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.
Chapter III: Prescription B (Not for the Faint of Heart)
Alright. We’ve made it this far. First I stated the problem. Next was an easy and elegant solution. Now we go all in.
1. The Bobcats are capped out before re-signing Tyrus Thomas or Raymond Felton.
2. Team needs more consistent play from the PG position, more scoring from the low post, and more scoring in general.
3. Team has no draft picks and few assets outside of their core players to trade in order to improve.
On the evening of June 24th, the Washington Wizards will select Kentucky PG phenom John Wall with the first overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft. It’s a no-brainer. After trading away stalwarts Antwan Jamison, Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler during the season, the Wizards are marching confidently along the rebuilding path. Wall will step in and immediately be the team’s poster boy for the future. With one timely drop of a ping pong ball, things suddenly look rosy in the District. There’s just one small, $80 million, gun-brandishing problem. His name: Agent Zero.
Step 1. Charlotte trades Boris Diaw, Nazr Mohammed and Gana Diop to Washington for Gilbert Arenas, Javale McGee and a first round draft selection (2012).
The Wiz are posturing something ridiculous about having Gilbert move to the off-guard position in anticipation of John Wall. Uh, yeah. Does anybody really think that Washington wants The Outlaw anywhere near their new Savior? Sure, taking on a poo-poo platter of Diaw, Diop and Nazr while giving up a potential star in McGee and a high draft pick would suck but let’s face it, having Arenas anywhere near the Wiz bench pretty much negates any new excitement that Wall would bring to the team. Gilbert is a 28 year old Point Guard with $80 million dollars left on his contract who was just released from a halfway house and has had three knee surgeries in the past three seasons. If somebody is willing to take a guy like that off their hands AND save the organization $35 million in the process, you gotta make the move, right?
So why would I propose such a trade for the Bobcats?
First off, let me just say that Gilbert is a PR nightmare for certain but if Charlotte fans were willing to accept Stephen Jackson (y’know, the guy who charged into the stands and attacked fans only to later one up himself by unloading a gun at a strip club), then I think we can deal with a some of the Arenas quirkiness from time to time.
Secondly, well, there’s quite a few positives so let me just list them:
1. Bobcats get to unload The League’s Worst Contract a.k.a. Gana Diop a.k.a. Black Shrek.
2. Diaw’s exit clears space for Tyrus Thomas to start.
3. Team replaces Raymond Felton with an electric scorer (and, when motivated, an underrated defender) in Arenas.
4. Javale McGee is one of the League’s best offensive prospects at the Center position.
5. The draft choice that the Bobcats receive would recoup the one that the team traded away in the Tyrus Thomas trade.
6. The trade would save the Bobcats over $3 million in cap space next season, allowing the team to add depth via free agency.
Obviously, the biggest drawback to the trade is long term money. Gilbert will be 32 years old when his deal expires in the summer of 2014 (see chart). He’ll be paid over $22 million for that season alone. Ouch. Yeah, the numbers are ugly. The move is overly aggressive and could either propel the team deep into the Playoffs (if Arenas stays healthy and focused and McGee develops) or could cripple them for the next three seasons. MJ is known as a gambler, I think he’d be inclined to make the move.
Step 2. Charlotte Re-Signs Tyrus Thomas.
Same as in Prescription A. Three years, $18 million sounds about right. A starting spot might pique his interest in returning.
Step 3. Sign a backup Power Forward.
As discussed in Prescription A, possible low-cost candidates include Drew Gooden or Kris Humphries. I like Humphries potential.
Step 4. Fill out the bench.
Arenas’s scoring abilities sort of negates the need to bring back Flip Murray. The team could go in another direction here and sign a veteran “pure-playmaking” PG in the mold of Eric Snow as well. Theo Ratliff has at least another year in him and could serve as a mentor to McGee and Ajinca.
