Greatest Bobcat Ever

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BEST-EVER-COVER

The Charlotte Bobcats/Neo-Hornets have been to the post-season twice, being swept both times by a Florida team. They’ve had a single All-Star representative in their 10 years, 1 All-Defensive 1st Team member, 1 Rookie of the Year, 1 All-Rookie 1st Team member, and 5 All-Rookie 3rd Team members. That’s not many accolades for a team that just celebrated its 10th year of existence with a complete rebrand. Reflecting on 10 years of consistently not good basketball naturally leads to debating who has had the best season in that 10 years.

The majority of players that have worn the orange and blue (and the other blue, then the next blue) can be ignored. Tamar Slay (props if you didn’t have to look him up) didn’t exactly set the NBA on fire. The list can be trimmed pretty quickly. A quick Family Feud survey on who the best players in team history are and will return some mix of Emeka Okafor, Gerald Wallace, Kemba Walker, and Al Jefferson. Jason Richardson’s name will rightfully show up with 1 or 2 votes. If Stephen Jackson showed up, just no. He might make love to pressure, but that stat doesn’t seem to exist anywhere.

The goal is to identify who had the best individual season, regardless of overall team performance. Impact on the team as a whole does matter, just not the final win/loss record. Players won’t be penalized for unluckily ending up on one of the many bad Bobcats rosters or reward Stephen Jackson for being on one of two playoff teams. Individual seasons can be compared using composite ratings such as PER and points per 100 possessions, plus-minus information, tempo adjusted performance rates, and individual play type performance. All stats come from ESPN.com, NBA.com/stats, basketball-reference.com, 82games.com, and mysynergysports.com.

During the research process, it became apparent that it wasn’t fair to single out one season as the best. Too many good and often underrated performances would go unnoticed and since the Bobcats no longer exist (or won’t soon? It seems nobody knows the timetable on this)* they deserve some recognition. Apologies to any that have been missed.

Honorable Mentions

Charlotte Bobcats, 2004-2005

In honor of the re-brand, the entire team gets some space. Brevin Knight led the team with an 18.2 PER, followed by Jason Hart at 16.91. Yes, Jason Hart was an above average NBA player by PER on this team. Jason Kapono shot 41% from deep. Emeka Okafor began his career with an impressive 16.39 PER and Rookie of the Year award. Aside from gaining cult status over time overshadowed by only Walter Hermann’s hair, Primo Brezec had the best career of his season with a 16.19 PER while averaging a career high 31.6 minutes and 13 points per game. Melvin Ely was on the team. Apparently Steve Smith was too, shooting 42% on three and 87% from the line then calling it quits because NBATV money is better than wearing yourself out on an expansion team. Eddie House posted a 15.88 PER while averaging 11.1 points and shooting 41.4% from downtown (this team sure had a lot of shooting… that must have been nice). Jahidi White had a 17.5% usage rate for some reason, along with an 18.2% turnover rate. Bernard Robinson scored 18 points in Madison Square Garden, the ultimate King Maker Arena. Gerald Wallace began his ascension, posting a 14.12 PER in more than triple the minutes from his previous season. Tamar Slay finished his final NBA season with a 1.49 PER which may be the lowest in team history if it was worth looking up. And orange jerseys. Because just look at them.

okafor-profileEmeka Okafor, 2008-2009 Season

The adjective for Okafor’s tenure in Charlotte is solid. Never spectacular, never terrible, just consistently solid. That being the case, it’s tough to single out an individual season as the stand-out but, as the onlyRookie of the Year amongst a plethora of failed lottery picks, he deserves to be recognized. Forced to p
ick just one, 2008-2009 comes the closest to a marquee Okafor season. Posting an 18.01 PER, the second highest of his Charlotte tenure, and an offensive rating of 102.2, his highest over that same time period, with a .581 true shooting percentage and a .561 effective field goal percentage, this was his best offensive season. Defensively he was solid as ever with the Bobcats being 4.3 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor. While he pales in comparison to Dwight Howard who was drafted just before him, Okafor was a solid rim protector and a decent offensive option, something Charlotte could definitely use behind Al Jefferson right now.

