End of the Gana Diop Era

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Gana Diop Illustration

As NBA enthusiasts across the globe get ready for the exciting action and intense competition of the Playoffs, Charlotte Bobcats fans should take pause to reflect on the end of an era – The DeSagana Diop Era. It’s not often that a team says goodbye to one of its Big Three (salary bandits). So, this is a great opportunity to survey the impact that the giant’s departure will have for the club.

Oh, how time and paychecks fly by. It seems like it was just yesterday that the Bobcats were pressured by Larry Brown and duped by the Dallas Mavericks into swallowing Diop’s ridiculous contract in exchange for Matt Carroll and Ryan Hollins. Since then, ‘Gana has eaten up over 11% of the team’s salary cap with few contributions to justify it. Acquiring the Senegalese seven-footer immediately hamstrung the ‘Cats efforts to retain their much better Center, Tyson Chandler in the 2010 off-season. Regrettably, Charlotte had to take back Matt Carroll, Eduardo Najera, and Erick Dampier’s contract in a financially-driven trade, delivering Chandler to the Mavs where he went on to win the championship. Oh, and then Tyson picked up the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2012. But, those wiry ol’ Bobcats still had Diop on their bench! Another fun fact – Ryan Hollins is a contributor off the bench for the Playoff-bound LA Clippers and played over three-times as many minutes as ‘Gana did this season.

Gana Diop Era Highlights

Okay, let’s take a moment to look at some Gana Diop highlights:

Next Step for Diop

It’s highly likely that Diop will step away from the NBA, and walk off into the sunset (after he collects the last of his $7,372,200.00 from the Bobcats this month). Despite the pain that he’s caused Michael Jordan’s wallet, it looks like the guy has actually done some pretty good things off the court with the NBA Cares program.

Nevertheless, ‘Gana is gonna leave a big hole on this team’s payroll. It’s fair that fans have concerns about how the team will use their salary cap numbers to improve this summer. But, when the time comes to announce the next signing, Charlotte’s front office needs to measure their offer and ask, “Is that guy worth Gana Diop money?”

-Mike

Two Trades to Add Frontcourt Scoring and Rebounding

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charlotte Bobcats Salary Forecast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-ASChin

Gerald Wallace Is Gone, Who’s To Blame?

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Three months into my self-imposed NBA exile and the Bobcats had to go and blow up the team. I just couldn’t resist. It’s time for a State of the Roster.

PART 1 – WHO’S TO BLAME?

To say that fan sentiment over the trade has skewed negative would be an understatement. Gerald Wallace, the player we all watched grow from an expansion draft castoff to best-kept-NBA-secret to All-Star has been gifted to Portland for what amounts to cap space and a couple of mid first round picks. On the surface this seems both cheap and defeatist. The Bobcats currently sit just a few games outside of the Eastern Conference’s top eight while resting comfortably below the League’s luxury tax line.

So who’s to blame for this sudden and seemingly irrational transaction?

THE SUSPECTS:

1. Larry Brown.

The former coach and (by his estimates) de facto GM kvetched incessantly until ownership added millions in dead weight veteran contracts then griped again when he couldn’t add any more. The moves overwhelmed a cash strapped organization as they found themselves well over the luxury tax line last summer. Owner Michael Jordan isn’t stupid, he looked at the past few seasons and came away with the conclusion that he’d most likely traded five plus years of fielding competitive teams for a one and done with the Orlando Magic.

2. Gana Diop & Matt Carroll.

No, these two weren’t involved in a clandestine operation to overthrow the co-captain; at least not directly. Jordan made a major mistake when he signed Carroll to a then six-year $27 million deal. MJ immediately realized the folly so decided to compound the problem by trading Carroll for Gana Diop’s $31 million albatross contract in a Larry Brown inspired transaction back in ’08.

In an ironic twist, the trade ended up handcuffing the team to the point where they had to take back Carroll’s contract from Dallas simply to get under the luxury tax this summer (see Dampier, Ericka). The two player’s salaries combined make up what the Bobcats would have owed Wallace over the next two seasons at around $10 million per. Ouch.

3. Stephen Jackson

Pretty simple here. The Bobcats’ two best guys played the same position. JAX isn’t getting any younger and the whipper-snappers playing NBA two guard these days aren’t getting any less athletic.

Less obvious is this Dirty Secret: Jackson is the better player, or at least the more indispensable one. More on this later.

