2010-11 Bobcats Season Preview: The Next Move?

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Baseline contributors DR. E and ASChin discuss their thoughts on the Charlotte Bobcats roster.

DR. E-

The Larry Brown era in Charlotte has been marked by frequent and often dramatic shakeups of the roster. His “grass is always greener” approach to evaluating other players (and other coaching positions) around the league relative to his own is well documented. By and large, this tendency has been welcomed by a Bobcats front office in need of some expertise/direction/chutzpah. Meanwhile, the fanbase has been encouraged as the transactions have resulted in short-term improvement and the team’s first playoff berth thus far.

So it’s fair to ask, how long until the next roster shakeup? And what positions/players are most likely to be affected?

ASCHIN-

This is clearly a matter of when, not if. Larry Brown has nearly turned the entire roster over in his three seasons and we know he’ll kvetch until he can’ts kvetch no more in order to work fresh blood into the lineup.

I can see the next few months going in one of two ways:

PATH I:

D.J. is actually good.

In this scenario, D.J. proves that his Preseason numbers are for real (14ppg, 4apg, 55%FG, 63%3ptFG in 28 minutes per) and successfully leads the team as a score-first, defense-extending long range threat. Shaun Livingston comes back from the knee injury aggravation and gives the team another look for twenty minutes a night. Larry deems the PG situation as being acceptable and decides to stay put until a favorable deal for a starting center comes along.

PATH II:

D.J. is actually not good.

In this scenario, Augustin either struggles with his confidence (or his shot) during the Real Season and/or stagnates the offense with his lack of playmaking ability. Coach Brown decides that the team needs a veteran playmaker and starts working the phones. There are a few guys out there who could be had. I’ll let DR. E take the first stab. Who are your PG candidates?

DR. E-

Well, first let me say that I think a third scenario is more likely. I think DJ will be OK — not really good or really bad. I think the Bobcats could struggle a bit out of the gate (as Larry Brown teams usually do) and we’ll be debating how much of the blame can be laid on DJ. The result of this scenario is the same as your latter scenario, though. Larry’s eyes will start wandering.

So let’s just get the biggest, most ridiculous possibility out of the way first. Gilbert Arenas.

Arenas has the undisputed worst contract in the league at this point (4 more years, around $80 million total). No one is sure whether his knees are going to allow him to play at a high level any more. He continues to behave very irresponsibly. He’s positively radioactive at this point and the Wizards know it.

Yet, I refuse to rule him out. I’m still intrigued. What if he keeps his mouth shut (except for the harmless, kinda entertaining stuff), looks healthy and plays well to start off the season?

ASCHIN-

I agree that they’ll struggle early – Brown has a tendency to do that as he sacrifices wins in order to figure out his team during the first month. I just hope that they don’t dig themselves into last year’s massive hole again.

As for Arenas, you know me, I’ve been writing about this for months. I just don’t buy the fact that Orlando would take on Gilbert’s $80 million and only send Vince Carter’s expiring contract back in return (as it’s being reported). The Arenas contract is a HUGE risk and the only way the Bobcats do the trade is if they send a bunch of dead weight (Diop, Najera, Carroll) back. Agent Zero would take a great deal of the offensive load off of Captian Jack and extend the defense in a way the Bobcats have never seen before. I don’t absolutely love the move but if you could drop dead weight contracts, then do it.

Let me throw something else at you that I’ve yet to see mentioned anywhere. Derrick Brown has looked very, very good this preseason and in Summer League. Is there a chance that the Bobcats trade Gerald Wallace at some point during the season or next summer to hand the SF spot over to the youngster?

DR. E -

Whoa! Slow down there, turbo. We haven’t even resolved the PG issue and you’re talking about trading the cornerstone of the franchise. We’ve heard in the past that the Trailblazers covet(ed) Gerald Wallace, and this offseason, CBSsports.com’s Ken Berger has repeatedly mentioned that Wallace is on the Nuggets short list of players they’d like to fill their SF spot should they trade Carmelo away.

