Two Trades to Add Frontcourt Scoring and Rebounding

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As good as the Charlotte Bobcats have been over the season’s first month, they still have a few things to sort out. One is rebounding. The Cats’ -3.00 differential places them in the bottom third of the league – a deficiency that nearly cost them last night’s game at Washington. Second is low post scoring. Other than the occasional Brendan Haywood baby hook, Charlotte big men pose zero threat from the low block.
Fortunately there’s some available talent in the league who could remedy the situation without sacrificing much of the Bobcats’ long-term plans. Here’s two ideas:

Trade Proposal #1: Charlotte sends Tyrus Thomas and Gana Diop to Chicago for Carlos Boozer.

Why Chicago Does It:
The Bulls 2013-2014 payroll is already $7 million over the luxury tax line. This means owner Jerry Reinsdorf will be on the hook for at least $14 million in tax penalties two summers from now – and that’s before Chicago fields an entire fourteen man roster (their $77 million payroll accounts for only nine players).
The simplist option is for Chicago to use its amnesty provison on Boozer but that would come at a steep cost – the team would be on the hook for $20 million or so of his salary even after a waiver claim (see Brand, Elton).

Enter Gana Diop. Diop’s expiring contract effectively halves Boozer’s cap hit over the next two seasons while Thomas provides Coach Thibideau with a Taj Gibson-lite off the pine.

Why Charlotte Does It:
Fit for one. Boozer’s ability to score in and around the low post would generate double-teams to free up the Cats’ long distance shooters. Pick and pop opportunities with Ramons Session and Kemba Walker would add another weapon to the team’s limited halfcourt arsenal. Boozer’s ability to hunt for rebounds at both ends will help put an end to those 3-4 shot defensive stands.

From a salary perspective, Charlotte takes on an additional $7 million or so on top of what they were paying Thomas for the next two seasons – timing it near perfectly with their first batch of Rich Cho era re-ups (Walker, Biyombo, Taylor).
Take a look at the salary chart.

Charlotte Bobcats Salary Forecast

Assuming both Byron Mullens and Gerald Henderson re-sign for around 4 years/$27 million (doubtful team would go higher on either), Charlotte would enter next season a shade over the league’s $59 million cap but well under the tax threshold. In July of 2013, the Bobcats would shed Ben Gordon’s $12 million and likely divert a portion to re-signing Ramon Sessions (if they don’t use one of their three to four first round draft picks from 2013 or 2014 on a point guard).

By July of 2014, Charlotte will have nearly $20 million in expiring contracts (Boozer/Haywood) coming off the books and they can use the space to extend the class of ’11 (Walker/Biyombo) and Jeff Taylor. They could also pursue a max superstar (or two) while maintaining the rights to Walker and Biyombo via cap holds ala Brook Lopez with the Nets last summer.

In the meantime, the Bobcats stay very competitive. A big man rotation of Boozer/Mullens/Haywood/Biyombo brings to mind “Utah East”. Henderson/Gordon/MKG/Taylor form a nice wing platoon. And we already know just how good the Walker/Session backcourt can be.

A variation of this trade would send Boozer and a first round pick to Charlotte for Thomas, Hakim Warrick and Gerald Henderson. Chicago would have the ability to decline Rip Hamilton’s $5 million next season, re-sign Henderson as its starting SG and pursue another piece via cap exception due to Gerald’s RFA status. In exchange, the Bobcats receive their own pick back from the original Thomas trade.

Trade Proposal #2: Charlotte sends Gerald Henderson and Reggie Williams to Minnesota for Derrick Williams and Malcolm Lee.

Why Minnesota Does It:
As a near lock-down defender with an ability to score from inside and out, Gerald Henderson could be the perfect fit for a Wolves team stacked at every position except off guard. Henderson will do for Minny what Brandon Roy was supposed to.

Why Charlotte Does It:
With Jeff Taylor playing lights out of late, there’s just not going to be enough minutes in the wing rotation. Ben Gordon needs to play and isn’t going anywhere. MKG is MKG. Sessions and Kemba will play at least fifteen to twenty minutes a night together so Henderson is the odd man out. Add to this his impending contract extension and it’s doubtful Gerald stays in the QC past this season.