4. Draft Picks

During the Larry Brown era, the Bobcats gave away first rounders like they were T-Wolves tickets. The team didn’t have a pick in last June’s draft and won’t have a first round selection in a potentially loaded 2012 class. By getting New Orleans’ first rounder in 2011 and Portland’s number one in 2013, the Bobcats will have four picks in the next three first rounds. Given that MJ hasn’t made a turrible pick since ’06, we can at least expect a few solid rotational players to come out of this stash.

5. Shawn Marion, Richard Jefferson & Josh Howard

What do these guys have to do with any of this? All three were All-Star small forwards who rode their elite athleticism to big stats and massive contracts. The cautionary tale of course is that once these guys crept closer to the big three-oh, their games took a major downturn for the worse. Marion is the oldest and most relevant of the bunch at 32 but hasn’t played like “The Matrix” since “The Matrix” was a cool nickname to have. He’s now a role player on a veteran team.

Jordan must have looked at Gerald Wallace’s declining production, his age, the number of major injuries and the $22 million due and decided to gamble before it was too late to get anything of significance in return.

6. Bruce Bowen & Ray Allen

Defensive ace Bruce Bowen was ostensibly finished as an NBA player at age 36. Sharpshooting Ray Allen turns the same age in June yet played in last weekend’s All-Star game. Guys who make their name on defense (unless you’re a nimble 7-footer like Dikembe or Theo Ratliff) just don’t last as long which pretty much negates the whole “The Nuggs got way more for Carmelo” argument. As little as I care for Melo’s game or his trade demands, his skill set is much more suited for the long haul.

This brings us back to Suspect #3. Efficient, dependable scoring is worth its weight in gold in today’s NBA. Stephen Jackson, despite his flaws, is the only Bobcat currently worth scheming for on either side of the ball. He’s going for around twenty every night in a variety of ways and may even drop 40 on you if he gets hot. Last I checked, the team that scores the most points still wins games and that has never been more true than it is today.

7. Gerald Henderson

It’s only been a month but Henderson has shown enough in his short time as a rotation player to warrant an expansion of the experiment. The other Gerald has looked spectacular at times. His defense against Kobe, Allen and Derrick Rose allowed the Bobcats to notch some wins over the League’s elite. His jump shot has started to fall consistently and by putting up 18, 22 and 15 going into the All-Star Break, Henderson gave management enough confidence to move Wallace while making a sincere run at the postseason.

It’s not a bad gamble. Henderson is on a great rookie deal and looks to be at worst a quality starting two guard.

PART 2 – THE LONG RUN

FISCAL SANITY

If we look at the trade from a cap perspective, we can see that the Bobcats set themselves up for some incredible leverage going in to the offseason.

By shaving nearly $10 million from the payroll next year and the year after, Charlotte can now be a major player in free agency or in landing a star player via trade. The team will be around ten million under the cap come June and potentially in the mix for a max guy if they can find a team willing to absorb Boris Diaw’s expiring deal.

If MJ strikes out this summer, he’d still be in position the following summer of 2012 to try again.

STATE OF THE ROSTER

With the trade of Gerald Wallace, the Bobcats have made their philosophy public:

  • A. They feel that they have enough talent currently in place to challenge Philly, Indy and Milwaukee for one of the East’s bottom seeds.
  • B. At the same time, they are setting themselves up for a potential long-term jump into the top four.
  • C. That they have at least partially learned their lesson when it comes to throwing away future picks and cap space for a few extra wins in the present.

Moving forward, it’s best to look at the roster in the following tiers:

TIER I: PROTO-NUCLEUS

Tyrus Thomas, Gerald Henderson, D.J. Augustin

TIER II: PRODUCTIVE VETERAN TRADE CHIPS

Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw

TIER III: INTRIGUING PIECES

Shaun Livingston, Dante Cunningham, D.J. White

TIER IV: EVERYBODY ELSE

The Expiring and the Overpaid

WHAT TO EXPECT

Look for the ‘Cats to continue their run under Silas. If Tyrus Thomas returns on schedule and can get in game shape fast, then the Playoff odds go up. Same goes for Gerald Henderson. If he blossoms with the increased playing time and if the ‘Cats can get something out of either Cunningham or White then maybe they sneak into the postseason.

Realistically we can only measure the success of this trade once we see what Jordan & Rod Higgins are able to do with the picks and cap flexibility over the next couple of summers. Losing Wallace hurts now but we may look back and see that it’s the best deal MJ ever made.

Until Next Time…

Enjoy the Change Bobcats Fans.

