Anthony Bennett: The Next LJ or Sean May?

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Baseliners A.S. Chin and Ben Weinrib on the Pros and Cons of UNLV forward and potential Bobcat/Hornet Anthony Bennett:

ASCHIN: Alright Ben, we’re less than a month away from the least predictable NBA Draft in recent memory. Charlotte has the 4th pick but could easily wind up with the best player in this mercurial 2013 class. Anyone who follows us on Twitter knows that you are high on UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, while I’m dubious of the undersized Power Forward’s potential. So let’s start there: In an age of monstrous frontcourts in Memphis, Indiana, San Antonio and (coming soon) Detroit, can a frontline duo of Bennett (6’7″) and Bismack Biyombo (6’9″) succeed?

BEN: To quote our good friend and Bobcats savior Larry Brown: “you rebound with your arms, not your neck.” His true height is unclear since he didn’t go to the combine–ESPN has him at 6’8″ but DraftExpress lists him 6’7″–but  we do know he has a 7’1″ wingspan. Size-wise, that’s the same as Paul Millsap and bigger than Kenneth Faried who averaged a combined 13 and 8 with a 19.19 PER without Bennett’s offensive skillset. In a vacuum, Bennett’s size shouldn’t be a problem, but you make a great point that he and Biyombo would be tiny frontcourt. Some of that is offset by their combined 14’8″ wingspan and Bennett’s Z-Bo-esque beefy frame. Maybe Biyombo isn’t the long-term answer at center, or the Horncats could run a three-man big man rotation with Bennett, Biyombo, and a seven-footer to be named later.

ASCHIN: Well, if Larry Brown says it, it must be true. I can’t argue with Bennett’s frame or his wingspan, the kid is beefy and those long arms allow him to pull off some impressive put-backs and shots off the catch in the paint. I will argue however with the comparisons to Millsap and Faried. Both of those guys have had to bust their humps just to make it in the league, coming in as later round picks. They’ve built their careers on making those extra hustle plays, basically over-achieving. Meanwhile, Bennett arrives as 19 year old Top 5 Lottery Lock with big questions about his work ethic and a lack of effort on the (unglamorous) defensive side of the ball. Is this just immaturity? Does Charlotte have the right pieces in place to transform Bennett into a worker?

BEN: I find it very interesting that he’s such a beast on the offensive boards, yet isn’t as consistent with defensive effort like always boxing out. It’s clear that he can put in good effort down low, and I hope new coach and defensive guru Steve Clifford can brainwash Bennett into fixing that. But Bennett has always reminded me of former Running Rebel and Hornet Larry Johnson. I normally don’t like player comps (He’s the next Jordan!!!) since they often have more to do with looks (see the Tony Snell-Kawhi Leonard comps) or schools (Nerlens Noel-Anthony Davis comps) than actual skills, but this one is spot on. They are both undersized 4s with big upper body strength, surprising speed, and a versatile offensive game. They even put up nearly identical numbers. Bennett has one of the highest upsides in the draft, and wouldn’t you rather gamble on a big who we already know can score?

ASCHIN: Ben, I have to admit it, you’re doing a fine job of ALMOST selling me on Bennett. And I’m glad you brought up the Larry Johnson comp. See, I’m the old man in this conversation, having watched nearly every Grandmama game during his first few seasons. Even as a snot-nosed thirteen year old watching Hornets games on my crappy Zenith CRT TV, I could tell LJ possessed something special. Indulge me for a moment:
BOSTON. November 1st, 1991. Following a contract dispute that lasted the entire preseason, Johnson started his first regular season game opposite Larry Bird. At some point during the first half, LJ backed Bird down into the post and in one move spun around Legend, EXPLODING to the basket for a reverse layup outside the reach of Robert Parish. I’ll never forget that play as long as I live. Pure Power.
The ONLY big man that I’ve seen work in the post like that since is Blake Griffin and even he’s a pale imitation. My point is that Grandmama had an insane back to the basket game and was absolutely, positively EXPLOSIVE once he made his move. He almost won the dunk contest for crying out loud! That’s what allowed him to overcome his height differential at the four spot and is the one thing I’m not seeing in Bennett. In fact, with the young Canadian’s penchant for long jumpers and face-up drives, Bennett reminds me a lot more of “post-back-surgery LJ” than the 1992 Rookie of the Year. Speaking of injuries…
You know that Bennett has dealt with shoulder problems this year and has had some injury concerns in high school. Combine that with the work ethic and potential “beefy” weight issues and we might be comparing this guy to Sean May in four years. (PLEASE TELL ME I’M WRONG!)

