it’s official.  The Bobcats have named Paul Silas interim head coach.  Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that Charles Oakley is likely to be added as an assistant coach.  Silas will be meeting with the media tomorrow at 1:00 PM ET and will have more details about the rest of his staff at that time.

Official Press Release re: Silas

-Dr. E