Rosterpalooza ’13 | Version 2.0

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Back in Version 1.0 of our offseason nerd-a-thon, we outlined a plan that would allow the Charlotte Bobcats to return to the ranks of competitive basketball next season while maintaining the team’s committment to acquiring and developing young talent. But in order to execute that plan, the team would have to let one of their precious few assets walk via free agency. That asset’s name is Gerald Henderson and he’s played so well over the past two months that we had to dedicate an entire Rosterpalooza to him.

Rosterpalooza ’13: Version 2.0 (The Hendo Edition)

Henderson isn’t a Top 2 franchise guy and probably not even a Top 3. The real question is whether he’s a 4th guy, the *uber* role player who, while not a star, is an integral piece of the team’s identity – think Jeff Green, Wesley Matthews, Taj Gibson or Wilson Chandler.

The Bobcats must be certain that he’s at that level because 4th Guys aren’t cheap and the contracts that they sign ($7-$8 million annually) are notorious for being the riskiest and least “efficient” deals a front office can ink (*cough*, Tyrus Thomas *cough*).

Should Charlotte Re-Sign Gerald Henderson?

PROS: Efficient scorer (even on a terrible team), still young (26 entering next season), good rebounder, a complete two-way player, solid intangibles, potential leadership qualities.

CONS: Improved three point shooter but doesn’t shoot enough to stretch the floor, not a primary scoring option, gives up too much size when matched against SFs (strictly a two guard).

With Shooting Guard currently the league’s weakest position, Gerald couldn’t have picked a better year to hit free agency. Henderson currently ranks 8th in the league amongst SGs in PER and is probably the best defender amongst the Top 10. With the likes of Arron Afflalo and Demar Derozan cashing in between $7 and $9 million annually, don’t expect Gerald Junior to come at a discount just because he plays in obscurity.

RESULT: Charlotte re-signs Gerald Henderson, 4 years $30 million

Moving the Needle

With Henderson locked up and Kemba Walker still mid-rookie contract, the Cats retain a promising young backcourt. Ramon Sessions has played great on a value deal and still has one year left to go as the team’s more than capable third guard. But those guys aren’t the problem. Anyone who’s had the (dis)pleasure of watching 70+ Bobcats games this season knows that if Charlotte is going to improve, they will need to upgrade the bigs.

The Bobcats rank a dismal 25th in points in the paint against, giving up an attrocious 103 points per game in total (league worst). Factors include: Mike Dunlap’s wacky defensive rotations, Ben Gordon, dual point guard backcourts, Byron Mullens, etc. So yes, it’s not entirely Bismack Biyombo’s fault that Charlotte is a horrid defensive team. Both he and Josh McRoberts are active, capable on-ball defenders but they’ll need help.

On the offensive side, the Bobcats’ highest scoring big men, McRoberts and Mullens, average a whopping 18ppg in total – even worse is that the number is skewed high given that they’ve rarely played together in the same game. Outside of the seldom used/injured Brendan Haywood, none of the Bobcats bigs have a post game and, amazingly, none can serve as the dive man in the league’s most basic play aka the pick and roll.

Part I: The Draft

In Version 1.0 we went the optimistic route, giving the Bobcats a Top 2 Lottery pick and their choice of Marcus Smart, Nerlens Noel or Ben McLemore. But given the league’s Lottery history, Charlotte has just as good a shot to pick outside the Top 3 than in it. In Version 2.0, we’ll assume the worst and have the Cats picking 4th.

With that pick, the team could shore up the middle with a project center like Maryland’s Alex Len or trade down and nab a more polished but limited player like Cody Zeller. Or they could roll the dice on an undersized Power Forward from UNLV whose size, injury history and work ethic will likely red flag him outside the Top 3.

Anthony Bennett would instantly become the greatest Canadian player in Charlotte hoops history but outside of that, there are few guarantees. Will his 6’8″ height be offset by the huge wingspan? Will he work to develop a post game? Will he be able to stretch his perimeter shot to the NBA three point line? Are the injuries a fluke?

Ultimately, Bennett’s upside as a dominant scorer at his position outweigh the risks at pick 4. Worst case scenario, he’s Derrick Williams. Best case scenario, he’s Paul Milsap. Either way, he’s an upgrade.