-ASChin

LeBron, Wade Overpower Bobcats

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The Miami Heat’s duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were way more than the shorthanded Charlotte Bobcats could handle on Monday night at the Cable Box; the Heat posted a 96-82 victory behind 38 from LeBron and 31 from Wade.

AP Recap |  Box Score

To recap the Bobcats injury report, Gerald Wallace re-aggravated his left ankle injury at practice at Sunday and will miss a couple games.  Gana Diop is done for the season after tearing his Achilles tendon against Golden State on Friday.  And Nazr Mohammed had to sit out tonight’s game after developing soreness in his right knee after a collision in the Golden State game.

So despite having to start Kwame Brown and Gerald Henderson, the Bobcats came out aggressive and played a superb first quarter.  Henderson and Stephen Jackson were hitting early while Heat looked to be going through the motions.  Problem is, a superb first quarter for the Bobcats is 28 points; going through the motions for a quarter for the Heat is still worth 23 points.

Towards the end of the second quarter the Heat grabbed control and took a 47-43 lead into halftime.  The Bobcats looked flat coming out in the third quarter — and then LeBron went off.  Wade had done much of the damage for the Heat in the first half, but LeBron just owned the third quarter.

With Stephen Jackson trying to guard him, and the crowd electric with a mix of spite and growing awe, LeBron handed out 2 assists, grabbed 5 rebounds, and tallied 17 points (on 6-8 FG, 1-3 3PT, and 4-4 FT).  Lebron personally outscored the Bobcats for the quarter (17-16) and pushed the Heat lead out to 78-59 heading into the fourth.

The Bobcats made a small run to start the fourth, cutting the Heat lead briefly to 80-69, but LeBron ended that with his next two plays.  First, he hit a crazy 37-foot three with the shot clock winding down — pretty much with his normal shooting form.  Next trip down the court he intercepted a Bobcat pass and went in for his patented breakaway reverse jam (see above photo).  That pretty much did it.

Despite the 14 point loss, this was easily the most fun Bobcats game I’ve been to this year.  Without Gerald Wallace, and down to Kwame Brown as their only true big, the Cats didn’t have much of a chance.  But they came out and threw some big punches early in the game, landing enough to force LeBron and Wade to take them seriously.  The close-to-sellout crowd was vociferously anti-Lebron/Wade.

And as little as I think of LeBron’s decision to join forces with Wade, I have to hand it to them for accepting their villain status.  Now other LeBron’s pregame chalk toss, neither he nor Wade will ever do anything overtly dastardly on the court — anything too gratuitous and you can’t sell sneakers, see — but they might as well.  Everything about their body language and play, even down to their running trash talk with courtside fans tonight, reminds me of professional wrestling’s “cool heels” — like The Rock or Ric Flair (who was conveniently courtside tonight, by the way).

The more lathered up the crowd gets, the better they perform.  And they perform so damn well that the boos eventually have to give way to “did you see that” gasps and begrudging respect for their talent.  It’s the perfect angle for them; I’m glad they’re playing the part.  They put on a good show tonight and I’m already looking forward to the rematch next month.

As for the Bobcats, I know I’m beating a horse I already killed here, but with Gerald Wallace having re-aggravated his bad ankle and the frontcourt so thin, this would be a perfect time to dismantle and start to rebuild.  Announce that Gerald Wallace needs 4-6 weeks to let that bone bruise heal — that takes him through the All-Star break.  Meanwhile, find a taker for Stephen Jackson (getting back cap relief and draft picks) and let Silas do his thing with the rest of the roster.  If only…

Extra Notes

  • After that cool highlight “spin out of the doubleteam back toward the basket” dunk in the second quarter, Tyrus Thomas was pretty brutal the rest of the way — 4-14 FG.  I know he’s been hurt, but still surprised he hasn’t looked better since Silas took over.
  • Shaun Livingston had the highlight of his season — maybe his career — with a huge driving dunk in the second half that inexplicably isn’t in the ESPN.com or NBA.com highlight reel.  Too bad it was lost in the midst of LeBron’s huge second half.
  • Must read from Ken Berger of CBSSports.com on the dilemma that small-market (low-revenue) teams face, using Danny Granger and the Pacers as the protagonists.
  • Nice puff piece on Boris Diaw from the Observer.
  • On the other hand, can anyone find the point in this Tom Sorenson column on the Heat game?  I hesitate to criticize because I know I couldn’t write under deadline like the pros do, but still…
  • Next game is Wednesday night in Minnesota, 8 PM ET start.  Likely no Gerald Wallace; unclear if Nazr will be ready either.