BEN: Just the name Sean May makes me shudder! But the big difference between those two is that May’s biggest weakness may be one of Bennett’s biggest strengths. Even coming out of college, the big knock on May was that he was not a very good athlete, and didn’t have very good hops. Bennett has a more muscular frame and is an explosive leaper with much better quickness. He did have some back stiffness in high school, but he never missed a single game when the problems showed up again at UNLV, as he still put up massive numbers. Scouts seem to have no concerns about the surgery on his non-shooting shoulder, and I don’t see why it would be any more concerning than Nerlens Noel or Alex Len’s surgery. Their stocks seem to be doing fine. The three reasons I’m guessing most people aren’t sold on Bennett are because he’s not a fantastic fit next to Biyombo (draft for talent, not for need, especially when this team needs talent so badly), he’s only 6’8″ (already addressed that), and injury concerns (smarter people than us aren’t worried that it’ll affect his projection or that he’ll miss game time). He, unlike Noel, has an NBA-ready body–both size-wise and health-wise–so what’s not to like?

ASCHIN: Have to hand it to you Ben. I was ice cold on Bennett before and you’ve talked me up to lukewarm. Now I’ll only be partially mortified when they take him at four. Expect several desperate emails from me on Draft night.

BEN: As a guy who was also high on Jordan Hill and low on Nik Vucevic, you know I’ll be excited to see how this one turns out. Washington is apparently interested in him at #3, so Bennett may not even be available, and we’ll get to have a fun McLemore/Oladipo/Henderson debate.

Charlotte Bobcats Draft Retrospective | Part One

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Editor’s Note: What you are about to read is a grotesque lesson in abject NBA failure. It is not suitable for children under the age of 12, readers who are pregnant or for those weak of heart. If, by coincidence, any reader is to one day become involved with running a professional sports franchise, it is our hope that he or she would refer back to this epic tragedy in the hopes of avoiding the (seemingly obvious) pitfalls of this moribound organization. Finally, if this column is to ever appear in printed form, it is highly suggested that the publishers bundle it with a barf bag.

The Charlotte Bobcats will participate in their tenth NBA Draft on June 27th, 2013. In their previous nine drafts, the team has selected in the first round a total of twelve times, producing exactly zero All-Star appearances which have in turn produced a total of zero Playoff victories for the franchise. Think about that. The Bobcats organization has drafted in the first round a dozen times, ten of which were Lottery selections, and have produced not a single player who has sniffed an All-Star game. Once more: Ten Lottery Selections, Zero All-Star appearances. Needless to say, it takes a special sort of ineptitude to accomplish such a feat. So, without further ado, let’s have a look at how they did it:

Part One: ’04-’06 The Bickerstaff Era

In one of the few sound (and by sound, I mean not horrendous) decisions Bob Johnson ever made as owner of the team, longtime coach and personnel director Bernie Bickerstaff was hired to shape the newborn franchise in the combined role of general manager/coach during the franchise’s infancy. Bernie actually got the team off to a decent drafting start but, as we will learn, the success didn’t last for very long…

The 2004 Draft: Emeka Okafor F/C UConn, Bernard Robinson SF Michigan.

How It Played Out: Bickerstaff used his connections with the Clippers organization to swing a nice pre-Draft deal, moving the 4th overall selection (Shaun Livingston) and two future second rounders to L.A. for the 2nd overall pick (Okafor) plus Eddie House and Melvin Ely. The Clips were on a failed mission to sign Kobe Bryant and needed to clear cap space pronto. Bernie jumped at the opportunity to make Okafor the face of the league’s newest franchise.

Amazing as it sounds, Emeka probably ranks as the Bobcats most successful Draft choice to date despite little development beyond his Rookie of the Year season. A combination of management overpaying him for no apparant reason (bidding against themselves) in conjunction with the hiring of yoga-hater Larry Brown derailed what could have a been a long career in Charlotte. Okafor is no superstar but as a kind of poor-man’s David Robinson/rich-man’s Udonis Haslem, Emeka could have anchored the team’s interior defense for a decade or more. Intelligent and photogenic, Okafor was also the perfect PR representitive for a team trying desperately to connect with a reticent fanbase.

As the Cats’ inaugural second round choice, Robinson contributed few meaningful minutes and was out of league after just three seasons.

How It Should Have Played Out: The Okafor selection aside, the Cats missed out on a major opportunity to land another Lottery pick via a capped stretched Phoenix team who were shopping the Draft’s 7th overall pick for the very reasonable price of a protected future first rounder. The Suns ended up making a deal with Chicago for what ended up being the 21st pick in the ’05 Draft. The Bulls selected Duke freshman Luol Deng seventh; two picks later Arizona sophmore Andre Iguodala went to the Sixers. Given the team’s needs and talent available, it’s unknown why Charlotte wasn’t more aggressive with an offer; perhaps Bickerstaff felt the franchise’s top expansion draftee, Gerald Wallace, would develop into the long term starter.

GRADE: B-


The 2005 Draft: Raymond Felton PG UNC, Sean May PF UNC.