But we’ve also heard that the Bobcats have no interest in doing so. Presumably because goal #1 for the Cats again this year is to make the playoffs. So the only way I could see Gerald being traded is if the Bobcats start the season so badly that the playoffs are out of the question and the team starts looking ahead to the post-Larry Brown future. Maybe that would dovetail with the Nuggets getting around to trading Carmelo and the Cats would get involved in multi-team trade talks again.

In that case, the Cats would be looking for what all teams look for when they trade away a star and look to the future: a mix of cap relief, young talent and draft picks. So in short, I don’t think the Cats would be able to trade Wallace and retool on the fly/stay in playoff contention. It would be an admission that the season is a wash, Larry Brown is checked out, and we’re looking to rebuild. It would also be devastating for what fanbase the Bobcats do have.

ASCHIN-

Perhaps I’m approaching this from more of a NFL GM’s point of view but if at some point the Bobcats could get similar production from a guy who is making $4 or $5 million a year (after his extension) and get back either a prospect at a position of need or a high pick, wouldn’t you at least consider it?

DR. E-

Yes, that would be very Belichickian, and yes, the thought would cross my mind if Derrick Brown came on like a house afire this year. But (/begin bleeding heart fan rant) Gerald Wallace means a lot more to the Bobcats than just his statistics at this point. Not only would the fragile relationship this franchise has with its fans be severely damaged, the team would also lose its quiet, steady locker room leader.

ASCHIN-

Enough about trading away the face of the franchise, back to the PG issue. I believe one of the main reasons Larry hasn’t pulled the trigger on a deal yet is that there simply aren’t a lot of players in 2010 that can do what LB wants in his point guard. Coach wants a high percentage shooting, smart passing, strong defending team leader who knows how to manage the clock and who prevents his team from settling for bad shots. There just aren’t many players in the Association built like that these days. One guy who WE KNOW fits the criteria is Chauncey Billups and I have to think that once Carmelo is dealt the Nuggs will move towards getting younger and cheaper. If Ty Lawson comes out of the gate as strong as he did in his rookie season, I could see Denver working the phones at some point. Question is, what do the Bobcats give up for him?

DR. E-

I guess it depends on what Denver would be able to get first in a Carmelo trade, so it’s hard to say. It would also depend on what they were wanting to do; i.e. blow it up completely by taking back expirings and draft picks, or rebuild on the fly to maintain some competitiveness. At the very least, they’d probably want a PG back (Livingston or Augustin?) and an expiring (Mohammed?) as part of the deal.

Another question is whether Chauncey would accept such a trade. Remember, he’s a Denver native and was probably hoping to end his career there. He’s implied recently that if Denver rebuilds post-Carmelo, he’d have a hard time not “playing for something.” So would reuniting with Larry Brown and coming to Charlotte to play for the 7th or 8th seed in the East be enough to play for? And would having Chauncey convince Larry Brown to stick around in Charlotte a little longer?

ASCHIN-

Guess we’ll have to wait and see how this thing plays out. Jordan has just gone on record with Rick Bonnell about the roster churn, saying that it’s “less likely to continue” this season. As an experience gambler, MJ continues to put on a good poker face. Expect something to happen soon.

What To Do with Dampier? – Part 2

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PLUS: Carmelo Perception vs. Gerald Wallace Reality

canthony_billups

MEgo-Mania© has again swept the Association with the latest contestent being none other than Johnny Sucker Punch himself, Carmelo Anthony.  Within hours of Ric Bucher’s ‘Melo scoop, the national rumor mill threw little old Charlotte a bone by insisting that the Bobcats were, in fact, a legitimate dark horse to land Carmelo due to his Brand Jordan ties and the Nuggs cap-strapped lust of Erik Dampier’s insta-expiring contract.  Immediately the internet was flooded with columnists, blogs and commenters weighing in: “What could the Bobcats possibly send Denver to pry ‘Melo away!!!???  Gerald Wallace and Damp’s expiring?  Throw in some draft picks???  Derrick Brown and Gerald Henderson too!  Maybe some cash?  And take back Kenyon Martin’s dead weight contract, yeah, that’d would at least make ‘em think about it!!!”