-Dr. E

Veteran Spurs Too Professional for Bobcats

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Oh, to be a Spurs fan.  Year after year of professional execution on and off the court: drafting top European talent in later rounds, finding NCAA collegiate castoffs, under-paying for overlooked role players and retaining homegrown stars.  It was that dedication to excellence, to the minutia of the game, that defeated an otherwise solid effort by the Bobcats 95-91 Monday night in Charlotte.  ‘Cats fall to 1-6, Spurs move to 5-1.

AP Recap | Box Score

OBSERVATIONS

  • Gary Neal is this year’s George Hill. Fifteen points in fourteen minutes on five three pointers, the 26 year old “rookie” from B-more via Europe killed the Bobcats this evening from beyond the arc.  Neal set up camp outside and never hesitated, often finding himself wide open until Charlotte decided to cover him in the 4th.  Too late.  Neal and Manu Ginobili were the difference makers in this one, combining for 10 threes and total of 41 points.
  • Manu is back. Ginobili looked like his old self, leaving his man in a trail of screens and ferreting himself free for numerous putbacks and second chance opportunities.  Combined with the outstanding depth of quality youngsters on the roster (Neal, Hill, Splitter, Blair, Anderson), a healthy Manu might keep the Spurs’ title window open for yet another season.  They look good.
  • Stephen Jackson is on the Verge.  If I’m Larry Brown, I’m putting a call into the highest levels of the League Office.  The refs have been openly baiting Jackson for an ejection all season.  Tonights 4 free throw attempts were JAX’s first in three games and he should’ve had at least a half dozen more.  I swear I’m not being a homer, the no-calls are near egregious and it is only a matter of time until Jackson has some sort of mental breakdown either on the court or off.  You can see it in his body language.  Something is brewing and the officials know it.
  • Both Jackson and Gerald Wallace were held out of the game late.  Jackson didn’t seem hurt but Wallace left in the third with an undisclosed injury.  Brown may have pulled JAX simply for his performance: another 6 Turnovers for Stephen to add to his 3.5/game average.  Again, the refs agenda seems to have distracted him to the point were he’s openly forcing passes and dribble drives that aren’t there.
  • Nice games by Tyrus Thomas, Boris Diaw and Gana Diop. Tyrus continues to hustle on every play, blocking shots and going for loose balls.  His skill level is still low but you gotta love the effort.  Diaw looked good again despite the added bulk, going for 15pts, 6rbs, 5asts.  Let’s hear it for Gana Diop! He’s gone from being an absolute joke and salary cap albatross to “an overpaid backup center.”  Gana really defended Tim Duncan well during his 15 minutes of action, looking much more fluid and mobile this year and while he’s no Brook Lopez offensively, he’s not killing the team on that end anymore.  Those fortunate enough to watch the game may have witnessed Gana’s first (and possibly last) turnaround fadeaway twelve footer from the block.  Nothin’ but net.

Yeah, the Bobcats are 1-6 but I’m still not panicking.  One through twelve, the roster has never been as solid and I have to believe that Brown and MJ are working the phones to upgrade the PG position soon.  Nothing against D.J. — he’s doing as well as we could have hoped — but he’s simply not the long term answer at the most important position on the floor.  ‘Cats are much better than their record and I fully expect them to make the Playoffs come April.

Until Next Time…Enjoy the Loss Bobcats Fans,

-ASChin

2010-11 Bobcats Season Preview: Front and Center

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Bobcats Grizzlies Basketball

Will the Bobcats’ center-by-committee approach work again?

The Charlotte Bobcats have a number of pressing issues/weaknesses to deal with as the regular season looms.  Chief among them is probably the point guard dilemma, but close behind is the five spot.

Despite projected starter Tyson Chandler’s disappointing and injury-riddled campaign last year, the Cats actually got decent play from the spot.  Out of necessity, Larry Brown went with a center-by-committee approach and it worked.

Out of necessity, he’ll do the same this season.  Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that we’ll be as pleasantly surprised by the results.

Nasty Naz

When Chandler was ineffective at the start of last season, Nazr Mohammed saw increased minutes and impressed.  When Chandler had to completely shut it down for a big hunk of the middle of the season, Nazr assumed the starting role.  Fortunately, he was in great shape and had an exquisite, veteran’s understanding of Larry Brown’s system.

