2014 Charlotte Hornets Free Agency Primer

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Hornets-Offseason

A Playoff team on the rise, the new and improved Charlotte Hornets will enter this week’s Free Agent Frenzy with a few key positions to fill.

Starting Wing

Both of last year’s starting wings, Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, are under contract and could return – but the lack of shooting and overall scoring from their positions severely limited Coach Clifford’s offense last season. The chances of Charlotte snagging a new starter in free agency are extremely high:

Luol Deng

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
Clifford and Bulls head coach Tom Thibideau come from the same Van Gundy coaching tree. Thibs LOVED Deng and the Hornets will too. Deng gives Clifford incredible length, smarts and tenacity on defense and a multi-dimensional third scorer when opponents key on Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker at the other end. The Hornets could start Deng next to Henderson (if they keep him) or MKG and rotate Jeff Taylor, Gary Neal and P.J. Hairston off the bench. An MKG/Deng wing combo would give opposing offenses nightmares.

The common argument against Deng is that, despite the fact that he’s only 29, he’s played too many minutes over his career and is likely due for a breakdown. I’m not so sure that’s given. Let’s look at the combined minutes (regular and post-season) of a few All-Star wings (rounded, via BasketballReference.com)

  • Lebron James (29 years old) 33,000 minutes played
  • Luol Deng (29 years old) 26,000 minutes played
  • Kobe Bryant (35 years old) 54,000 minutes played
  • Kevin Durant (25 years old) 23,000 minutes played
  • Joe Johnson (33 years old) 38,000 minutes played

Deng has four years and twelve thousand less miles on his odometer than Joe Johnson, who (somewhat controversially), made the All-Star team last season. All these players have different styles and body types and its always a risk handing out big money to any player, regardless of circumstance. I just don’t think the narrative over Deng’s wear & tear matches the reality.

Contract: A two-year $24 million offer makes sense for both sides; big money up front for Luol and it times just right with MKG’s eventual extension.
Odds: VERY LIKELY

Lance Stephenson

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
I was convinced Lance would be the Hornets primary offseason target right up until the Draft. But once the team selected former Tar Heel P.J. Hairston, the odds of Charlotte introducing two shooting guards with character issues into their peaceful locker room dipped dramatically. Lance is 23, unrestricted, immensely talented and shows up in big games. He can create offense where there is none and rises up to any and all defensive challenges. But he’s going to cause headaches for any coach due to his quirky personality and tendancy to “wing-it” on the court. Steve Clifford already has his hands full trying to win games while developing very young players. And he doesn’t have any more hair to pull out.
Contract: Tyreke Evans got $44 million of 4 years. Lance is better than Tyreke Evans.
Odds: Likely.

Chandler Parsons, Gordon Hayward

Status: Restricted Free Agents
Parsons and Hayward are both big wings who can shoot and score in a variety of ways. Hayward has more upside as a defender and Parsons has more consistent range. If they were unrestricted free agents, Charlotte would be sending them teal colored dump trucks full of cash but their restricted status all but takes them off the table. Offer them fair money and their respective teams tie up your cap space for 72 hours as your backup targets get taken off the market one by one. Wildly overpay and you might be stuck in a Joe Johnson/Atlanta situation with no room to upgrade your team in the future. Sure, the Hornets could approach either Houston or Utah with a sign and trade offer, but would you really want to give away, say, Cody Zeller, MKG and a future pick for the right to overpay Chandler Parsons?
Contract: Both guys will receive $10-$12 million per season on four year contracts from their current teams.
Odds: Very Unlikely.

Backup Point Guard

In February, Charlotte downgraded from a solid, non-traditional backup PG who fans disliked (Ramon Sessions) to a poor, traditional backup PG who fans tried to fool themselves into liking (Luke Ridnour). Fortunately Ridnour was on the last year of an expiring contract and won’t be back. Charlotte will enter the offseason in search of a veteran backup for Kemba Walker.

Jameer Nelson

Status: Under Contract (Partially Guaranteed)
Clifford and associate head coach Patrick Ewing had him in Orlando for many years and there’s been no shortage of rumors linking Nelson to Charlotte if the Magic release him before July 12th. Jameer’s three point percentage hovered around 40% three seasons ago while playing with a dominant big man (Dwight Howard) and there’s a good chance he could reach those levels again playing off of Big Al.
Contract: Given Jameer’s ties with Charlotte’s coaching staff and city’s proximity to his family in Orlando, 2yrs, $10 million or 3yrs, $15 million could work.
Odds: Likely.

Mario Chalmers

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
He pooped the bed in this year’s Finals but rewind the tape a year prior and Chalmers was a big reason Miami won the title in 2013. He can hit spot up threes and, similar to his role in Miami, wouldn’t be asked to do much playmaking with Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng making cameos with the second unit. Also, as Lebron’s whipping boy, you’d think he’d love the opportunity to hit a few daggers against his old team and division rival.
Contract: Anything over $4-$5 million per year is an overpay.
Odds: Likely.

Ramon Sessions

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
Speaking of whipping boys, I’ll never understand why Bobcats fans hated Sessions so much. “He’s selfish!” “He can’t shoot!” “He looks like a real asshole!” I’ll concede the shooting at least. As for the selfish claims, Ramon was often in charge of leading a second unit that consisted of McRoberts (pass first), Jeff Taylor (37% FG, 27% 3PT FG), Bismack Biyombo (no comment) and either Ben “The Humbler” Gordon or Anthony Tolliver. There’s only so many pick and pops you can run with AT until the opposing defense figures it out. Ramon’s job was to manufacture offense and that’s what he did. Sessions is one of the league’s best at getting to the line and its no surprise that Charlotte’s inability to do so in the postseason coincided with Ramon playing in Milwaukee.
Contract: Somewhere between $4 and $5 million sounds right.
Odds: Likely.

