Trading Boris Diaw

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After sixteen games and thirteen losses for the Bobcats, we’ve learned three things:

  1. Charlotte is headed for a Top-5 draft pick
  2. Byron Mullens has way exceeded his expectations as the token awkward white guy off the bench
  3. Boris Diaw has officially worn out his welcome.

With the loss of Kwame Brown, Diaw began the season as the starting center. To his credit, he played like a man possessed in the first three games, posting a 11.7-11-7.7 line. He even showed up big in the two games at Madison Square Garden with a total of 46 points, 13 boards, and 13 assists on 74% shooting. But the rest of the games have been downright ugly. 4.8 points. 5.1 rebounds. 2.3 assists. 30% shooting, including 13% from beyond the arc, and just six free throws in eleven games. It doesn’t even look like he’s trying very hard.

But this is Boris “The Enigma” Diaw we’re talking about; the big man who doesn’t dunk has never been predictable. Then again, he’s predictable in one way: he’s got a bit of Baron Davis in him. If he’s in a losing environment, he’s huddle into his shell. But if he’s playing in an important game—say against a former team like Atlanta or former coach like Mike D’Antoni—he plays above and beyond his normal abilities.

Normally, an enigmatic big man would be no problem for a bad team. Even at $9 million it wouldn’t normally be a big deal. But he’s eating up valuable minutes that Mullens, Bismack Biyombo, D.J. White, and Tyrus Thomas could really use. Now, none of those four are spectacular, but all four need playing time to grow and mature. Diaw is in the final year of his contract, but it’s more than apparent now that he needs to be moved before the season ends.

There is, however, one major issue when it comes to trading Boris Diaw: the $9 million pricetag on his head.

Most contenders don’t have that much cap room just lying around, so they have to ship off another big contract to take on Diaw. Not only that, but among players making around $9 million per year, most are either a) worth about $9 million, and wouldn’t be in a trade for Boris Diaw or b) have multiple years left on their contract, which the Bobcats don’t want to take on.

With that in mind, there are a handful of teams interested in Diaw. They are going to be a contender with a need for a big body off the bench. The Knicks, Celtics and Lakers would all fit that mold, but none of them have any cap room—unless they’re willing to move Tyson Chandler and Kevin Garnett, or get someone inebriated enough to take on Metta World Peace. In other words, it’s not going to happen.

There are two realistic types of trades that will set Boris Diaw free from the temptations of Carolina Barbeque: a straight salary dump for a draft pick or swapping contracts in return for a young player. Let’s take a look at each possibility.

I’d like to think that around the trade deadline, some contender will get desperate. Maybe one of their bigs goes down, so they offer the Bobcats a late-first round pick for Diaw’s expiring contract. But that’s not happening. Again, the Lakers would have been a great fit once Andrew Bynum inevitably goes down with a knee injury, but they’re nearly $30 million over the cap. Realistically, no one will offer a late first for Diaw, and nobody picking at the top-half of the second round will want an aging, expensive forward. So the Bobcats will be looking at a late-second round pick. Joy.

In my opinion, swapping contracts is a much more realistic, even productive, way to try and trade Diaw. Think the Nazr Mohammed trade that landed Morris Peterson and D.J. White. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many matches. Memphis was a good match—O.J. Mayo would’ve been a sweet return—until they acquired Marreese Speights. Denver would also be a good fit, too, but the only contract the Bobcats would conceivably take back would be Andre Miller, who the Nuggets wouldn’t want to move for Diaw if they had to give up someone like Jordan Hamilton.

In the end, I only found one team that was a good trade partner Boris Diaw: the Los Angeles Clippers. After Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, their best big man is Brian Cook. Yes, that very same Brian Cook whose career highlight is being traded for Trevor Ariza. Los Angeles has the cap space to take him on, provided they can find a new home for Mo Williams.

With Kemba here for the long-haul and D.J. (at least momentarily) still here, it doesn’t make sense to trade for free agent-to-be Mo Williams. But if they could find a third team, this trade could work out. And that team is the New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets still need a point guard after (twice) trading Chris Paul, so Mo Williams would be a perfect fit. Here is my proposed trade:

Charlotte gets: Xavier Henry (NOH) and Randy Foye (LAC)
Los Angeles gets: Boris Diaw (CLT) and Trevor Ariza (NOH)
New Orleans gets: Mo Williams (LAC)

From Charlotte’s prospective, they’re going to lose Diaw at the end of the year, so anything they can get in return for him is a plus. Xavier Henry may not have lived up to his rookie expectations, but he didn’t get any burn last year—not so far off from Gerald Henderson’s rookie campaign. Randy Foye is not a major piece in the deal, he’s just a salary equalizer, he’ll depart through free agency next summer.

This works out for the Clippers on two fronts: they get a very nice backup big man and an answer at shooting guard. Chauncey Billups won’t make it through the whole season at the 2, and he certainly won’t be able to guard the likes of Kobe Bryant and Manu Ginobili in the playoffs. Ariza is a prime perimeter defender. Plus, this allows Eric Bledsoe to finally get some extra PT.

