Bobcats Season 10 – Week 4 Review

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The Cats finish the week 1-3, a disappointing stretch which included:

  • A flat and unfocused loss at home to the surprising Suns, 91-98.
  • A twenty point beat-down of the Eastern Conference doormat Bucks in Milwaukee, 96-72.
  • Another flat and unfocused loss at home to the lowly Celtics, 86-96.
  • Three good quarters and a horrific fourth in a blowout loss at home to Indiana, 74-99.

The LEASTERN CONFERENCE

We’re approaching the quarter season mark and it is already quite apparent that the Eastern Conference stinks somethin’ fierce. Incoming commish Adam Silver may crave parity but right now he has the AL East. Indiana and Miami might both get to sixty five wins playing amongst this ragtag group. Atlanta, currently the Conference’s third seed, is 8-8 and sports a negative point differential. Tied with them is Chicago, who just lost Derrick Rose for the season (again).
Washington, Detroit and Charlotte have had a few nice moments over the past month but they aren’t going to keep either the Pacers or Heat up at night. As for the rest of the lot…ugh. Fair warning: We’re in for a long stretch bad basketball, folks.
All this terrible play in the East has me scratching my head, trying to decipher how good the Bobcats actually are. I mean, has Charlotte actually improved or did the rest of the conference just lower themselves the Bobcats’ level?

Kemba Walker: The Scoring Guard Whose Shots Don’t Fall

Sure, he’s been shooting a little better over the past week (26-62, FG50% over 4 games) but Kemba seriously needs to get consistent with his shot or his future may not be as bright as we once hoped. Wanna hear something frightening? Kemba is shooting 37% from the field this season. He shot 36% his rookie season. We could be looking at a regression to the mean. I was hoping to see Kemba blossom into top tier NBA point with a low block presence like Al Jefferson to run the offense through but the opposite has happened. Walker’s averaging 1.5 less assists per game on the year, consistently has trouble feeding the post and is laying a ton of bricks in the process. I never bought in to the narrative that Kemba would be a third guard on a good team but if he can’t get that shot to fall regularly, he may not be the third guard on a bad team.

Rich Cho Must Love The Home Depot…

…because he sure love projects (ZING!).

In the midst of watching the Pacers loss, I realized that the team is going to need a lot more than what Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can currently give if they want to be relevant. MKG had trouble defending Paul George all night and wasn’t exactly matching George’s output on the offensive side either. There he goes again turning the ball over in transition, losing his dribble for unknown reasons and/or committing odd turnovers. I find myself having Biyombo Season Two flashbacks with MKG and that’s not a good thing. Gilchrist will likely be able to stay in the league for a while as a lock-down defender (ala Luc Richard Mbah a Moute or Tony Allen) but I’m kind of done expecting much else on a nightly basis.
Biyombo and MKG are case studies in why The Jalen Rose Rule of Drafting (a prospect must be able to: shoot, pass, dribble) should never be broken. How many player development minutes, millions of dollars and highly valuable draft picks must a team spend on guys who might top out as “The Next Samuel Dalembert” or “The Next Gerald Wallace”? The NFL already has this figured out: you take projects in the late rounds, sure things in the early ones.
Again, I think Cho has done a very nice job in aggregate – especially in free agency and with the cap – but drafting woes have handcuffed this franchise from the beginning. Let’s hope it doesn’t continue that way.

-ASChin
@BaselineBuzz

 

The Demarcus Debate

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Demarcus Cousins Illustration by Mike S

Baseliners A.S. Chin and Ben Weinrib discuss the PROS and CONS of betting the franchise on Boogie Cousins.

BEN: It’s that time of the year again. We’re approaching the NBA Draft, which means rumors are starting to fly about which troubled young stars might be on the move. Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins’ name has been popping up a lot lately, although there have been just as many reports saying the Kings don’t want to move him. But trade talk is fun, so let’s continue with the hypotheticals!

The Bobcats’ package for Boogie (wow, what a nickname) would certainly be centered around the #4 pick in the draft. With four first-round picks in the next two years, Charlotte has the chips to get a trade done, but the Kings’ asking price is surely going to be steep. At what point is GM Rich Cho giving up too much for the moody free agent-to-be?