Meanwhile, Williams adds a moderately priced young power forward with upside. Someone who likes the ball in his hands, someone who can finish from the low block and who the team could potentially run their offense through. Although Williams has struggled playing out of a position at SF during his stint with the Wolves, with the Bobcats he’d be a permanent fixture at the four.

The only downside is the timing of his contract. Barring some unforeseen All-NBA selection over the next two seasons, Williams will be up for an extension the same summer as Biyombo, Walker and Taylor. While the Cats will have the cap space at that point to re-sign all four, it could make the process a bit complicated.

-ASChin

Predictions: Recapping the Charlotte Bobcats ’12-’13 Season

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20121101-131308.jpg


Editor’s Note: Instead of offering a run of the mill predictions column for this season, I thought I’d have a little fun by imagining what ESPN Insider John Hollinger might be writing about the Charlotte Bobcats next season.

John Hollinger’s 2013-2014 Charlotte Bobcats Team Forecast.

Overview

If the league handed out awards for “Most Improved Horrendous Team”, last season’s Bobcats would have swept the vote. Sure, Mike Dunlap’s squad again finished dead last in the league, managing only 21 wins, but boy did they ever improve.
Charlotte walked away from their disastorous 7-win ’11-’12 campaign with a clear goal in mind: Develop their young talent while maintaining some semblance of respectability on the court. Dunlap was brought in to nurture the kitties whilst veterans Ramon Sessions, Brendan Haywood and Ben Gordon were added to provide the team with actual NBA players. The formula mostly worked, on several occasions presenting the Queen City with a sight it had nearly forgotten: competitive basketball. Thanks to GM Rich Cho’s methodical approach to rebuilding (the nonsense of the Larry Brown-era has officially ended), the organization may well be on their way to sustained relevancy.

2012-2013 Recap

In some ways Dunlap inherited the best coaching job in the league – trumping a .106 winning percentage isn’t as easy as it sounds – but for the first six weeks of the season, he certainly gave it his best shot.
The Bobcats were horrendous in November/December, barely improving upon their notorious -12 point differential from a year prior. Second Year PG Kemba Walker shot 34% from the field. Byron Mullens 40%. Leading scorer Gerald Henderson connected on just 42%. The good news was that number two overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist made them all look good by somehow succeeding on only 29% of his attempts. Basically, for the first quarter of the season, Charlotte couldn’t find a basket with a GPS.
Fortunately, the horror show was short lived and the Cats found their groove by New Year. On the player development front, Mullens in particular made a leap. His 17.8 PER led the team and all but guaranteed a big payday over the summer. Running the pick ‘n pop with either Walker or Sessions, Mullens transformed into a partially-employeed man’s Dirk Nowitzki, extending his range out beyond the stripe (35%) while benefiting defensively from Dunlap’s revelation to play him at the four. Walker rebounded from his poor shooting to eventually manage a respectable 45% and made strides with his court vision (8.2 apg per 40). The team’s other 2011 Lottery pick, Bismack Biyombo, seemed to regress early but by early March was back to blowing up YouTube servers.
The big story, of course, was Kidd-Gilchrist. Playing at a position where most teams find their scoring, MKG couldn’t buy a bucket for a half a season. As the scouting report out of Kentucky confirmed, opponents laid off MKG, daring him to shoot. The strategy worked and Kidd-Gilchrist finished the season dead last amongst starters in long twos and three point percentages. Players who shoot this poorly almost never make it past Replacement Level PER but MKG finished the season at 16.2, an amazing number considering his broken shot. One need only to look to his per 40 minute numbers in rebounds (10.9), steals (2.5) and blocks (2.1) to get an idea of how he did it. Those pre-draft comps to Gerald Wallace weren’t far off, it’s just that Wallace produced numbers like these at 25. Kidd-Gilchrist did it 18. Synergy had him ranked near the top of the SF pile defensively, something the eye-test confirms (his lock-down defense against Lebron James in a mid-season matchup comes to mind). Combine this with an innate ability to get to the line (10th highest FT rate at his position) and MKG stayed in the conversation for Rookie of the Year until April.