With Steve Austin making a comeback splash this summer in The Expendables, let me channel the spirit of Stone Cold in my response to this nonsense:

“Carmelo Anthony, what?  That mealy-mouth sonofabitch, what?  Couldn’t play lock-down defense on a Roomba, what?  Sucker-punchin’ yellow belly beady-eyed overrated idiot, what?”
(CUT TO: Stone Cold  Stunner on ‘Melo, Austin mocks an incapicitated Carmelo with a two fingered salute while wearing a black t-shirt and jean shorts.  WHAT?)

Someone please refresh my memory.  What exactly has Carmelo Anthony accomplished during his first seven seasons in the Association?  At least Lebron has been to an NBA finals.  Melo can’t even say that.  He’s a high-octane scoring dynamo, a one dimensional player who has a catchy name and often plays on national television.  Basically, he’s the new Vince Carter.  End of story.

Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie summed it up best in his Small Forward Rankings last month.  Ranking Gerald Wallace 4th and Carmelo 3rd, he writes:

I would have no problem (with) flipping (Wallace) with Carmelo Anthony on more than a few nights. Anthony’s offense is as good as Wallace’s D, but Wallace’s offense is so, so much better than Carmelo’s defense.

QUICK LOOK AT GERALD WALLACE (IN COMPARISON TO CARMELO):

  1. Only two years older.
  2. Costs half as much ($10 million average base versus ‘Melo’s upcoming MAX extension).
  3. Doesn’t dominate the ball.  Can score without having plays called for him.
  4. Plays outstanding man and team defense.  Best rebounding small forward in the league.
  5. Team leader who has the respect of the lockerroom.

So why would the Bobcats consider anything other than a straight swap of Wallace for Anthony?  Simple, Carmelo’s perceived value is higher.  Higher in the mind of the casual fan and higher in the mind of televsion executives who decide which teams get national broadcasts.  Mark Mainstream hears the name “Carmelo Anthony” and associates it with “talented.”  Again, ‘Melo is the new Vince Carter.  The Bobcats are still trying to lure in fans and establish an identity while trying to prevent another season of full-scale financial catastophe.  ‘Melo’s perceived value and name recognition could help.  I just hope the team doesn’t severely over-pay in order to get him.  Now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

DAMPIER SOLUTION PART TWO: TRADE HIM

If anything worthwhile has come out of these ME-lo rumors, it’s the fact that the billionaire Kroenke family has grown tired of dropping $20+ million in luxury tax payments to the league every year.  As previously mentioned, the Nuggets aren’t exactly lining the halls with Larry O’Brian trophies so cutting team salary this year (with the Lakers, Celtics, Magic, Heat clearly ahead of them) makes a lot of sense.  There’s been a lot of talk of a Chauncey Billups/Dampier straight up swap and I’d be all for it except for the fact that the ‘Cats are currently $8 million over the tax line and need to shed salary fast.  There’s no question that the Nuggets would pull the trigger on a trade that would save them $26 million this season but in order for the ‘Cats to make it happen, they’ll need to make another deal first.

SALARY DUMP OPTIONS #1 and #2

CLT trades Boris Diaw and a future first rounder & second rounder to MIN, NYK or SAC for a future 2nd Round selection.
OR
CLT trades Nazr Mohammed + D.J. Augustin to MIN, NYK or SAC for a future 2nd Round selection.

In order to get underneath the luxury tax, the Bobcats need to shed around $8.5 million dollars from their current payroll.  Fortunately, they might have a couple of ways of doing this in Boris Diaw (plus picks) or a Nazr/Augustin combo.  If I’m MJ, I’m on the phone with David Kahn right now whispering, “y’know, we have this young point guard prospect who we-“  KAHN: “Point guard Prospect???!!!  Did you say Point Guard?????!!!”

The Knicks might also be inclined to take on former D’Antoni favorite Diaw while gaining back a first round pick that can be used in the next decade.  (Although I would be a little concerned that the Diaw/Eddie Curry combo might do to IHOPs what Ewing and LJ did to The Gold Club in the late ’90s.)