Jason Richardson Illustration by Mike SJason Richardson, 2007-2008

Richardson’s tenure in Charlotte was (too) short, but merits a mention. With a PER of 18.6 and an offensive rating of 103, he was one of the best offensive players the Bobcats have seen. He got torched on defense, but a player that shoots 40.6% from 3 has been a rarity in the Queen City over the past 10 years. It would have been interesting to see that team develop with a decent coach. Instead J-Rich got shipped out to Phoenix for Raja Bell and Boris Diaw and the rest is painful, eye gouging, Larry Brown hating history.

Adam Morrison, 2006-2007

Haha. Just kidding.

kemba-sketch-01

Kemba Walker, 2013-2014

Kemba is a key piece of the Charlotte Hornets moving forward and has been worthy of the 9th pick in the 2011 draft. It would be easy to select 2012-2013 as his best season as he improved his shot selection and had easily his best shooting percentages in his (extremely) short career thus far. It’s hard to disentangle Kemba’s performance from Al Jefferson’s in 2013-2014, but that’s the beauty of what he’s done this past season. Walker has been the number one option on every team he’s played. He’s been expected to create shots for himself first and involve his teammates second. This is delving into “intangibles,” but Kemba’s ability to change his mindset and learn to play with a post player was impressive. While his shooting percentages regressed, his assist ratio improved and turnover rate dropped. Defensively he had his best season with a 99.1 rating and 3.3 defensive win shares, continuing to block shots and get steals with his quickness and athleticism and rebounding well for a small guard. His biggest defensive concern is his size, yet in isolation plays the opposing player scored .73 points per possession on 31.6% shooting. He’s doing just fine. Plus/Minus stats aren’t particularly helpful here because Luke Ridnour was the backup for 1/3 of the season and Ramon Sessions is a known terrible defender. Kemba’s future is bright as he had arguably his best season yet even if it wasn’t a massive statistical improvement on his 2nd season.

Al Jefferson illustration by Mike S.3. Al Jefferson, 2013-2014

Jefferson came to Charlotte and made an immediate impact, leading the team to the playoffs and even receiving MVP votes. This speaks to the dearth of centers in the league and the massive improvement in the Bobcats record from 2012 to 2013, more than doubling wins. This is not to diminish his accomplishments. Jefferson is a low post savant that found a way to be competent on defense in a way he hadn’t been at any other point in his career. Jefferson posted the highest PER in team history at 22.7. He was the focus of the offense and the main focus of defenses every night, allowing other guys to find their spots. Despite all that attention, his effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage were the 3rd best of his career at 53.2% and 51%, respectively. Jefferson had the highest assist percentage in his 10 years at 12.8%, a welcome improvement in his game. All of this while posting his highest usage percentage ever at 29.3%. He also had his best defensive rebounding percentage at 28.2%, an important part of finishing defensive possessions. Defensively he was solid, helping hold opposing players to less than 1 point per possession in all significant play types (play types run more than 40 times). He struggled with stretch 5’s like Chris Bosh as they shot 40.7% on 3’s in spot up situations, but that’s a concession that has to be made given Al’s physical limitations defensively. All in all, Al Jefferson had an excellent season relative to both his career and the Bobcats history, with defense being a particular bright spot considering his reputation.