The move is ballsy. Could a volatile nucleus of Arenas, JAX, CRASH, Tyrus and one or two of their youngsters (most likely McGee and Henderson) be enough to propel the Bobcats into contention in the East over the next few seasons?
The risks are HUGE. Zero could play another stupid prank or blow out his knee(s) again. Jax could unload one of Gilbert’s guns in a public place. Crash may wonder openly why he’s the only sane person in the locker room. The team would be capped out until 2013.
But take a look at the depth chart going into next season:
If the ‘Cats can win 44 games with last year’s squad then upgrading via Arenas and McGee while having Thomas and Chandler (contract year) for an entire season could very well propel the team to 50 plus wins and home court in the first round of the Playoffs. The team would also have enough draft picks and young prospects on the roster to make a move for a veteran during the following summer if they so choose and make a run for local favorite (and certain turnstile mover) Seth Curry after he completes his second and final year at Duke in the 2012 NBA Draft.
As for Prescription C, I’ve decided to save that one for later. Let’s see how the Draft and the early days of free agency play out first.
In part one of my Capped-Out Cats column, I soberly laid out the current Bobcats salary cap situation in order to highlight the tight financial quarters which the team currently operates under. We as fans cannot realistically prognosticate the team’s ability to improve itself without first having a realistic understanding of what it is up against. Or, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put it, “Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.”
Thus far we’ve identified the team’s salary situation (nearly capped out with two key free agents yet to re-sign) and we’ve established the team’s needs moving forward into next season (starting PG, traditional low-post presence, bench scoring). The challenge is to find a way to accomplish them both:
Step 1. Charlotte trades Boris Diaw to Chicago for Kirk Hinrich.
Can’t think of a more eloquent trade for both teams. The Bulls currently employ only six players, three of which are starters (Deng, Noah and Rose) and will be making a run at one of the top free agents in the League this summer (potentially Lebron James or Joe Johnson). Diaw starts for the Bulls immediately (or is the team’s sixth man in case of a Bosh or Boozer signing) and allows Derrick Rose to play off the ball in certain situations. Also, Diaw and Hinrich have nearly identical contracts (Boris is due an extra million in ’11-’12) and nearly matching PERs (Hinrich: 11.61, Diaw: 12.80).
For Charlotte, the deal nets them a tough defending starting point guard without having to go over the cap to sign one on the open market. While Hinrich isn’t going to any All-Star games, he’s at least Raymond Felton’s equivalent (especially in the five seasons proceeding Derrick Rose’s arrival) and is big enough at 6’3” to move over to shooting guard for a few minutes a game when needed. Hinrich isn’t a pure point in the mold of a Steve Nash or Chauncey Billups but won’t need to be on a team that runs its offense through shooting guard Stephen Jackson.
Again, the overwhelming positive of this trade is that it allows the Bobcats to maintain a player of comparable quality at the point without having to add a dime to the payroll.
Step 2. Re-sign Tyrus Thomas.
At current market value, I can’t see Tyrus commanding anything north of 3 years $18 million. The Hinrich trade makes re-signing Tyrus much easier by a.) allowing the team to match a poison pill offer should another team extend one and b.) freeing up a starting spot for Thomas – thus making the idea of returning to Charlotte that much more enticing. A best case scenario would have Tyrus sign an incrementally escalating deal (see chart below) that would start at $5.5 million.
Step 3. Sign or trade for a backup power forward.
After making the moves for Hinrich and Thomas, the ‘Cats will have a little less than $4 million to sign a free agent backup PF. The team is in desperate need of a low post scorer who can battle for rebounds down low. At this price point, there’s not a lot of options. One could be Drew Gooden, who signed a one year partially guaranteed $4.5 million deal with the Mavericks last summer and was traded to the Clippers midseason for his efforts. A two year deal (either fully or partially guaranteed) at $7 million might get his attention. A more under-the-radar prospect would be New Jersey’s Kris Humphries who impressed often on a bad team. Humphries is a beast of rebounder down low (averaging almost six and a half boards in twenty minutes of action) and is a bit of a black hole when he gets the ball in the low post. Basically, he’s the anti-Boris Diaw and that sort of style could mesh well with Larry Brown’s Bobcats.
