The Bobcats and the Playoffs, Redux

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Like the Bobcats actual chances of making the playoffs, the argument about whether they should even be trying to make them isn’t dead yet either.

I appreciate Rick Bonnell’s steady-handed beat writing on the Bobcats for the Charlotte Observer.  But I couldn’t disagree more with his take on the issue, posted on his blog on Monday night after the win over the Bucks.  Rick’s words are in italics:

I got an email today from a reader saying I should stop writing about playoff implications and that the Bobcats would be much better off chasing lottery luck.

Wasn’t me, but it might as well have been.

I get that email a lot, and frankly it disregards how the weighted draft lottery works these days. If you’re one of the last teams to reach the playoffs, you have a miniscule chance of a top-3 pick (about a 1 percent chance for each of those picks).

Frankly, I’m not sure Rick is properly regarding the weighted lottery system.  (Also, I’ll assume he means “If you’re one of the last teams to MISS the playoffs”, otherwise he really doesn’t understand the system.)

Fortunately, I do understand the system and so can you.  It’s all right here on the Wikipedia page for the NBA Draft Lottery.  Scroll down about halfway to the “Process” section — the chart is very helpful in understanding.

Currently, the Bobcats have the 10th worst record in the league.  With Monday night’s win over the Bucks, it’s looking more and more like we’ll be locked in there to finish the season.  The “lottery” is indeed for the top 3 picks.  After that, the remaining non-playoff teams are simply slotted back in their order from worst to “best”.

With the 10th worst record, the Bobcats would have a 1.1% chance of winning the lottery for the #1 pick, a 1.3% chance at the #2 pick, and a 1.6% chance at the 3rd pick.  Another way of looking at it is that there is a total of a 4% chance of moving up into the top 3 picks.  Obviously, the chance that the Bobcats would end up with the 10th pick is overwhelming — 87%.

If the Bobcats could drop down lower than the Bucks (again, unlikely after Monday night) they’d be the 9th worst team.  That gets you a 1.7% chance at the #1 pick, 2.0% for #2, and 2.4% for #3.  Total 5.1% chance of moving up into the top 3 and 81% chance of sitting tight at the 9th spot.

If the Bobcats really got serious about tanking (it’s really not a dirty word — you can say it) they could pass up the Clippers for the 8th worst record in the league.  With that comes a 2.8% chance at the #1 pick, 3.3% for #2, and 3.9% for #3.  Total 10% chance at moving up; 72% chance at staying at #8.

Meanwhile the Bobcats would have a far greater chance (about nine percent) of actually moving DOWN in the draft order.

Yes, if the Bobcats finish in with the 10th worst record, they actually have a 8.9% chance of falling back one spot to the 11th pick (and a miniscule 0.2% chance of falling back two spots to the 12th pick) — that 9% chance represents the sum of the chances of teams 11-14 moving up into the top 3, thus bumping the Cats back.

You know what would DEFINITELY bump the Bobcats draft spot back — all the way to the 15th spot?  Making the playoffs.

And don’t even try to argue that the difference between #10 and #15 isn’t that big of a deal in this mediocre draft.  Not valuing draft picks like that is just the kind of lazy thinking and poor planning that have gotten the Bobcats into the mess they’re in.  (Hey, Adam Morrison!  He’s awesome in college!  3rd pick, you betcha!!!  It’s all a crapshoot anyways!).

Someone a lot smarter than you, I or Rick Bonnell figured out that the average player drafted in the 10th spot is roughly 31% better than the average player drafted in the 15th spot.  Scroll about halfway down the page to figure 7 and table 2 and the following discussion for the meat of the article.

In this particular draft, the 10th spot gives you a shot at getting Brandon Knight or Terrence Jones — guys that still have some star potential.  At #15, you’re looking at names like Jordan Hamilton, Kenneth Faried or John Henson — guys you’re hoping will carve out a spot in your rotation.

The playoffs are fun, and even if they were clobbered in the first round, the Bobcats would gain experience by participating.

Ahh, the tee-ball argument.  Everyone come to the playoffs, its FUN!  I disagree, getting swept/exposed/embarrassed by the Magic was not fun last year, and getting swept/exposed/embarrassed by the Bulls this year wouldn’t be any fun either.  As far as “gaining experience”, name me a player from last years’ squad who seems to have benefitted from the experience of last year’s playoff sweep.

If you have a young, developing team with most of the big pieces in place, then it’s acceptable to gun for the 7th or 8th playoff spot for “the experience”.  Think last year’s Oklahoma City Thunder, or this year’s Memphis Grizzlies.  But not the Bobcats — not a team sorely lacking talent that relies on a 33-year-old volume shooter to be its “star”.

You can’t convince me finishing ninth in the East is better than finishing eighth.

Agree to disagree, then?

And you sure don’t want to send the message to players that losing is ever better than winning.