2. Gerald Wallace, 2009-2010

The 2009-2010 season was the year of Crash. He earned the Bobcats first and only All-Star appearance (including a lackluster, at best, appearance in the dunk contest) while earning All-Defensive 1st Team honors and finishing third in Defensive Player of the Year voting. He also lead the Bobcats to their first ever playoffs appearance. He had no chance at an All-NBA team due to the glut of quality wing players in the league, but that shouldn’t take away from a great season. Based on accolades, this was easily Wallace’s best season and the best individual Bobcats season. He was a defensive beast, averaging 1.5 steals, 1.1 blocks, and 10 rebounds per game with a defensive rating of 100. Overall, Charlotte was a great defensive team and with Wallace on the court they were 1 point per 100 possessions better than when he rested. Offensively, Wallace was solid. He averaged 18.2 points per game, the highest of his career, while shooting 37% from three, a major outlier in his career, and 48.4% overall to go with 10 rebounds and 2 assists. All of this playing a career high 41 minutes per game, often at power forward (not his preference). In the team context, Wallace was a net positive on both offense and defense, though not significantly so. The team was .7 points per 100 possessions better on offense and 1 point better defensively, as noted previously. Why is this not the best season in Bobcats history?

BEST-EVER

1. Gerald Wallace, 2008-2009

While the awards came in the 2009-2010 season, Wallace’s reputation in the league was established in the prior season. That season he had the second highest PER of his career at 18.64. His offensive rating was 101.7, better than his All-Star season.  While his raw stats aren’t as impressive as that season, he played 3.4 minutes less per game, averaging 37.6 minutes. Efficiency is what sets this season apart from that season. Per 36 minutes his scoring average was almost identical at 15.9 in ‘08-‘09 and 16.0 in ‘09-‘10. Despite the unexpected 3 point efficiency the next year, his overall shooting efficiency was also close with true shooting percentages of 58.5% and 58.6% and effective field goal percentages of 50.4% and 51.1% (this is where the 3 point shooting shows itself). He was able to make up for the 3 point shooting by being better at the free throw line, 80.4% to 77.6%, and better from 2 point range, 51.5% to 50.3%. Wallace also had a 12.4% assist rate in ‘08-‘09 but only 9% in ‘09-‘10, all to go with a better turnover rate in the prior season at 12.8% vs 13.1%. All of this offense came at a slightly higher usage rate, going from 20.5% to 20.3%. If these minor differences seem like splitting hairs, it’s because that is exactly what differentiating these 2 seasons is.

The defensive side of the ball is the real clincher.  In that season the team was 7.8 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court. While individual defensive efficiency can be noisy, that difference is enough to have merit. The defense was anchored by Emeka Okafor who posted a solid 102.3 defensive rating with a defensive +/- of -4.3, but the effect Wallace had from a wing position is extremely impressive. On the court, the Bobcats had the 7th most efficient defense in the league. With him off the court, they had what would have amounted to the 29th best defense. Wallace posted a better steal rate (2.5% to 2.0%) and equivalent block rate (2.1% to 2.2%) in ’08-’09. This was a significantly worse defensive team overall, ranking 14th overall as compared to 1st the following year, but Wallace certainly wasn’t the problem. While the ’08-’09 and ’09-’10 seasons could essentially be combined in regards to defensive and offensive performance, 2008-2009 wins out by virtue of the “doing more with less” axiom. This all comes down to a matter of opinion. You can’t go wrong with either season. Just know that Gerald Wallace is the King of the Queen City. All hail Crash.

*Sadly this joke died as the Charlotte organization has announced the name change will take place on May 20th.

-Bradford Coombs

 


POLL : Greatest Bobcat Ever?

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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

Charlotte Bobcats Draft Retrospective | Part One

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Editor’s Note: What you are about to read is a grotesque lesson in abject NBA failure. It is not suitable for children under the age of 12, readers who are pregnant or for those weak of heart. If, by coincidence, any reader is to one day become involved with running a professional sports franchise, it is our hope that he or she would refer back to this epic tragedy in the hopes of avoiding the (seemingly obvious) pitfalls of this moribound organization. Finally, if this column is to ever appear in printed form, it is highly suggested that the publishers bundle it with a barf bag.