RESULT: Charlotte drafts Anthony Bennett, PF UNLV


Part II: Free Agency

With Bennett drafted and Henderson re-signed, the Bobcats will need to add immediate help in the middle and some long range shooting via the open market. But first, as always, a little housekeeping…

Amnesty Tyrus Thomas

With the stroke of a pen, Michael Jordan rids himself of the last remaining stain of the Larry Brown era. Now that T-Time’s $8 million salary is off the books, the front office can then use the cap space to…

Sign J.J. Hickson

What a dramatic improvement this will be, going from Tyrus Thomas to a player with similar athletic prowess, better size and a functional brain. Hickson might not have Tyrus’s 18 foot range (YAY!) but he’s everything else the Cats have needed in a big man and more: shot blocking, rebounding, solid post defense, an improving post game, BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY: Hickson is an OUTSTANDING FINISHER in the basket area. Bobcats fans (and players) will be amazed to see dunks, putbacks and the occassional pick and roll executed in the lane next season. He’ll only be 25 when the season starts, has ties to the region and will form a nice big man combination with Biyombo and Bennett going forward.

RESULT: Charlotte signs J.J. Hickson, PF/C, 4 years $30 million

Stretch the Floor

Photo of Martell Webster wearing one of many NBA jerseys

The Bobcats have struggled to stretch the floor with long distance shooting, especially from the Small Forward position where rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is still sorting out his mid-range game. Last time around we penciled in Carlos Defino as a potential solution. This time, we’ll go with Washington’s Martell Webster, a 26 year old bomber who’s currently shooting a lights-out 42% from beyond the arc. Webster’s never been a great defender but that’s what MKG is for. As a 20 minute per game change of pace rain-maker, Martell could do wonders opening up the lane for Charlotte’s drive-heavy guards.

RESULT: Charlotte signs Martell Webster, SF, 2 years $7.5 million

McBob

Josh McRoberts has been great and even after adding Hickson and Bennett, the Cats will still have enough in the tank to sign McBob to a reasonable contract as a utility big/fill-in starter.

RESULT: Charlotte re-signs Josh McRoberts, PF/C, 3 years $12 million (final year is a team option)

The Godfather Offer

Let’s take a quick look the Bobcats’ Depth Chart Heading into Training Camp:

  • PG: Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions
  • SG: Gerald Henderson, Ben Gordon
  • SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Martell Webster, Jeffrey Taylor
  • PF: Anthony Bennett, Josh McRoberts
  • C: J.J. Hickson, Bismack Biyombo, Brendan Haywood

Now have a look at the salary chart. Notice anything odd? Yes, outside of Ben Gordon’s expiring deal, every single player on the Bobcats’ payroll can actually play! There’s no dead money tied up in the Tyrus Thomases, Gana Diops and Reggie Williams of the world. It’s like a real team all of a sudden.

Potential Salary Forecast

Select Image to Enlarge the Chart

Best yet, between Gordon’s $13.2 million expiring and the (likely) THREE 2014 FIRST ROUND Draft Picks Charlotte owns, they will have set themselves up in perfect position should a superstar suddenly become available via trade. Who is going to turn down some sort of combination of a massive expiring, multiple picks and young prospects still on their rookie deals??? OKC and Orlando didn’t get as much for James Harden or Dwight Howard. It’s a Godfather offer you can’t refuse just waiting for a STAR to become available.


Part III: The Final Step

Is Mike Dunlap a legitimate NBA coach?

Decide if Dunlap is the guy.

I’ll say it again. If the Cats play their summer correctly, they’ll suddenly have an appealling roster stocked with good young talent. Should Brian Shaw, Jerry Sloan, Mike Brown, Nate McMillan or Stan Van Gundy become intrigued, Charlotte will need to make certain that they have the right head coach to lead them to the next level.

-ASChin
@bobcatsbaseline


POLL : Should Bobcats Re-Sign Henderson

  • Yes, Absolutely! (41%, 116 Votes)
  • Let Him Walk (7%, 21 Votes)
  • For the Right Price (52%, 148 Votes)

Total Voters: 285

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MKG is the Future

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Baseline 2012 Draft Review

PART I – What Just Happened?

The Bobcats stunned the internet Thursday night by selecting Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the second overall pick in the 2012 Draft. For those of us glued to Twitter and Hoopshype, the pick was a surprise because:

  • A. Every media outlet in the universe reported the team was working to trade down.
  • B. Out of all the draft’s top seven prospects, MKG is the least offensively polished – not exactly a perfect fit for the league’s worst offense.
  • C. The team’s only power forward under contract is a guy whose effort was so infuriating last season, he provoked a 68-year old man to pull a reverse Spreewell on him.