Offseason Moves

The price was one atrocious season and one simply bad one but GM Rich Cho finally regained control of Charlotte’s payroll – one that had been managed like a drunken sailor under former Staff Sergeant Larry Brown. With his team still a year or two away from courting a major free agent, Cho wisely auctioned his cap space for draft choices and prospects.

Traded Haywood and to Oklahoma City for Kendrick Perkins and a draft pick: In a pre-draft trade echoing last year’s Gordon swap, Charlotte purchased another lottery pick (via Toronto, 12th overall) with surplus cap space. Taking on Perkins $18 million cap hit over the next two seasons is a terrible move for most teams but not so for the Bobcats, who aren’t a free agency destination and need to add dollars just to hit the salary floor. Perkins and Haywood put up near identical stats last season so Bobcats fans shouldn’t expect any upgrade due to the massive dollar difference. Still, Perkins remains an excellent post defender and will fit in nicely as mentor to yet another shot blocker from the Congo.

Let Gerald Henderson go, drafted Shabazz Mohammed, Dario Saric: Henderson’s fate was sealed the moment Charlotte finished third in the Noel/Zeller sweepstakes. Offensively, Mohammed was college basketball’s highest rated wing player (16.9 in the Draft Rater) and projects quite nicely at the next level. At 6’6″, 225 he should have the size to start and score big right away. Defensively, the Bobcats will probably take a step back at the position for the moment – Synergy rated Henderson in the top third of SGs – but long term, the ‘Bazz projects to be a star at the two. With the pick from the Perkins deal, Charlotte nabbed Saric, who will play out the final year of his Euro deal before being introduced to Bojangles chicken and biscuits. His translated numbers are a mixed bag but he’s only 19 and is solid shooter who can really see the floor. Those Toni Kukoc comps seem about right.

Let Gana Diop, Reggie Williams and Matt Caroll go: Diop, Williams and Carroll played a combined total of 673 minutes for the team last season yet accounted for a whopping $13.4 worth of payroll – here’s to you, Larry Brown. With the subsequent windfall, Cho made the final big move of the Cats offseason.

Signed Byron Mullens for four years, $34 million: Of all the good moves Cho has made during his brief tenure with the Bobcats, this one has biggest chance to tarnish his rep. First the positives: Mullens is only 24, has near elite shooting skills for a seven footer and, at 275 pounds, has the size and skills to develop a consistent low post game over time. The problem is that defensively he remains headache – for his own team. Against post-up players, Mullens still hasn’t figured out how to prevent giving up deep position; elite post guys like Zach Randolph absolutely feast on him. Mullens fares better against stretch fours – he moves his feet well enough to challenge shots and stick with rolls to the basket. But if an opponent goes small ball at the four, Mullens is basically unplayable. That said, Byron did improve his rebounding numbers tremendously last season and perhaps Cho is banking on the continued mentoring of Dunlap and Perkins. Still, $34 million is Ryan Anderson money and as of the moment, Mullens just isn’t in the same class.

Outlook

Don’t look now but with potential stars Mohammed and MKG on the wings and solid prospects like Walker, Biyombo and Mullens backing them up, the Charlotte Bobcats have become a respectable basketball franchise with a very real possibility of becoming an elite one down the road. The Cats will have between 1-3 early first round picks in next years draft depending on how Detroit and Portland’s seasons shake out, and up to $22 million in cap space if they amnesty Tyrus Thomas.
As for this season, my projections have them as a lottery team yet again but not by much. Shabazz will immediately help alleviate the team’s scoring woes and defensively, few teams can match the quality of a Kidd-Gilchrist/Biyombo/Perkins frontcourt. I have them at 32 wins, which, considering the team’s recent history, might well feel like a championship run. Rejoice, people of Charlotte, ten years after the fact, your city is on the verge of hosting a real, honest-to-goodness NBA team.
Prediction: 32-50, tied for 3rd in Southeast, tied for 10th in Eastern Conference.

So You’re Going to Draft Andre Drummond

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Baseline 2012 Draft + Roster Breakdown – Part III

We’ve projected how next season’s Bobcats roster could look if they draft Thomas Robinson or Bradley Beal. Next, we’ll take a peek at how things could shape up should Higgins, Cho and company choose a riskier path.