While most point to the 2006 Draft as THE PIVOTAL MOMENT that set the franchise back half a decade, I would argue that it was the 2005 Draft that had the greater impact.

How It Played Out: The seeds of destruction were planted that May, as the league’s Lottery system punished Bickerstaff for keeping the Bobcats competitive in their inaugaral season, pushing their 2nd worst overall record back to pick number five. There was a bit of good news however: as a result of an expansion draft day trade with the Suns, the Bobcats had acquired Cleveland’s 13th overall selection via Phoenix, giving the Bobcats two lottery picks in the same draft – more than enough ammunition to move up and grab one of college basketball’s elite Point Guards (Deron Williams, Chris Paul) should a deal become available. One did. And Bickerstaff turned it down.

You all know the story: Having been rejected by Charlotte, Portland instead traded the third overall selection to Utah for the 6th and 27th picks. The Jazz took Williams at three, New Orleans selected Chris Paul at four, while the Bobcats (in desperate need of a franchise PG) reached for Raymond Felton at number five.

At the time, Bickerstaff believed that the team was in need of quantity over quality. This made as little sense then as it does now. The NBA isn’t the NFL, there is no 53 man roster to fill out. Only five players can play at once. Regular season rotations max out at 10 and shrink even further during the postseason. It was a hugely obvious and irrepreable mistake.
Eight seasons later, Paul is the greatest PG on the planet, Williams is a sometimes-superstar and Felton is a solid player who the Knicks were able to sign off the street for a partial mid-level contract. To make matters worse, the “quantity” number 13 pick Bickerstaff was so excited about ended up being more “quantity” than his knees could ever handle.

Sean May had played his way into the Lottery with a big-time Final Four performance that landed he and teammate Felton a NCAA Championship (that’s three first round picks, three NCAA champions, Zero All-Star appearances if you’re counting), but the work ethic and health concerns that dinged May’s rep pre-Tourney showed up almost immediately into his pro career. Despite some solid performances in orange & blue (including two monster games against Cleveland and Orlando on national television), May ate his way out of the league in just a few seasons.

How It Should Have Played Out: One can only imagine the impact drafting Paul (a local guy with family in the Charlotte area) would have had on the team’s success and reputation, on Okafor and Wallace’s development and on the development of the fanbase. Even if CP3 would have forced his way out as he did in New Orleans two summers ago, the Cats would have likely received major assets in return — unlike the bounty they received for May and Felton, which was absolutely nothing. Future NBA GMs of America take note: Quality ALWAYS wins out over Quantity.

GRADE: F-


The 2006 NBA Draft: Adam Morrison SF Gonzaga, Ryan Hollins C UCLA

How It Played Out: Let’s put it this way, the team’s 2nd round pick in ’06 (Ryan Hollins, 50th overall) is still in the league three years after their 1st round pick (Adam Morrison, 3rd overall) hopped a one-way train to Eastern Europe. In fairness to Bickerstaff, the Ammo selection was likley influenced by Michael Jordan, who had only weeks prior to the Draft purchased a significant portion of the team from Johnson. MJ’s “great white hope” certainly didn’t start out as a bust. I was there opening night when Morrison nailed his first NBA shot, a near half court buzzer beater that sent the crowd into a frenzy. Morrison spent the next 81 games doing basically what everyone thought he’d do coming out of Gonzaga: score in bunches and play terrible defense. Overall, it was an up and down season in which Ammo would typically go for 20 points one night, followed by a 2 point, 1-10 night the next. His brightest moment came in a late December game against Indy in which the rook dropped thirty on 9-17 shooting, earning an impressive ten points from the line.

Cut to Los Angeles, ten months later: Morrison blows out his ACL guarding Luke Walton in a pre-season game, effectively ending his NBA career. The following season Charlotte would ship Ammo (along with Shannon Brown) to the Lakers for Vladimir “Radman” Radmanovic, leaving Morrison to ride out his rookie deal on L.A.’s high-profile pine. (SIDE NOTE: Being that Hollywood is the land of happy endings, Phil, Kobe and Pau made sure to slip a couple of Championship rings into Morrison’s Euro-bound suitcase as a parting gift.)

How It Should Have Played Out: The pick was a disaster for two reasons: 1.) The other players the Bobcats seriously considered drafting were Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay. 2.) The team already had a young SF prospect in Gerald Wallace.

This second point is key: Just 12 months earlier, Bickerstaff was preaching quantity over quality yet by selecting Morrison, Bernie doubled up on a position of strength. Had Bickerstaff stuck (or been allowed to stick) to his philosophy, the Cats could have simply selected Roy and slid him next to Felton, Crash and Okafor to form a nice young core. Four amazing seasons with a healthy Roy (which included a Rookie of the Year campaign and three All-Star selections) could have ignited the dormant local fanbase and put the team on the national NBA map. Instead, Morrison cemented the laughing stock status of both the Bobcats as a franchise and MJ as an Exec. Place the blame on Bernie or his Air-ness, either way this Draft was a fail of epic proportions.

