Rosterpalooza ’13 | Version 1.0

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No Lottery Luck for the Bobcats

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

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

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

Dispelling the Myth

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

Two Assumptions

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

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

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

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


Bobcats Baseline Presents: Rosterpalooza ’13 – Version 1.0

Part I: The Draft

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

The Case for Marcus Smart.

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

The Case for Ben McLemore.

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

RESULT: Charlotte drafts Marcus Smart, G Oklahoma State.


Part II: Trades

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

$8,000,000.00 per season.

Amnesty Tyrus Thomas.

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

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

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

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

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

RESULT: Charlotte acquires PF Carlos Boozer via trade.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Part III: Free Agency

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

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

Sign a Shooter.

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

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

Why not sign this guy?

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

RESULT: Charlotte signs G/SF Carlos Delfino.

PF Depth.

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

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

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

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

Nerd Numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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


Part IV: The Final Step

Decide if Dunlap is the guy.

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

-ASChin
@bobcatsbaseline

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

Lebron & Dwight Aren’t Coming to Charlotte

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Why Top Tier NBA Free Agents Ignore the Queen City

Let me throw a few names at you:
Johnny Newman. David Wesley. Bobby Phills. Derrick Coleman. Ramon Sessions.
Many hardcore hoops fans will recognize these guys as quality NBA players in their respective eras. Not quite All-Stars but solid starters and legit role players on very good teams. Together they represent the biggest name free agent signings in the 25 year history of Charlotte pro basketball.
I’ll repeat, these are the biggest name free agent signings in a quarter century of Charlotte pro basketball history.
Why is this exactly? Has it been the troubled ownership? James Dolan, Donald Serling and even Robert Sarver seem to have proven wacky owners can be overcome. Is it the ineptitude of the team? The Hornets knocking out ten consecutive .500 or better seasons defies this logic. Is it the Queen City itself? Hmm…

Let’s put ourselves in an NBA All-Star Free Agent’s situation: young, probably single, a multi-millionaire; the dream of becoming a household name still to come, maybe even winning a championship. What city/franchise would you choose?

TIER 1: The Easy Choices

The Obvious

Los Angeles, Miami, New York. Lakers, Heat, Knicks and Nets. Next.

SPECIAL CATEGORY: The Obvious Adjunct

The Clippers. For thirty years this franchise was a joke until Donald Sterling woke up and realized his team was located in Los Angeles.

Second Cities

San Francisco, Chicago, Boston. Even though Celts fans whine about their FA prospects, that hasn’t stopped the legendary franchise from adding great secondary pieces over the years. Chicago and SF are hoops mad metropolises and cultural epicenters.

Warm Weather + No State Income Tax

Orlando, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio wield the deadly Free Agent combination of more money kept in the pocket (for both the agent and player) and copious amounts of warm weather. We don’t think of the Spurs in this context because of the organizational philosophy to build through the draft and internationally but San Antonio has NEVER had a problem re-signing their own. Also, Orlando has golf. We know NBA guys love golf. Speaking of golf…

TIER 2: I’m Intrigued…

Sunshine All the Time

Phoenix. Dry and warm almost year round. Just a puddle jump away from LA and Vegas. The Best Training Staff on the planet. Also an underrated “smoking hot chick” destination thanks to the local universities. And lots of golf.

Under the Radar Tax Breaks Destinations

Seattle, Memphis. Aside from being charming NBA cities, both Tennessee and Washington are State Income Tax free, taxing only capital gains. Add new ownership, quality rosters and rabid local fan support…

Small Market Love Affair

OKC, Indianapolis, Utah, Denver, Portland. Speaking of rabid fan support, these cities/franchises may not have the allure of a New York or LA but between the excellent ownership and organizations, quality basketball product on the court and the fanatical support of the community, these teams offer the professional baller a very special career experience.

African-American Cultural Centers

DC, Atlanta, New Orleans. Though recently marred by bungling management and ownership instability, these markets will almost certainly rebound thanks in part to their historical and contemporary roles as black America’s cultural centers. From Howard University to Storyville to Freaknik; from Louis Armstrong to Thurgood Marshall to Outkast, there is no denying these markets hold a certain appeal to many NBA players.