Kirk Hinrich

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
Another Thibs guy, Hinrich gets hurt a lot and is not even close to the same player that he was during the Bulls’ mid-2000s mini-renaissance but as a smart, solid-shooting backup point who tries hard on defense, you could do much, much worse.
Contract: Again, the magic number for quality backup PGs is around $4-$5m per.
Odds: Somewhat likely.

Backup Center

It’s difficult to imagine a more polarizing Charlotte Draft pick than Bismack Biyombo. Twitter seems to be equally divided into “You’re an Idiot, He Sucks” and “No. You’re an Idiot, He Doesn’t Suck” camps*. The truth is that Biz has some solid value today and will likely become a decent big man in time but at the moment, he can really hurt a team that’s trying to win meaningful NBA games. Proponents can point to the semi-esoteric “rim-protection” metric and finagle an argument via quantum physics as to how Biz is a more imposing defender than Roy Hibbert. Critics counter with Biyombo’s inordinately high turnovers given his lack of touches and his overall lack of feel for the game. All I can say is that Clifford didn’t feel comfortable playing Biz for long stretches even though he desperately needed to get Big Al some rest. Expect a veteran backup to arrive this summer either in free agency or via trade.
*Then again, this could describe a large proportion of all arguments on the internet.

Channing Frye, Spencer Hawes

Status: Unrestricted Free Agents
Non-traditional centers who love to hover around the three point line. They’ll be pricey and in demand by teams that crave unorthodox bigs. Pairing Frye and McRoberts in the frontcourt could allow MKG and Kemba to do lots of damage driving inside.
Contract: Minimum $6 million per.
Odds: Somewhat Likely.

Emeka Okafor

Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
Okafor in One-Four? The Bobcats first ever draft choice is coming off of a back injury but has a made a ton of cash (thanks to former Cats President Rod Higgins) and could be a nice backup and safety net should Big Al miss any time. He might not be ready for a reduced role quite yet though and there have been rumblings that the Heat will make a run.
Contract: Somewhere between $6-$7 million per depending on the team and years.
Odds: Unlikely.

2014 Charlotte Hornets Offseason Preview

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The Bobcats-era wrapped up with an emphatic BANG of a season that saw the team improve by more wins (22) than it won in total the season prior (21). Instead of trotting out a bunch of could-be’s and haven’t-beens to theoretically improve their draft position, Charlotte’s NBA franchise bucked the NBA’s current trend of tanking and revitalized a downtrodden fan-base in turn. Basketball is again something worth talking about in the QC and thanks to Coach Clifford & Company, the excitement won’t just be about a new coat of teal & purple paint.

Still, as fantastic of a season as it was for Charlotte, the first round sweep against the two time defending champs Miami Heat exposed some well-known flaws within the roster. Addressing those flaws while simultaneously building upon the Bobcats’ success will be the front office’s assignment as we head into the inaugural Hornets offseason. Wait, did I just type “building upon success” and “Bobcats” in the same sentence? #NEWWORLDORDER

STEP ONE: A Shooting Guard who can Shoot

I often found myself in the role of Lone Hendo Defender throughout much of the season. Having watched his development over the past five years – from a quarantined rook at the end of Larry Brown’s bench to a quality two-way NBA starting two guard – I was excited to see what Gerald could become on a good team. The answer was a resounding “passable“, a sometimes scoring, sometimes attacking, sometimes lockdown defensive shooting guard whose poor man’s D-Wade game just doesn’t work all that well on a team desperate for long range shooting. Like most of the Bobcats’ opponents this season, Miami smartly packed the paint and crowded Kemba Walker at the point of attack – knowing that the inevitable ball swing to the open shooter wouldn’t hurt them. That’s a problem.

Henderson doesn’t want to shoot off the catch at all – he’ll be wide open and hesitate before taking a bounce or faking a pass only to throw up a clanker out of necessity. His mid-post and iso games were made redundant once Jefferson was added to the mix and Hendo wasn’t able to transition his game over the course of the season to compensate. I like Gerald and think he gets an unnecessary bad rap from the fans but it’s obvious that he’s a bad fit on a Kemba/Big Al centered offense.

The good news for Charlotte is that there are a few options to remedy the issue either in the draft, free agency or via trade. With Portland’s 24th overall selection, the Hornets will likely have a shot at former Tar Heel P.J. Hairston (controversial, high upside), Duke’s Rodney Hood (safe, lower upside) or the UCLA SG prospects Jordan Adams (good mechanics, iffy results) and Zach LaVine (skinny and raw). None of these guys will step in and be instant All-Stars but could provide a nice boost in the limited role of floor-spacer.

Free Agency offers a couple of high priced young vets in Lance Stephenson (combustible, questionable fit) and Gordon Hayward. Hayward is probably the team’s ideal target as a sweet shooting, shot-creating big wing but he’s a restricted free agent that Utah says they want to keep and there’s rumored to be a long line of suitors should the Jazz change their minds.

One cheaper, under the radar alternative might be OKC’s Thabo Sefolosha. While Thabo’s not a shot creator like Lance or Hayward, he’s been a fantastic “three and D” knockdown guy for many years and shouldn’t cost the team more than $4 million or so per season. Although Sefolosha struggled with his stroke this season, he shot 40%+ from downtown in the previous two. Perhaps most importantly, Thabo won’t kill Clifford’s defense while he’s out there.

On the trade front, Charlotte’s has already been linked to Orlando’s Arron Afflalo (42% 3PTFG) via ESPN’s Mark Stein. Afflalo’s nearly thirty and only has one more guaranteed season on his deal – so don’t expect GM Rich Cho to give up much (maybe a couple of 2nd Round Picks) for Arron’s services – but putting Afflalo in teal & purple could provide an immediate upgrade for Charlotte’s distance shooting without having to break the bank short-term.