GRADE: F-


NEXT UP IN PART TWO: ROD HIGGINS TRIES TO OUT-SUCK THE BICKERSTAFF ERA… AND SUCCEEDS!

 


POLL : Best Bobcats Draft Pick

  • Emeka Okafor (9%, 27 Votes)
  • Kemba Walker (62%, 188 Votes)
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (11%, 32 Votes)
  • Raymond Felton (4%, 13 Votes)
  • Gerald Henderson (14%, 41 Votes)

Total Voters: 301

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Why Is Everyone Hating on the Bobcats?

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stop hatin'

From the national media to the local press and back, it seems that everyone’s expectations are pathetically low for the Charlotte Bobcats as they enter the ’09-’10 NBA season.

[see also: ESPN The Magazine Eastern Conference Predictions | The Sporting News Season Preview| TSN's Shoals on the Bobcats "Mess"]

Am I missing something here?  Was there a secret meeting held somewhere deciding that all b-ball pundits reverse jinx the deepest, most talented squad in the Bobcats’ brief history?

Allow me a few points as to why the Bobcats are going to “BEAST IT” this year:

1. The team goes 2 deep at every position.

Gone are the days of depending on Jeff McInnis, Bernard Robinson, Adam Morrison and Melvin Ely to fill minutes.  As John Hollinger likes to point out in his team assessment, the Bobcats have historically relied upon a disproportionate number of “sub-replacement level” players to contribute.  By having players like McInnis, Morrison, Cartier Martin, and “Fat” Sean May sucking it up on the court, the ‘Cats have put themselves either in deeper holes or lost leads when they could have been staying in games.  That changes this year.

Even with Raja Bell out indefinitely with a gimp wrist, the ‘Cats can still go two deep at SG with Gerald Henderson and 6’4″ Flip Murray.  Henderson had a nice rookie preseason and Flip garnered some Sixth Man Award attention last year while playing with the Hawks.  Hardly Kareem Rush-caliber options in my opinion. Things get even better when Raja comes back into the mix.

At the Point, the Bobcats are set.  Raymond Felton, while not the world’s greatest PG, is a starter in the NBA and by all accounts a great leader.  His backup, D.J. Augustin, is probably going to take over the starting gig by midseason and looks like he could turn out to be a sort of a “Damon Stoudamire: EVOLUTION” when all is said and done.

The team’s best players start at the forward spots. Boris Diaw and Gerald Wallace is the best forward combo the team has ever trotted out and you’d have to go back to the Anthony Mason/Glenn Rice combo in the late ’90s to find a more versatile, skilled frontcourt in Charlotte NBA history.  Unlike last season, when the ‘Cats had to basically add 10 points to the opponents’ score whenever the two starters went out, this season the team has real quality on the bench with veterans Vlad Radmanovic and Stephen Graham and youngsters Derrick Brown and Alexis Ajinca.  Last season ‘Lex was one of those sub-replacement guys.  This season?  If he keeps up what he started in the preseason, he might be a real contributor off the pine.  The rookie Brown also showed consistency and poise during the exhibitions season.  Either way, expect the Bobcats to go a reliable four deep at the forward position.

With all of the talk of salary dumps and downgrades at the Center spot, the ‘Cats still find themselves 3 deep in the middle.  While Nazr Mohammed and Gana Diop aren’t players that you want starting for a playoff team, as 15 minute role players they are huge upgrades over the Primoz Brezecs, Jamaal Sampsons and Andre Brown’s of the world.  Nazr has looked good in the preseason and I find it hard to believe that Diop won’t eventually play his way into shape come December.  Meanwhile, Tyson Chandler is healthy and should make up for some of Okafor’s lost offensive production with his extroverted exuberance and energy.

2. Larry Brown has history.  Don’t screw with history.

Brown has coached 11 NBA team during his career.  NEVER has one of those teams failed to make the Playoffs two years in a row.  I don’t think that this can be stated enough.  There is magic here. Maybe if that coaching factoid was something like “in 3 coaching jobs in the NBA, coach Jeff Van Gundy has never…” but no, we’re talking about ELEVEN.  Whatever Brown is doing it’s not accidental.  He’ll find a way to make this happen.  Watch and Learn.

3. The Sun Shines on a Dog’s Posterior Every Once and a While

It’s been five years.  The team has made so many poor business and personnel decisions and had so many bad breaks over the past half decade that their luck is bound to change, right?
This season, that luck will probably be reflected most in their draft selections.  Between 2005 and 2007, the team had 5 first round draft picks (#5, #13, #3, #8, #22) that, as of October of 2009, has resulted in the following players: Boris Diaw, Raja Bell, Raymond Felton and Vlad Radmanovic.