ASCHIN: Don’t believe the reverse-hype. If there’s an offer out there good enough, Sacramento will make the move. The Kings organization is starting over from the top down (owner, GM, coach) and would certainly welcome the opportunity to shed Boogie and his antics for the right price. I’m guessing a combination of this year’s #4 pick, Bismack Biyombo and the future Top 14 protected Portland pick is the MINIMUM it will take to get the deal done pre-Draft.

BEN: I’ll start by saying this: I am a HUGE DeMarcus Cousins fan. It’s almost creepy how much I like him. But the money is a bit concerning. He has one year left before he will assuredly get a max contract, which means he will cost $63.3 million over five years. That’s pretty fair value for a guy who averages 18 and 10, but the #4 pick gives tremendous value. Drafting a big man (Anthony Bennett or Alex Len) will only cost $16.8 million over four years. That comes down to $4.2 million for the draft pick and about $12.6 million for Cousins. Bennett or Len may eventually put up similar numbers and they’ll cost one third as much. Using some advanced math–bare with me here–that gives Charlotte $8.4 million extra to spend. There’s a lot a team can do with that extra money. They could sign a Charlie Villanueva, their own John Salmons, or even a Metta World Peace! That’s not even considering they’d be giving up essentially two more first-rounders. Isn’t there something to be said about financial flexibility?

ASCHIN: First off, how dare you neglect to mention everyone’s favorite $8 million man, Tyrus Thomas. Second, I’m having an extremely difficult time recalling anybody in that “above-mid-level-sub-max” range worth the money. Thanks to the past couple of CBAs, the league has been further stratified into the haves and have-nots. Today’s ideal cap situation consists of two to three “stars” making near max money, a couple of mid-level guys and a bunch of rookies and veterans on minimum deals. Demarcus has a chance to blossom into an elite center thanks to his ability to operate in the high and low post (see Duncan, the Gasols, Bosh) and as of right now, he’s probably the best chance Charlotte has at acquiring a star because A.) the team’s hasn’t exactly perfected the art of Drafting and B.) Free Agent stars won’t come to Charlotte without other stars or potential stars on the roster (see David West in Indy). So in my mind, you have to make the bold trade and hope Cousins’ mental problems don’t get in the way of him reaching his potential – price be damned!

BEN: I think you’re starting to convince me, but I still think there’s an issue about the value of the assets. Let’s assume the trade would be Boogie for the #4 pick, Biyombo, and the Portland pick. Houston is rumored to be looking to auction off Thomas Robinson for a future first round pick, so they can fit Dwight Howard under the cap. Charlotte could land a player they nearly took last year on the cheap for that very same Portland pick they would be using to land Cousins. Isn’t the #4 pick, Biyombo, Robinson, and financial flexibility more valuable than Cousins? I understand the need for a star, but just because landing Cousins might be a sound trade doesn’t mean there aren’t better moves out there.

ASCHIN: I don’t think these options are mutually exclusive. It took Houston a couple of years to accumulate its chest of assets – expiring contracts, draft picks and prospects – in order to cash out when a big time prospect became available. Now that the Rockets have James Harden secured as a major building block, they’ll need to reconfigure their cap in order to sign their second star, Dwight Howard (or Chris Paul), this summer. I’m sure that Daryl Morey would love a mid to late round first round pick for Robinson but I think he realizes that in today’s NBA, having a team both absorb $4m+ in annual payroll AND give up a precious first rounder might be asking a little much. I’d bet that T-Rob could be had for as little as a high second rounder – but only for a team under the cap.

Meanwhile, by trading for Boogie this summer, Charlotte basically Xeroxes the Morey playbook, cashing in their assets for a young star (Harden/Cousins), using their cap space to bring in another young frontcourt prospect (Asik/Robinson) and then go into next summer with enough financial flexibility and picks to lure another star should one become available.

Also, thanks again for pitching me all these softballs. I mean, you haven’t even brought up the fact that I’m having Cho spend half his war chest on a (potentially) insane person.