Grab a Lottery Ticket

This time last year the 2012 NBA Draft was deemed the best draft class since 2003—a crazy deep draft featuring LeBron, Melo, D-Wade, and Chris Bosh. We’re less than a week out from selection day and that doesn’t appear to be the case. Anthony Davis may end up having a similar impact to those four players but after him there isn’t another surefire superstar. Instead, the Cats will have their choice of five equally-warted but promising players.

Thomas Robinson doesn’t have the highest ceiling. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has a broken jump shot. Bradley Beal is undersized. Harrison Barnes had a disappointing sophomore year. Andre Drummond has motor issues. With all due respect to Beal (and I’m a huge fan of him), only one of those five has the potential to become a true superstar—one of the three best players at his position. In a season in which the Bobcats can’t get any worse, why not take a chance on Andre Drummond?

Drummond is one of the tougher players to grade in the draft because he has so much talent but didn’t leave a spectacular impression after one year at UConn—not to mention how volatile young big men can be in the draft. He could be the next Andrew Bynum or even Dwight Howard, but a more realistic projection might be former Bobcat Tyson Chandler. Then again, he could fizzle out like the man who went directly before Chandler in the 2001 NBA Draft: Jordan’s nemesis Kwame Brown. The Bobcats had two main problems last year: they couldn’t stop teams from scoring at the basket at will, and they didn’t have a star. Drummond can fix both problems.

RESULT: Charlotte Selects Andre Drummond, C Connecticut

Biding Time

Points: D.J. Augustin is a restricted free agent and I can’t see him returning to Charlotte. When he wasn’t hurt last year, Augustin looked disengaged and the team clearly sees Kemba Walker as the future. Charlotte won’t be able to trade him in time to pick up an extra draft pick this year, so I expect them to deal him later in the offseason to a contending team for a mid-to-late first-round pick (think Dallas, Memphis, or the Lakers). In D.J.’s absence, Cho will then need to add another point guard or two, so I expect him to pick up a big, veteran guard (perhaps Royal Ivey or Keyon Dooling) and a Shannon Brown-esque reclamation project (maybe Jonny Flynn).

Wings: Charlotte still needs offense from somewhere, and the perimeter would be a good start. I have a feeling some quality wing players will be on the board for the #31 draft pick. Maybe that’s John Jenkins, Will Barton, Quincy Miller, or Jeff Taylor (who Chad Ford’s latest mock draft has slated to go 31st). Additionally, the Bobcats still need more three-point shooters, so Cho could take flyer on another young guard: James Anderson. He never got much playing time in San Antonio but the 23-year old lit up the Big 12, averaging 17.9 ppg on 37.5% shooting from beyond the arch over his three-year stretch at Oklahoma State. Brandon Roy would be a fantastic addition (and would help cast away demons from the ‘06 draft), but he’d likely prefer to go to a contending team like Miami or Boston.

Bigs: Bismack Biyombo, Andre Drummond, and their combined 14’11” wingspan will immediately alleviate Charlotte’s interior defense problem. There won’t be much offense immediately, but they should grow to emulate OKC’s defensive frontcourt of Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. Byron Mullens and D.J. White can bring short spurts of instant offense, and anything Tyrus Thomas brings will be gravy. It’s not a fantastic group, but there’s a lot of potential down low, and they won’t give up nearly as many easy buckets as last year.

RESULT: Charlotte signs James Anderson and Jonny Flynn to 2-year $5 million deals and Royal Ivey to a 1-year $1.25 million deal, drafts Jeff Taylor, sign-and-trades D.J. Augustin for a future 1st round pick, and extends a qualifying offer to D.J. White.

Bottom Out

  • PG: Walker/Flynn/Ivey
  • SG: Henderson/Anderson/Williams/Carroll
  • SF: Maggette/Taylor
  • PF: Biyombo/Thomas/White
  • C: Drummond/Mullens/Diop

If Rich Cho is trying to follow the Oklahoma City rebuilding plan—which, by the way, I fully support—the Bobcats need to stay bad for now. OKC picked up their stars because they were bad enough to get the 2nd pick to get Kevin Durant. Then Durant played off-position at shooting guard and the team was bad enough to get Russell Westbrook. Then Westbrook had his rookie struggles and the team was bad enough to land James Harden. (Editor’s Note: I’m sensing a pattern here)

The bottom line that winning 15 games and winning 25 games isn’t much different—neither team makes the playoffs. But the 15-win team gets a better draft pick. This Bobcats team is better than the dreadful 2011/12 Bobcats team, but then again, you could multiply last years win total by two and a half and still have the worst record in the league.