The Charlotte Bobcats will participate in their tenth NBA Draft on June 27th, 2013. In their previous nine drafts, the team has selected in the first round a total of twelve times, producing exactly zero All-Star appearances which have in turn produced a total of zero Playoff victories for the franchise. Think about that. The Bobcats organization has drafted in the first round a dozen times, ten of which were Lottery selections, and have produced not a single player who has sniffed an All-Star game. Once more: Ten Lottery Selections, Zero All-Star appearances. Needless to say, it takes a special sort of ineptitude to accomplish such a feat. So, without further ado, let’s have a look at how they did it:

Part One: ’04-’06 The Bickerstaff Era

In one of the few sound (and by sound, I mean not horrendous) decisions Bob Johnson ever made as owner of the team, longtime coach and personnel director Bernie Bickerstaff was hired to shape the newborn franchise in the combined role of general manager/coach during the franchise’s infancy. Bernie actually got the team off to a decent drafting start but, as we will learn, the success didn’t last for very long…

The 2004 Draft: Emeka Okafor F/C UConn, Bernard Robinson SF Michigan.

How It Played Out: Bickerstaff used his connections with the Clippers organization to swing a nice pre-Draft deal, moving the 4th overall selection (Shaun Livingston) and two future second rounders to L.A. for the 2nd overall pick (Okafor) plus Eddie House and Melvin Ely. The Clips were on a failed mission to sign Kobe Bryant and needed to clear cap space pronto. Bernie jumped at the opportunity to make Okafor the face of the league’s newest franchise.

Amazing as it sounds, Emeka probably ranks as the Bobcats most successful Draft choice to date despite little development beyond his Rookie of the Year season. A combination of management overpaying him for no apparant reason (bidding against themselves) in conjunction with the hiring of yoga-hater Larry Brown derailed what could have a been a long career in Charlotte. Okafor is no superstar but as a kind of poor-man’s David Robinson/rich-man’s Udonis Haslem, Emeka could have anchored the team’s interior defense for a decade or more. Intelligent and photogenic, Okafor was also the perfect PR representitive for a team trying desperately to connect with a reticent fanbase.

As the Cats’ inaugural second round choice, Robinson contributed few meaningful minutes and was out of league after just three seasons.

How It Should Have Played Out: The Okafor selection aside, the Cats missed out on a major opportunity to land another Lottery pick via a capped stretched Phoenix team who were shopping the Draft’s 7th overall pick for the very reasonable price of a protected future first rounder. The Suns ended up making a deal with Chicago for what ended up being the 21st pick in the ’05 Draft. The Bulls selected Duke freshman Luol Deng seventh; two picks later Arizona sophmore Andre Iguodala went to the Sixers. Given the team’s needs and talent available, it’s unknown why Charlotte wasn’t more aggressive with an offer; perhaps Bickerstaff felt the franchise’s top expansion draftee, Gerald Wallace, would develop into the long term starter.

GRADE: B-


The 2005 Draft: Raymond Felton PG UNC, Sean May PF UNC.

While most point to the 2006 Draft as THE PIVOTAL MOMENT that set the franchise back half a decade, I would argue that it was the 2005 Draft that had the greater impact.

How It Played Out: The seeds of destruction were planted that May, as the league’s Lottery system punished Bickerstaff for keeping the Bobcats competitive in their inaugaral season, pushing their 2nd worst overall record back to pick number five. There was a bit of good news however: as a result of an expansion draft day trade with the Suns, the Bobcats had acquired Cleveland’s 13th overall selection via Phoenix, giving the Bobcats two lottery picks in the same draft – more than enough ammunition to move up and grab one of college basketball’s elite Point Guards (Deron Williams, Chris Paul) should a deal become available. One did. And Bickerstaff turned it down.

You all know the story: Having been rejected by Charlotte, Portland instead traded the third overall selection to Utah for the 6th and 27th picks. The Jazz took Williams at three, New Orleans selected Chris Paul at four, while the Bobcats (in desperate need of a franchise PG) reached for Raymond Felton at number five.