In the following scenario, let’s say the ‘Cats find a taker for D.J. and Nazr (even if they have to throw in a protected future first), then…

CLT trades Erik Dampier to DEN for Chauncey Billups

The Bobcats suddenly accomplish both of their current offseason goals: Upgrade the Point Guard position and Get Underneath the Luxury Tax.  The team heads into the preseason with a relatively stacked roster.
StateOfTheRoster_Sept2010_TradeHim
Kwame and Diop would try to replicate last year’s Mohammed/Chandler/Ratliff center by committee while a now “huskier” Boris Diaw would rotate between the 4 and 5 spots when Coach Brown goes, uh, “small.”
Chauncey and Shaun Livingston give Larry Brown much bigger options at the point.  McGuire, Derrick Brown, Henderson, Tyrus Thomas plus Crash, Livingston and JAX give Larry Brown a metric ton of “long, athletic” wing players to do his magic with.
Bobcats Salaries Post - Chauncey Trade
From a cap perspective, the Bobcats stay right at the tax line this season while maintaining flexibility going forward.  Billups has a team option for the ’11-’12 season which will almost certainly not be exercised as the league goes into a lockout.  The Bobcats could use their leverage with Billups’ current deal to sign him to a three year contract extension at a much lower per year salary next summer.

IN CONCLUSION

A Billups for Dampier swap makes a great deal of sense for both teams as Denver could save tens of millions this season by promoting Ty Lawson and dumping Chauncey.  The Bobcats would likely cement their rise to the top 4 in the East this season by upgrading from Raymond Felton to Billups.  Hmmm…  What else is there to say?  Bobcats win and win big.

Until next time, Enjoy the Offseason Bobcats Fans.

-ASChin

Bobcats Can’t Take Advantage

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Charlotte Bobcats @ Nuggets 1/25/10

Running-Diary style, so I can get some shut-eye.  No Carmelo tonight, due to a sprained left ankle suffered against the New Orleans Hornets the other night; but JR Smith, “eclectic” behavior and all, will be in the lineup.

Bonus pre-game link: ESPN’s John Hollinger continues to show the love, calling Larry Brown the midseason favorite for Coach of the Year (Insider Only).

First Quarter

It is just excruciating to hear Steve Martin and Dell Curry blather on about how this game is available in HD; Time Warner Cable in Charlotte doesn’t carry SportSouth as an HD channel, so we’re stuck in the 90s with SD Crap-O-Vision.  To top it off, it sounds like the audio is coming over ham radio.

The Bobcats begin the game hot from outside, 3-3 from 3-point land (one each for Jack, Boris and Gerald) to take an early 13-8 lead; but the Nuggets don’t seem to be missing Carmelo much, as they take a 29-26 lead after 1.

Pretty standard “two teams feeling each other out” opening quarter, but would have hoped that the Cats could have held a Carmelo-less Nuggets squad to less than 25. 68% FG for the Nuggs in the quarter.

Second Quarter

So last spring, I happened to be in Denver during the playoffs — while eating at Buckhorn Exchange (mmm, bison) I noted that a couple of the waiters had bootleg sky blue t-shirts with the Nuggets main logo, except it had “Thuggets”.  Like this, but in sky blue.  Pretty cool.  I mean, if you have a team full of thugs, you might as well embrace it.

Holy crap, they just showed Nuggets VP of Player Personnel and former Charlotte Hornet great Rex Chapman in the crowd, or maybe it was the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Float version of Rex Chapman.  This is how I remember Rex; this is what he looked like probably a couple of years ago.  Take away another 25% of the hair, make what’s left completely gray, and add about 20 pounds.  That’s what he’s looking like tonight.  Troubling…

Back to the game, Bobcats still can’t make any headway and find themselves down 49-42 with 2 and 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter.  Then, a funny moment.

Gerald Wallace accidentally pops JR Smith in the face with an elbow trying to make a post move, but the Nuggets get called for a foul.  Kenyon Martin won’t shut up about the injustice, and gets a tech for his trouble.  Jack misses the technical free throw, and K-Mart sarcastically applauds this while looking right at the ref — second tech, ejected.  It’s moments like this I feel kinda sorry for George Karl.  K-Mart seems to enjoy the process, grinning from ear to ear as he slaps hands with fans as he heads to the showers.

