2010-11 Bobcats Season Preview: The Next Move?

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Baseline contributors DR. E and ASChin discuss their thoughts on the Charlotte Bobcats roster.

DR. E-

The Larry Brown era in Charlotte has been marked by frequent and often dramatic shakeups of the roster. His “grass is always greener” approach to evaluating other players (and other coaching positions) around the league relative to his own is well documented. By and large, this tendency has been welcomed by a Bobcats front office in need of some expertise/direction/chutzpah. Meanwhile, the fanbase has been encouraged as the transactions have resulted in short-term improvement and the team’s first playoff berth thus far.

So it’s fair to ask, how long until the next roster shakeup? And what positions/players are most likely to be affected?

ASCHIN-

This is clearly a matter of when, not if. Larry Brown has nearly turned the entire roster over in his three seasons and we know he’ll kvetch until he can’ts kvetch no more in order to work fresh blood into the lineup.

I can see the next few months going in one of two ways:

PATH I:

D.J. is actually good.

In this scenario, D.J. proves that his Preseason numbers are for real (14ppg, 4apg, 55%FG, 63%3ptFG in 28 minutes per) and successfully leads the team as a score-first, defense-extending long range threat. Shaun Livingston comes back from the knee injury aggravation and gives the team another look for twenty minutes a night. Larry deems the PG situation as being acceptable and decides to stay put until a favorable deal for a starting center comes along.

PATH II:

D.J. is actually not good.

In this scenario, Augustin either struggles with his confidence (or his shot) during the Real Season and/or stagnates the offense with his lack of playmaking ability. Coach Brown decides that the team needs a veteran playmaker and starts working the phones. There are a few guys out there who could be had. I’ll let DR. E take the first stab. Who are your PG candidates?

DR. E-

Well, first let me say that I think a third scenario is more likely. I think DJ will be OK — not really good or really bad. I think the Bobcats could struggle a bit out of the gate (as Larry Brown teams usually do) and we’ll be debating how much of the blame can be laid on DJ. The result of this scenario is the same as your latter scenario, though. Larry’s eyes will start wandering.

So let’s just get the biggest, most ridiculous possibility out of the way first. Gilbert Arenas.

Arenas has the undisputed worst contract in the league at this point (4 more years, around $80 million total). No one is sure whether his knees are going to allow him to play at a high level any more. He continues to behave very irresponsibly. He’s positively radioactive at this point and the Wizards know it.

Yet, I refuse to rule him out. I’m still intrigued. What if he keeps his mouth shut (except for the harmless, kinda entertaining stuff), looks healthy and plays well to start off the season?

ASCHIN-

I agree that they’ll struggle early – Brown has a tendency to do that as he sacrifices wins in order to figure out his team during the first month. I just hope that they don’t dig themselves into last year’s massive hole again.

As for Arenas, you know me, I’ve been writing about this for months. I just don’t buy the fact that Orlando would take on Gilbert’s $80 million and only send Vince Carter’s expiring contract back in return (as it’s being reported). The Arenas contract is a HUGE risk and the only way the Bobcats do the trade is if they send a bunch of dead weight (Diop, Najera, Carroll) back. Agent Zero would take a great deal of the offensive load off of Captian Jack and extend the defense in a way the Bobcats have never seen before. I don’t absolutely love the move but if you could drop dead weight contracts, then do it.

Let me throw something else at you that I’ve yet to see mentioned anywhere. Derrick Brown has looked very, very good this preseason and in Summer League. Is there a chance that the Bobcats trade Gerald Wallace at some point during the season or next summer to hand the SF spot over to the youngster?

DR. E -

Whoa! Slow down there, turbo. We haven’t even resolved the PG issue and you’re talking about trading the cornerstone of the franchise. We’ve heard in the past that the Trailblazers covet(ed) Gerald Wallace, and this offseason, CBSsports.com’s Ken Berger has repeatedly mentioned that Wallace is on the Nuggets short list of players they’d like to fill their SF spot should they trade Carmelo away.

But we’ve also heard that the Bobcats have no interest in doing so. Presumably because goal #1 for the Cats again this year is to make the playoffs. So the only way I could see Gerald being traded is if the Bobcats start the season so badly that the playoffs are out of the question and the team starts looking ahead to the post-Larry Brown future. Maybe that would dovetail with the Nuggets getting around to trading Carmelo and the Cats would get involved in multi-team trade talks again.