Alright, I apologize.  I realize that after reading that last fact, you’re probably contemplating a cyanide tablet. But here’s the brightside: The last four draft picks look like keepers.  Augustin, Henderson and Brown look like at minimum second contract guys and Ajinca could either be a stud or a bust, we’re not quite sure.  This is an upgrade from last season, of course, when we were sure – that he sucked.

IN CONCLUSION:

I challenge the fans, the bloggers and the local media to expect more from this team going into next week’s Season Opener.  This is the best team that the organization has ever assembled with the best coach and the best talent.  Expect them to be good.  Very good.

-ASChin

Post-Iverson Fallout: 5 Reasons Why Bobcats Fans Should Put Down the Razorblades

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It seems like the darkest of times for Bobcats fans.

Are You Having Difficulty Coping with Being a Bobcats Fan?

Allen Iverson has agreed to join the Memphis Grizzlies, having been unable to come to terms with the Bobcats.
Meanwhile, rumors abound that the knuckle-headed Rashard McCants will be wearing a Charlotte uniform soon.
Fingers are still collectively being crossed in hopes that Tyson Chandler will be able play most of the upcoming season.
The team has yet to come to contract terms with Raymond Felton and a backup Power Forward has yet to be found.
Worse yet, Bob Johnson is still the team’s owner.

But I urge Bobcats fans to postpone the cutting and self-mutilation for at least a few more months because there is still some hope for the city of Charlotte’s 2nd NBA Franchise.

1. The Egos of Larry Brown & Michael Jordan.

MJ may well be a Hall of Shame evaluator of talent but he – along with Rod Higgins and Larry Brown – has shown a willingness to correct the roster in places where the roster needs correcting.
Last season it was an issue of passing and chemistry.  The Diaw & Bell trade remedied the problem spectacularly.
Thus far this off-season it is an issue of scoring.
While McCants would help a bit with this as an eighth or ninth-man role-player, the team still needs a starter who provides scoring for 40 minutes a night.
The Monta Ellis rumors are surfacing again and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if such a deal were to occur before training camp.
With MJ being inducted into the Hall of Fame and Coach Brown still remastering his degraded image, it is doubtful that either one of them wants to be made a League laughingstock anytime soon.
Expect a move to be made.

2. Boris Diaw & Gerald Wallace.

Regardless of what transactions occur in the next few weeks, the Bobcats find themselves currently with one of the best Forward combos in the League.  While neither player is currently an All-Star, they are both entering their primes as excellent complementary players: Wallace with his hustle, energy and defense; Diaw with his court-vision, high skill-set and underrated defense.
A scoring presence in the starting five would result in nothing but improvement from both of these players.

3. DJ Augustin & Gerald Henderson.

We’re not certain of what Henderson is going to provide at the NBA level but we know exactly what DJ is capable of.  The 2nd Team All-Rookie shot lights-out last season and looked much more comfortable than most players (including Raymond Felton in his rookie season) leading a team at the point during his first year.
The fact that the Bobcats have two young, talented backcourt players on rookie-scale contracts will go a long way in remedying the current salary cap horror that the team finds themselves trapped in.

4. Sean May and Adam Morrison have been ejected.

No one likes to wear an albatross of past mistakes.  Having both Morrison and May on the roster last season was a constant reminder to both management and the fans of what could have been and what should not have been.  Yes, taking on Vlad Radmanovic’s contract for an extra year is a sour pill (especially when the team could’ve simply chose not to extend Morrison’s Q.O. last summer – giving them plenty of cash to sign Iverson this summer) but what’s past is past and Radmanovic is still young enough and talented enough to offer some value as a 7th or 8th man.  Radman could be utilized this season as a type of Rashard Lewis hybrid-four, lessening the need for a traditional backup PF.
Sean May’s ceaseless “potential” will move cross-country to Sacramento, relieving the Bobcats of having to depend on one of the League’s most undependable.  Let casino owners like the Maloofs gamble on May’s potential while Larry Brown finds someone who can provide consistent NBA minutes.

5. The Raymond Felton contract situation.

The current stalemate between Felton and the Bobcats speaks to a new maturity in the front office.  The organization has finally come to its senses when evaluating its own players.  Raymond Felton is reportedly asking for $7 million per season.  Meanwhile, a similarly talented young player (Ramon Sessions) has signed a 4 year/$16 million contract with the T-Wolves.  There is hope here that the Bobcats can either sign Felton for a contract closer to the value of Sessions than what Raymond is asking for or bundle Raymond as part of a trade for a scorer.

The cliche is that it’s always darkest before the dawn and I can’t see why it’s not true for the Bobcats.

There is talent, there is a Hall of Fame coach, and there are two basketball legends who are undoubtably concerned with their legacies.  Expect something good and expect it soon.

