Charlotte Hornets 2014 Offseason Tracker: UPDATED

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Last updated: 2:00pm, July 16th, 2014

NBA head coaches and general managers are on slightly different timelines. The coach’s job is to win on game nights and he can’t do that without NBA ready talent. A GM’s job is sustain said coach’s ability to win for as long as possible, over the course of many seasons, upgrading the roster along the way.

There can be special arrangements of course. Philly’s Brett Brown and Boston’s Brad Stevens were head coaches hired last summer by win-later teams more interested in building culture and developing young talent than adding W’s in the standings. But by and large, coaches want to compete now and they can’t showcase their stuff if they’re forced to rely on guys who are easily bested by their competition.

Which brings us to the first six weeks of Charlotte’s summer. The team built a tremendous amount of momentum last season by adding an All-NBA center and qualifying for the Playoffs. Steve Clifford proved to be the coaching world’s best kept secret – a defensive maestro who garners tremendous respect from his players and peers. The rebranded Hornets were set to enter the offseason with an immensely popular new coat of paint, two first round draft picks, massive cap space and subsequent expectations for improvement.

The franchise’s goals are two-fold: make the Playoffs in their rebrand year but don’t mortgage the farm to do so; the Hornets name change will bring a ton of new fans to the arena, sustained success will keep them there.
How have they done? Let’s take a look at the roster moves in chronological order:

ADDITION: Noah Vonleh, PF/C

First Round | 9th Overall Selection
Charlotte lucked into Detroit’s number nine pick after Cleveland miraculously won the Lottery and pushed the Pistons back a slot. The Hornets wound up taking Indiana PF/C Noah Vonleh, an 18 year old prospect with a tremendous amount of potential. The comps to previous CLT developmental bigs like Alexis Ajinca and Bismack Biyombo are way off, Vonleh enters the league with a much higher skill level and an actual feel for the game.

That’s not to say he’ll help Clifford’s cause immediately, he’s still an 18 (!) year old rookie with some raw mechanics and little knowledge of the NBA game. But if all goes well, the Hornets won’t be selecting this high again for a long while and bigs with Vonleh’s skills rarely escape the Lottery. Great long-term value play for Charlotte.
ROLE: 14-18 minute per game developmental power forward.
REPLACES: Anthony Tolliver, D.J. White

ADDITION: P.J. Hairston, SG

First Round | 26th Overall Selection
Rich Cho swapped late first rounders with Miami for some extra assets and wound up taking former UNC shooting guard P.J. Hairston with the 26th pick. From a skills standpoint, the pick makes a ton of sense. P.J. can stroke it from deep and Charlotte was desperate for three point shooting last season. But Hairston comes with character baggage that he didn’t take long to unpack. Punching a guy during a pickup game is hardly an earth-shattering offense but stringing together the subsequent Street Fighter combo of bone-headed decisions is. For a guy who will likely top out as an eighth or ninth man this season, he had better be worth the distraction.
ROLE: Either 20 minute per game bench shooter or end of bench distraction.
REPLACES: Chris Douglas-Roberts or Jeff Taylor.

SUBTRACTION: Brendan Haywood, C

Traded to Cleveland
He was due over two million in salary and didn’t play a minute last season due to a foot injury so Charlotte salary dumped him to the Cavs, using their 2nd Round pick as a sweetener. Interesting side note: as Mark Deeks reported, Haywood’s amnesty’d contract bumps up to an unguaranteed $10m again next season, giving the Cavs all sorts of interesting cap possibilities should they pursue another marquee free agent.
REPLACED BY: Charlotte still needs to add a third center, TBD.

SUBTRACTION: Josh McRoberts, PF

Unrestricted Free Agent | 4 years, $23 million
This one stung (pun intended). Making just $2.7m last season, McRoberts might’ve been the best value in the league. A smart, multi-talented glue guy, Josh is an elite passer and was often the team’s de facto point guard in the half court last season. As an added bonus, McRoberts hit over a hundred threes to keep the paint open for Big Al. His stats may have looked meager, but there are only a handful of bigs in the league who can do what Josh does and those things were all absolutely vital to Charlotte’s Playoff run.

For his efforts, Miami offered him a full four year midlevel deal at $5.75m per. The Hornets balked and instead committed $7m per over two years to the next guy on our list. Given Josh’s fit with his old team and the subsequent departure of Lebron James from the Heat, both sides may regret not meeting on some sort of 3 year, $21m compromise.
REPLACED BY: No one can replace The Basketball Jesus but his duties will be distributed to both Cody Zeller and…

ADDITION: Marvin Williams, SF/PF

Unrestricted Free Agent | 2 years, $14 million
Unlike McRoberts, who had no history of hitting threes on the reg until last season, Williams has been stretching the floor for years as a combo forward. He’s become a very good defender (though the on/off court numbers don’t scream “lock-down”) and has a rep as a solid lockeroom guy. Don’t surprised if he finishes games this season as Clifford’s lone veteran power forward, stretching the floor without giving up much at the other end.