Completely agree with this. It’s a very delicate issue and probably the strongest argument against tanking.  My only counter is to say that this probably underestimates the intelligence/maturity of the players.  They aren’t in a Disney movie; they know better than anyone that their squad needs an influx of talent to seriously compete.

Treat injuries conservatively and shift minutes to younger players who need the burn anyways.  The players save face while the losses mount.  As long as the locker room chemistry is good (supposedly the case with the Bobcats) there are probably not going to be any serious negative ramifications from a few extra losses to end the season.

Until next time, I’ll be “chasing lottery luck”.

-Dr. E

POLL : This Season: Where Did It Go Wrong?

  • Trading Tyson Chandler for Dampier (39%, 71 Votes)
  • Not Re-Signing Raymond Felton (14%, 26 Votes)
  • Starting Nazr Mohammed (2%, 4 Votes)
  • Firing Larry Brown (2%, 4 Votes)
  • Trading Gerald Wallace (32%, 59 Votes)
  • Re-Signing Tyrus Thomas (6%, 11 Votes)
  • Cutting Sherron Collins (5%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 182

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How The Bobcats Can Improve : Escaping The Nottery – Ver. 1.0

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Charlotte Bobcats Offseason Checklist

Ah, the Eastern Conference. ‘Tis a place where a bad team can go 2-9 in a late season slump and still be only a game or two out of the Playoffs. The current Race for Eight bears more resemblance to peewee football hot potato than a professional sports exercise. Someone please just win some games and put us all out of our misery.

Which brings us to the titular “Nottery,” a place where franchises go to die: Not good enough to be good and not bad enough to get good. Bobcats owner Michael Jordan understood this more so than any other when he made the controversial Gerald Wallace trade last month. Good isn’t good enough and if you want to get better, sometimes you gotta get a little worse.

SECTION 1. WHAT WE GOT

Before we head out to the supermarket, we should take a look in the cupboard. As poor as the Bobcats have been playing recently, the team does have a few assets.

a.) D.J. Augustin

Has clearly shown that he can be a top 15-20 starting PG in the league. Can shoot and has figured out how to score from in close. Defense isn’t as big of an issue as current rules have made it nearly impossible to defend the position. Proved that he could shoot his way out of a slump. Still on his rookie deal.

b.) Stephen Jackson

Volatile and playing too many minutes for his age, Jackson is nonetheless the Bobcats’ best player. He’s the only guy who can consistently create his own shot and when he’s on, can single-handily carry the team to a victory. His contract is probably untradeable until at least the summer of 2012 so look for JAX to remain in his role with the team next season.

c.) Tyrus Thomas

Needs to prove that he can stay healthy and stay focused but when he’s in physical and mental shape can really change the game from a defensive perspective. Solid rebounder and excellent shot blocker who has a nice mid-range jumper. Bobcats have invested a ton of cash hoping the Tyrus experiment works out. Best case scenario: Starting Power Forward for the next five seasons. Worst case scenario: Severely overpaid role player.

d.) Gerald Henderson

Very good defensive guard. Very athletic. Shown promise as a cutter but jump shot is still erratic. Henderson is another unknown. He’ll probably never be a great long ball threat but if he can develop a consistent mid-to-long range shot could become a very good player.

e.) D.J. White, Dante Cunningham (RFA), Shaun Livingston

Three youngish rotation players who have shown flashes of potential. White seems to have the most upside and is still on his rookie deal. Livingston has managed to carve out a place in the league after destroying his knee a few years ago. Cunningham should keep improving now that he’s playing the three position full-time.

Total it up and you have seven players who’ll most likely be suiting up for the Bobcats next season. That’s half a roster. Combine them with two first round draft picks in June and the CAP CRUNCHERS (Gana Diop, Matt Carroll, Eddie Najera) and you’re down to just two roster spots available to improve the team.

SECTION 2. WHAT WE NEED

Augustin, Jackson, Thomas and Henderson will most likely return as four of the team’s starters. Livingston, White and Cunningham will be solid contributors from the bench. That still leaves some major needs:

a.) Men in the Middle

As pleasantly mediocre as Kwame Brown has been, he’s an unrestricted free agent come July and the team will need to make a major upgrade if it wants to compete. Gana Diop is currently the only center on the roster and he was bad before the season ending achilles injury.

b.) Bench Scoring

Augustin, Jackson and (if he develops a jumper) Henderson can handle most of the scoring as starters but the team lacks any sort of big time scoring presence from the bench. The Bobcats will need to find someone capable of taking off some of the scoring load.

c.) Stars

Either through the draft or through crafty trades, the Bobcats will need to find a way to bring in a guy who’ll move the turnstiles and put down game-winning buckets.

SECTION 3. THE DRAFT

Charlotte will most likely pick around #10 and #18 in the draft barring a improbable Bobcat Playoff berth, lottery miracle or a late-season collapse by New Orleans.