At the time, Bickerstaff believed that the team was in need of quantity over quality. This made as little sense then as it does now. The NBA isn’t the NFL, there is no 53 man roster to fill out. Only five players can play at once. Regular season rotations max out at 10 and shrink even further during the postseason. It was a hugely obvious and irrepreable mistake.
Eight seasons later, Paul is the greatest PG on the planet, Williams is a sometimes-superstar and Felton is a solid player who the Knicks were able to sign off the street for a partial mid-level contract. To make matters worse, the “quantity” number 13 pick Bickerstaff was so excited about ended up being more “quantity” than his knees could ever handle.

Sean May had played his way into the Lottery with a big-time Final Four performance that landed he and teammate Felton a NCAA Championship (that’s three first round picks, three NCAA champions, Zero All-Star appearances if you’re counting), but the work ethic and health concerns that dinged May’s rep pre-Tourney showed up almost immediately into his pro career. Despite some solid performances in orange & blue (including two monster games against Cleveland and Orlando on national television), May ate his way out of the league in just a few seasons.

How It Should Have Played Out: One can only imagine the impact drafting Paul (a local guy with family in the Charlotte area) would have had on the team’s success and reputation, on Okafor and Wallace’s development and on the development of the fanbase. Even if CP3 would have forced his way out as he did in New Orleans two summers ago, the Cats would have likely received major assets in return — unlike the bounty they received for May and Felton, which was absolutely nothing. Future NBA GMs of America take note: Quality ALWAYS wins out over Quantity.

GRADE: F-


The 2006 NBA Draft: Adam Morrison SF Gonzaga, Ryan Hollins C UCLA

How It Played Out: Let’s put it this way, the team’s 2nd round pick in ’06 (Ryan Hollins, 50th overall) is still in the league three years after their 1st round pick (Adam Morrison, 3rd overall) hopped a one-way train to Eastern Europe. In fairness to Bickerstaff, the Ammo selection was likley influenced by Michael Jordan, who had only weeks prior to the Draft purchased a significant portion of the team from Johnson. MJ’s “great white hope” certainly didn’t start out as a bust. I was there opening night when Morrison nailed his first NBA shot, a near half court buzzer beater that sent the crowd into a frenzy. Morrison spent the next 81 games doing basically what everyone thought he’d do coming out of Gonzaga: score in bunches and play terrible defense. Overall, it was an up and down season in which Ammo would typically go for 20 points one night, followed by a 2 point, 1-10 night the next. His brightest moment came in a late December game against Indy in which the rook dropped thirty on 9-17 shooting, earning an impressive ten points from the line.

Cut to Los Angeles, ten months later: Morrison blows out his ACL guarding Luke Walton in a pre-season game, effectively ending his NBA career. The following season Charlotte would ship Ammo (along with Shannon Brown) to the Lakers for Vladimir “Radman” Radmanovic, leaving Morrison to ride out his rookie deal on L.A.’s high-profile pine. (SIDE NOTE: Being that Hollywood is the land of happy endings, Phil, Kobe and Pau made sure to slip a couple of Championship rings into Morrison’s Euro-bound suitcase as a parting gift.)

How It Should Have Played Out: The pick was a disaster for two reasons: 1.) The other players the Bobcats seriously considered drafting were Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay. 2.) The team already had a young SF prospect in Gerald Wallace.

This second point is key: Just 12 months earlier, Bickerstaff was preaching quantity over quality yet by selecting Morrison, Bernie doubled up on a position of strength. Had Bickerstaff stuck (or been allowed to stick) to his philosophy, the Cats could have simply selected Roy and slid him next to Felton, Crash and Okafor to form a nice young core. Four amazing seasons with a healthy Roy (which included a Rookie of the Year campaign and three All-Star selections) could have ignited the dormant local fanbase and put the team on the national NBA map. Instead, Morrison cemented the laughing stock status of both the Bobcats as a franchise and MJ as an Exec. Place the blame on Bernie or his Air-ness, either way this Draft was a fail of epic proportions.