His two year, $14m deal is certainly on the high side but the years are non-threatening and he gives the Hornets flexibility down the road once Zeller or Vonleh develop. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that McRoberts was a no-name veteran castoff who blossomed under Clifford. Cross your fingers that it happens a second time.
ROLE: 26-30 minute per game part-time starter and full-time finisher.
REPLACES: Josh McRoberts, Anthony Tolliver

ADDITION: Brian Roberts, PG

Unrestricted Free Agent | 2 years, $5.5 million
Here’s the deal: Kemba Walker plays a ton of minutes and rarely gets hurt. So if you’re going to spend a bunch of money on a backup point, it better be for a bigger guard who can suck up minutes playing alongside Walker in the backcourt. The Hornets reportedly went after two guys like that (Shaun Livingston and Kirk Hinrich) but couldn’t get a deal done so turned to Plan B: an inexpensive Kemba-clone.

That’s not a one hundred percent accurate comparison, Roberts is the purer shooter and Kemba is an ankle-breaking lightning bolt but you get the idea. Both are score-first lead guards with slight, frisky builds. At 6’1″, 173, Roberts isn’t going to over-power anyone in the paint and he has tendancy to get bullied fighting through screens but he can score and hit distance buckets, most importantly from the left side of the floor – and we all know who likes camping out down on the left block.

In fact both Roberts and Marvin Williams excel shooting from that side – ironically, the side of the three point line Charlotte struggled from last season considering Al Jefferson’s presence. As @DCWLN pointed out on Twitter, Clifford often cleared that side once the entry pass was made and Al would usually score through double teams anyway. Signing Roberts and Williams gives the Hornets another spacing wrinkle however; a way to punish the league’s better defenses who can diffuse Al & Kemba’s inside/out game.
ROLE: Backup PG, 18-20 minutes a game. Also an insurance policy in case Kemba misses any time.
REPLACES: Luke Ridnour’s corpse.

ADDITION: Lance Stephenson, SG

Unrestricted Free Agent | 3 years, $27 million (third year team option)
In June it was inevitable. By mid-July it was unlikely. CUT TO: LAS VEGAS, The Evening of July 15th. Michael Jordan, Rich Cho and Steve Clifford came to terms both financially and psychologically with Lance Stephenson as their new starting two guard. It was news Charlotte fans around the globe were waiting for (I had tweets from Hornets fan sites in Spain, Japan and Canada queued up in my mentions) and it was finally here. Born Ready is a Hornet.

This is a huge signing for Charlotte, yet another signal that Jordan, Cho and Clifford have finally turned Bob Johnson’s once sinking ship around. Lance is 23 and has played in two consecutive Conference Finals, the last of which he may have been his team’s best player. He led the league in triple doubles last season with five – which I believe surpasses the total number of triple doubles in the Bobcats ten year history – and, as ESPN pointed out, Lance was the youngest guard to average 7 RPG & 4 APG since Magic Johnson did it in ’83.

After McRoberts bolted for Miami, the Hornets were desperate for another playmaker to allow Kemba more off the ball opportunities and steady the second unit as a lead threat. Lance basically played that very role offensively last season for the one-seed Pacers. Unlike Josh, Stephenson is a reliable second or third scorer who can pick up the slack when Kemba has an off night or when opponents key in on Big Al. He’s turnover-prone (1.7 assist to turnover ratio, McRoberts notched a 4 by comparison) and Clifford isn’t going to enjoy watching Lance go off script at the wrong times but some of that may have been due to the Pacers’ moribund offense and personnel. We’ll have a full offensive breakdown of Lance in a future post but in the meantime, rest assured that this is likely a major upgrade from both a talent and fit perspective over Gerald Henderson.

And defensively? Let’s just say that an MKG/Lance/Marvin Williams/Jeff Taylor wing rotation has a chance to the best perimeter D in the league. Lance is strong, has good size and length and we know he won’t back down from any assignment. For better or worse, he basically demanded to guard Lebron in the EC Finals and held his own more often than not. Again, we’ll have the full scouting breakdown of Lance soon but rest assured, he should be great at both ends.

Finally, there’s the character concerns. Some say Lance’s antics cost him $6m per season. I say it saved the Hornets $6m per season. Charlotte’s getting a potential max-salary type player for a massive discount just because he’s an occasional idiot. Cho’s masterful manipulation of Stephenson’s market, combined with the organization’s cohesive recruiting effort led to the Hornets getting a similar and potentially superior player for around $36m less than they offered Gordon Hayward – who’s never even won a Playoff game mind you, much less sniffed a Conference Finals. Thank you Utah!