STEP TWO: #BringBackMcBob, Part II

In an unexpected karmic re-balancing, Josh McRoberts has provided the answer to a long asked QC Hoops question: “What if Boris Diaw gave a damn? Unlike the bovine Segway Surfer, Josh brings maximum effort every game and is beloved by both teammates and fans alike for his abilities as a floor-spacer and distributor. One of the most unique players in the league, McRoberts functions often as the team’s spot-up shooting point guard in the half court, rarely creating for himself. Outside of Kevin Love, there probably isn’t a better fit for Charlotte’s offense with Kemba Walker still progressing as a traditional point and Al Jefferson desperate for floor spacing.

Retaining McRoberts, who will likely opt out of his two-year deal he signed last summer, is of tremendous importance. With an expected cap increase coming for all teams, expect Josh to command around $5-$6 million per season on the open market.

STEP THREE: Backup Point Guard

Ramon Sessions had his flaws: He was guilty of tunnel vision, he wasn’t a reliable three point shooter and he was a less than stellar perimeter defender. But he was light years less destructive for Charlotte than his trade deadline replacement, Luke Ridnour.

While Luke’s abilities as a traditional floor leader came in handy, he proved to a be a fantastically bad shooter (39%FG, 30%3PTFG) who couldn’t draw fouls and was a gi-normous liability on defense. Fans complained when Ramon’s second unit minutes became a constant barrage of head down drives. But at least “Sesh” turned those drives into trips to the line, easy layups or – at worst – short rebounds. Luke’s second units often devolved into hot potato on the perimeter until the shot clock forced a bad three or a Luke giveaway.

Fortunately, both Ridnour’s and Sessions’ deals expire this summer and Ramon has let it be known that he’d like to be back. That would be a-ok with me and it’s likely that some of his former detractors would welcome Sessions back with open arms after having been subjected to Ridnour for a few months.

Charlotte could also hit the trade or free agent markets looking for a fit. If Jameer Nelson gets bought out by Orlando (likely), Clifford would surely love to have him backing up and mentoring his height-challenged PG of the future. Philly’s Tony Wroten has his warts but offers an intriguing combination of size and potential – he likely doesn’t fit into the Sixers’ future plans with Michael Carter-Williams on the roster so could be made available for the right price.

Unrestricted free agent options includes guys like Greivis Vaquez, Rodney Stuckey and Mario Chalmers. Chalmers in particular would be an interesting signing as a spot up shooting, high-end backup whose acquisition would simultaneously weaken a division opponent.

STEP FOUR: Give Big Al a Break

The Bobcats have $6 million committed to the Bismack Biyombo and Brendan Haywood combo next season and neither is an ideal backup for Big Al. Biz is a complete non-factor on offense as well as a turnover machine and Haywood can’t even get on the court, having missed the entire ’13-’14 season with a foot injury.

In an ideal world, the Hornets could find a rebuilding team to take on Biz’s upcoming $3.8 million salary in a straight dump and use the space created either via free agency or trade to bring in a veteran two-way replacement.

One outside-the-box free agent pick is PHX’s Channing Frye – a legit “stretch five” 6’11” guy who can nail threes (37% 3PTFG on 5.3 attempts per game). Bringing Frye in with the second unit could open up the paint for more drive opportunities for guys like Gary Neal and allow MKG an opportunity to work in the post.

Regardless of who they end up with, Charlotte will need to figure out how to get Big Al some rest – he played 35 minutes a night for Clifford this season and is nursing a ruptured plantar fasciitis. Given his age (29) and body type, Jefferson would be better off decreasing his minutes down closer to the 30 per game mark. For that to happen, Cho will need to find a capable backup.

STEP FIVE: Young Guys Doin’ Work

The Hornets can’t solely depend on outside help if they want to get better, their recent Draft picks have to grow as well.

Kemba Walker should spend the entire offseason working on his shot. As much as we love Kemba, 39% from the field just isn’t going to cut it. There were many nights this season where Walker’s 6-18 or 4-16 shooting actively hurt the team.

Conversely, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might want to shy away from rebuilding a fundamentally broken shot and spend more time on developing a post-up game and maybe even add a floater or hook to his repertoire. Those skills could pay instant dividends, especially if the front office can add shooting around him.

Cody Zeller has voiced his concern about adding bulk, saying that it might hamper his speed and leaping ability. Fortunately, it’s 2014 and there are ways to add core, functional strength without bulking up too much. Cody needs to divide his time between strength training and the mid-range jumper all summer.

Jeff Taylor is a complete unknown at this point. He’s nearing 25 years of age and rehabbing a torn achilles. His shot was ok in theory pre-injury but produced horrific results in practice. He seems like a great young guy and we’re hoping for a full recovery for JT down the road but expectations should be kept at a minimum.

STEP SIX: Keep On Keepin’ On

Coach Clifford somehow turned Charlotte into a Top 10 defense in his first season and has said on multiple occasions that he’s just getting started implementing his advanced scheme. Since you can’t add systematic nuance with a complete roster overhaul, expect much of the Hornets core roster to remain the same. Upgrading the shooting guard position, retaining McRoberts, finding suitable backups for Big Al & Kemba and continuing the youngsters’ development internally will only vault the Hornets higher into the Eastern Conference.

Speaking of which, some have questioned if Charlotte has enough core talent on hand to compete for anything beyond a Playoff seed and those people are sort of missing the point. In the modern history of the NBA, no franchise has ever gone from perpetual doormat to champ and perpetual doormat is exactly what the Bobcats were for nearly all of their ten year history.