In that case, the Cats would be looking for what all teams look for when they trade away a star and look to the future: a mix of cap relief, young talent and draft picks. So in short, I don’t think the Cats would be able to trade Wallace and retool on the fly/stay in playoff contention. It would be an admission that the season is a wash, Larry Brown is checked out, and we’re looking to rebuild. It would also be devastating for what fanbase the Bobcats do have.

ASCHIN-

Perhaps I’m approaching this from more of a NFL GM’s point of view but if at some point the Bobcats could get similar production from a guy who is making $4 or $5 million a year (after his extension) and get back either a prospect at a position of need or a high pick, wouldn’t you at least consider it?

DR. E-

Yes, that would be very Belichickian, and yes, the thought would cross my mind if Derrick Brown came on like a house afire this year. But (/begin bleeding heart fan rant) Gerald Wallace means a lot more to the Bobcats than just his statistics at this point. Not only would the fragile relationship this franchise has with its fans be severely damaged, the team would also lose its quiet, steady locker room leader.

ASCHIN-

Enough about trading away the face of the franchise, back to the PG issue. I believe one of the main reasons Larry hasn’t pulled the trigger on a deal yet is that there simply aren’t a lot of players in 2010 that can do what LB wants in his point guard. Coach wants a high percentage shooting, smart passing, strong defending team leader who knows how to manage the clock and who prevents his team from settling for bad shots. There just aren’t many players in the Association built like that these days. One guy who WE KNOW fits the criteria is Chauncey Billups and I have to think that once Carmelo is dealt the Nuggs will move towards getting younger and cheaper. If Ty Lawson comes out of the gate as strong as he did in his rookie season, I could see Denver working the phones at some point. Question is, what do the Bobcats give up for him?

DR. E-

I guess it depends on what Denver would be able to get first in a Carmelo trade, so it’s hard to say. It would also depend on what they were wanting to do; i.e. blow it up completely by taking back expirings and draft picks, or rebuild on the fly to maintain some competitiveness. At the very least, they’d probably want a PG back (Livingston or Augustin?) and an expiring (Mohammed?) as part of the deal.

Another question is whether Chauncey would accept such a trade. Remember, he’s a Denver native and was probably hoping to end his career there. He’s implied recently that if Denver rebuilds post-Carmelo, he’d have a hard time not “playing for something.” So would reuniting with Larry Brown and coming to Charlotte to play for the 7th or 8th seed in the East be enough to play for? And would having Chauncey convince Larry Brown to stick around in Charlotte a little longer?

ASCHIN-

Guess we’ll have to wait and see how this thing plays out. Jordan has just gone on record with Rick Bonnell about the roster churn, saying that it’s “less likely to continue” this season. As an experience gambler, MJ continues to put on a good poker face. Expect something to happen soon.

What To Do with Dampier? – Part 2

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PLUS: Carmelo Perception vs. Gerald Wallace Reality

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MEgo-Mania© has again swept the Association with the latest contestent being none other than Johnny Sucker Punch himself, Carmelo Anthony.  Within hours of Ric Bucher’s ‘Melo scoop, the national rumor mill threw little old Charlotte a bone by insisting that the Bobcats were, in fact, a legitimate dark horse to land Carmelo due to his Brand Jordan ties and the Nuggs cap-strapped lust of Erik Dampier’s insta-expiring contract.  Immediately the internet was flooded with columnists, blogs and commenters weighing in: “What could the Bobcats possibly send Denver to pry ‘Melo away!!!???  Gerald Wallace and Damp’s expiring?  Throw in some draft picks???  Derrick Brown and Gerald Henderson too!  Maybe some cash?  And take back Kenyon Martin’s dead weight contract, yeah, that’d would at least make ‘em think about it!!!”

With Steve Austin making a comeback splash this summer in The Expendables, let me channel the spirit of Stone Cold in my response to this nonsense:

“Carmelo Anthony, what?  That mealy-mouth sonofabitch, what?  Couldn’t play lock-down defense on a Roomba, what?  Sucker-punchin’ yellow belly beady-eyed overrated idiot, what?”
(CUT TO: Stone Cold  Stunner on ‘Melo, Austin mocks an incapicitated Carmelo with a two fingered salute while wearing a black t-shirt and jean shorts.  WHAT?)