It’s that last point I find most important. You can argue teams and situations all you want, but if you want to build a winning culture, you gotta bring in guys who’ve won. Who have been there and performed. The advanced stat guys will hate that statement. You can’t boil it down into a metric. But hoops intuition is real. Kemba has the big game gene. MKG has the gene. Lance has the gene. Those guys are bulldogs who want the pressure; the high stakes. Michael Jordan knows a winner when he sees one. This one was Born Ready.

ROLE: Starter, 36-38 minute per game.
REPLACES: Gerald Henderson, Josh McRoberts’ playmaking.

WHAT’S NEXT

Gerald Henderson

With Stephenson’s signing, the Hornets co-captain and incumbent starter is suddenly the odd man out. The team now has four other guys under contract who play his position either most or part of the time. Some folks on twitter have imagined a move to sixth man for Hendo but I’m not buying it. His game doesn’t really translate to that role and it’s unlikely he’d take the demotion well given that he’s just entering his prime. Gerald’s $6m per year salary is a bargain compared to what the market’s been paying out this summer and he could very well opt out of his player option next July, making his contract an even more attractive expiring deal. Chances are that Henderson will be starting somewhere this coming season and it’s not going to be in Charlotte. Keep an eye on this situation, especially if the Hornets make a play for…

Carlos Boozer

Fellow Blue Devil and former Bull Carlos Boozer was officially amnestied just a few hours after the Lance signing and there have already been a few rumors linking him to Charlotte. If the Hornets hold off on signing Brian Roberts*, they should still have around $4m in cap space (counting Lance, Williams and rookie/roster cap holds) to place an amnesty bid. But I don’t think that will cut it. Atlanta and a few other teams with $8m+ cap space have been rumored as potential suitors. If Charlotte truly wants Carlos in teal next season, they’ll need to dump salary and they’ll need to decide fast. Teams have 48 hours to place a bid. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

ASChin
@BaselineBuzz

*As pointed about by Grantland’s Zach Lowe, Brian Roberts’ contract fits nicely into the Hornets’ bi-annual exception should the team use the remainder of their cap space first. Rookies can and generally do sign for as much as 120% of the rookie scale but only count for 100% of the scale until then.

Ben Gordon: Trade Scenarios and Expectations

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Ben Gordon illustration by Mike S

Believe it or not, there was a time not so long ago in which Ben Gordon was viewed as a legit NBA asset. In fact, we can pin-point the time exactly: July of 2009. That was when Joe Dumars and the Pistons signed “Air” Gordon to his now infamous five year, $58 million contract. Ben had just turned 26 that summer and was on the heels of an amazing five year run with the Bulls in which he:

  • Made All-Rookie first team AND won Sixth Man of the Year back in ’04-’05 – an astounding achievement in retrospect.
  • Averaged nearly 19ppg on 43FG% and an incredible 41% from downtown over five seasons (including an amazing 2009 Playoffs in which he averaged over 24ppg off the bench).
  • Was so good from downtown that he broke Scottie Pippin’s team record for three pointers made in just four and half seasons.
  • Was highly durable – unlike another over-paid undersized SG surnamed “Gordon” – only missing twelve games in his five years with the team.

So what the heck happened to that guy?

In exchange for his big payday, Gordon traded solid Chicago teammates like Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, Andres Nocioni and (eventually) Derrick Rose for Charlie Villanuova, Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince and a disinterested Rip Hamilton. He downgraded from Scott Skiles/Vinny Del Negro to John Kuester, a first time head coach – and as Mike Dunlap can attest, Ben doesn’t necessarily play well with rookie HCs. In short, Gordon swapped culture for cash. And we know how well that worked out.

Ben’s three years in Detroit were the franchise’s worst stretch in decades, largely due to Dumars’ crazy post-Championship roster rebuild. There were no leaders on those Pistons teams, just a bunch of moderately skilled guys who were sick of losing and unable to do anything anything about it. As a high profile free agent signing, Gordon was miscast as a go-to guy on a go-nowhere team. His minutes dropped, he got hurt (28 missed games in just three seasons) and the one thing he was special at, ridiculous scoring, went away. Detroit was paying Ben over $10 million a year to average twelve points per game. Dumars finally folded on the experiment last summer, bribing Charlotte with a potential Lottery pick just to take Gordon off their hands.

So that brings us to the ’13-’14 season, the final year of Dumars’ Folly. Ben’s $13.2m salary will disappear from the books regardless of how things play out, so the question is: How Will It Play Out?

SCENARIO ONE: Goodbye and Good luck.

This, unfortunately, is the most likely scenario. Gordon makes trouble for yet another first year coach (Steve Clifford), gets relegated to the doghouse for most of the season – only to occasionally show up with a big (yet meaningless) game. The paperwork renouncing Ben’s rights arrives at the league office on a balmy early July morning and Rich Cho & Rod Higgins use the space to make a run at another big-name free agent.