GRADE: F-


NEXT UP IN PART TWO: ROD HIGGINS TRIES TO OUT-SUCK THE BICKERSTAFF ERA… AND SUCCEEDS!

 


POLL : Best Bobcats Draft Pick

  • Emeka Okafor (9%, 27 Votes)
  • Kemba Walker (62%, 188 Votes)
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (11%, 32 Votes)
  • Raymond Felton (4%, 13 Votes)
  • Gerald Henderson (14%, 41 Votes)

Total Voters: 301

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Bobcats Lose to Themselves, Hornets

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(AP Photo)

The Bobcats returned home on the tail end of a back-to-back and lost to the Hornets 88-81, sputtering to the end after keeping it close for most of the game. The Bobcats were led by Stephen Jackson who though shot poorly (15 points on 15 FGA) had 8 rebounds and 6 assists. The Hornets were led by a dominant offensive performance by David West who had 26 points on 19 shot attempts and 8 boards.

As I mentioned above, the game was close, most of the time, with the lead never going above 6 points for either team until the closing minutes. However, with 2:38 left in the game, Tyrus Thomas pulled down a rebound over Emeka Okafor and swung his arms, intentionally elbowing Okafor in the face. The refs gave him a flagrant-2 and two technicals which amounts to an ejection. Aside from throwing the momentum fully to New Orleans, it gave Emeka Okafor two free throws and also possession of the ball after the free throws. The result: a four point lead doubled and Bobcats never recovered and began fouling like a blind Darryl Dawkins. It turned a possible win into a more than likely loss.

Recap | Box Score

Tids & Bits (forever forgoing the Yays and Nays)

  • Gerald Wallace – Fifteen points on 5-13 FG with a perfect 5-5 from the stripe. Eh, not great. His three turnovers were major problems as were his four shots that were blocked. Gerald has always had a slight problem with inside shot selection, but getting blocked 4 times is some Earl Boykins stuff. Moving on, his three rebounds leave much to be desired, but it seems his slack was picked up by Boris and Jackson (9 and 8 rebounds, respectively) as opposed to the Hornets. The Bobcats did out-rebounded the Hornets 43-34 (numerical palindromes, hell yeah!). Oh and Gerald had an outstanding coast-to-coast play. So there’s that (see below).
  • Boris Diaw – He was mediocre on offense, with 9 points from 4-11 shooting with one from downtown. The real problem was his defense (or lack thereof) on David West. West’s mid-range ability frustrated Diaw the whole night.
  • D.J. Augustin – His ability to distribute continues to impress me, as well as his consistency (7 assists) and his lack of turnovers (1 tonight). If only his shooting could get more consistent. he shot 3-10 from the field tonight, but at least he did get to the line for 4 four free throws.
  • Kwame Brown – Kwame was excellent tonight, both on offense and defense. He effectively shut down Okafor for most of the game and he rebounded really well (14 rebs) and he was efficient on offense with 5-6 FG. Too bad his free throw shooting is still bad (2-5). But I can deal with that with the rest of his performance.
  • Tyrus Thomas – He was decent, with 2-6 shooting and 4-4 FT for 8 points and 4 rebounds, 1 block and 1 steal. Buuuuuut, he did have 3 turnovers and he screwed up big-time with the elbow to Okafor’s cranium. The one major problem I have with Tyrus is his recklessness. I love that he jumps out of the building for rebounds, but with the ball in his hands, he can get too out of control. This leads to picking up his dribble on the baseline and trying to make a nearly impossible fadeaway jump shot or throwing the ball away on bad passes.

Anything I missed, Baseliners?