BEN: That’s the thing: I still really really like Cousins. And as crazy as he may be, we’ve seen that crazy can be channeled into results by looking 600 miles west to Memphis and Zach Randolph. But is Cousins really the franchise player Harden is? I think he’d be a great second banana, but they still need a number one type player, and he’s much more volatile than The Beard. Kemba has the ceiling of a number three or two player, and MKG could end up being a number two as well. Could they get that top guy through the draft still? I don’t think they’d still be in the running for Wiggins et all if they have Boogie, Kemba, and MKG. I somehow doubt players will want to come play for the Hornets in free agency, since this city doesn’t have the tax-free allure of Houston, and there wouldn’t be many trade assets left after this deal. Like you said a GM’s job is extremely tough, but do you really want to build your team around a taller Zach Randolph?

ASCHIN: Just for the record, Ben was supposed to be taking the “CON” position on Boogie. Hell, maybe Cousins is such a great prospect that the immaturity and high cost of acquisition can be overlooked. To further your points: I agree that Boogie is probably a second banana. Kemba looks like a solid number three. MKG’s a good glue guy and potentially much more. This is approximately the type of nucleus Indiana had going into the ’11-’12 season. If the Horncats can use some of their cap space and remaining Lottery picks over the next two summers to add an All-Star type ala David West, they could seriously make some Playoff noise. We’re talking about an inside/out offense with some very effective transition guys and coach who’s made his name on getting the very best out of his bigs. Add a veteran free agent big like Paul Millsap to a Walker/Henderson/MKG/Cousins lineup and suddenly you a very intriguing starting five.

ASChin on Twitter: @bobcatsbaseline

Ben Weinrib on Twitter: @benweinrib

Another Half-Hearted Effort in Indy

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Bobcats sorta show up against the Pacers Friday night and kinda try to stay in the game until finally losing a winnable game against an okay Indy team 100-92.

AP Recap | Box Score

In the tradition of the Bobcats effort of late, I’m gonna sorta attempt this recap.  Basically the Bobcats are good enough to stay in games and win a few of them when they feel like it and aren’t bad enough to be blown out.  After tonight’s loss, the Pacers are 3.5 games up on the Cats for 7th seed in the East.  I’ll be honest, I really tried watching all 48 minutes of this game but the effort was just so poor that I found myself reading about Julian Assange and his amazing ability to have sex with a woman in her sleep.  Stephen Jackson should know something about this, Pressure ain’t been made love to in a long time.

OBSERVATIONS:

  • I hope word comes that Gerald Wallace (who quietly had a big statistical night @26/13) has been nursing some sort of nagging injury during the first month of the season ’cause he looks as slow and grounded as I’ve seen from him in six years.  Two mis-played finishes around the basket (one from a pass inside from JAX during the 2nd and one on a putback attempt in the 3rd) would have been highlight dunks just a few years ago.  The good news is that Crash is still driving and still working for boards.  I just hope that Wallace hasn’t permanently moved on from the explosiveness of years past.
  • The one major highlight for me so far this season has been watching D.J. Augustin transform into a real deal NBA starting point.  Even though he had a relatively quiet night (8pts, 5asts), you can see that he’s figuring it out fast.  I know that Raymond is having a career year up in NYC (albeit in D’Antoni-Land*) but within the next two seasons I’d bet that D.J. becomes the better all-around player…
  • …That said, it might be time for us to declare Raymond a natural born winner.  He did it on the collegiate level and pushed a mediocre Bobcats team to the Playoffs last season and is doing solid work with a 15-9 squad in Manhattan this season.  Just hope he doesn’t have to go against Jameer again in the first round.
  • 7 Turnovers for Stephen Jackson in this one.  Enough already.  You can’t have three players who handle the rock as much as JAX, Crash and Boris Diaw average 9 TOs per game.  In comparison, Boston’s big three of Pierce/Garnett/Allen only average 4.4 a contest.  Gotta put the blame solely on Coach Brown for this one.  You’ve had two seasons to figure this out and the team is still coughing up the ball at a horrendous rate.