Ben latches on with a random team for the veteran’s minimum and is out of the league a year or two later.

SCENARIO TWO: Trade Bait.

There are precisely two types of trades Gordon could be involved in this season and they are:

  • Type 1: The Playoff Rental. A contending team is in serious need of bench scoring or suffers from spacing issues in general and is willing to gamble on Ben finding his stroke for 3-4 months.
  • Type 2: A High Profile Trade. Charlotte makes a move for a highly paid, high profile player using their stash of picks and prospects in conjunction with Gordon’s expiring contract to make it happen.

I went through every team in the league and could only think of three legitimate trade scenarios that could happen this year – two Type 1s and a single Type 2.

Fake Ben Gordon Trade Type 1a:

Charlotte sends Gordon and Brendan Haywood to Chicago for Carlos Boozer and the return of their own first round pick.

We’ve kicked this one around at the Baseline before and if it’s ever going to happen, it’ll happen at this year’s deadline. Chicago is a big-time contender and will certainly improve offensively with MVP Derrick Rose back in the fold. But the Bulls’ second unit is relying dangerously upon the scoring prowess of Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich to keep them in games and Gordon once dominated in this very role. Meanwhile, Boozer gives the Bobcats a one and a half year rental of a solid, two-way starting PF – allowing the team to bring Cody Zeller along at a measured pace.

It’s a tough trade for both teams as Boozer’s $16.8m salary next season essentially removes Charlotte from the free agency game. But if they truly value draft picks above all else, the deal assures the front office of never having to part ways with a first rounder. Also the trade has a nice karmic rebalancing quality: Gordon reminds Chi-city of the Nate Robinson before there was “Nate Robinson”, Boozer returns to his Carolina collegiate roots and the first round pick coming back officially nulls & voids the Tyrus Thomas trade.

Fake Ben Gordon Trade Type 1b:

Charlotte trades Gordon and Brendan Haywood to Washington for Emeka Okafor.

Speaking of karmic rebalancing, this trades ships Haywood and Okafor back to their old stomping grounds and involves two UCONN Huskies that went back to back in the ’04 Draft (Emeka went 2nd, Ben went 3rd). From a hoops perspective, Gordon allows Washington to spread the floor with shooters when Bradley Beal is on the bench (or in street clothes) while Okafor gives Charlotte a reliable backup center for a few months – but most importantly serves as a neat bookend for the “Bobcats” era – from Okafor in ’04 to No-kafor in ’14.

Fake Ben Gordon Trade Type 2:

Charlotte trades Gordon, Jeffery Taylor and Cody Zeller to OKC for Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha (expiring).

Let’s say the Thunder continue their trend of long term cap-flexibility over short-term gain. Let’s say that Jeremy Lamb doesn’t blossom into a bench scorer this season. Let’s say that the team looks at their roster and realizes that they need more offense from their bigs in order to take the next step.

Taylor gives OKC Thabo level production at a fraction of the cost over the next few seasons. Zeller/Stephen Adams becomes the Thunder’s frontcourt of the future, with Nick Collison/Kendrick Perkins stewarding the present. Next July, OKC could finally amnesty Perkins’ salary and, combined with Gordon’s expiring, would free up double digit millions in cap space for the Thunder for the first time in a long while.

The Bobcats in turn get perhaps the PERFECT frontcourt partner for Al Jefferson. A rim-protecting, floor stretching PF who can make up for all of Big Al’s shortcomings on defense and punish Jefferson double teams at the other end on the perimeter. The new Charlotte Hornets suddenly morph into “MEMPHIS EAST” with Al as Zach Randolph, Kemba as Mike Conley, MKG as Tony Allen with upside, Ibaka as Gasol and Henderson as a better Tayshaun. How far does a core like this take you? A hell of a lot farther than the Bobcats have ever been before.

Ben Gordon Illustration by Mike S.

SCENARIO THREE: Hey, I Remember That Guy!

In this scenario, Ben uses the motivation of the contract year and the respect of his new coach to regain the old mojo. Gordon flashes back to the 19ppg bench scorer of old, keeping the Bobcats in the Playoff hunt all season and staying in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year. Charlotte even thinks about bringing him back on a more reasonable deal. Impossible you say? Before you scoff, remember that Ben Gordon has a made a career of humbling people

-ASChin
@BaselineBuzz

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”

Two Trades to Add Frontcourt Scoring and Rebounding

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As good as the Charlotte Bobcats have been over the season’s first month, they still have a few things to sort out. One is rebounding. The Cats’ -3.00 differential places them in the bottom third of the league – a deficiency that nearly cost them last night’s game at Washington. Second is low post scoring. Other than the occasional Brendan Haywood baby hook, Charlotte big men pose zero threat from the low block.
Fortunately there’s some available talent in the league who could remedy the situation without sacrificing much of the Bobcats’ long-term plans. Here’s two ideas:

Trade Proposal #1: Charlotte sends Tyrus Thomas and Gana Diop to Chicago for Carlos Boozer.