Mohammed turned in a career-best 19.64 PER, largely due to hitting the boards hard and hitting a high percentage of his shots (55.3%).  The league average for PER is 15, and Dwight Howard notched a 24.07 last year, so that gives you an idea of how good Mohammed was last season.

Mohammed enters the season as the projected starter, and will probably be called on to play more minutes than the 17 per game he averaged last year.  Great, right?

Probably not.  As ESPN.com’s PER-father John Hollinger has explained, players who suddenly have a big jump in their productivity/efficiency late in their careers rarely sustain it in subsequent years.  He calls it the “fluke rule” and the 33-year-old Mohammed certainly qualifies for it.

Hollinger’s statistics suggest there is over a 90% chance that Mohammed’s play will regress by about 3 PER points.  This would put Mohammed back around his career PER average, so if it indeed happens, it would serve as a regression to a personal mean as well as an example of Hollinger’s fluke rule.  To conclude, statistics imply that Mohammed will return to being a slightly-above-average player this season.

Don’t buy dorky statistical arguments?  How about the simple age/health argument?  Not evident amongst last year’s sparkling PERs and percentages is that Mohammed did eventually break down.  After a particularly strong 5-game stretch to begin last February in which he averaged over 31 minutes a game, Mohammed began suffering back spasms.  He gutted out a few more games, but ultimately sat out about two months.  He returned late in the season looking nothing like the guy who had started 29 games earlier in the season.

Now as anyone who follows Naz on Twitter knows, the guy is serious about keeping himself in shape in the offseason, so we can hope for the best.  But at 33 years old and with a history of back issues, logic dictates that it is unlikely that Mohammed will be able to offer more than 15-20 minutes per game and/or more than 60-65 games this season — which brings us to our next subject.

Theo Ratliff vs. Gana Diop

Due to a combination of foul trouble, injury concerns, and general ineffectiveness, Tyson Chandler wasn’t able to provide more than 20-25 minutes per game even when he was available.  So when Nazr’s back went out, Larry Brown was faced with the possibility of giving Gana Diop big minutes.  The horror.

Fortunately, Brown’s buddy Gregg Popovich had Theo Ratliff collecting dust on the end of his bench in San Antonio.  Essentially given to the Cats for free at the trade deadline, Ratliff was key to the Bobcats stretch run as they held on to a playoff spot.  The ageless wonder/freak of nature stepped in and competently manned the middle.  Ratliff was thus rewarded with a guaranteed $1.3 million dollar one-year contract with the Lakers for the upcoming season, his 16th in the league.

Which leaves Larry Brown again facing the possibility of giving Gana Diop significant minutes.  The horror.

Gana Diop is unspeakably bad on the offensive end.  I’ll spare you the statistical analysis because I think we can all agree that it’s like playing 4-on-5 when the Cats have the ball.  Diop may be an above average shot-blocker and decent rebounder on the defensive side, but it doesn’t make up for the brutality of his offensive game.

Nonetheless, I expect that in the upcoming season, Diop will easily top the 262 total minutes he played last season, if only because he’s one of only two true centers on the roster.  There has been a little noise during training camp about Diop being in better shape, maybe even showing some improvement on the court.  But if Diop has to regularly average more than 8-10 minutes per game, the Cats are in huge trouble.  I figure he may be able manage about 5 minutes per game, depending on the matchups.

So who do the rest of the minutes at the five go to?

Going small with Boris & Tyrus

No surprise here.  The Cats frequently ended games last season with a smallball lineup featuring Boris or Tyrus effectively playing center.  Though he is one of the least athletic players on the roster, Boris is one of the better on-ball defenders.  He’s big, smart and patient, and can handle many of the other centers in the league.  Tyrus, on the other hand, is one of the most athletic players on the roster.  He’s not a great on-ball defender at this point; instead his specialty is coming from the weak side to block and disrupt shots in the paint.

My guess is that Larry Brown will usually end games this year with a lineup of DJ (or Livingston?), Jack, Crash, Boris and Tyrus.  And the difference is, this year I would expect to see Boris and Tyrus as the only bigs for stretches in the first half as well.  Maybe Dominic McGuire as well.

Boris was mentioned in a couple different trade rumors this offseason.  There were several reasons those trades didn’t go down, but one that was whispered a few times was that Brown was reticent to give Diaw up.  Boris is one of the top five talents on the roster, but that’s not reason alone to be so particularly averse to trading him; you have to give to get in a trade.  No, the reason is that, due to the Bobcats lack of a true, 30-35-minute-a-game, #1 center, Boris is going to be playing a lot of minutes at the five this season.