-ASChin

The Mystery of The Silent Off-Season

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Larry Brown's Project

Much speculation and anticipation has rumbled amongst the foundation of hard-core Bobcats fans this off-season. So many NBA teams have made notable exchanges or additions that the current stagnant state of the Bobcats roster can only enhance the fanbase’s curiosity. As anxious as any other group of fans, the crew here at Bobcats Baseline has assumed several questions for the past couple of months.

Who will Charlotte sign? Who will be traded? How do the Bobcats keep up with the other mediocre clubs? While an answer to these questions could create headlines or at least drum up a bold reaction from a sports pundit, the Bobcats might not give us any such satisfaction.

Perhaps, the fundamental question that puts the off-season into focus would be this –
What roster position or positions do the Bobcats see as immediate needs?

After securing a reserve shooting guard with Gerald Henderson in the Draft, it seems that only one area of need will push the team to spend any more than they are already committed to drop on the next season. GM Rod Higgins has commented on the need of depth at the power forward position, but the club hasn’t made any drastic moves to overpay for a reserve.  Despite the reports from the team’s lone beat writer or speculative bloggers (like us), the Bobcats have really only made small mention of the power forward spot as a need for concern. So far, no one in the front office has gone into panic mode over signing a guy that will come off of the bench next year.

Could this be that the Bobcats might not really be that desperately concerned over filling out the back-up forward spot? It’s been suggested that Sean May could be reacquired to provide some depth behind Boris Diaw. Most of Charlotte’s fans would see this as a sad gesture toward improvement, but the team is definitely shopping with a tight budget. Additionally, some have assumed that the Bobcats were more likely to sign a D-Leaguer or an unaffiliated player that shows promise in Summer League play. A move like this probably won’t splash across the Sports Page, but it could fill their need just as much as an underachieving former NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player. So, the Bobcats are likely to spend little to no cash to cover that one hole that seems so important to all of their most analytical fans this summer.

This may sound crazy, but maybe the Bobcats don’t really have a need for depth at the power forward position. Larry Brown is known to be a bit fluid with his rosters, and he’s definitely open about changes that he wants from the organization. Brown has yet to make any publicly clamorous requests for that all so rare talent that can play against the league’s other back-up forwards. The lack of noise from Brown or the front office could mean that they simply already have their reserve power forward in Alexis Ajinca.

Larry Brown saw something in the 7-footer Ajinca that caused him to push the team to trade for an additional pick in the 2008 Draft  (No. 20) in order to acquire the rights to the Frenchman. After only appearing in garbage time throughout the first half of last season, the Bobcats sent Ajinca to the D-League to keep his game active over the spring. After suffering through the experience of the Sioux Falls SkyForce, we can assume that Alexis has put his focus on improving his game in any way that he can to stick on an NBA roster. With Larry Brown’s insight and the open ear of Boris Diaw, shouldn’t we expect some degree of improvement in the lanky man’s second season?

For the fans expecting a blockbuster deal or a huge free agent signing Alexis Ajinca isn’t likely the answer. Though, for the financially ailing Bobcats organization, the possibility of Ajinca filling out his body, his potential, and the team’s reserve forward need would sure sound like a great answer.

-Mike

Charlotte Bobcats 2009 Free Agency

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2009 Charlotte Bobcats Free Agency

Mid-Level Madness!

UPDATED: JULY 5, 9:52pm

As the Observer’s Rick Bonnell pointed out yesterday, the Charlotte Bobcats have entered the summer at or above the NBA salary cap.  Once Raymond Felton is re-signed (expected to be around $7 million/season) and both draft picks’ deals are finalized, the ‘Cats should find themselves at around $60 million in total salaries for next season; about $3 million over the League’s projected $57 million cap.

Since the NBA has a “soft cap” the only way that the Bobcats could make a major free agent signing is through cap exceptions.  Wikipedia has a concise definition of the cap exceptions most important to the Bobcats this season; the Mid-level and Bi-annual Cap Exceptions:

Mid-level exception

A team is allowed to sign one player to a contract equal to the average NBA salary, even if the team is over the salary cap already, or if the signing would put them over the cap. This is known as the Mid-level exception (MLE). The MLE may be used on an individual free agent or split among multiple free agents, and is available to any team that exceeds the salary cap at the beginning of the offseason. The Mid-Level Exception for the 2007-08 NBA season was $5.36 million. The MLE is $5.585 million for the 2008-09 NBA regular season.

An example would be the Toronto Raptors‘ acquisition of Jason Kapono during the 2007 off-season.