Why Chicago Does It:
The Bulls 2013-2014 payroll is already $7 million over the luxury tax line. This means owner Jerry Reinsdorf will be on the hook for at least $14 million in tax penalties two summers from now – and that’s before Chicago fields an entire fourteen man roster (their $77 million payroll accounts for only nine players).
The simplist option is for Chicago to use its amnesty provison on Boozer but that would come at a steep cost – the team would be on the hook for $20 million or so of his salary even after a waiver claim (see Brand, Elton).

Enter Gana Diop. Diop’s expiring contract effectively halves Boozer’s cap hit over the next two seasons while Thomas provides Coach Thibideau with a Taj Gibson-lite off the pine.

Why Charlotte Does It:
Fit for one. Boozer’s ability to score in and around the low post would generate double-teams to free up the Cats’ long distance shooters. Pick and pop opportunities with Ramons Session and Kemba Walker would add another weapon to the team’s limited halfcourt arsenal. Boozer’s ability to hunt for rebounds at both ends will help put an end to those 3-4 shot defensive stands.

From a salary perspective, Charlotte takes on an additional $7 million or so on top of what they were paying Thomas for the next two seasons – timing it near perfectly with their first batch of Rich Cho era re-ups (Walker, Biyombo, Taylor).
Take a look at the salary chart.

Charlotte Bobcats Salary Forecast

Assuming both Byron Mullens and Gerald Henderson re-sign for around 4 years/$27 million (doubtful team would go higher on either), Charlotte would enter next season a shade over the league’s $59 million cap but well under the tax threshold. In July of 2013, the Bobcats would shed Ben Gordon’s $12 million and likely divert a portion to re-signing Ramon Sessions (if they don’t use one of their three to four first round draft picks from 2013 or 2014 on a point guard).

By July of 2014, Charlotte will have nearly $20 million in expiring contracts (Boozer/Haywood) coming off the books and they can use the space to extend the class of ’11 (Walker/Biyombo) and Jeff Taylor. They could also pursue a max superstar (or two) while maintaining the rights to Walker and Biyombo via cap holds ala Brook Lopez with the Nets last summer.

In the meantime, the Bobcats stay very competitive. A big man rotation of Boozer/Mullens/Haywood/Biyombo brings to mind “Utah East”. Henderson/Gordon/MKG/Taylor form a nice wing platoon. And we already know just how good the Walker/Session backcourt can be.

A variation of this trade would send Boozer and a first round pick to Charlotte for Thomas, Hakim Warrick and Gerald Henderson. Chicago would have the ability to decline Rip Hamilton’s $5 million next season, re-sign Henderson as its starting SG and pursue another piece via cap exception due to Gerald’s RFA status. In exchange, the Bobcats receive their own pick back from the original Thomas trade.

Trade Proposal #2: Charlotte sends Gerald Henderson and Reggie Williams to Minnesota for Derrick Williams and Malcolm Lee.

Why Minnesota Does It:
As a near lock-down defender with an ability to score from inside and out, Gerald Henderson could be the perfect fit for a Wolves team stacked at every position except off guard. Henderson will do for Minny what Brandon Roy was supposed to.

Why Charlotte Does It:
With Jeff Taylor playing lights out of late, there’s just not going to be enough minutes in the wing rotation. Ben Gordon needs to play and isn’t going anywhere. MKG is MKG. Sessions and Kemba will play at least fifteen to twenty minutes a night together so Henderson is the odd man out. Add to this his impending contract extension and it’s doubtful Gerald stays in the QC past this season.

Meanwhile, Williams adds a moderately priced young power forward with upside. Someone who likes the ball in his hands, someone who can finish from the low block and who the team could potentially run their offense through. Although Williams has struggled playing out of a position at SF during his stint with the Wolves, with the Bobcats he’d be a permanent fixture at the four.

The only downside is the timing of his contract. Barring some unforeseen All-NBA selection over the next two seasons, Williams will be up for an extension the same summer as Biyombo, Walker and Taylor. While the Cats will have the cap space at that point to re-sign all four, it could make the process a bit complicated.

-ASChin

Bobcats Knock Off Bulls In Impressive Fashion

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Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Charlotte Bobcats notched their best win of the season in defeating the Chicago Bulls 96-91 on Wednesday night at the Cable Box.  The Cats are now 15-21 overall and 6-2 since interim Coach Paul Silas took over.  The previous five wins had only resulted in tempered enthusiasm due the the marginal quality of the opponents; but the Bulls are a bonafide contender, and the Cats took them down.