Michael Jordan, Cho and Clifford are building a culture of competent, competitive basketball. It may lead to legitimate title contention and it may not but for the first time in forever, Charlotte’s hoops franchise is worth the blood, sweat and tears of a fan’s investment. They will play hard, they will play smart and, for the first time in ages, they will make you proud to let the world know where your allegiance lies.

Go Hornets.

-ASChin
@BaselineBuzz

 

Building the Bugs

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How the Hornets Return

To Tank or Not to Tank

Unbelievable. The Charlotte Bobcats organization actually made a great decision. As first reported Friday evening by CBS Sports, the Queen City’s original (and best) NBA team monikor is coming back home, likely beginning in November of 2014. Great news but if the franchise has to wait eighteen months for the teal & purple, what on earth is their on-court game plan between now and then? Here’s the dilemma:

Remember when Miami won 27 games in a row earlier this season? The Bobcats have won just 28 games OVER THE PAST TWO SEASONS COMBINED. As if their early history wasn’t terrible enough, the Cats have cemented their status as a national joke since launching OPERATION TANK twenty-four months ago. The franchise can’t afford to begin the Hornets Era as a re-skinned farce in new duds. Credibility must be nurtured and harvested before Super Hugo dunks from his first trampoline.

Simultaneously, no Draft since 2008 has featured a bigger potential superstar than 2014’s top prospect, Andrew Wiggins. Do you bet the franchise on bottoming out for a third consecutive season in the slim hopes that Lottery ping pong balls bounce in your favor? Or, do you use this offseason’s cap space, draft pick and coaching search to further upgrade your roster, disregarding Lottery odds in order to build excitement through actual wins and player development?

No mistake, Andrew Wiggins is going to be very good, perhaps awesome. He’s been compared to a young Tracy McGrady and for those who don’t remember, young T-Mac was a stud. But here’s the problem: there is absolutely ZERO guarantee, no matter how many games you throw, you’ll be able to get him.

A Little NBA Draft History

Since 1985, only FOUR times has the league’s worst team won the Lottery. That’s four times in twenty seven years. The FIFTH WORST team has actually had more luck, winning it five times. Betting your franchise’s future on the Draft Lottery is just slightly less irresponsible than betting your personal financial future on the Powerball.

Worse yet, if the team tanks and doesn’t wind up winning a Top 3 Pick, they’ve essentially sacrificed an entire season — in which they could further develop players and nurture local fans — for the measley reward of drafting Marcus Smart or Aaron Gordon. Note to pro-tankers, this scenario is by far the most likely given the Lottery’s odds.

In fact, this type of scenario is the very the reason Commissioner Stern implemented the Lottery system to begin with. Franchises should be forced to remain competitive because it turns out that you can royally piss off a fanbase by purposefully trying to lose.

Finally, two outstanding articles on the Draft were published shortly after the Hornets news broke.

Take a few minutes to read each of these if you haven’t already. Then go back and scan our Draft Retrospective Part I (Part II will be published later this week). Notice a pattern here?

Perhaps four times in a decade, a ready-made NBA star enters the Draft. No amount of organizational dysfunction can prevent that player from achieving greatness. Lebron, Durant, MJ, Bird, Magic. But the vast majority of the time, it is the organization itself that must shape the talented clay into All-Stars and Superstars, especially now that most top picks are one-and-done 19 year olds. The Indiana Pacers enter the Eastern Conference Finals with not a single Top 5 pick on the roster. Paul George, D.J. Augustin and Tyler Hansbrough were late Lottery selections while Lance Stephenson, Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger, David West and George Hill all arrived in the NBA via the mid-first round or later.

Developing Prospects

Meanwhile, what have the Bobcats accomplished with their ten Lottery picks in nine years? At some point, after noticing the differences in all of the team’s “failed prospects”, you begin to realize that the one constant in all of this nonsense is the Bobcats organization itself.

In the great David Mamet stage and screenplay “Glengarry Glen Ross”, we are introduced to two primary types of salesmen. The Ed Harris/Jack Lemmon types, perpetually moaning about the quality of their sales leads – yearning for the day in which they’ll finally land those precious ripe prospects, the “Glengarry leads”. In contrast we have Al Pacino’s character, Ricky Roma, whose leads are no better than Harris’ or Lemmon’s but through shrewdness and skill, coasts to being the agency’s top rep month after month. When Alec Baldwin’s head honcho character arrives to deliver the Glengarry leads midway through the film, he teases Harris and Lemmon with this:

“These are the new leads. These are the Glengarry leads. And to you they’re gold, and you don’t get them. Why? Because to give them to you would be throwing them away. They’re for closers.”

The Bobcats have never been closers. The Hornets, for all of their mistakes, were. If Michael Jordan, Rod Higgins and Rich Cho want to truly turn this franchise around, they need to focus less on where they pick their Draft prospects and more on building an organization that can actually develop one.

- A.S. Chin

“I’d Like to Welcome Back Some Old Friends”

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Some Crazy Speculation on Draft Night 2013