Bi-annual exception

The bi-annual exception may be used to sign any free agent to a contract starting at $1.672 million in 2005-06, but cannot be used two years in a row (and if the $1 million exception from the previous CBA was used in 2004-05, the bi-annual exception cannot be used in 2005-06). Like the mid-level exception, the $1 million exception can also be split among more than one player, and can be used to sign players for up to two years, with raises limited to 8% per year. This exception was referred to as the “$1 million exception” in the 1999 CBA, although it was only valued at $1 million for the first year of the agreement.

An example of the $1 million exception was the Los Angeles Lakers‘ signing of Karl Malone to a contract before the 2003-04 season.

As the Full Mid-Level only allows the Bobcats to sign a player to a maximum ~$6 million/year salary, we can pretty much rule the ‘Cats out of some of the bigger name FAs like Lamar Odom, Paul Millsap or David Lee.

The Sporting News has a great free agent tracker that breaks down this summer’s top free agents by position.  I’ll couple that with John Hollinger’s excellent “Bang for the Buck” list to put together some possible Bobcats Free Agent signings:

FULL MID-LEVEL

This list includes players who potentially could sign a 2-3 year deal with the Bobcats at the full mid-level exception (~$6 million/per).

  1. Allen Iverson SG
    The latest news has Iverson interested in Memphis (???) and Bonnell reports that ‘Cats GM Rod Higgins has yet to contact AI’s agent.  Iverson likely won’t command anything more than the full-midlevel and a one or two year deal for the vet makes a lot of sense for a team in desperate need of scoring.
    UPDATE: Bonnell responded to my question, putting the chances of the ‘Cats signing AI at 5%, McDyess at 10%, Bass at 20%.
  2. Rasheed Wallace PF/C
    Although ‘Sheed would be a great fit in Charlotte – first as a player and then later as a potential coaching successor to Larry Brown – it looks like the former Tar Heel will be signing with a contender like San Antonio or Boston this off-season.
    UPDATE: Fox Sports is reporting that ‘Sheed just signed a 2-year full mid-level deal with the Celtics, taking him off of the market.
  3. Brandon Bass PF
    Rod Higgins has apparantly contacted the agents for both Bass and Antonio McDyess, as the team looks to shore up the backup PF position.  Bass is only 24 and has just come off of two quality seasons in Dallas backing up the 4-spot.  He’s an excellent offensive option and a strong defender.  Other teams are aware of this as well, so it’s likely that Bass will command a multi-year, full mid-level deal.
    UPDATE: Bonnell reports that a team has apparently offered Bass the full mid-level over 5 years and that the team was probably not the Bobcats.  He does however speculate that a sign-and-trade scenario could unfold involving Bass.
    Sign and Trade deals are difficult and (for most NBA fans) extremely complicated to understand.  Check out this link from the NBA Salary Cap FAQ and this one from Wikipedia for more information.  I’m at a loss for the last time a double sign-and-trade was made.  The last one I could remember involved Eddie Curry going to the Knicks for some other chunky contracts a few years back.  Anybody have a more recent example?

Partial Mid-Level

These players shouldn’t and couldn’t command a full mid-level from any team this summer but would be quality additions to the team.

  1. Antonio McDyess PF
    The 34-year old, former #2 overall pick can still bring it – he nearly averaged a double-double last season – and would be a great veteran presence in the locker room.  Imagine Juwan Howard: EVOLUTION.
  2. Anthony Carter PG
    Carter is the kind of veteran 3rd PG that Larry Brown loves and would be a great fit on a team with two young PGs like the Bobcats.
  3. Dahntay Jones SG
    If the Bobcats conclude that the Gerald Henderson Experiment is not yet ready for primetime, then fellow Dookie Jones would offer a nice buffer until Henderson is ready to go.
  4. Leon Powe PF
    Powe is a wiry PF who seems to be custom built to guard the new NBA PF prototype – long, rangy players who can shoot the three.  Three years in Boston studying “D” under Tom Thibodeau isn’t bad on a resume either.
    UPDATE: As I commented already below, Powe is on schedule to return around Feb ’10.
  5. Joe Smith PF
    Doesn’t seem too long ago that Smith was being traded around the League as a playoff difference maker.  Smith still has abilities and would be a solid alternative to McDyess or Bass if the ‘Cats can’t get a deal done with either one of their preferred FAs.

Bi-Annual/Minimum Salary Exceptions

These players probably won’t see anything above the League minimum but offer low-risk/high-reward potential.

  1. Ike Diogu PF
    He’s put up numbers and shown potential wherever he’s gone.  Work habits aside, he’d be a nice insurance policy at the 4-spot at or near the League minimum.
  2. Rodney Carney SF
    Carney reeks of this year’s Shannon Brown.  A guy coming off of a first-round contract, barely staying in the League.  Like Shannon, Carney’s an atheletic defender and a decent finisher – and a poor shooter.  Good get at this price.
  3. Sean May PF
    If he signs at or near the League minimum, May would be a decent gamble backing up Boris Diaw.  Next season would be his second coming off of micro-fracture surgury and May should be back to form.  Jokes aside, there’s no denying that when he’s been healthy and in shape, he’s been effective.
    UPDATE: According to May’s Twitter page, he just played in the NC PRO AM Tourney.  I can’t believe I just referenced Sean May’s Twitter account.