Another option for the Bobcats is to add power forward depth via trade. While I don’t like the idea of the team trading away expiring contracts in this Prescription, one such deal could have the team ship off Nazr Mohammed and the last remaining year of his contract ($6.8 million) to the Sacramento Kings for bruiser Andres Nocioni ($6.8 million in ’10-’11, $6.6 in ’11-’12).
The negative in this scenario would be adding another mid-level salary contract year for a mediocre player in 2011-2012 but Nocioni’s toughness and ability to play both forward spots combined with the cost savings of making a cap neutral trade might swing the Bobcats into making the deal. Add in the fact that the ‘Cats could then use the remaining $3.5 million on re-signing veterans Flip Murray and Theo Ratliff to minimum deals and the trade could provide much more than it costs.
In this Prescription, the Bobcats manage to re-sign Tyrus Thomas, add a comparably talented starting Point Guard in Kirk Hinrich, find a low post bruising backup forward in Andres Nocioni and make good on last year’s mistake of trading away Flip Murray. Amazingly, they could do all of this while CUTTING SALARY (nearly $2 million) from last year’s payroll while keeping all of their young players (Augustin, Ajinca, Henderson and Brown) and key veterans.
Hello Baseliners — no rest for the weary. After a crazy trade deadline day, we’re already looking ahead to Friday night’s big matchup with Lebron, Antawn, Shaq and the Cavs at the Cable Box. I’ll be there, Tweeting live from the game as long as the arena’s WiFi plays nice with my phone.
The Cavs lost at home in overtime to the Nuggets on TNT Thursday night to end their 13-game winning streak, so they’ll be looking to start a new streak on the second night of a back-to-back. Antawn Jamison did not suit up for the Cavs on Thursday night, but is expected to be activated for the matchup with the Bobcats.
In addition to seeing the big game, you’ll also have the chance to check out our Gerald Wallace “SarcophaCrash” t-shirts on Friday night, and even pick one up at a discount if you’re so inclined.
I’ll be bringing a handful of t-shirts and will be outside the arena early from about 6:00 to 6:30 PM. Look for me to the left of the big crush at the main entrance with the lines and ticket scalpers. I’ll be a little further around the building, close to the season ticket holder’s entrance, sporting the t-shirt.
With shipping, the t-shirts end up being around $28 via the website here. In person, they’ll be $25, so you’re saving a few bucks — please bring correct change. See you there.
Last but not least, here’s a few more links to wrap up the trade deadline madness from Thursday:
ESPN.com’s John Hollinger breaks down all the trades and hands out grades. As with most (all?) of Hollinger’s stuff, it’s “Insider-Only.” He gives the Bobcats a B+ for the Thomas deal and a C for the Ratliff trade.
KC Johnson from the Chicago Tribune talked to Tyrus Thomas on his way out of town; Johnson passed some further, unused quotes from Thomas on to Rick Bonnell, who’s posted them here.
On a wild NBA Trade Deadline Day, the Charlotte Bobcats swung a deal to get the elusive athletic power forward that Larry Brown has been pining for all season.
The Cats have obtained Tyrus Thomas from the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Ronald “Flip” Murray, Acie Law, and a future first round pick.
I touched on Thomas in an earlier post; the knock on him is immaturity/lack of consistency. More specifically, Thomas is infamous for “mental lapses.” This makes him an interesting match with Larry Brown, who demands near-perfection and is a stickler for detail.
Most players in a Larry Brown system take awhile to “get it,” going through a process of assimilating everything before eventually settling back down and really showing improvement. However, not all players respond, so this will either be the best thing that happened to Tyrus Thomas or a spectacular disappointment.