So why did Charlotte forego dreams of a sure-fire big man starter at #4 (Thomas Robinson) and another prospect at #24 (Tony Wroten, Perry Jones or Marquis Teague) in order to keep the pick and draft an 18 year old with a broken jump-shot?

PART II – Why It Happened

GM Rich Cho is a smart dude. President Rod Higgins is a smart dude.* They played the Wayne Gretzky by way of Steve Jobs card:

Don’t skate to where the puck is, skate to where it’s going. And judging from last month’s NBA Finals, the puck is going to an UBER-ATHLETIC place in which only the crazy-long, high of energy may roam.

Lebron James. Kevin Durant. Paul George. Luol Deng. Rudy Gay. Iggy. Danny Granger. Chris Bosh. Derrick Rose. John Wall.

Thomas Robinson only covers one of these guys on a good day. MKG can match up with ‘em all.

Robinson is an old-school bruiser who could’ve banged with Charles Barkley or Karl Malone back in the day. Meanwhile, this year’s Finals featured James and Durant playing the bulk of his team’s minutes at the four spot. I like Robinson but there’s no chance he’s checking either of those guys.

By adding Gilchrist to a squad which already includes Gerald Henderson (a near lockdown defender at both guard spots) and Bismack Biyombo (still developing but a defensive juggernaut in the making), the Bobcats have three players who could legitimately challenge for All-Defensive team in the near future.

MKG also fits perfectly with new head coach Mike Dunlap’s philosophy of fitness, effort and easy transition buckets. Good news, coach, MKG isn’t just “fit” he’s “relentless”. No player on the roster has been able to make Gana Diop or Tyrus Thomas feel bad for giving less than a 100% thus far but I think Gilchrist the “Culture-Changer” has a shot.

PART III – “Draft for Talent, Trade for Need”

The team just announced it’s extending qualifying offers to both D.J. Augustin and Derrick Brown. I’d bet on Brown being on the roster in November – he fits the mold described above. Augustin? This seems more like a strategic move – He has value but I‘m not certain he’s in the team’s long-term or even short-term plans – so don’t be surprised to see a sign & trade go down later in the summer.

By not qualifying D.J. White, the front office announced that they’ll be going after another power forward via trade or free agency. Again, considering the new philosophy, they’ll be looking at players who can play both big man positions, run the floor and affect the game defensively. Jason Thompson (RFA) and J.J. Hickson (UFA) will certainly be high on the list. Considering Hickson’s perceived character questions, Thompson seems like an ideal fit. I’m also a fan of Ersan Illyasova but expect his asking price to be far north of what the Bobcats can offer.

Potential sleeper: Toronto’s Jerryd Bayless (RFA) is a big-time paint scorer and could be had via sign & trade (Reggie Williams’ expiring – Raps will need shooters around Jonas Valanciunas); especially if Toronto ends up using all of their cap space on Steve Nash in the next few weeks.

Finally, I would love for the team to invite Iona State PG Scott Machado and/or Georgetown C Henry Sims to camp as undrafted free agents – perhaps their agents could be enticed with the promise of playing time.

PART IV – Better Regardless

Lost in the MKG Draft night confusion was this simple fact: The Bobcats are suddenly better. If a few of the above moves go down, they might even be decent:

  • PG: Kemba Walker/D.J. Augustin (or Jerryd Bayless)/Scott Machado
  • SG: Gerald Henderson/Ben Gordon/Matt Carroll
  • SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist/Derrick Brown/Jeffrey Taylor
  • PF: Jason Thompson/Tyrus Thomas
  • C: Bismack Biyombo/Byron Mullens/Gana Diop

Not bad at all. Scoring from the guard spots, MKG can slide over and check fours during small-ball lineups. This team doesn’t win 30 games necessarily but is set up very well moving forward especially if Tyrus rebounds from a wacky ’11-’12 campaign and if Byron Mullens rebounds (at all).

Two lottery picks next summer, another $10-15 million in cap space, amnesty provision card in their back pocket and another year of growth for their young players. The Bobcats’ future is bright and that might be the biggest surprise of all.

-ASChin

*anybody who can manage to get Cory Higgins on an NBA roster is crafty to say the least.