-ASChin

Charlotte Bobcats: State of the Roster | Post Draft

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"With the 12th pick in the 2009 NBA DRAFT..." ©Bobcats.com

Prior to the 2004 NBA Draft, former Bobcats GM/Coach Bernie Bickerstaff managed to hoodwink the lowly Clippers into trading down from #2 to #4 in order for Charlotte to select Emeka Okafor.  That was the first and last great draft move made by the organization and ever since then Bobcats fans have been subjected to picks ranging from mediocre to mind-numbingly stupid.

A quick recap for the masochistic:

  • 2005: Needing a Point Guard, the Bobcats refuse to trade up with Portland (who practically begs Charlotte for the 5th and 13th selections in return for #3).  Portland eventually trades with Utah for a lesser package of draft choices.  Utah drafts Deron Williams at #3, New Orleans drafts Chris Paul at #4, Bobcats reach for Raymond Felton at #5.  Bickerstaff cites “needing bodies” as the reason for hanging on to the #13 selection and not trading up.  The #13 pick?  Sean “Crab Bread” May.
  • 2006: Bobcats have a decent foundation with Felton, Okafor and Wallace and are in need of a dynamic scoring wing player.  They own the #3 selection overall and have their choice of either future All-Star Brandon Roy or Rudy Gay.  They select a non-athletic white guy with a crappy mustache gimmick and diabetes.
  • 2007: Bobcats realize that they wiffed big with Adam Morrison a year earlier so get creative and ship their #8 selection (Brandon Wright) to Golden State for Jason Richardson.  Later in the first round, they draft hustling, former ACC Player of the Year Jared Dudley.  Richardson and Dudley would later turn into a combination of Boris Diaw and Raja Bell.
  • 2008: With new coach Larry Brown, the Bobcats future looks brighter than ever.  With a foundation of Okafor, Felton, Wallace and Richardson, the team looks to add size in the frontcourt in order to contend for a playoff spot.  Stanford Center Brook Lopez is sliding and Charlotte is on the clock.  They select…5’10” PG DJ Augustin.  That’s ok, because they added size later by trading a future first round pick for a 7’1″ guy out of France who only out-weighs ‘Lil Augustin by 40 pounds.

So it might amaze the few people out there who are actually paying attention to all of this that the Bobcats just completed their first intelligent, completely rational, well-scouted and well-executed draft in five years.  WOO-HOO!!!

They didn’t royally screw it up as they did with May, Morrison or Ajinca.  They didn’t desperately reach for decent players like Felton or Augustin earlier in the lottery.  Nope, in Duke’s Gerald Henderson they picked a solid player from a great collegiate program who fits a position of need at exactly the spot they should have.  And to top it off, they added another great value pick (Xavier’s Derrick Brown) mid-way through the second round.  Props to MJ, Higgins and Coach Brown for killing it last night.  Your efforts are much appreciated.

STATE OF THE ROSTER

Now that we know who the picks are, it’s easier to see what the Bobcats will be focusing on once we hit free-agency in the next two weeks.

Starting Five

As of today, the starting lineup remains the same.  Henderson only starts if Raja goes down for any stretch.
Keep an eye out for anymore Dalembert rumors between now and next week.  If a Dalembert deal goes down, look forward to a summer of madness because this likely means that Emeka will be shipped off at some point to bring in a big-time scorer.

Second Unit | Post-Draft

Last night’s draft fills the backup SG position and potentially the backup PF position as well depending on how quickly Derrick Brown develops.  As of this writing, the Bobcats have a total of ten players under contract and two draft selections, leaving two roster spots available.  I think it’s pretty safe to assume that both Alexis Ajinca and Derrick Brown will spend the first couple of months of the season in the D-League so that would leave room for another veteran PF and veteran 3rd PG to be added sometime during Free Agency or Training Camp.

Even if the ‘Cats don’t make any major moves between now and the start of the season, the team is probably looking like a 38-42 win squad in a tougher Eastern Conference.  If they can find a way to add an offensive Alpha Dog either through a trade (Monta Ellis) or through free agency (Iverson), add another 4-6 wins to that total.

We’ll have more offseason coverage starting next week during our “Free Agency Preview.”

–ASChin

POLL : The Gerald Henderson Pick?

  • Great Draft Pick (26%, 6 Votes)
  • Decent Selection for #12 Pick (61%, 14 Votes)
  • Bad Pick - Duke Sucks (4%, 1 Votes)
  • Go Heels! (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Derrick Brown Was A Better Pick (9%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 23

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