If Thomas does work out, it will be interesting to see what happens with Boris Diaw. As we’ve watched Boris since he’s been a Bobcat, it’s clear that he’s struggled this season while playing with Steven Jackson. Last year, prior to Jackson’s arrival, more of the offense ran through Diaw as he was able to utilize his “point-forward” skills.
Could Thomas eventually start, allowing Boris to move to the bench as a sixth man? It’s not a perfect solution to the Jackson/Diaw conundrum, as Jack plays so many minutes that it’s inevitable that Diaw will play with him some. But this way you could maximize the time that Diaw is on the court with the offense running through him, and not Jack.
Furthermore, we’ll be watching to see what happens with Thomas in the offseason (and Diaw, for that matter). The Cats will be in pretty much the same boat with Thomas as they were with Raymond Felton this past offseason. Thomas will be an unrestricted free agent, which means any other team will be able to offer him a contract starting at a qualifying offer of $6.2 million. The Cats would then have a right to match.
But even with all the cap space out there, would any team in their right mind offer Thomas a contract for that much? Might the Bobcats be able to sign him to a more reasonable deal instead?
Here’s looking forward to seeing Thomas in action for the first time soon; we don’t have any confirmation yet, but one would assume that the Cats will be trying to get Thomas suited up for Friday night’s tilt with the the Cavs.
That’s enough about Thomas for now, here’s a quick breakdown of what the Cats gave up to get him:
Acie Law was thrown in to the Stephen Jackson trade to make salaries match and because Larry Brown is perpetually auditioning “third point guards.” However, Law had already been a bust in Atlanta, wasn’t getting any playing time in Golden State, and couldn’t break into the Bobcats rotation either.
The few moments that Law did get off the bench were primarily garbage time; even then he looked hopelessly overmatched. His shot wasn’t falling, he didn’t seem quick enough, and didn’t show any real confidence or “game-managing” ability.
The one significant chance that Law got was in a December matchup against the Knicks in NYC. Down 2 with seconds left, Law was inexplicably inserted into the game. Furthermore, the play was drawn up for Law to get the ball on the final play — he took it coast-to-coast and forced up a layup that never really had a chance and was easily swatted away by Danilo Galinari to seal the Knicks win.
I would be willing to bet that Law will be out of the league and playing overseas next year. He’s just not skilled or athletic enough to make it in the Association.
For Chicago, he simply represents a $2 million expiring contract as they clear room to make a splash in the Lebron/D-Wade/Bosh/Joe Johnson free agency sweepstakes this summer.
Ronald “Flip” Murray
Flip is the definition of a journeyman in the NBA. The Bulls will mark Flip’s 8th NBA team in 8 years. It isn’t exactly clear why this hired gun can’t stick anywhere or get a long-term contract. Offensively, he’s an above-average, sweet-shooting, somewhat undersized 2-guard. Though ballhandling and distributing are not his strengths, he can slide down to the point in a pinch. This is how he’s been able to carve out a career in the league.
Defensively, he’s below average, due to his size and lack of elite quickness and athleticism. This fact probably comes the closest to answering why Flip has, and will continue to have, a journeyman’s career.
Flip was signed to a bargain 1-year $1.9 million deal by the Bobcats prior to the season and was a good fit. After sitting out several games to start the season, Flip joined the lineup and frequently provided a much-needed scoring punch off the bench.
He is currently averaging 9.9 points per game — exactly his career average, too — but is not shooting as high of a percentage as he had in the past. Nonetheless, he will be missed. While the Bobcats blogosphere is undoubtedly hopeful that DJ will step up and Gerald Henderson might even see some playing time, the safe bet is probably on Steven Graham filling in for the bulk of Flip’s minutes.
Ultimately, he was included in the trade from the Bulls’ perspective because he is on a one-year/expiring deal, but Flip will probably play an important role for the Bulls the rest of the season. Remember, Chicago traded away John Salmons for more cap relief, so they have a hole at the 2-guard spot.