International Destinations

Toronto, Minnesota. As Chris Rock once said, “the only black people in Minnesota are Prince and Kirby Puckett.” At some point during David Kahn’s recent tenure as Timberwolves GM he took this observation to heart, targeting near exclusively European or white American players in free agency. This hasn’t always been the case of course, there was once a time in which Kevin Garnett, Latrell Spreewell and Sam Cassell packed the Target Center full. Racial issues aside, this seems to be the strategy currently employeed in Minny, one that Toronto has leveraged for two decades. Put simply, if you are an International Free Agent, these two franchises are high on your list.

TIER 3: Last Resorts

(C)Old Towns

Philly, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee. Philly certainly tops this list. Proximity to NYC and DC and rich basketball/cultural heritage don’t hurt. Cold weather and an indifferent fanbase do. The Rust Belt franchises have had difficult enough time retaining their own citizens from the milder climate Southern states. Milwaukee routinely makes the news when any sort of relocation is discussed. Cleveland is still rebounding from the Lebron Decision while Detroit’s hopes are higher following a recent ownership change.

The Odd Man Out

Charlotte. Warm weather? Compared to Rochester, sure. Night Life? Certainly more options than, say, Charleston, WV. Important African-American Cultural Center? I think Petey Pablo is from Statesville. Rabid fan support? Er, um… Let’s just skip that one.
By no means is Charlotte a terrible place to live. Just look at the population explosion over the past few decades. If you’re seeking a pleasant, quiet, clean city to raise children, go to church and get a job in, then the Queen City is an absolutely outstanding pick. But if you’re a young, uber-athletic mulit-millionaire itching to put his stamp on the world, Charlotte isn’t going to hold the same level of intrigue, especially when there are twenty or more attractive options available.

There is hope. During the Hornets Playoff run in the mid-90s, Charlotte was unquestionably a “Small Market Love Affair” team. Consistent quality on the court fueled by crafty management (Bob Bass) combined with a lovable mascot and a great brand consistently packed the house, elevating the team into the second tier. While the Hornets never made headlines with an All-Star signing, the organization rarely struggled finding great secondary players to fill in the gaps leftover from smart trades and sound drafts. This sort of strategy can and will work again once the franchise has fully risen out of the hole dug first by George Shinn and deeper by Bob Johnson.

-ASChin

Bobcats Have Stephen Jackson At Peak Value

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Charlotte Has Rehabilitated Stephen Jackson's Image

Charlotte Has Rehabilitated Stephen Jackson's Image

Can The Bobcats Make A Move This Summer?

The NBA’s most anticipated Free Agency period has begun. With the Cavaliers fourth loss to the Celtics, the Lebron watch was on. Within the last month, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, Carlos Boozer, and Lebron James have entered the summer with suitors all over the league scheming to draw up contracts.

The Charlotte Bobcats won’t be in the hunt for any of those big names this summer. Basically, the Cats just don’t have the funds to chase the stars. But, we can’t be so quick to assume that the off-season will be quite for Charlotte. Since Larry Brown’s arrival, they may lead the league in player trades and acquisitions. So, it would be tough to bet against more roster moves, with or without Coach Brown.

So, what would be the Bobcats’ best chance at a roster upgrade this summer?

Considering that the Cats ranked as one of the league’s top defenses, offense would be the obvious focus of any roster move. Beyond the point guard position, this team could use another offensive contributor. Charlotte might not be courting Lebron, D-Wade or Joe Johnson, but they could be a facilitator for a team looking to rework their line up after acquiring one of these stars. Just as likely, the Bobcats might have a piece or two that could benefit a club that misses out on their free agent of choice. Maybe Jordan and his staff are in line to provide some consolation prizes, while upgrading the Bobcats.

If you missed out on Lebron James, what would you give for Gerald Wallace? If Joe Johnson bails for another town, Atlanta might appreciate Stephen Jackson? Could an aging club (Spurs / Celtics) find a use for young Gerald Henderson or Derrick Brown?

Despite finishing with their best season in franchise history, Michael Jordan and Larry Brown won’t be satisfied with a single Playoff run (which was a quick sweep). These guys will want to see improvement, and a couple of sly moves this summer could position the team for years of success. The best move that this team could make starts with their most valuable asset. GM Rod Higgins should scramble to get the most return for a top trade asset, before that player’s value begins to slip. The team’s obvious top two options are Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson.