You gotta believe that LB and MJ are working the phones in order to salvage the season.  The Playoffs are still within reach (barely) but the team will need to make a solid run by the All-Star break in order to separate from a crowded pack.  The current configuration just isn’t putting in the extra effort that made last year’s team overachieve.

Until Next Time, Enjoy the Loss Bobcats Fans,

-ASChin

Bobcats vs. Pacers Preview

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The home opener has arrived!  After dropping the season opener to the Mavs in Dallas in Wednesday night, the Charlotte Bobcats will be taking on the Indiana Pacers on Friday night at Time Warner Cable Arena, aka The Cable Box.  Tipoff is at 7:00 PM ET.

The Pacers come in also 0-1 after losing 122-109 in San Antonio on Wednesday night, despite Roy Hibbert’s big  28/9/3/3 statline.  The Pacers start new addition Darren Collison at the point, Mike Dunleavy and Danny Granger on the wings, and Josh McRoberts and the aforementioned Hibbert on the blocks.  Lottery pick Paul George, veteran James Posey, and onetime Bobcat trade target TJ Ford are also in the rotation.  Meanwhile, former Tarheel favorite Tyler “Psycho-T” Hansbrough pulled a DNP-CD in the Pacers opener.

The Pacers don’t play much D, so look for the Bobcats to get some offense going.  I’d like to see Jack have a big night against Dunleavy, in particular — especially because he was quiet in the opener and finished that game on the bench.

When the Bobcats are on defense, I’d watch out for the Augustin/Collison matchup.  Collison is one of the faster points in the league, the kind that DJ struggles to stay in front of.

More links:

Dr. E’s Twitter (I’ll be tweeting live from the game)

ESPN.com preview

Observer preview

8 points, 9 seconds (Pacers blog)

Pacers Outlast Bobcats in Indy

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Charlotte Bobcats @ Pacers 3/16/10

Bobcats fall in typical Bobcat fashion on the road to Indiana 99-94.  The loss drops the Cats to 34-32, maintaining their tie with Miami for sixth in the Conference with just sixteen games remaining.

AP recap here | Box score here

More of the Same

Since I have the great privilege of covering most of the Bobcats road games for the blog, I’ve seen my fair share of losses this season (twenty four to be exact).  Last night’s Indy game stuck to the standard script: Play three solid quarters of basketball but disappear in the 2nd, go down by double digits and make a last ditch effort to salvage a win in the waning minutes of the 4th.

Against the Pacers, the ‘Cats were outscored 32-19 in the second quarter and it was specifically the Bobcats’ reserves who got torched in this one.  Although Tyrus Thomas dropped ten points before the second half, he and the rest of his unit threw up a big stink bomb in the plus/minus department.  Augustin, Henderson, Chandler and T2 averaged a -14 plus/minus for the game and let the Pacers run and shoot over them at will.  The second unit looked undisciplined and unfocused and gave Coach Brown little option but to burn his starters for most of the 2nd half.

Good illustration of my point:
Midway through the second quarter, Cats are settling for outside jumpers  Pacers go on a 14-0 run, CLT continues to turn the ball over.
Pacers work the ball around and find Brandon Rush down low, Tyrus cheats down on him anticipating the block, leaving his man – Troy Murphy.  Murphy immediately slips way back to his favorite spot at the top of the three point line.  Rush fakes the shot down low, swings it back out to Murphy.  Swish.  Think that the Pacers read the scouting report on Tyrus?  Yes.  Think Tyrus Thomas read the scouting report on Troy Murphy?  No.

The game looked like a blowout up until the Cats put on their traditional 4th quarter run which resulted from an intense “Carolina Trap” (as Pacers’ TV color man Quinn Buckner called it) that was completely missing for three and half quarters.  Equally as perplexing was Larry Brown’s lack of a timeout with :30 seconds on the game clock and the ‘Cats down just three.  The lack of a timeout resulted in a terrible Boris Diaw turnover and the game was over.  It looked as though LB wanted a TO but just couldn’t communicate it to Raymond Felton in time.