New Orleans finally finds a replacement for Chris Paul, plus salary relief from the nearly $22 million left on Trevor Ariza’s contract. Henry wasn’t playing, since he was buried behind Marco Belinelli and Eric Gordon on the depth chart, so that’s not a huge loss. What this comes down to is saving a bit of cash while figuring out the point guard situation.

However the Bobcats deal with this Diaw Dilemna, it’s unlikely to end out great. The best they can hope for is to pick up a young player or draft pick—someone around the level of Henry may be the best they can do. That is, unless they are intent on trading D.J. Augustin before he hits restricted free agency, opening all kinds of possibilities.

I’ll be pretty surprised if Boris Diaw ends the season a Bobcat. He can certainly help some contender as a 6th or 7th man; the only question is whether or not GM Rich Cho can find a big enough bite for a chubby, lackadaisical, finesse forward.

-Ben Weinrib
you can follow Ben on Twitter @benweinrib

What To Do with Dampier? – Part 1 (Addendum)

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Jose Calderon - Tres Points, Bee-octch!

Before I get to my second Dampier Solution, I want to throw one more possible option into the “Waive Him” category.  Last week we heard from NBA.com’s David Aldridge that the Bobcats were trying to get involved in the Houston/NO/NJ/INDY four team trade.  The ‘Cats wanted to squeeze yet another team into the mix (the Raptors) in order to send Dampier’s expiring contract to the Pacers for the Rap’s Jose Calderon.  Aldridge is and has been a top notch NBA beat guy for decades so I’ll take him at his word: The Bobcats are still interested in acquiring Calderon.

Here’s the thing that I don’t get: Jose is at best an overpaid part-time starter for the Lottery bound Raptors.  At worst he’s a salary cap albatross who’s paid like a top 10 point guard and will probably start the season on the bench behind the average Jarrett Jack.  So why are the Bobcats trying to trade a real deal asset (Dampier’s immediately expiring contract) for him?

The answer, of course, could be that the front office is clueless (and there are many signs that undeniably point that way) or perhaps this is just a smokescreen leaked by Toronto management in order to try to raise Calderon’s value throughout the League.

A Better Deal for Calderon

If in fact the Bobcats are interested in Calderon then why not offer up a more palatable combination of Gana Diop and D.J. Augustin?  Diop’s contract matches Calderon’s in length with Jose due around $6 million more over the next three seasons.

Sure, Gana hasn’t done a damn thing to prove he’s worth the League minimum (much less a full midlevel) contract over the past year but he’d be the biggest body on the Raps thin roster and he’s still young enough (28) to contribute.  Meanwhile, D.J. would add another shooter and speedster to Toronto’s open court game.  He’s also an expiring contract or a cheap trade chip if the Raps don’t want him back after next season.  On the surface, Diop’s deal would be hard to swallow but I’m not sure if Toronto will see a better offer for Jose and his 3 years, $30 million than this one.

For the Bobcats, the trade would be a solid double.  Calderon has his flaws and is flagrantly overpaid but a combination of Jose and Livingston at point guard could work.  Both players have size (Jose is listed a 6’3″) and Calderon’s shooting will come in very handy when Shaun struggles with his perimeter shot.

Diop’s absence (combined with the eventual waiving of Dampier and loss of Tyson Chandler) heightens the team’s need for depth at center.  With Shaq signing on with the Celtics for a little over the League veteran’s minimum, I can’t see a 36 year old Erik Dampier walking away from a two year $6 million dollar offer from Higgins & Co.

Ironically, taking on Jose’s $30 million would help the Bobcats with their financial situation.  By unloading a bad deal for a bad deal, the ‘Cats could solve their point guard depth while staying safely under the League’s tax number.  The team would still have another two million dollars or so to pickup a street free agent or veteran via trade for depth (see Ratliff, Theo) this year and be around $9 million under next season’s tax line.

But if I’m Rod Higgins and MJ, I don’t stop there.  It’s time for a double down.

Double Down Trade

In what would be perhaps the League’s biggest two player trade (on a pound for pound basis), the Bobcats could then ship Boris Diaw (recently spotted doing a Biggie Smalls impression at the World’s) coupled with Eduardo Najera to the Knicks for “Disorderlies” body double Eddie Curry.  From a talent perspective, this is a coup for the Knicks.  Sure, they’d have to sacrifice $11 million in cap space for next season (even with Diaw and Najera on the roster, they’d only have $33m committed) but D’Antoni would reunite with one of his favorite players from his Phoenix days and Boris, when in shape, is one of the most uniquely skilled players in the League.  The reason the Bobcats make this trade is to clean up their books for next season.  Curry’s $11 million deal expires  next summer and the ‘Cats would go into the 2011-2012 season (if there is one) $11 million under the cap and nearly $20 million under the tax line.