Someone please refresh my memory.  What exactly has Carmelo Anthony accomplished during his first seven seasons in the Association?  At least Lebron has been to an NBA finals.  Melo can’t even say that.  He’s a high-octane scoring dynamo, a one dimensional player who has a catchy name and often plays on national television.  Basically, he’s the new Vince Carter.  End of story.

Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie summed it up best in his Small Forward Rankings last month.  Ranking Gerald Wallace 4th and Carmelo 3rd, he writes:

I would have no problem (with) flipping (Wallace) with Carmelo Anthony on more than a few nights. Anthony’s offense is as good as Wallace’s D, but Wallace’s offense is so, so much better than Carmelo’s defense.

QUICK LOOK AT GERALD WALLACE (IN COMPARISON TO CARMELO):

  1. Only two years older.
  2. Costs half as much ($10 million average base versus ‘Melo’s upcoming MAX extension).
  3. Doesn’t dominate the ball.  Can score without having plays called for him.
  4. Plays outstanding man and team defense.  Best rebounding small forward in the league.
  5. Team leader who has the respect of the lockerroom.

So why would the Bobcats consider anything other than a straight swap of Wallace for Anthony?  Simple, Carmelo’s perceived value is higher.  Higher in the mind of the casual fan and higher in the mind of televsion executives who decide which teams get national broadcasts.  Mark Mainstream hears the name “Carmelo Anthony” and associates it with “talented.”  Again, ‘Melo is the new Vince Carter.  The Bobcats are still trying to lure in fans and establish an identity while trying to prevent another season of full-scale financial catastophe.  ‘Melo’s perceived value and name recognition could help.  I just hope the team doesn’t severely over-pay in order to get him.  Now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

DAMPIER SOLUTION PART TWO: TRADE HIM

If anything worthwhile has come out of these ME-lo rumors, it’s the fact that the billionaire Kroenke family has grown tired of dropping $20+ million in luxury tax payments to the league every year.  As previously mentioned, the Nuggets aren’t exactly lining the halls with Larry O’Brian trophies so cutting team salary this year (with the Lakers, Celtics, Magic, Heat clearly ahead of them) makes a lot of sense.  There’s been a lot of talk of a Chauncey Billups/Dampier straight up swap and I’d be all for it except for the fact that the ‘Cats are currently $8 million over the tax line and need to shed salary fast.  There’s no question that the Nuggets would pull the trigger on a trade that would save them $26 million this season but in order for the ‘Cats to make it happen, they’ll need to make another deal first.

SALARY DUMP OPTIONS #1 and #2

CLT trades Boris Diaw and a future first rounder & second rounder to MIN, NYK or SAC for a future 2nd Round selection.
OR
CLT trades Nazr Mohammed + D.J. Augustin to MIN, NYK or SAC for a future 2nd Round selection.

In order to get underneath the luxury tax, the Bobcats need to shed around $8.5 million dollars from their current payroll.  Fortunately, they might have a couple of ways of doing this in Boris Diaw (plus picks) or a Nazr/Augustin combo.  If I’m MJ, I’m on the phone with David Kahn right now whispering, “y’know, we have this young point guard prospect who we-“  KAHN: “Point guard Prospect???!!!  Did you say Point Guard?????!!!”

The Knicks might also be inclined to take on former D’Antoni favorite Diaw while gaining back a first round pick that can be used in the next decade.  (Although I would be a little concerned that the Diaw/Eddie Curry combo might do to IHOPs what Ewing and LJ did to The Gold Club in the late ’90s.)

In the following scenario, let’s say the ‘Cats find a taker for D.J. and Nazr (even if they have to throw in a protected future first), then…

CLT trades Erik Dampier to DEN for Chauncey Billups

The Bobcats suddenly accomplish both of their current offseason goals: Upgrade the Point Guard position and Get Underneath the Luxury Tax.  The team heads into the preseason with a relatively stacked roster.
StateOfTheRoster_Sept2010_TradeHim
Kwame and Diop would try to replicate last year’s Mohammed/Chandler/Ratliff center by committee while a now “huskier” Boris Diaw would rotate between the 4 and 5 spots when Coach Brown goes, uh, “small.”
Chauncey and Shaun Livingston give Larry Brown much bigger options at the point.  McGuire, Derrick Brown, Henderson, Tyrus Thomas plus Crash, Livingston and JAX give Larry Brown a metric ton of “long, athletic” wing players to do his magic with.
Bobcats Salaries Post - Chauncey Trade
From a cap perspective, the Bobcats stay right at the tax line this season while maintaining flexibility going forward.  Billups has a team option for the ’11-’12 season which will almost certainly not be exercised as the league goes into a lockout.  The Bobcats could use their leverage with Billups’ current deal to sign him to a three year contract extension at a much lower per year salary next summer.