Next up is the Philadelphia 76ers, in Philadelphia on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, with the early start time at 2 p.m.

- Cardboard Gerald

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

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

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misfits

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…”

Bobcats Fall To Hornets In Concerning Fashion

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Hornets, 2/6/10

No Chris Paul?  No Probl– Oh Hey Darren Collison

The Charlotte Bobcats fell 104-99 to the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night at the Cable Box to fall back under .500.  AP recap here, box score here.

The Bobcats came in on a couple of days rest after a modestly successful (3-3) West Coast road trip.  The Hornets came in a night after dropping the first game of a back-to-back and with major injury problems.  With Chris Paul already out for several weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery and pleasant rookie surprise Marcus Thornton on the shelf with a sore back, the Hornets had to sign former Bobcats and all-around NBA journeyman Jason Hart to a 10-day recently.

It was a perfect opportunity for the Bobcats to get back on track after the road trip and post another home win — and the Bobcats acted like it was just going to happen.  But the defensive effort was rather lacking, no one could get it cooking on the offensive end, and Darren Collison did a pretty good Chris Paul impression to give the Hornets the unlikely win.

Collison was rather impressive in setting a new career high with 24 points on 9-17 FG, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.  He was frequently able to get by the Bobcats’ perimeter defenders and finish at the rim.  And after Stephen Jackson had cut the Hornets’ lead to 102-99 with 30 seconds left, it was another driving layup that secured the win and gave Collison his career high.

Never mind the questionable strategic call to not start fouling to extend the game at that point, the fact that the Bobcats didn’t defend or play with energy for the entire game is the more concerning issue here.  Let’s hope it was a one-game aberration and not a trend.

Bullets

  • I didn’t get to the game in time for the “town-hall meeting” for season ticket holders, but was just in time to snag a Gerald Wallace action figure — pretty boss.
  • The real life Gerald had a quiet game — maybe still bothered by the hamstring?
  • The Cats missed 9 free throws (Flip missed 4 in the fourth quarter alone).  If we’d hit half of those, we might be talking about how the Cats scrapped their way to a win even on an off night instead of this gloominess.
  • The Hornets were resplendent in their alternate “Mardi Gras” uniforms — seriously, those things are cool.
  • Emeka Okafor got a nice hand from the Cable Box crowd, and had a pretty Emeka kind of game: 16 points on 6-10 FG with 7 rebounds.
  • Poor game from Boris: 2-9 FG and looked timid as hell on the offensive end, passing up shots and committing turnovers.  Someone needs to show him some tape of Magic Johnson taking and making big shots.
  • Decent night for DJ: 13 points on 5-6 FG and 5 assists off the bench.
  • DNP-CD for Derrick Brown tonight — strange, when we could have used a spark out there.  Maybe LB was worried about him having to guard David West?
  • Next game is Tuesday night, hosting the Wiz at 7 PM ET.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Give One Away in Chicago

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Bobcats Baseline Observations: Charlotte @ Chicago 11/07/09

Aside from the fact that the Bobcats lost, this was easily their best road game of the season coming after blowouts @Boston and @Cleveland.  Charlotte had many opportunities to win this one but the ugly truth reared its head again in the 4th quarter as the Bobcats had no answer on the offensive end after the Bulls went on a late 3rd quarter rampage.  Chicago outscored the ‘Cats 27-17 in the third after being down 53-46 at the half.  With the team on the road, time dwindling and in need of some key baskets, the Bobcats turned to…  You guessed it!  Everybody Loves Raymond.

1. A Chunky Cucumber Blizzard

I finally figured it out.  Raymond, I mean.  Why he’s so divisive amongst the Bobcats faithful.
It’s because he’s neither terrible or incredible, rather he is sometimes incredible and sometimes terrible.  Often within the same 2-3 minutes span.  He’s kind of like ordering a Chunky Cucumber Blizzard from Dairy Queen.  You take a bite and you get all tasty ice cream and you’re like, “Wow!  That’s good!”  And then the next bite you get a nice sour, crunchy chunk of cucumber and you want to vomit.  But you are still hungry and in need of food and there’s always hope that the next bite will be cucumber free so you take another but you are not safe.  There is going to be more vomit inducing cucumber chunks in there somewhere.  Just wait.