Bullets

  • Stephen Jackson started the game ice cold (2-8 from the field in the 1st half) before warming in the 4th.  JAX is one of those scorers who’ll drive you nuts as he tries to find his shot during games by bricking eight or nine three pointers in order to get into a groove.  JAX was also assessed a technical early on and it was pretty obvious that the Indy crowd was eating it up.  They really don’t like that guy.  This makes the second road game I’ve covered in which he was booed heavily by his former crowd (Golden State being the first).  I certainly hope that we don’t end up in a similar situation in Charlotte.
  • D.J. Augustin continues to infuriate.  He only shot the ball once in 18 minutes.  Once.  His role is “scoring point guard.”  His decision making was poor tonight.  GREAT DJ MOMENT in the 2nd quarter: dribbles around for five seconds wide open and as the shot clock winds down he finds Theo Ratliff for a well contested fadeaway twenty footer.  I’m not making this up.
  • Outside of the dagger turnover at the end, Boris Diaw had a nice game with 20pts (7-10), 5 boards and 4 assists.  He looks slimmer and seems to be moving around much better than he was earlier this season.  That’s a positive sign moving forward.
  • Tyson Chandler only played eleven minutes and was thoroughly owned by second year center Roy Hibbert.  That’s just sad.  Just sad.  But maybe things are starting to pick up!  According to Tyson’s blog, he’s feeling better than ever!  Yippee!  (Thanks to Bobcats Planet for the link).
  • Bobcats commit a total of 18 turnovers as JAX led the way with six.  If the Bobcats want to even think about the 2nd Round, they’ve got to figure out a way to cut out the errors.  They’re currently 29th in the League at just under 16 per.  Ouch.
  • Your ’09-’10 NBA IS FANTASTIC Exchange of the Year:
    First Quarter: Theo Ratliff with a major rejection on Danny Granger, Stephen Graham chases it down for a breakaway dunk, followed by a Troy Murphy JAM going the other way!  Givin’ the people what they want in Indiana!
  • Speaking of Graham.  Dude’s been playing out of his mind as a substitute for Crash.  Had a career high 19 points (8-10) to go along with eight boards.  Efficient, low-cost, high value.  Couldn’t ask for more for Joey Graham’s brother.  Nice work.
  • Too bad the ‘Cats didn’t bring it against the Pacers, both the Heat and Bulls lost on the same night and CLT missed an easy chance of going up another full game on each of them.

Big game coming up at home against the OKC Thunder.  Dr. E will Tweet you there.

Until Next Time…Enjoy the Loss Bobcats Fans…

-ASChin

TJ Ford Trade Narrowly Averted

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Phew!  On the heels of the Tyrus Thomas trade, rumors started flying via NBA insiders on Twitter a little after 2 PM ET that the Bobcats were in discussions with the Indiana Pacers to obtain guard TJ Ford for DJ Augustin.

Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski was all over it via his Twitter feed, quickly following up that the proposal had expanded to TJ Ford + Brandon Rush for DJ + Nazr Mohammed + Gerald Henderson.

This seemed to me like grand larceny for a guy who was pretty much deemed untradeable in recent months.  Ford has fallen to third on the Pacers PG depth chart and was benched for all of January before breaking back into the lineup in February, presumably to audition for prospective trade partners.

We’ve watched DJ go through a brutal sophomore slump this year, and we’ve known for several weeks that the Bobcats were dangling him in trade talks.  We’ve also watched Gerald Henderson struggle in limited minutes in this, his rookie season.

But to give up both these young guards PLUS Nazr Mohammed, who has been so solid in this renaissance season, sounded way off to me.

Fortunately, as the trade deadline loomed closer and closer, Wojanarski’s tweets seemed to indicate that the Cats were pretty far away from making this trade a reality.  Finally, ESPN.com’s Chad Ford stopped the madness with a Tweet just a few minutes before the 3 PM ET deadline that the trade wasn’t happening.

The post-mortem from Wojanarski and Ford clearly indicates that the Pacers would have been ecstatic to get this deal done, while the Bobcats, not so much.