IN CONCLUSION

A Billups for Dampier swap makes a great deal of sense for both teams as Denver could save tens of millions this season by promoting Ty Lawson and dumping Chauncey.  The Bobcats would likely cement their rise to the top 4 in the East this season by upgrading from Raymond Felton to Billups.  Hmmm…  What else is there to say?  Bobcats win and win big.

Until next time, Enjoy the Offseason Bobcats Fans.

-ASChin

What To Do with Dampier? – Part 1

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Mo Williams ©2010 NBA

Michael Jordan bragged openly last month that the team had acquired the League’s “most valuable contract” when they sent bust Tyson Chandler to Dallas in return for Erick Dampier and a couple of overpaid 12th men.  How valuable exactly?  MJ and GM Rod Higgins will have at least another month and a half to mull over the decision as they wait the mandatory 60 days before Damp, Eduardo Najera or Matt Carroll can be traded again in a package.

So what will they do with all of this “value”?
In order to answer the question, we need to first look hard at the team’s present situation.

Continue reading

Chandler and Ajinca Traded – Wow

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A Big, Unexpected Trade With Dallas

The Charlotte Bobcats have traded Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Eduardo Najera, Matt Carroll, and Erick Dampier.

Wow, this came out of nowhere. ESPN coverage here. Bobcats have posted a Release on their site, as well.

We’ll give this further analysis later today, but here are my first thoughts :

• Matt Carroll is back!
• Shaq used to call Erick Dampier “Ericka.”
• This has got to be a set up for another deal… Let’s see what’s next.

-Mike


POLL : What Should Bobcats Do With Erick Dampier?

  • Waive & Save $13 Mill
    (16%, 35 Votes)
  • Waive & Resign
    (12%, 26 Votes)
  • Trade For Point Guard
    (55%, 124 Votes)
  • Trade For Draft Picks (17%, 39 Votes)

Total Voters: 224

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Calderon/Evans for Diaw/Chandler Still Not Official (UPDATED)

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The three team trade that will reportedly involve the Bobcats sending Boris Diaw and Tyson Chandler to Toronto and receiving Jose Calderon and Reggie Evans is still not official as of Monday evening.  Bonnell is reporting that it won’t happen tonight, and cites the complexities of a three-team deal in regards to satisfying salary cap issues for the delay.  In a subsequent blog entry, Bonnell reports that the Raptors are causing the holdup and that there is still a chance the deal could break down.

The Phoenix Suns are also supposedly involved — sending Leandro Barbosa to the Raptors for Hedo Turkoglu.  Earlier versions of the story also had the Suns sending Dwayne Jones to Charlotte, which accounts for the “three team” and not “two separate trades involving the Raptors” characterization of the deal.

Here at the Baseline, we’ve been anticipating a trade of either Diaw or Chandler for a point guard, but I have to say, I’m surprised it took both of them to get back someone the caliber of Calderon.  Granted, the contracts have to match up (and Calderon has a big one — 3 years left at an average of $10 million per year) but I would have rather seen a smaller deal that sent Diaw away for a cheaper PG like Jarrett Jack, Ramon Sessions or even TJ Ford.

Getting Chandler helps the Raptors improve defensively and maintain an air of respectability this year while still being bad enough to miss the playoffs and get a lottery pick, then getting the cap space when Chandler’s deal expires to help their rebuilding project.  Frankly I would have rather kept Chandler to anchor the middle this year and used the cap space his expiring deal would provide next summer ourselves, but the Cats have essentially waived the white flag when it comes to being free agent players.

ASChin has already pontificated on Calderon in an earlier post; my take is fairly similar.  Calderon had a career year in 2007-08 while splitting time with TJ Ford at the point.  Calderon led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio while shooting over 50% from the field, 40% from 3PT, and 90% from FT.  As a result, the Raps traded TJ Ford away after the season and signed Calderon to the current fat deal he’s on.