AP Recap |  Box Score |  Highlights

The Bobcats came out red-hot to start the game.  Gerald Wallace looked good in his return from an ankle injury, DJ and Boris hit some early threes, and Kwame Brown (yes, seriously) dominated Kurt Thomas inside for 10 first quarter points as the Bobcats staked a 36-22 lead after the first frame. Now is a good time to note that the Bulls are playing without Joakim Noah, who’s in the midst of an 8-10 week hiatus after having surgery on a torn thumb ligament.

The Cats would go on to push that lead up to 17 early in the second, only to see it dwindle away.  The Bulls battled back behind Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer and eventually took a 80-75 with 8 minutes left in the fourth.  From there the Cats ratcheted up the defensive intensity and DJ, Jack and Tyrus Thomas took the game over.

The most finish went like this: with the Bulls up 89-88 with 1:15 left, Tyrus Thomas hit an insane prayer of a reverse layup.  Calling it a reverse layup is probably kind; seriously, check the picture.  That shot went in.  Next play down DJ forced Derrick Rose into the teeth of the defense where Boris Diaw was able to get a piece of his layup attempt.  Now under a minute to go and the Cats iso Stephen Jackson in the post on Luol Deng; Jack comes through with a pretty turnaround J to put the Cats up three with 30 seconds to go.

The Bulls take a timeout and come out with their best play: give it to Derrick Rose.  But as they had done numerous times before, the Cats seemed to sense exactly when to give DJ help.  Jack collapsed on Rose while Tyrus Thomas moved into the lane to cut off Deng as he flashed to the rim; Rose then forced a bad pass behind Deng that was picked off by Diaw.  From there, DJ hit a few free throws to finish it off.

And so the Cats move into the 8th spot in the East with this, their fourth straight, win.  If nothing else, this little streak serves as vindication for Jordan, who made the undoubtedly tough call to stand pat with the roster and fire Larry Brown instead of listening to his calls for more trades. Jordan gets bagged on a lot for his track record in the front office (rightfully so, and he’s still going to have to make more difficult decisions about how to rebuild this team eventually), but he deserves credit for seeing that the Bobcats are much better than how they were playing under Larry Brown and that they needed to exhale with a player’s coach at the helm.

Notes

  • So DJ really seems to get up for playing against Rose, huh?  22 points (6-12 FG, 2-5 3PT, 8-9 FT), 12 assists/1 turnover for DJ tonight, while Derrick Rose was held to 17 points (5-17 FG), 7 assists/4 turnovers.  I seem to recall another time when DJ had a particularly stellar game against Rose — during their rookie year maybe?
  • Best game for Tyrus Thomas in a couple weeks: 30 minutes, 17 points (7-14 FG), 13 rebounds and 2 blocks.  Nothing like the little charge you get from facing your old team, huh?
  • Tweet of the night goes to Bobcats AP beat writer Mike Cranston: “Suggestion on press row next CHA ad campaign feature Augustin breaking out of chains and Jack driving a bus over LB’s body”  Sounds like a job for Mike and/or Deesdale.
  • Next game is Friday night in Boston to face the Celtics, who used to bring out the best in the Bobcats, but lately have just owned them.  7:30 PM ET start.

-Dr. E

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Boozer Demolishes Bobcats, Sale Imminent? Hughes Signing Soon?

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Charlotte Bobcats @ Utah 2/24/10

Charlotte can’t hold onto an eleven point half-time lead as Carlos Boozer and the Jazz TapouT™ the ‘Cats in Salt Lake City 102-93.

AP recap here | Box Score here | Bonnell recap here

The Game

Bobcats start out strong in Utah, avoiding the usual Insta-Road-Deficit but were bullied by a physical Jazz team in the second half.

Jerry Sloan countered Larry Brown with an all-too-obvious adjustment at halftime by pounding the ball inside and destroying a small Bobcats lineup that was without centers Nazr Mohammed (back), Gana Diop (knee) and Tyson Chandler (testicles).

Without the $64 Million Dollar Men, Larry Brown was again forced to play Theo Ratliff north of 30 minutes for the second consecutive game – Ratliff had played a total of 37 minutes in 2010 before being traded to the Bobcats.  The 36 year old veteran did his best but the Bobcats had no answer for former Dookie Carlos Boozer (33 points on 13 of 16 shooting).  Even Boris Diaw, who is regularly singled out for his one-on-one defensive abilities by John Hollinger, had no chance against ‘Los.  Boris’ -23 plus/minus pretty much sums up his night.  THE RESULT: Jazz outscore the Bobcats 31-16 in the third, 29-24 in the fourth.  LB would watch the rest of the game from the locker room after being tossed late in the final period (reportedly over being jealous of Kyle Korver’s tan).