Post K-Mart ejection, the Cats briefly cut it to one, but Aflallo nails a three to put the Nuggs up 56-52 at the half.  Stats are roughly even; both teams shooting a bit over 50% FG, rebounds, assists and turnovers basically the same.  Chauncey and Gerald leading the way for their teams with 17 and 15 points, respectively.  Raymond with 8 assists already, Gerald with 6 rebounds.

Have to like the Bobcats’ chances the rest of the way with no Carmelo or K-Mart.

Third Quarter

Dell Curry and Steve Martin have promoted the rest of the Western Conference road trip about a half-dozen times so far, which has led to a half-dozen slobbering conversations about Dell’s kid, Stephan, who is apparently a rookie for the Warriors.  Who knew?

Every time the Cats get within a bucket, the Nuggs seemingly get one from Chauncey or Aflallo.  Can’t get over the hump, Nuggs up 70-63 with 6 minutes left.

Chauncey Billups is just schooling Felton. 21 points, 9 assists with 5 mins left in 3rd.  Felton just picked up 4th foul trying to defend him.

Meanwhile, Joey Graham is joining the party as the Nuggs go up by 12, 77-65 with 4 mins left.  Where’s Steven?

Mmmpphhh.  Very disappointing 3rd quarter as the Nuggs extend their lead to 84-73.  This is starting to look like a wasted opportunity for the Bobcats.  Gerald Wallace was very quiet after a good first half.

Fourth Quarter

It’s a war of attrition for the Nuggets here, as Birdman Anderson goes down with a rolled left ankle trying to block a Flip Murray layup early in the fourth.  But the Bobcats still can’t capitalize, as Gerald blows a layup on the next possession.

And now Raymond commits his fifth foul with just under 10 minute left and will have to sit.  Bobcats are going to have to get Stephen Jackson going here in the fourth in order to make a run — offense just looks anemic.

Ugh, Aaron Aflallo with another corner three to put the Nuggs up 96-80 with just under 6 minutes left.  And another.  Career night for Aflallo: 24 points on 9-11 FG and 6-7 3PT and 7 assists.

And this one’s over, as Acie Law enters the game for the Cats with 2 and 1/2 minutes left and the Nuggs up 101-86.  Poor effort by the Cats tonight, no one could get it going on the offensive end, especially in the second half.  No Carmelo all game, no K-Mart in the second half, and no Birdman in the fourth, and the Cats can’t take advantage.

Postgame

Final score is 104-93.  AP recap here, box score here.

The Nuggets shoot 10-23 from 3 and 22-26 from the free throw line as Billups, Aflallo and Joey Graham more than make up for Carmelo’s absence.  The Nuggets have won 7 in a row, while the Cats drop their third straight.

Next game is Tuesday night against the Suns, 9PM ET start — maybe we could trade Boris for Amare before the game?

-Dr. E

Bill Simmons on Bobcats MVP Candidates

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Bill Simmons on Bobcats MVP Candidates

In case you missed it, Bill Simmons posted his annual MVP Rankings this week starting at #450 with Elton Brand before skimming all the way down to his #1.  A few Bobcats made the list:

422. Alexis Ajinca
Keep an eye on this one: Ajinca has a chance to become the first top-20 foreign NBA pick to get cut from his national team within three years. For God’s sake, even Fred Weis started for the 2000 French Olympic team.

51. Raymond Felton
The guy I’d pursue this summer if I ran an NBA team. Ten weeks of trade rumors bounced off him and he never held a grudge. He has lottery pick pedigree (fifth overall in 2005), and if we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that many blue-chip point guards take awhile to “ferment” (for lack of a better word). He’s one of the five or six best people in the league by all accounts. I’ve never seen a Bobcats game where he didn’t play as hard as he could. The arc of his first four years looks exactly like Chauncey Billups, and like Chauncey, his game will open up once he starts making 3s. Just a lot to like. Someone will steal him this summer just like Detroit stole Billups in 2002. You watch.

34. Boris Diaw
Reborn as an all-around player with Charlotte (since New Year’s: 16-6-5, 49 percent FG, 40 percent 3FG), giving us 2009’s best example of the Devin Harris/Avery Johnson Corollary: If you have a choice between making a major trade or firing a coach who clearly isn’t working out, always fire the coach first. OK? OK.