Charlotte probably won’t find their Kevin Durant in this draft. That ship sailed when Adam Silver announced those fatal words: “The second pick will be made by… the Charlotte Bobcats.” But their Kevin Durant may come around in the next draft in the form of Shabazz Muhammad—or even two years in the future in the form of Jabari Parker.

The worst thing the Bobcats could do is eat up their precious salary cap space with a terrible contract while they’re not competitive. Michael Jordan needs to bide his time until his Kevin Durant comes along. And until then, I think they should roll the dice on a potential superstar (Drummond) and some potential role players (Taylor, Flynn, and Anderson).

Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib)

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

2011 Free Agent Targets Who Fit The Plan

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SPECIAL GUEST OPENING PARAGRAPH BY HUBIE BROWN:

Okay, you’re the Charlotte Bobcats. It’s December two thousand and ten. You’re saddled with a capped out payroll. Your attendance is improving but still less than stellar. Your two best, highest paid players play the easiest positions to fill in the modern game and your hall of fame coach’s best years are far behind him. Whaddya do? Keep paying sixty million dollar salaries and hope your team is gonna win a game or two as an eighth seed? Of course not, you blow it up and start from scratch. Go cheap and young and hope you land one the decade’s defining players in the draft. It’s as simple as that.

Thanks Hubie. And thanks MJ, Rod Higgidy-Higgins and Rich Cho (not to be confused with his Charlottean peer, “Rich Chode”) for heeding said hypothetical advice because now, Bobcats fans, there is finally a plan for building a successful basketball franchise in Carolina. Now, I don’t pretend to have any inside info into the mind of Cho & Company but it doesn’t take an Emeka Okafor-sized intellect to get an idea of what they’re up to:

STEP 1: Develop young players on the roster to either build around long-term or dangle as juicy trade bait.

Gerald Henderson, D.J. Augustin, Tyrus Thomas, Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker please go over to the blue line. Dante Cunningham and D.J. White may as well go ahead and join them – just please, Dante, put that half ounce sack of dank away somewhere where I can’t see it.

STEP 2: Tank the ’11-’12 semi-season.

Related to the step above, be fun to watch but terrible in the win column. Basically the opposite of Riley’s Knicks/Heat teams of the ’90s. Kind of an East Coast version of the Warriors.

STEP 3: Get a high pick in a stacked 2012 Lottery.

Worse case scenario, you draft in the top 5 and where there are potentially five or six game-changers (Davis, Barnes, Sullinger, Gilchrest, Perry & Terrence Jones).

STEP 4: Shed salary next summer.

That means you Honeybuns Diaw & Don Juan Draper. Take the $20 million and dangle it in front of Chris Paul or Dwight Howard in the rare chance that they want to play in a small market (or come home in CP3’s case) or even take a shot at prying restricted FA Brook Lopez away from New Jersey for less than max money. You could also could use this space to acquire an unhappy All-Star via trade.

STEP 5: Get better in ’12-’13.

Develop the young players, generate some excitement and either make a run for the Playoffs or just miss them and hope for Lottery love. Bobcats will most likely have two picks in the 2013 draft (Their own if not outside the top 10 plus Portland’s).

STEP 6: Shed another $20 million in the summer of 2013.

Diop It Like It’s Hot, No Nickname Carroll, Get Ready For Maggette. The team makes a serious run at another big name FA (watch for Steph Curry here btw). Which brings us back to our present time…

Free Agency 2011

In accordance to the plan, the Bobcats will be on the lookout after the lockout for free agents that meet the following three qualities: young, cheap, (potentially) very good. And that’s pretty much that. I nominate the following:

Earl Clark, SF – ORL

+Compared to young Lamar Odom, only 23, lean 6’10” with a Bilas-approved wingspan
-erratic shot selection, poor shooter
Comment: If you can get him at the right price, Clark could very well develop with playing time. He’s been stuck on veteran teams in the “win now” mode (PHX, ORL) and Silas’s approach could be exactly what he needs to take the next step.