QUICK NOTE ON TYRUS THOMAS:
I’m sure that the Bobcats believed that the acquisition of Thomas would allow them to throw different looks at opposing forwards.  The problem is that Thomas is a much better help defender than a Dennis Rodman-like pest on the low block and although Tyrus put up a nice line tonight (20 points, 3 steals, 4 rebounds), he’s gonna need some coaching before he becomes anything more than a game-changing gimmick player off of the bench — much like Gerald Wallace during his first few years in Charlotte.

Bullets:

  • Derrick Brown only scored two points in two minutes in this game but it was on a seriously rad dunk (check out the highlights above).  Why he and Henderson aren’t getting any extended burn is beyond me.
  • How is that this guy is two thirds of the way through his third NBA season and I’m just now finding out about Kyrylo Fesenko?  A 7-foot, 300 pound “hoss,” Fesenko could feasibly stick around in the League for the next decade.  If Marcin Gortat is worth the full mid-level, this kid is worth at least half that.  Gotta commend the Jazz organization for loading up on quality bigs (Boozer, Milsap, Okur, Kirilenko, (last year’s) Koufus and now Fesenko.  The Jazz not only have incredible depth at the 4 & 5 positions, they could also trot out enough Euro-Heavies to finally bring down Jason Bourne.

Help on the Way?

The Kings officially cut ties with Larry Hughes today which brought on an onslaught of speculation that the ‘Cats would sign him.  On paper this makes lots of sense as Hughes seems to be from the Flip Murray School of Instant Offense.  As a 26+ game rental, Hughes could provide the slashing and jump shooting that the team lost in Murray with the added benefit of being a much better defender.  The team could ink him at the veteran’s minimum and still be under the luxury tax.
Bonnell has a nice write up of the logistics and probabilities of the move in his blog.

Going Once, Going Twice, SOLD!

How funny is it that while the financial world lies shaken from the fallout of the Greek sovereign debt crisis, some Greek-American dude is about to take on one of professional sports’ most debt-laden franchises?  You’ve probably read the quote before but the official line goes something like “most of the franchise’s value lies in it’s debt” — yeah, isn’t that how the world got into this economic mess to begin with?
The truth of the matter is that the Bobcats are going to be sold for far less than what Bob Johnson paid for it (before calculating inflation and all of the other money Johnson has thrown away during the past 6-7 years) and if George Postolos’ Group has the slightest inkling of how to run a major sports franchise, the team should be profitable within the next 3-5 years (pending a 2011 lockout).
Charlotte led the league in attendance for close to a decade, they have an incredible facility (controversially gifted to them by taxpayers), a quality city, educated fans, good weather, lots of home grown, regional talent and are the only NBA team in a region that spans south of D.C. and north of Atlanta.  It would take a certified moron to screw up a situation like this (as we’ve witnessed).  Barring a last minute rally from Michael Jordan’s “Ownership Group,” we’re likely to see Postolos take control of this franchise very soon.

Until Next Time, Enjoy the Loss Bobcats Fans…

-ASChin

Bobcats Beat Warriors At Their Own Game

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Bobcats Charlotte Bobcats @ Warriors 1/29/10


Staying with the “Running Diary” theme recaps…

FIRST HALF

Lots of talk from the Warriors broadcast team about Stephen Jackson coming back to Oaktown.  Boos aplenty.  Wow!  The Bobcats have their very first heel!

Great moment midway through the first quarter which illustrates Larry Brown’s impatience with Rookies.  Derrick Brown checks in to give Diaw a breather and proceeds to fall asleep in transition defense.  LB yanks him after thirty seconds and inserts Stephen Graham for the rest of the quarter.  Talk about a short fuse.

Ronny Turiaf checks in later in the quarter and starts making plays immediately.  I wrote in my Power Forward Trade Column recently that Turiaf would be a great fit as a backup four in Charlotte and he’s proving me right again this evening with lots of energy on the offensive glass, a few nice put-backs and one crazy steal and almost finish on the fast break.  If the ‘Cats could get him for Henderson and Law straight up I say make the deal immediately.

Just caught the box score for the Philly/Lakers game.  Anybody realize that both Primoz Brezec AND Jason Kapono play for the Sixers?  Me neither, maybe because they both logged DNP-CDs tonight.  Somewhere Bernie Bickerstaff is crying.

My first look at Steph Curry as a pro.  I wasn’t sure how he was going to turn out but thus far I’m impressed.  He has some pass-first PG acumen; is an As-Advertised great long range shooter and is a little bigger than you’d think.  Will probably play just as long as his pops (16+ seasons) in the League and be at worst a Steve Kerr role player on a contender.