Bobcats Baseline - Salaries (Post Curry/Calderon Moves)

In the event that Eddie Curry gives a crap about continuing his NBA career, I can’t think of a better place for him than Charlotte.  Teaming with Mohammed and Dampier, Larry Brown will utilize Curry’s low post scoring in ways that D’Antoni’s system can’t.  Pairing Curry with an athletic power forward who operates from the perimeter like Tyrus Thomas or Derrick Brown would also help.

Bobcats Baseline State of the Roster - Calderon/Curry - Addendum

In Conclusion

Ultimately, this roster isn’t going to win the Conference Finals.  They could however push the team a few games up in the standings and make a run at the Second Round while giving the organization some breathing room to make some moves and build the team while remaining competitive for the next three to four seasons.

Until next time, Enjoy the Offseason Bobcats Fans…

-ASChin

Observations: Knicks @ Bobcats 10/30/09

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Could there be a more perfect cure for an offensively offensive team than to play against Mike D’Antoni?

Bobcats ache out a win against the Knicks tonight in double overtime 102-100.

1. Ugly, ugly, ugly win for the Bobcats and the problems that we witnessed in Boston didn’t get any better, the competition just a lot weaker.

Not much more to say when both teams shoot 38% from the floor: Cellar Dweller MANIA!
Knicks are supposed to be an offensive team but looked completely lost until the 4th quarter when Nate Robinson, Chris Duhon and David Lee Jared Jeffries got it going to bring the Knicks back from 20+ down to tie the game with around 2 minutes to go.  Danilo “Big Bright Shooting Star” Gallinari looked good in limited minutes scoring 16 on 6-11 shooting before sitting down with foul trouble and a bad back.

As for the Bobcats…where does one start?  The team played a great first half, scoring 51 points (just 8 shy of Wednesday’s total in Beantown), spreading the ball around and looking confident on offense.  The D was spectacular, limiting the Knicks to just 37 first half points.  Then came the second half…

2. The Bobcats Have Two Options: Find a Reliable Scorer OR Play the Knicks 80 More Times This Season.

The ‘Cats only managed 31 points in the 2nd half – which is basically what they averaged in the Opener debacle against the Celts – and amazingly were outscored 27-13 in the decisive 4th quarter.  The game should have been over in the third quarter but Charlotte reverted to its “Hot Potato” ways of old with no one stepping up to take and make shots.

In an embarrassingly desperate strategy, the Bobcats repeatedly went to tertiary star Gerald Wallace in the post or on the wings to “will them a basket” with no one in the organization realizing that Crash is not in the least bit equipped to play that role.  Not since Scott Baio left Happy Days has a supporting cast member struggled so mightily to carry his own show.  Maybe Gerald has a Charles in Charge 2nd Act resurgence in him later this season.  Let’s hope so.

We’ve been blogging about it all season and I’ll mention it here briefly again: The Bobcats need a go-to scorer.  Period.  It will take them from 11th in the East to 7th or 8th.  Worth the gamble.

3. Right now, Raymond is The Man.

By the end of the first overtime, Raymond Felton was seriously flirting with the first Triple Double in team history.  A minor ankle injury may have sabotaged the effort by keeping him out for a few possessions but Felton still finished with a very solid 22pts, 9asts, 8rbs on 8-18 shooting.  Those shooting numbers would’ve been higher had the team not insisted on running the famously hit-or-miss-but-mostly-miss “Raymond Does Dallas” iso drive nine or ten too many times throughout the game.  Ray nailed his last three driving layups though to lead the team to victory so expect to see a whole lot more of those errant layup attempts until the team gets some more offensive help.

4. Pleasant Surprises.

Stephen Graham played out of his mind (in terms of Stephen Graham) scoring 14pts on 6-9 shooting, including a CLUTCH drive late in the second overtime to put the ‘Cats up.  His defense was superb and I was impressed that he hit that clutch drive late after sitting on the bench for most of the second half.

D.J. finally started spinning in the 2nd half scoring all 15 of his points after the break.  Augustin had a few very smooth, feline drives and scoops to the hoop.  He also hit a clutch three in overtime.  Good to see him back to form.

5. Not Ready For Prime-Time Players.

Diaw and Chandler are still not in game shape.  Chandler worse so than Boris.  Tyson looked like “Emeka Okafor Gone Horribly Wrong” fumbling a couple of easy layup/dunk attempts in the first half.  In the second he got it going a little bit and threw a couple down.  He still looks slow and he has no hops so until he gets in game shape, he’s basically a Jahidi White type foul magnet.

Diaw’s rust shows in his shooting.  While 17pts/6asts/11rbs isn’t a terrible line, 5-15 shooting is.  He also looks slow on defense.  Can’t wait to see both of these guys back to their old ways.

IN CONCLUSION:

At the end of the day, a win is a win.  Unfortunately the competition isn’t going to get much worse than the Knicks so if your team requires 2-count ‘em-2 Overtimes to beat what might be the worst team in the conference AT HOME, well, then you might want to figure out how to improve the roster just a bit.  Cavs up next.  See ya there.

-ASChin