Brandon Wright, PF – NJN

+Physically gifted, skilled rebounder and shooter
-Four seasons, 117 games total
Comment: Originally drafted by Charlotte in the 2007 Draft but traded minutes later for JRICH, Wright can’t use the Earl Clark excuse. He’s played on a bad Nellie Ball team in Golden State as one of the lone big men and then floundered in sixteen games with the Nets last season. His main problem is staying on the court. If he can get healthy, Wright could be a nice rotation big down the line.

Kwame Brown, C – CLT

+Known quantity, can defend big fives, rebound
-Known quantity, not much upside, Vern Troyer-sized hands
Comment: Kwame was probably as surprised as anyone that he started 50 games in the NBA last season. He took advantage and had arguably his most well-rounded season as a pro. The Bobcat brass have made a lot of noise about re-signing him and if the money is right I don’t see why they shouldn’t. Maybe Cho can get creative like his old boss Sam Presti in OKC and sign Kwame to a Nick Collison-style contract. $8 million for ’11-’12 and then $2mil per over the next two seasons sounds about right. Getting a solid backup center for three seasons while not endangering free cap space over the next two summers.

Josh McRoberts, PF/C – IND

+Started 54 games at C/PF for IND, still young at 24
-Chronic case of Big White Dude disease
Comment: Former Dukie came on for the Pacers last season, supplanting Jeff Foster as the slow white undersized center in the middle. McRoberts isn’t great at anything but is a banger and could contribute as a rotation big man for a team on the rise.

Carl Landry, PF – NO

+Mega-Effecient, PER Machine
-Small for his position, Potentially Expensive
Comment: Somebody will probably drop $9 million annually on Landry. The Bobcats tried to sign him once already and if Cho’s hyper-stats reveal Landry to be the most productive player on the market, they could try again.

TRADE SCENARIO

One last note: If the Bobcats offered Augustin and Tyrus Thomas to the Timberwolves for Derrick Williams, Luke Ridnour and Wayne Ellington, wouldn’t Minnesota at least think about it? Augustin does everything Rubio doesn’t and is insurance in case Ricky falters. Tyrus gives the Wolves a high flying presence who can block shots and throw down alley-oops – exactly the things that neither Williams nor Kevin Love can do. Minny sheds Ridnour’s sketchy contract while the Bobcats get back a scoring PF who they could add to the Kemba-Biyombo-Henderson foundation. It’s worth a shot. Plus Williams could play Boris Diaw’s thinner, younger brother on a Tweener Forward Sitcom.

Until Next Time, Stay with the Plan Bobcats Fans…

-ASChin

Waiting for The Next Good Hand

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Although we’ve seen a lot of huffing and puffing recently from Bobcats fans and local media, the team’s latest stretch of road beat-downs and lackluster efforts shouldn’t be so hastily bundled into last month’s Gerald Wallace salary dump (cue Abraham Lincoln voice) “for this was their path all along.”

You see, there’s a very good reason why the Charlotte NBA franchise dropped five consecutive road games to solid Western Conference teams and that reason is that the Bobcats aren’t very good. They aren’t good without Gerald Wallace and they weren’t good with him. They were simply adequate.

But they were tearing up the league once Sugar Bear Silas took over,” you contend. Yes, they were putting notches in the win column but the vast majority of those wins came against the lowliest of Eastern Conference opponents and most of the quality victories came at home. To “beast it” in the Association, a team must be able to not only beat good teams at home but also occasionally on the road and, most importantly, must do both of these things consistently. *

Combine the Bobcats lack of talent with the early season Larry Brown-orchestrated funk, the loss of Tyrus Thomas and the unexpected lights-out play of Philadelphia and Indiana and you can see why Michael Jordan pulled the plug. A seasoned gambler looking at these Playoff odds would fold and wait for the next hand. That’s exactly what MJ has done and while it might not be pretty now, the ‘Cats are in a much better position long-term to be relevant.