Starting the 2nd quarter now and we have a SPECIAL GUEST ANNOUNCER joining the Warriors’ broadcast crew.  “Oh my gawd King, it’s that sadistic bastard Paul Heyman!”  No, it’s Dell Curry!  DC4THREEE! chats about Steph’s success, the JAX trade, Monta Ellis’ dependence on his right hand, Steph’s mouthpiece fetish (possibly inherited from watching so many Crash games in CLT), the light, skin-tight kevlar body armor that so many players are wearing these days (including Gerald Wallace), etc, etc.
I’m actually starting to think that Dell could be a great ambassador nation-wide for Charlotte Pro Basketball.  Sort of an Obama/Brad Daugherty gene splice.  He’s no Mike Gminski yet but a strong upgrade from Adrian Branch/Henry Williams.

Who is that tall, bearded guy on the Bobcats bench wearing a suit?  Did Sean May lose a bunch of weight and go all Joakim Phoenix on us?  Oh, that’s the guy we traded our franchise center for, Tyson Chandler.  Tyson Chandler everybody!  Woo-hoo!!!  Sixteen games and counting!

Starters (especially JAX and CRASH) playing a ton of minutes in the first half.  D.J. comes in to to give Raymond a blow.  Augustin nails two straight threes and looks confident.  Then he loses that turnover to Run Ronny Turiaf who embarrasses him with the aforementioned steal and almost finish.  Still, D.J. with a respectable eleven points in the first half.

Bobcats up 65-59 at the break.

SECOND HALF

JAX and CRASH haven’t come out of the game yet and Boris has only been out a minute.  The announcers for GS are talking like this is a good thing.  I’m a little worried about all of this wear and tear.

RADMAN in the house!  Not sure if it’s a Bay Area inspired thing but Vlad has suddenly started looking like the lead singer from Loverboy.
Also, Warriors fans must be in secret agony every time they see Vlad get toasted by JAX.  Golden State really didn’t get enough for him in that trade.  Kind of like when the Bobcats play the Hornets and Emeka Okafor drops a double-double on Tyson Chandler’s replacement.

I’m a Boris Bee-Liever but Diaw has been hit or miss all season and I’m starting to think that he’s gonna be the player that the team moves if you believe Bill Simmons’ assertion that the ‘Cats are making another trade before the deadline.  Carlos Boozer for Diaw and change?  A Felton/Jackson/Wallace/Boozer/Chandler lineup is a tough matchup for anyone in East.  I’m warming to the idea.

Back to Raymond for a second, I feel like his beard is under-discussed.  Baron Davis started doing this and his game went to the next level a few years back.  Not to mention Magic in the 80s.  I’m calling on Ray to push it at least as far as QuestLove before the Playoffs.  Felton is playing so well these days (16pts on 6-10, 6asts tonight) that I’m a little worried that the Lakers are gonna sweep him up this offseason to replace Derek Fisher.  They’ve liked him since the ’05 draft and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Ray running the point next year for Kobe and Phil.

Nazr Mohammed has played a total of 17 minutes and Gana Diop’s nearing a DNP-CD himself.  Larry Brown chooses to go small with JAX and CRASH alternating playing the four and Diaw taking Center.  Bobcats up by double digits in the Third.

WOW.  Andris Biedrins with a Turiaf-esque steal of a Felton pass and then a one-on-none fast break JAM.  Let’s talk about Biedrins’ hair for a second.  Is he purposefully trying to invite Dolph Lundgren comparisons?  He basically looks like any Eastern European tough guy involved in a Russian Arms Deal Gone Bad.  I’m gonna search later for photographs of Andris wearing a grey sportcoat and black undershirt.

Monta Ellis looking every bit as you’d expect.  Scoring at will.  Driving the lane and hitting jumpers from the outside.  Looks like a young Iverson.  Warriors hot all game shooting 56% from the field but can’t secure a rebound while the ‘Cats aren’t doing too bad themselves at 50%.

CARTIER MARTIN SIGHTING!  Yes, Cartier “That’s Really My First Name” Martin just checked into the game and put one up over JAX.  He then gets hyper and starts launching threes – all errant.  Thanks for the memories, Cartier.

Fourth Quarter and the Bobcats look like the better team.  They blow the game open and build a 20 point lead with just a little over six minutes left and are killing the W’s this half with a 20-9 rebounding advantage (CRASH lead the way with 13 to go along with an impossibly quiet 30pts).

JAX with a killer 3 (bringing his scoring total to 30), D.J. with another killer three and for some reason Larry Brown decides to leave his starters in with 6:30 to go with the ‘Cats well ahead and the Warriors trotting out Cartier and Anthony Tolliver (GS’s answer to Stephen Graham).

Warriors make a mini-rally but come up short and LB empties the bench with 2:20 to go in the game.  Gerald “The Sequel” Henderson comes in and looks as though he’s never even seen a basketball before, missing free throws, slipping on the floor, throwing the ball away.  Doesn’t matter.  Bobcats in control and take this game 121-110 to go 23-22 on the year while improving to 5-17 on the road.

AP recap here.  Box score here.

Enjoy the win Bobcats fans…

-ASChin