However, Calderon (and the Raptors, for that matter) has struggled to meet expectations since.  He’s been hampered by injuries that have limited him to 68 games in each of the last two seasons.  Never a gifted defender to begin with, hamstring problems have rendered the Spaniard into a matador when it comes to defending quick opposing guards.  Toronto’s lack of interior defense didn’t help matters any.

Still, at his best, Calderon is a sharpshooting, efficient point guard with good size who excels at taking care of the ball and his teammates.  He’s not much of a playmaker, but under Larry Brown, the system will make the plays, not the point guard.  With Tyrus Thomas and Gerald Wallace on the court to provide help defense in the paint, his on-ball defensive deficiencies will hopefully be mitigated.

(UPDATED 11:55 PM ET)  Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski is now reporting that:

Charlotte owner Michael Jordan has had “second thoughts” on trade with Toronto and deal is suddenly in peril, league sources tell Y! Sports.

You mean I just wrote three paragraphs breaking down Jose Calderon’s career/game for nothing?!?!

-Dr. E

Diaw Trade Redux

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Wouldn’t you know it, my ISP was down for three hours just as the plot thickens.

The Observer’s Rick Bonnell, the Toronto Star’s Doug Smith and Slam online are all reporting that the previously confirmed Diaw trade will now include Jose Calderon moving to Charlotte.  There is also speculation that Tyson Chandler and his expiring $12.75 million dollar contract may be moved to Toronto as well.

UPDATE 3:11pm – Radio Reports (as well as the Sun) coming out of Toronto have backup power forward Reggie Evans and his $5 million expiring contract joining Calderon in route to Charlotte.  Coupled with Chandler’s departure, move would put the ‘Cats around $10 million below the luxury tax line for this season and approximately $8 million below the League’s salary cap for 2011-2012.

ANALYSIS (CALDERON): While I’m surprised that Larry Brown would approve of such a trade, the Bobcats will be bringing in a 28 year old (soon to be 29 year old) Spanish point guard who is not exactly known for his defensive capabilities.  Did I mention that this near 30 year old point guard is due an additional 3 years $30 million dollars on his current contract?
All that said, I actually like the move.  At 6-3, 210 Calderon has the size that the Bobcats have lacked at the position for years.  Jose has also ranked in the League’s top 5 in Pure Point Ratio – he has an extremely low turnover ratio (less than one turnover for every 15 minutes played for his career) and shoots at an exceptional percentage from both the floor and the charity stripe.

At first glance, Calderon is kind of an Anti-Felton.  Poor defender, great court vision, and a steady shooter who doesn’t turn the ball over.  It will be interesting to see what sort of success Jose has under Larry Brown, especially since he’ll be coming into the system this late into his career.  Still, Calderon’s strengths should make up for many of his short-comings – Bobcats fans will certainly see less unforced turnovers from the position next season – and his defensive liabilities will be masked somewhat by his teammates excellence at that end of the court.  Toronto didn’t exactly have any All-Defense candidates like Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson or Tyrus Thomas playing alongside Calderon during the past few seasons.

Post will be updated as more information is made available.

-ASChin

Twitter: @bobcatsbaseline

Diaw Shipped to Toronto for Cap Space

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We can finally put all that talk of Boris Diaw playing the point behind us.  The versatile forward will be shipped to Toronto to play for his former Suns boss Bryan Colangelo.

The Arizona Republic reports that Diaw will be heading to the Raptors in exchange for part of the Chris Bosh trade exception and journeyman (as well as former Bobcat) Dwayne Jones.  Jones would be first acquired by Toronto from Phoenix in a prior trade that would send Hedo Turkoglu to the Suns in exchange for Leandrinho Barbosa.

The trade as reported would save the Bobcats $9 million dollars in cap space this season and next while putting the team in prime position to trade for a starting point guard and fill out their roster without venturing into the luxury tax this summer.

ANALYSIS: After re-signing PF Tyrus Thomas to a 5 year $40 million contract last week, the Diaw move comes as no surprise.  Only a team with cash reserves like the Lakers spends $8 million a year on their backup power forward.  Expect Tyrus to start immediately.  Depending on how Tyrus’s contract is structured, the Bobcats are between $8 and $10 million below the League’s luxury tax threshold for next season of $70 million.  Trading Diaw will not only give the team the ability to find a quality starting point guard via trade this season but also allows the team to potentially pursue a max-type free agent next summer as they currently sit about $20 million under next year’s cap.

-ASChin

twitter: @bobcatsbaseline