ROSTERBATION NOTES:

-It’s been a pleasure watching Gerald Henderson go through the ups & downs of a young starter. Some nights the guy looks like a keeper and on others he looks rather lost. His jumper is still not as consistent as it needs to be and I’m hoping that he and his family enlist a specialist to work with him on the skill during the summer. The athleticism that Henderson leans on so much now won’t be there in six or seven years. Hopefully Gerald fulfills his potential as a Kobe-lite by rounding out his skill-set over the next few offseasons.

-I don’t think it’ll be too difficult finding a taker for Boris Diaw’s expiring contract if he puts up a few more performances like the one he did against the Clips last evening. My gut (pun intended) feeling has always been that Boris is simply bored with Charlotte and the systems in place. He’d be much better off in a more metropolitan city. Moving him this summer (along with one of the first rounders acquired in the Wallace trade) would put the Bobcats in the position to take on a max-level star via trade or signing for the first time in a very long while.

-In my opinion, Jordan’s rebuilding plan was hinted at the day the team extended Coach Silas’s contract for next season. It was a clear move to the coach that the blame for the team’s struggles wouldn’t be placed exclusively on his shoulders. Unless the ‘Cats can recruit top notch talent to come to Charlotte this summer, the team will most likely struggle for another season as they build their young nucleus of players for a successful run in ’12-’13.

-ASChin

*Let’s go ahead and call it “The Dallas Test.” The day that the Bobcats go into Big D and scalp the previously unscalpable Mavericks easily on the road, they’ll have made the jump. Until then, they’re either bad or not good enough.

Gerald Wallace Traded To Portland? Updated X3

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A Potential Dark Day In Bobcats History

So, the internet rumor reporters are spreading the word that the Charlotte Bobcats have nearly completed an agreement to trade Gerald Wallace to the Portland Trailblazers. The reports vary about what the Bobcats will receive in return.

We can only hope that the team will bring in some type of player that will outweigh the backlash that Jordan and Co. will face upon sending Wallace, an entertaining and respected fan-favorite, off to the Northwest.

Links To The Rumors :

HoopsWorld.com Report

NBC Sports – ProBasketballTalk Story

Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski Reports via Twitter

-Mike

UPDATE:

The barrage of rumors this afternoon were not followed by any confirmation, and now we have it on good authority that the Portland/Charlotte talks for Gerald Wallace are, in fact, dead.  The Bobcats will not be sending Wallace to Portland for Joel Pryzbilla’s expiring contract in a salary dump.

Around 6:00 PM ET, we began seeing Tweets from various reporters that the deal was “not done” and that others had “jumped the gun” in reporting it as nearly done.  Then word spread that Gerald Wallace was present and accounted for at an autograph session the Bobcats held this evening for season ticket holders (DJ Complete breaking news AND rockin the party!), making it highly unlikely that anything was going down tonight.

And just after 9:00 PM ET tonight, Rick Bonnell posted that the talks are indeed dead.  I’ll note again, as I have before here, that Bonnell is careful and conservative when it comes to addressing stories like this.  If he says it’s dead, it’s dead.

The implication here is that GM Rod Higgins was authorized to shop Wallace, but that Michael Jordan nixed this particular trade as the talks got serious.  Maybe that frustrates teams looking to deal with the Bobcats — remember how public and how far along the talks with the Raptors (Diaw/Calderon) were this offseason before the Cats pulled away?  But if Jordan gets a reputation as Mr. Cold Feet for nixing bad trades, then so be it.

The fact remains that Wallace and/or Jackson and/or Diaw are available, and that the Bobcats are considering dumping salary.  But apparently they won’t make a bad trade just to do so.

-Dr. E

UPDATE #2:

Just as I was set to post this, here’s Mike Cranston via Twitter at 10:30 PM ET:

Talks between #Bobcats and #Blazers still ongoing. Lot of scenarios being discussed.

So much for “dead”.  Look for this to go right up to the deadline Thursday at 3:00 PM.

-Dr. E

UPDATE # 3

2/24/11  – 4:30pm EST

Well, it looks like this morning’s report from the Observer gave us some hope that Gerald Wallace wouldn’t be moved by the deadline.

Then, this news pops up on ESPN.com – Gerald Wallace to Blazers

-Mike