In a little less than a year – February 1st, 2014 to be exact – David Stern will retire from his post as NBA commissioner after an overwhelmingly successful 30 year reign. Stern’s marketing driven sports philosophy propelled the league from near extinction into an insanely lucrative global brand. The poster child (quite literally) for Stern’s multi-decade strategy is Charlotte Bobcats’ owner and G.O.A.T. Michael Jordan, who ruled both the court and the cameras during the league’s exponential growth period during the ’90s. Stern created the conditions for an international phenomenon like MJ to exist and Jordan took full advantage, elevating the game and league to heights Stern quite possibly couldn’t have imagined.
Which brings us to Thursday, June 27th 2013: David Stern’s final NBA Draft. It is the one night of the NBA year in which Stern himself is the center of attention and it represents a perfect PR opportunity to do some final executive housecleaning:
The Commissioner struts out from backstage to a roar of ironic boos and earnest applause, handling it in style with his trademark smirk and snark. He thanks the fans, the players, the owners, everyone involved in the league for making it what it is today. Then a surprise: “Before I go, I’d like to welcome a new friend into the Association.” Tom Benson joins him at the podium with a freshly minted New Orleans Pelicans jersey. Smiles and handshakes. “And I’d also like to use this opportunity to welcome back some old friends.” Steve Balmer (or one of his minions) joins the group with a crisp Supersonics size 48. “After a brief hiatus, we’d like to officially welcome Seattle back to the NBA.” More smiles and handshakes, cheers from the crowd. Stern lets the moment linger… “Speaking of old friends…”
The one and only, Michael Jordan struts in from stage right holding a jersey of his own. Nearly thirty years later to the date, Stern and MJ shake hands at the Draft podium for a second time. “Michael, it’s been an amazing run.” Crowd going nuts. Jordan unveils the teal and purple. “Finally, we’d like to welcome the Hornets back to their home in Charlotte.” Boom.

A former player – an African-American mega-star – standing equally alongside two white billionaires and a Jewish attorney representing the NBA’s past, present and future – this is Stern-ian theatrics at its best.
Crazy speculation? Certainly. Does it fit with the Commissioner’s thirty year modus opperandi? Without a doubt.
Finally: Just as ESPN’s cameras cut away, Stern leans into the microphone, turns towards MJ: “Michael, your team is up, the clock’s ticking down. Some things never change.”
-ASChin

Bobcats Mid-January Recap

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It’s been a little while since we’ve posted any recaps on Bobcats Baseline. Sure, plenty of excuses could be made for this. Really, it all comes down to a downturn in enthusiasm. It might be impossible to accuse any Bobcats blogger of being a fair weather fan, but this team sure does make it tough. December  was a pretty dark month, as the Cats only one 1 of their 20 games. So, the new year will be my time to re-energize or spirits and express some loose thoughts on the current state of the Charlotte-based club that we wish wasn’t so terrible at professional basketball.

Let’s Look at the Positives

Um, there are some positives right?

Gordon for Three!

We can celebrate the fact that the Cats have 2 more wins than all of last season! How about that for improvement. Actually, let’s be grateful that we no longer have to see Corey Maggette on the court. His ability to make basketball unwatchable has perfectly suited all of the teams that have paid him so much money. Now, we get Ben Gordon – gettin’ hot and doin’ Ben Gordon thangs. Oh, and we should be happy that none of the important guys have suffered any serious injuries so far this year, either. Don’t try to tell me that Byron Mullens’ counts as important.

Let’s give Mike Dunlap some credit. He worked hard to install a defensive attitude to this team all throughout training camp. While that’s not actually shown any on-court results for the Bobcats, he has a fine excuse for the team playing offense like a YMCA pick up game. Well, maybe they could use at least one player that could score in the half-court offense. But, that’s a whole other story for another day. Realistically, Dunlap gets credit for the way the team has kept up their effort. They might not look or play like winners, but they’ve fought and hustled through nearly every game this year. No one is hanging their heads despite their collectively horrible record.

Bright Spots

So, it’s been awesome to watch Ramon Sessions step on the floor and perform like a professional at every opportunity. He seems to do all that’s within his ability to give the team what it needs when he’s on the floor. Teams like the Spurs have 7 or 8 guys like this. The Bobcats have about 1.5.

Byron being ineffective

Remember when Byron Mullens was often the focal point of the Bobcats’ offense? Ugh. I know some folks like the unconventional, and seeing a 7-footer hitting long range shots sure was appealing. But Byron was failing at nearly every other aspect of the game. He’s no Dirk, and his teammates were punished for just about every minute he was on the court.

Now, we’ve got this weird platoon of Tyrus Thomas, Hakim Warrick, and Jeff Adrien. Where do you start with this squad. If we throw Byron in this pile, we still get one of the weakest performing collections of power forwards that the league will see for a long time. But I’ve got to admit that it’s fun to watch Jeff Adrien. His game is so old-school, and it’s great to see a D-League guy perform when he gets the chance. This might be one of his only seasons in the NBA, so let’s enjoy his stable, predictable style of ball. His game is so much more palatable than the 2013 Tyrus Thomas Jumpshot Clinic & Dribbling Exhibition.

Hmmm

What’s up with Gerald Henderson? He comes off the bench and seems pretty quiet these days. Somehow he always ends up in double digit scoring, and finds a way to never take it to the rack. I remember when jumping was one of the easiest things for him, and his shooting was shaky. By starting Jeff Taylor, I get the feeling that the Bobcats are feeling out what life without Henderson is like. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him traded or heading elsewhere this summer. Personally, I like his game a lot, but he might have a better role on another club.

One-half of Thunder & Lightning

Wasn’t Bismack Biyombo supposed to get better? Out of all of the discouraging comments that the Utah Jazz broadcast crew spouted during their game, there was one that stuck with me. Continually, they stated their opinion that the Bobcats were loaded with athletes that weren’t actually basketball players. You could probably say this most accurately describes two of the Cats – Tyrus Thomas and Bismack Biyombo. Potential and “development” were the themes we heard when Bismack was drafted. Right now, it’s starting to seem a little unrealistic to expect much from the kid. Let’s hope that he maintains his work ethic and the team provides him with everything he needs to grow and understand basketball at a pro level. Maybe they can keep Tyrus around as a cautionary example for him. “Hey, Bis – you don’t want to end up like that guy.”