(Here’s how dumb coaches are: Just this season, we witnessed coaches playing Kevin Durant at shooting guard, slowing down Steve Nash, playing slow-it-up with the Sixers, bringing Rip Hamilton off the bench, burying Anthony Randolph on a lottery team, playing Darius Songaila over JaVale McGee on a lottery team, ignoring the stat that’s about to impress you when we get to the Nowitzki paragraph, and doing everything that Mike Dunleavy did. There’s a reason 85 percent of these guys get canned within three years.)

Do yourself a favor and check out the full column here.

BASELINE NOTES:
It’s odd that Simmons made the Billups comparison with Raymond because Baseline contributor “E” has been saying the very same thing all season, even using Chauncey’s career arc as an example.

Charlotte Bobcats vs. Pistons 11/3/08

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1. Pretty bad loss tonight, 101-83 to the visiting (and shorthanded) Pistons. AP story here, box score here. Of note, Jordan sat at the end of the Bobcats bench again; Bob Johnson was midcourt, front row.

2. Gotta comment on the Pistons big trade today. Although Hollinger says the Nuggets got the better end of the deal, I think it’s just fine for the Pistons. With Rodney Stuckey and Amir Johnson ready to step up, the Pistons will hardly miss Chauncey and McDyess. They get an (admittedly expensive) rental in Iverson, and will have plenty of cap space for the summer of ’09. And besides, it sounds like they aren’t necessarily going to even have to miss McDyess, who will probably be waived and make his way back to the Pistons eventually.

3. Amir Johnson, in particular, was fantastic tonight. His line just shows 23 minutes, 12 points and 6 rebounds, but he was very key in destroying the Bobcats strategy of going small. He dominated Jared Dudley down low, grabbing several offensive rebounds over him. Overall, the Bobcats were outrebounded 42-31. So Sean May, I know we give you a hard time here at the Baseline, but we need you in there at the 4. Get in shape soon!

4. As you can tell by the box score, there were really no superstar performances tonight on either side. The Pistons simply played a very well-rounded game, getting out to an early lead and withstanding a 2nd quarter Bobcats run on the way to a pretty convincing victory.

5. Jason Richardson was nearly invisible tonight: just 4 points on 2-10 shooting in 33 minutes. I missed the first few minutes of the game, and by the time I realized Richardson only had 4 points, couldn’t tell if the Pistons were keying on him defensively or if he was just off.

6. Shannon Brown is worth commenting on. He played 26 minutes, some at point and some at the 2, and led the team in scoring with 16 points. He also had 4 steals and 3 assists vs. no turnovers. Brown appears to have completely supplanted Matt Carroll in the rotation (another DNP-CD for Matt tonight) and is even stealing some minutes from Felton and Augustin. Brown was great in the aforementioned 2nd quarter run, helping the Bobcats to nearly pull even at halftime.

However, it was not all good for Brown. Though he’s allegedly our designated defensive stopper, he got burned by Pistons’ backup PG Will Bynum for layups on three straight possessions in the fourth quarter. One got the sense that the Pistons were just toying with the Bobcats at that point anyways, but those six points really put the game out of reach.

7. Also of note, after those six straight points by Bynum, Brown was pulled for Raymond Felton, who promptly gave up 2 turnovers, committed a personal foul, and let Bynum get by for his 4th layup of the quarter in less than 2 minutes. Felton was mercifully pulled in favor of Augustin at that point. Forgettable game for Raymond, who only logged 23 minutes total. We all know that he’s quietly been placed on the trading block, and performances like tonight’s don’t exactly endear him to Coach Brown much.

8. Adam Morrison has been so devalued by most NBA pundits that he’s basically become underrated. He continued his surprisingly decent early season play with a solid 4-6 shooting (2-2 from deep) and a couple of nice assists.

9. Recently, Henry at TrueHoop posted an inquiry about the “NBA All-Skinny Team” and got plenty of responses. However, Alexis Ajinca is nowhere in that list… and we here at Bobcats Baseline humbly submit that any conversation about an “All-Skinny” team begins and ends with Freedom Fries, himself:

-E