The ‘Cats will should have the opportunity to nab players like Kentucky’s Terrence Jones (Iggy-type SF), John Henson (long defensive SF), Texas forwards Tristan Thompson (poor-man’s Elton Brand) and Jordan Hamilton (O.J. Mayo, Jr. check that, DrE is saying Rashard Lewis or Danny Granger, Jr.). Kentucky point Brandon Knight (Jordan Crawford-like combo guard) and Moorehead State’s Kenneth Faried (Reggie Evans with upside) should also be on the board.

It’s by all accounts a weak draft and the ‘Cats would be better off not drafting for need. The center crop is thin but fortunately there are enough solid SF candidates who could be brought in to eventually replace Stephen Jackson a year or two down the road.

SECTION 4. FREE AGENCY

No one knows what the new CBA will look like next season (if there is one) but I’d be willing to bet that the Bobcats’ situation won’t change much. Once all of the expirings come off, the team will sit at around $49 million in salaries, around $10 million south of this year’s cap. Add in the two first rounders along with re-upping Dante Cunningham and the team should be at around $54 million.

Obviously, the remaining $6 million wouldn’t be enough to bring in a big-name star (even if there was one in a weak FA class) but the extra wiggle room may help them pull off a deal or two IF the team is lucky enough to import a decent center from another team.

Free Agent Centers 2011:

a.) DeAndre Jordan.

Made big strides this season but the high-flying athlete probably doesn’t make much sense to pair with a similar player in Tyrus Thomas. Clippers also seem intent on keeping him.

b.) Marc Gasol.

Will likely command around $10 million/per on the open market. Gasol is a lower rent version of his All-Star brother but is only 26 and could develop into top tier center himself given the right circumstances. He’s a restricted and the Griz have stated that they’ll re-sign him but given the historical ownership thriftiness and the fact that Z-Bo’s deal is also up makes me think that Gasol could be had with a big poison-pill offer sheet. To make a move for Gasol, the Bobcats would likely have to find a taker for Boris Diaw’s $9 million expiring contract first (see TRADE section).

c.) Kwame Brown.

Performed adequately for the team as a starter this season and could be brought back as a backup if the price is right.

d.) Other Potentially Interesting FAs.

Big Baby Davis, Nene (ETO), Shane Battier, Carl Landry (who they’ve tried to sign before), Sam Dalembert, Craig Smith, Brandon Wright.

SECTION 5. TRADE

Boris Diaw, Boris Diaw, Boris Diaw. Did I mention Boris Diaw? I just can’t see any way the Frenchman stays on the Bobcat roster come training camp. Only on the books for a final season, in a contract year (so will likely be motivated – see Chandler, Tyson) and has proven that when he gives a crap can be a game-changing presence in the lineup. All these factors combined with the Coach’s obvious dissatisfaction in Diaw’s inconsistent performances will likely land Boris in another uniform next season.

Potential Trades:

a.) Boris Diaw to Toronto for Leandro Barbosa.

Colangelo wanted him last summer and they need size. Both players on expirings, Bobcats trade big for small but also shave another $1.4 million off the books to go after a FA. ‘Cats get the bench scoring they’ve so desperately needed.

b.) Boris Diaw to LAClippers for Chris Kaman.

Again, both players on expirings. Clips get the third big to rotate with Griffin and Jordan. Bobcats take on an additional $3.2 million and risk Kaman’s recent injury history but if it works out, then they have a high-scoring starting center for the first time in franchise history.

c.) Boris Diaw + Future First Rounder to TeamX for cap space.

In this deal, the ‘Cats could find a team with cap space in need of a versatile big and compensate them with either this year’s late first rounder or Portland’s pick in 2013. The ‘Cats would then have around $18 million to pursue a free agent target like Marc Gasol.

SECTION 6. WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE

Whenever the ’11-’12 NBA season starts, the Bobcats (barring major injury) will look quite a lot better than currently configured.

If the team simply follows the recipe above, they could trot out:

PG: Augustin/Livingston/Brandon Knight

SG: Henderson/Carroll

SF: Jackson/Jordan Hamilton/Cunningham

PF: Thomas/D.J. White/Najera

C: Kaman/Brown/Diop

The team would still be well under the $60 million cap and have enough flexibility the following summer to make a major splash in the vaunted Free Agent summer of 2012. No need to fret, Bobcats fans. I think MJ has a plan and if he follows it correctly, the team may well be in contention sooner rather than never.

Until Version 2.0…

Enjoy the Nottery, Bobcats Fans,

-ASChin

POLL : This Season: Where Did It Go Wrong?

  • Trading Tyson Chandler for Dampier (39%, 71 Votes)
  • Not Re-Signing Raymond Felton (14%, 26 Votes)
  • Starting Nazr Mohammed (2%, 4 Votes)
  • Firing Larry Brown (2%, 4 Votes)
  • Trading Gerald Wallace (32%, 59 Votes)
  • Re-Signing Tyrus Thomas (6%, 11 Votes)
  • Cutting Sherron Collins (5%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 182

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