As I mentioned, I caught the Jazz-Bobcats game on NBA League Pass last night and it was quite a treat to hear the Utah broadcast team’s opinions on Charlotte’s team. Most times, I enjoy hearing an alternative to Charlotte’s homer duo of Steve Martin and Dell Curry. Usually, the other teams have a very balanced and straightforward play-by-play guy and some awfully unintelligible color commentator that provides a good deal of exclamatory oohs and ahhs. The worst of these might be Dominique Wilkins. Check out an ATL game sometime and you’ll enjoy listening to how bad he is at his job. Last night, the Jazz team had a pair of absolutely sober guys that continually bashed the Bobcats performance, roster, and organization. To add insult to injury while the Jazz piled on a barrage of unanswered points during the 3rd, the color commentary dude just went on an unprompted and disconnected tangent about how he “didn’t know what this club can do” and mentioned how Charlotte was such an exciting place for basketball back when “there was the Hornets and Alonzo Mourning…”  Ouch.

Let’s hope Charlotte can start to turn this thing around. We can’t let Mike Dunlap get the Paul Silas Blues. Things look to change over the next couple of years – David Stern will step down, the Hornets could be back, Gana Diop will retire, Tyrus Thomas should be gone, and Kemba might be good enough to threaten to take his talents to South Beach.

Go Cats!

-Mike 


POLL : Should Charlotte Trade Gerald Henderson?

  • Absolutely (43%, 30 Votes)
  • Only for a Great Return (51%, 36 Votes)
  • No Way (6%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 70

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Bobcats Baseline Season 9 | Week 5 Recap

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The Bobcats decided to capitalize on the current “nostalgia” craze by playing throwback ’11-’12 Charlotte b-ball, losing their sixth game in a row and haven’t won a game in two weeks.

Monday’s 118-112 OT loss at home against Portland should have been the cure – the team was up 18 with five minutes to go before the defense took a nosedive. A 100-98 home loss versus New York on Wednesday saw the Knicks give Charlotte multiple chances to close out a win before J.R. Smith nailed his beautiful buzzer beater. As for last night’s drubbing in Brew-town? Total Silas re-enactment.

Defense and turnovers are the culprits. The Cats lost the turnover battle in all three games, were out-rebounded in two of them and have created a sort of identity crisis in the process. The Mike Dunlap squad we fell in love with last month featured a team of efficient scorers and scrappy defenders. Early December’s Cats have lacked both.

Thoughts on the Week

-Roster Shakeup. After his team pooped the bed in Milwaukee, Dunlap hinted at a possible lineup change. Expect to see Gerald Henderson re-installed at the starting two – he’s looked great since coming back from the calf injury – and look for Bismack Biyombo to start at either PF or C. Byron Mullens has been killing the team on D (you could make the argument that he single handily cost them the game against Portland) and his jumpshot hasn’t been falling with any consistency all season. Put those two together and I don’t know how you keep him in the starting five. The Cats still desperately need some rebounding and offense from the other big spot; hopefully Rich Cho can find a good deal and bring one in (Pau, Jefferson, Boozer, Milsap) before it’s too late.

-Threat of the Three. Watching Milwaukee effortlessly swing the ball around, finding the open shooter and subsequently nailing three after three, I was reminded of how and why the Bobcats offense stagnates so often in the half court. When your team is built around Kemba Walker and MKG – drivers with inconsistent jumpshots – you desperately need to surround them with deadeye shooters. Last night, Jeff Taylor couldn’t hit Lake Michigan. Mullens 35-ish percent shooting doesn’t exactly instill an opposing defense with fear. Getting Henderson’s reliable jumper back will help (imagine reading that three seasons ago), but the team desperately needs a big who can provide some sort of CONSISTENT offense between the basket and the three point line without killing them on D. If that’s via trade (see above) or via another year of tanking plus the Lottery (Isaiah Austin, Cody Zeller), the Cats aren’t going anywhere near relevancy until it happens.

-The Bugs are (almost) Back and almost always Black. The New Orleans Pelicans? Sounds great! Perfect choice! Truth is, I don’t care what they call them as long as Charlotte gets the Hornets name and history back. “Bobcats” fans are few, naturally masochistic and seem to not care either way while “Hornets” fans are many and rabid. I love how the local media are spinning this “$3 million” to re-brand thing like it matters. Gana Diop will be paid twice that for this season alone. Michael Jordan spends the $3 million and he’s hailed as a bona fide HERO in Charlotte for a long time. Sure, he, Cho and Higgins have to continue the recent strong work but that’s beside the point. The Charlotte Hornets mean something to the community. The Bobcats have not and will not. It’s not the economy, it’s not ‘nostalgia’ and for Muggsy’s sakes, it’s not about race. We are NBA fans! How can anyone accuse an NBA fan of being racist!!! That’s like accusing NASCAR fans as being anti-hot wing or Chris Collinsworth of being anti-bland. 90 freakin’ percent of the people we cheer for are black! We own clothing with their names on it! We love them! Bob Johnson the person sucked, sucks currently and always will suck. Why is it important that he be deified as the next Jackie Robinson when we have a perfectly great owner (who happens to be black) NOW. Get it through your thick, agressively PC, victimizing skulls: the vast majority of NBA fans are trans-race. It’s baked into our DNA. We would rather spend time with Kobe than Coldplay. It’s a fact. Jeez.

-ASChin


POLL : The Right Move for Byron Mullens

  • Start Him (43%, 24 Votes)
  • Trade Him (39%, 22 Votes)
  • Bench Him (18%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 56

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THE ISLAND OF MISFIT TOYS: Jordan’s Approach to Building a Winning Team in Charlotte

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THE PLAYERS (AKA THE MISFITS):

It starts with the city itself.  Once a shining example of the NBA’s ever-growing popularity in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Charlotte finds itself today as a middle aged divorcee six years into a rebound marriage, unsure if it was ever cut out for this pro basketball city thing to begin with.*

The team’s first All-Star and only remaining original member was a bargain bin castoff selected in the expansion draft.  Young Gerald Wallace was worth less to the Sacramento Kings than shedding $1 million from their bloated payroll.