It’s unknown exactly what the Bobcats saw in TJ Ford or Brandon Rush, if anything.  But the Pacers (along with several other teams including the Knicks and Celtics, reportedly) certainly see something in DJ Augustin.  Maybe the Bobcats should take their cue, even if it’s just as insurance with Raymond Felton’s free agency coming this summer.

NOTE:  I’ve long included TJ Ford on my “All-Sourpuss Team” of guys who play with a perpetual scowl and just look like they don’t enjoy playing basketball (along with Rashad McCants and Steven Jackson), so I was stunned to find snaps of TJ flashing his pearly whites so easy to come by.

-Dr. E

Bobcats Score Solid Win Over Pacers

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Charlotte Bobcats vs. Pacers, 11/22/09

Home Sweet Home

The Bobcats (4-9) end a 7-game losing streak with a win over the Pacers, 104-88, on Sunday evening at the Cable Box.  AP recap here, box score here, Bonnell story here.  The Cats opened up a slight lead towards the end of the first quarter and never trailed again versus a Pacers squad that just couldn’t get any flow going.

The cynic’s take on this game would be that the Pacers were on the road, don’t play much defense to begin with, were trying to work Troy Murphy and Jeff Foster back into the rotation, and generally had an off night.  The optimist’s take would be that this is exactly how the Bobcats have to play in order to seriously challenge for a spot in the playoffs — and we’re going to see more of it now that Stephen Jackson is settling in.

The truth, as per usual, is somewhere in between.  The Pacers shoot a lot of threes, and didn’t make many tonight (Granger, Rush and Murphy were a combined 4-17).  But the rest of the Pacers poor play was due, in large part, to the Bobcats strong defense.  Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Derrick Brown and Steven Graham did a great job of hounding Danny Granger all night.  In fact, Dahntay Jones ended up taking the most shots for the Pacers, which is about the equivalent of Raymond Felton leading the Bobcats in field goal attempts.

The Bobcats were led on offense not by Stephen Jackson, playing his first game in Charlotte, but by old man Nazr Mohammed.  Mohammed beasted it for 18 points on 8-10 FG and 2-4 FT, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks — in 18 minutes.  If there were some sort of NBA equivalent to the NFL’s QB efficiency rating stat, Nazr’s would be astronomical for the night.

5 other guys also hit double figures for the Bobcats in a well-rounded team effort: Gerald Wallace (11 pts/11 rebs), Boris Diaw (17 pts on 8-13 FG), Stephen Jackson (11 pts/7 rebs) and Derrick Brown (13 pts on 5-7 FG).  Wait, who?

Rookie Derrick Brown logged 24 minutes, the most of his young career, and responded magnificently.  He also added 4 rebs and 2 steals, one of which was an one-on-one rip of Granger in the backcourt that Brown took in for a breakaway dunk (it is included in the highlights above).  I’m not sure what Brown is doing to endear himself to Larry Brown so much, but we can only hope that Gerald Henderson is taking notes.

Small Plates…

  • Steven Graham had some nice minutes in the second half, playing tough D on Granger and posting a perfect night shooting: 3-3 FG and 2-2 FT for 8 points.
  • Tyson Chandler did not play due to back spasms.  As mentioned above, Nazr played 18 minutes, so the rest of the game the Cats went small with Boris effectively playing center.
  • Tyler Hansbrough seemed to be a big draw, as attendance was better than I thought it would be, and he got a big ovation when he checked in for the first time.  He looks like an able replacement for Jeff Foster.
  • Roy Williams was in the “Bob Johnson” midcourt-courtside seats.  He, Jordan and Sam Perkins held a Tarheel reminiscing session over by the Bobcats bench during halftime.  Many more people watched this than Rufus’s corny halftime magic show.
  • In 13 games, the Bobcats have had 8 different leading scorers — I doubt there’s another team in the league even close to that.
  • Next game is a Thanksgiving Eve tilt with the visiting Raptors at 7 PM ET at the Cable Box.  Should be interesting, as the Raps and Cats are like bizarro versions of each other (the Raps are first in the league in offensive efficiency and last in the league in defensive efficiency).

-Dr. E