Tonight was a quintessential Raymond Felton game.  Played very good defense, dished out 10 assists, hit a few key baskets when the team needed one but totally pooed the bed by going 5-17 from the field and looked “Emeka Okafor Level Uncomfortable” during the closing minutes of the game as he forced shot after shot.  When the Bobcats are down in the 4th and Raymond starts driving and forcing off-balance twos, just turn off the TV or leave the arena ’cause there is no chance that the ‘Cats are going to win.  I don’t even blame Raymond.  He’s just doing what the coach tells him to do and since the Bobcats have no other “scoring option” late in the game, then Raymond gets the nod.  Someone like Rip Hamilton or Ray Allen would do wonders for Raymond’s career.  Hopefully we get to witness something like this in the near future.

2. Turnovers, Turnovers

How can you possibly have a chance of winning on the road when you commit 17 TOs?  The Bobcats forced the Bulls into 21 turnovers and had they not, Charlotte would’ve been blown out of this game.  The Bobcats starting lineup (sans Tyson Chandler) came up with 8 steals and blocked three shots.  The team really hustled on defense for pretty much the entire game and I commend Larry Brown on instilling this team with an “A+ Level” defense.  They’d be a Playoff lock if they could just score consistently.

For all of the talk about Raja Bell and Flip Murray putting trade rumors to rest, the duo combined for 6-24 shooting from the field and a total of 16 points.  They probably aren’t as good as they were last night against the Hawks but they are definitely not as bad as they were tonight against the Bulls.  Ouch.

Joakim Noah torched the Bobcats tonight, btw.  When Noah nets 21pts and 16 boards you know pretty much what’s going on: Bobcats are sticking tight to the Bulls perimeter players and Noah is just jumping over and out-hustling Charlotte in the paint.  It also doesn’t hurt that both Chandler and Nazr Mohammed were both in foul trouble early in the second quarter so Joakim found himself boxing out Vlad Radmanovic a lot.  Watching Noah, you would think that he’s kind of the perfect Center for the Bobcats should the team ever pursue him in free agency or via trade.  He hustles, goes after loose balls and is an incredible offensive rebounder.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he wears a Bobcats uniform one day.

3. Accent-u-ate the Positive

Boris Diaw and Vlad Radmanovic put in solid offensive performances for the ‘Cats though Diaw’s 6 turnovers were a stain on an otherwise solid evening.  Boris dropped in 20pts, 7rbs and 5asts and the Radman looked comfortable behind the arc getting all of his 12pts there on 4-7 shooting.  And even though D.J. Augustin was noticeably M.I.A. during the game (0pts in 11 minutes), it is baffling why Coach Brown didn’t insert both D.J. and Radmanovic on the Bobcats last play of regulation.

Down three with just under 10 seconds to go and Larry Brown decides that a combination of Flip, Diaw (decent 3-point shooters), Raymond, Crash and Chandler (terrible shooters) would give the ‘Cats their best option to tie the game.  Completely inexplicable.  Raja, Radman and D.J. were sitting on the bench and inserting those guys into the lineup (playing Boris at Center) would’ve given the team a much better chance of sending the game into OT.  Not sure I understand the strategy there but hell, Coach Brown is a Hall of Famer.  What do I know?

IN CONCLUSION:

Bobcats play well enough to win but for a team that lacks a go-to or consistent scorer, they cannot afford to go into a 2nd half funk, especially on the road.  Barring a trade, the ‘Cats look exactly like what they are: a middle of the pack Eastern Conference team.

-ASChin