Even though he is only one of a dozen or so current NBA players who can score twenty points a night while preventing his opponent from doing the same, Stephen Jackson was exiled from Golden State for what amounted to a $5 million expiring contract and a poor shooting, non-rebounding Eastern European caveman.

Once universally revered, hall of fame head coach Larry Brown arrived in Charlotte a tarnished brand.  In a League where head coaching vacancies are filled annually by the same retread Temp Agency, Brown had to practically reach out to an old friend in order to secure a job and begin rebuilding his reputation.

And finally there’s Jordan.  A man who could do no wrong on the court is now the man who can barely do anything right off of it.  Joining the names Ehlo and Russell in the MJ ethos are new ones like Kwame and Morrison.  For the first time in nearly 30 years, Michael Jordan has something to prove in the game of basketball.

A BRIEF, PAINFUL RECAP

Successful small market teams (OKC, San Antonio, Portland, Utah, Orlando) use the same formula and we all know it: BUILD THROUGH THE DRAFT.  Draft stars to cheap rookie deals, treat ‘em well, sign ‘em to big contracts before they hit free agency and keep drafting young talent and signing mid-level free agents to pair with them.  Rinse and repeat.

The Bobcats are currently the worst drafting franchise in the NBA.  It’s not even up for debate.  In six plus years of existence, not once has one of their draft picks sniffed an All-Star game – and the ‘Cats have had more lottery selections than anyone else in that span.  Indulge me for another brief and painful recap:

2004: Emeka Okafor.  GRADE: a solid double. Could have had more picks and taken Big Al or Iggy if Bob Johnson had a clue about running a business, “hmm, buy a pick from Phoenix for $2 million to draft Jefferson, Deng or Iguodala or build a brand new cable sports network from scratch?  What’s the main draw you ask?  Charlotte Bobcats basketball of course!  Brevin Knight every night!”

2005: Ray Felton/Crab Bread May.  GRADE: a sacrifice bunt. Felton a below average starter for a few years, May on his way to hosting Man vs. Food: EXTREME CARBS!
2006: Adam Morrison.  GRADE: whiff.
Not only a whiff but a McGwire Whiff.  The kind where the guy is on ‘roids and whiffs so hard that he blows out both knees in the process.  Embarrassing.
2007: Jason Richardson/Jared Dudley.  GRADE: RBI single. Could have been worse.  At least realized that they didn’t know how to draft and received a couple non-bust assets in return.

2008: Augustin/Ajinca.  GRADE: whiff. Not as bad as the Morrison knee blowout but a close second.  Passed on Brook Lopez and threw away a future first rounder in order to select Freedom Fries.  Jordan was on record as saying that the team sat out the 2010 draft because “Tyrus Thomas was our first round pick.”  No, Michael.  Alexis Ajinca is your 2010 first round pick.  Ugh.
2009: Henderson/Brown.  GRADE: promising single right up the gap.
Henderson looked good in some late season action and is at least athletic enough to belong in the League–although his complete lack of an outside shot scares me.  Derrick Brown has the Gerald Wallace “I’m not intellectually capable enough to realize I shouldn’t be any good” gene – and this is no insult to Crash, look at how the book-smarts have hampered Okatron 2000’s career.  Higher grade for this draft if LB actually plays them next year.
2010: Ajinca by proxy.  GRADE: Freedom whiff.

So there you go folks, somehow with all of this draft day carnage in their immediate past, the Charlotte Bobcats attained a winning record in 2009-2010 and stole the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference.  So how in the hell did they do it?

GIVE US YOUR UNDER-PERFORMING & YOUR OVER-PAID

Nazr Mohammed, Tyson Chandler, Gana Diop, Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw.  What’s the single thread that ties these players together?  Why, it’s the fact that their former teams handed them massive contracts and then immediately realized that they’d made a mistake.  “Oh crap, we just signed Joel Pryzbilla to a nine year $80 million contract.  Quick, get Jordan on the phone!”

So in a silly season which saw half of the League’s teams trade away wins for cap space, the Bobcats “philosophy” of taking on bad contracts to win now was just wacky enough to propel them into the postseason.  While other GMs plotted for future dynasties, Jordan mortgaged the farm on the more modest and attainable goal of simply making the Playoffs.  It worked.  The ‘Cats finished the season as one of the Association’s top 15 teams.

Could it be that MJ and crony Rod Higgins are sharking their peers by making fiscally questionable deals to upgrade the team’s talent pool?  Have the ‘Cats created a new “Freakonomics” meets “Moneyball” model that challenges the importance of the amateur draft and free agency?  Is Michael Jordan stealthily playing checkers while the rest of the League plays chess?  Or will all of these questionable contracts and draft day screw-ups eventually cripple the team, making future trades difficult and free agent additions impossible?**

If Jordan and Higgins are intent on foregoing the tried and true paradigm for small market success and continue with their merry spending ways, then I present to you, without further ado…

THE SUMMER OF 2010’s MISFIT TOY CANDIDATES:

What makes a Misfit Toy candidate?  Simple: you have to be way overpaid and way underperforming.  If you fit this description then I hope you like pulled pork BBQ ‘cause your probably coming to Carolina!

Ben Gordon 4 yrs: $47 million

Y’think Joey Dumars is just a tad bit regretful for signing a 6’3” sixth man shooting guard to a $60 million deal?  Gordon is way overpaid for his production but could be exactly what the doctor ordered on a team like the Bobcats: Electric bench and fourth quarter scoring.  The ‘Cats are desperate for it.  That said, Dumars is notoriously tough to trade with.  Wonder if a combination of Boris Diaw and Gerald Henderson might get this done.