Wallace is coming off a career year, full of recognition and praise. He’s also become a fan favorite and may be just too important for the club to trade away. “Crash” has several good years left, and has loyal supporters in Jordan and Brown. On the other hand, Stephen Jackson is still the new guy in town, and might be looking over the horizon to the downturn of his career from here.  Considering the previous state of his reputation, it was impressive to see how he served as the leader of the Bobcats within days of his arrival. Still, his game might slide quickly and he’s likely at the peak of his trade value this summer. Charlotte has done a superb job to quietly rehab Jackson’s image and improve their investment in him. Although his temper could be a distraction, the Bobcats have treated it as “passion.” With the lackadaisical way that T-Mac hits the court, doesn’t “passion” look like a pretty great quality these days?

Will Stephen Jackson be traded this summer?

It would serve Charlotte well to focus on the portrayal of Jackson as the experienced veteran scorer , who stepped into town and led a new club to their first Playoff appearance. His well-documented past will weigh on him wherever he goes, but the bigger risk might lie ahead in the future  – when a new coach will have the task of managing “Jack” on a roster as his skills start to fade.

Is now the best time to trade Stephen Jackson?  It appears so. Will the Bobcats look to trade him this summer? It’s more likely than not that Jordan and Higgins will “explore the option.” The big question is – what can Charlotte gain in exchange for their most valuable trade asset?

Links:
2010 Free Agents (RealGM.com)

- Mike

The Mystery of The Silent Off-Season

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Larry Brown's Project

Much speculation and anticipation has rumbled amongst the foundation of hard-core Bobcats fans this off-season. So many NBA teams have made notable exchanges or additions that the current stagnant state of the Bobcats roster can only enhance the fanbase’s curiosity. As anxious as any other group of fans, the crew here at Bobcats Baseline has assumed several questions for the past couple of months.

Who will Charlotte sign? Who will be traded? How do the Bobcats keep up with the other mediocre clubs? While an answer to these questions could create headlines or at least drum up a bold reaction from a sports pundit, the Bobcats might not give us any such satisfaction.

Perhaps, the fundamental question that puts the off-season into focus would be this –
What roster position or positions do the Bobcats see as immediate needs?

After securing a reserve shooting guard with Gerald Henderson in the Draft, it seems that only one area of need will push the team to spend any more than they are already committed to drop on the next season. GM Rod Higgins has commented on the need of depth at the power forward position, but the club hasn’t made any drastic moves to overpay for a reserve.  Despite the reports from the team’s lone beat writer or speculative bloggers (like us), the Bobcats have really only made small mention of the power forward spot as a need for concern. So far, no one in the front office has gone into panic mode over signing a guy that will come off of the bench next year.

Could this be that the Bobcats might not really be that desperately concerned over filling out the back-up forward spot? It’s been suggested that Sean May could be reacquired to provide some depth behind Boris Diaw. Most of Charlotte’s fans would see this as a sad gesture toward improvement, but the team is definitely shopping with a tight budget. Additionally, some have assumed that the Bobcats were more likely to sign a D-Leaguer or an unaffiliated player that shows promise in Summer League play. A move like this probably won’t splash across the Sports Page, but it could fill their need just as much as an underachieving former NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player. So, the Bobcats are likely to spend little to no cash to cover that one hole that seems so important to all of their most analytical fans this summer.

This may sound crazy, but maybe the Bobcats don’t really have a need for depth at the power forward position. Larry Brown is known to be a bit fluid with his rosters, and he’s definitely open about changes that he wants from the organization. Brown has yet to make any publicly clamorous requests for that all so rare talent that can play against the league’s other back-up forwards. The lack of noise from Brown or the front office could mean that they simply already have their reserve power forward in Alexis Ajinca.

Larry Brown saw something in the 7-footer Ajinca that caused him to push the team to trade for an additional pick in the 2008 Draft  (No. 20) in order to acquire the rights to the Frenchman. After only appearing in garbage time throughout the first half of last season, the Bobcats sent Ajinca to the D-League to keep his game active over the spring. After suffering through the experience of the Sioux Falls SkyForce, we can assume that Alexis has put his focus on improving his game in any way that he can to stick on an NBA roster. With Larry Brown’s insight and the open ear of Boris Diaw, shouldn’t we expect some degree of improvement in the lanky man’s second season?

For the fans expecting a blockbuster deal or a huge free agent signing Alexis Ajinca isn’t likely the answer. Though, for the financially ailing Bobcats organization, the possibility of Ajinca filling out his body, his potential, and the team’s reserve forward need would sure sound like a great answer.

-Mike