So there you go.  The Bobcats are thin at the five.  Larry Brown will again try to cobble decent play at the spot out of the available talent, but there’s even less there than last year.  Our playoff aspirations rely upon Mohammed replicating his 2009-10 season while staying even healthier than he did, and the Cats being able to play smallball for around 15-20 minutes per game.

-Dr. E

Fun With Media Day Portraits

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Gerald Wallace
Amidst the death rattle of the complex Carmelo trade (that would have netted us a legit starting point guard), the Bobcats began training camp with Media Day on Monday.

Media Day is a chance for the team to herd all the players together in order to take pictures, film video promos and bumpers for broadcasts, and give the local media ammo for puff pieces.  Maybe ammo isn’t the best choice of words…

Anyways, the best part of Media Day is the often ridiculous pictures that get taken.  The Bobcats official site has a quick gallery of some behind-the-scenes candids that probably deserves its own post (check out #13 featuring an inexplicable Stephen Jackson pose and #14 with an unfortunately chunky-appearing Sherron Collins), but what I’m more interested in are the portraits taken by the Charlotte Observer’s Jeff Siner, available here.

Portraits like these are inherently awkward; there’s a reason we gasp at our old school photos and snicker at others “Glamour Shots”.  The fact that these are grown-ass men in tank tops just makes it all the more awkward.

Lets go through these one by one.  Up above is Gerald Wallace — nothing to snark at here.  A solid photo befitting of the heart, soul and face of the franchise.  One of the few pleasures of being a Bobcats fan has been watching Gerald Wallace grow not just as a player but also as a professional comfortable with being promoted as the face of the franchise.

Jack

Stephen Jackson:  Again, nothing to snark at here, except for that souvenir ball from the team store.  Would it have killed them to use a game ball?  Also, note the not-so-subtle change to the collars on the jersey this year (compare to last years in the website banner above).  I’m guessing the all-orange is supposed to “pop” more or something like that.

DJ

DJ Augustin:  The likely starter at point guard gets the old “gimme a smile and a circus pass” treatment.  Probably also had to add “the trade fell through, you’re still the starter!” to get that smile.  Again, that ball — the UPC barcode is a nice touch.  Also a good look at the side vents showing the new material being used in NBA jerseys this year (click here for more on that).

Diaw

Boris Diaw:  Jeff Siner is truly a skilled photographer — Boris doesn’t even look fat in this pose!  Orange glow makes its first appearance in a big way.

Nazr

Nazr Mohammed:  Last year, Nazr morphed into a surprisingly competent solution at the 5 for the Bobcats.  This year, he’s apparently morphing into Lt. Worf.  Seriously, Naz, what’s going on with the forehead there?

Diop

Gana Diop:  Borrows the generic “big man pose” from Nazr, adds the orange mood lighting, and unsurprisingly managing to come off looking way more goofy.  Did we ever decide if Gana is Joey Crawford’s Avatar?

Derrick Brown

Derrick Brown:  Looks like he’s posing for a football card.  Could probably give the Panthers a lift at QB, come to think of it.

Gerald Henderson

Gerald Henderson:  Looks way too nice here.  Really needs to pose (and play) with an edge this year.  Maybe should have gone with Blue Steel.

Najera

Eduardo Najera:  Is anyone else getting a “Mexican Don Draper” vibe here?  Love the throwback dribbling posture — go get the ball out of the peach basket now.

Livingston

Shaun Livingston:  Skinniest arms in the NBA?  Skinniest arms in the NBA.  Also, is the clever arm positioning covering up the fact that he doesn’t have a number yet?

Crittendon

Javaris Crittendon:  If I was Jeff Siner, I would have printed out a couple of different pictures for Javaris, then placed them on a chair by his locker with a note that said “Pick One.”  I’m sure he’d think it was funny.

Ty Thomas

Tyrus Thomas:  I saved the best for last.  I love this photo — no joke.  Perfectly captures the potential that Thomas has.  Reminds me a bit of the famous 40 Year Old Virgin movie poster, with the innocence.  Now Tyrus the dude is no innocent — he’s had his share of professional indiscretions.  But his game is kinda raw and innocent.  Let’s hope he is as earnest as he appears to be in this picture when it comes to reaching his potential as a player this year.

Again, check out the full gallery of Jeff Siner’s photos at the Charlotte Observer’s website.

-Dr. E