Monta Ellis 4 yrs: $44 million

We’ve been speculating on this one for years.  Ellis hogs the ball and jacks up shots at an unprecedented rate.  Not good on a team with lots of offensive options like Golden State but could be an absolute godsend for the Bobcats, who spent the vast majority of last season spastically passing the ball around on offense like it was a live hand grenade.  Again, wonder if Diaw and Henderson or Chandler’s expiring could get this done.  The W’s are a mess in the front office right now, Higgins could potentially steal something else in return (pick, prospect).

Baron Davis 3yrs: $41 million

A blast from the past, a former home grown product entering the end of his career.  Still has the size and offensive firepower to occasionally dominate a game.  Couldn’t be any worse than Felton and is so overpaid that the ‘Cats could conceivably unload Diop’s longer deal in exchange.

Al Jefferson 3yrs: $42 million

Not sure exactly why Big Al is being shopped so fiercely this summer.  Who knows what goes on in the mind of David Kahn.  If the rest of League’s GMs are playing chess to MJ’s checkers, then Kahn is playing badminton.  Al would be a huge upgrade at the PF spot for the ‘Cats but not quite sure what the T’Wolves would want in exchange.  I’m praying that Kahn would ok a deal that would send out Jefferson and Ramon Sessions (Andre Miller: The Next Generation) for Tyson and Nazr’s expirings (plus a future first rounder).

Emeka Okafor: 4yrs, $52 million

Tied with two others on this list (see below) for the worst contract in the League.  Obviously, it was the Bobcats who signed him to it.  Was such a poor fit in New Orleans that Charlotte actually won the trade by taking back 6ppg/6rpg, semi-crippled Tyson Chandler in exchange.  Hate the contract but could live with ‘Mek’s 16 + 10 if the Hornets threw in Darren Collison.  Diop/Mohammed/Augustin for Okafor/Collison anybody?

Rashard Lewis: 3yrs, $65 million

Sole possession of 2nd Worst Contract in the League.  He’s paid over $20 million a year over the next three.  Yeah, you read that right.  Rashard should gift half his salary to Dwight Howard every season.  Without D-Ho backing him up in the lane, Lewis’s skinny frame and lack of defensive skills would make him an absolute liability.  Don’t think the Magic would trade him (they’re firmly in “go for broke” mode) but his offensive skills and outside shooting would fill a need for the ‘Cats.

Elton Brand: 3yrs, $51 million

Here we go, a good old fashioned back to the basket All-Star power forward.  Only problem is that Elton hasn’t been the same since an achilles injury derailed his career a few seasons ago.  He’s a round peg in a square hole with fast paced Philly but could regain dominance in Larry Brown’s grind it out half-court offense in Charlotte.  Would Diaw/Mohammed (expiring) be enough to get it done?

Hedu Turkoglu: 4yrs, $43 million

We’ve been hearing this rumor for a solid month now.  Hedu and Jack to Charlotte for Boris, Diop and D.J.  Doesn’t make a lot of sense mainly because Hedu can only play small forward, doesn’t defend or rebound well and is essentially not very good.  He’s basically Boris with a worse contract and poorer defense.  Jack and Ray Felton may as well be the same player.  Dud.  Oh and Hedu is one of the other “Worst Contract in the League”ers.  The other one?

Gilbert Arenas: 4yrs, $60 million

I’ve already written about this in length so I won’t rehash it here.  If MJ could swing a deal featuring Diop, Diaw and Mohammed for Gilbert and an asset (prospect or pick) then do it.  It’d be the biggest gamble in MJ’s tenure but he’s shown that he’s most definitely the gambling type.  An Arenas/JAX/CRASH/Tyrus/Chandler core could win 50 games this year as long as everybody stays relatively healthy.  The team would also retain the young talent on the roster and pick up either a pick or a young player like Javale McGee or Blatche from the Wiz for their troubles.

Allen Iverson: free agent.

We couldn’t leave out good old AI.  He’s a free agent and has declared himself ready take on the League again.  The dude has hit rock bottom.  If you’re gonna take a flyer on him then now is the time to do it.  If he would accept a smaller (possibly bench) role and play nice with his new teammates then I can’t think of a better way for him to end his career than with his old coach in the Queen City.  He’d also come cheap.  Think: Flip Murray Advanced.

IN CONCLUSION

Don’t be surprised if Jordan pulls off a deal for one of these misfits sometime between now and the end of next month.  MJ sat out the draft and one gets the sense that both he and Trader Larry are chomping at the bit to make yet another move for an overpriced toy in need of a new home.

Until then, Enjoy the Offseason Bobcats fans…

-ASChin

*I find it ironic that throughout Charlotte’s twenty plus years of NBA basketball history the vast majority of the city’s successful players have come via trade or as castaways: Monster Mash, Eddie Jones, Mase, Vlade Two Packs, Easy E Campbell, P-Whipped Rice, Curry 1.0, Don’t Tell Me No Bogues, Crash and JAX.  Doesn’t that sort of represent how the city’s success was built as well?  Sure, there are some shining examples of homegrown talent but the vast majority of the Queen City’s brain pool came here from somewhere else looking for a new start.  Buffalo, Rochester, Jersey, Pittsburgh, WV, Ohio, represent BABY BABY!  UH!

**The good news is that the team drafts so poorly that they’ll never have to worry about re-signing their own talent on the open market.  “What’s that?  Raymond is an unrestricted free agent?  He might sign with another team?  Huh.  Anyways, so you’re telling me that a poached egg is actually boiled?  I always wondered how they did that…”