The Future First-Round Pick
This one is probably the hardest to part with. As we’ve said over and over here at the Baseline, the best way for a small-market team to jump-start a run at a championship is to hit a home run with a first round pick (the Spurs and Tim Duncan are probably the best example, here).
But under Larry Brown, the Bobcats are clearly going about business another way. And with Michael Jordan’s disastrous track record at making draft selections, maybe it’s a good pre-emptive strike to trade away picks for young veterans anyways.
Let’s remember a few things, though. First, the Bobcats already owe a first-round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves; second, you cannot trade away your first round pick in consecutive years and third, it’s not yet clear if there are any further conditions on the pick used in today’s trade.
The initial pick we have to give up was traded to the Denver Nuggets in the summer of 2008 (for their #20 pick in that draft, which we used on Alexis Ajinca — that’s a whole other story); the Nuggets have since moved it in another deal and it now is the property of the T-Wolves.
The pick is protected somewhat; last year it was protected if it was in the lottery, so we got to use it on Gerald Henderson. This year it is only protected if it’s even higher, like a top 8 or 10 pick (Note: not exactly sure on that). Whatever the case, barring a total collapse by the Cats, it looks like our first round pick this year will be the property of the T-Wolves.
So, given the rule about not trading away your first round picks in consecutive years, the earliest that the Bulls will get our pick in exchange for Ty Thomas will be 2012. That’s a little scary, as Larry Brown will probably be gone by then, and who knows what the roster will look like. It’s entirely conceivable that the Cats could return to the lottery by then and desperately need some help in the draft.
UPDATE: No sooner than I posted this and sat down for some dinner does Rick Bonnell come through to confirm that the future first-round pick owed to the Bulls for is indeed protected. The exact nature of the protection is still unclear, but it is assumed to be similar to the protection that is attached to the pick that we currently owe to the T-Wolves (the exact nature of which is also unclear, but whatever…).
So much for Rick Bonnell’s guess that the Bobcats wouldn’t be participating much in the trade deadline madness today.
After completing the Tyrus Thomas deal (initial post here, more analysis still coming) and engaging in talks about a DJ for TJ Ford swap, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting, via his Twitter feed, that the Bobcats have obtained shot-blocking veteran center and Larry Brown favorite Theo Ratliff from the San Antonio Spurs.
At the time I write this, all we have is Woj’s initial Tweet. We have no idea who (or what) the Bobcats are giving up — or even really if this trade is official.
Ratliff is a 14 year veteran of the league after being drafted by the Pistons in 1995. He had his glory days in the late 90s/early 00s with the Philadelphia 76ers and then Atlanta Hawks, respectively. With the Sixers, the tough and defensive-minded Ratliff was a favorite of then-coach Larry Brown.
However, in the midst of his best season (2000-01), while averaging 12.4 points and an astounding 3.7 blocks per game, Ratliff suffered a season-ending wrist injury and was traded to the Hawks for Dikembe Mutombo. The Sixers would go on to make the Finals with Allen Iverson as the centerpiece in one of Brown’s finest coaching achievements.
As his career has wound down in recent years, Ratliff has become a true journeyman, playing for the Blazers, Hawks, then Blazers again, Boston, Detroit again, Minnesota, then back to Philly. Ratliff was humorously dubbed “Theo Ratliff’s Expiring Contract” by ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons due to all of the trades, rumored and otherwise, that Ratliff was a part of in recent years.
This year, he was signed by the Spurs to a one-year deal for 1.3 million. Though he still appears to be in great shape, he’s only appeared in 21 games for the Spurs, averaging less than a bucket, but still one block, per game.
For Charlotte, this clearly means that some of the very recent injury concerns among the bigs are significant. Tyson Chandler has been battling foot/ankle issues since last season that appear to still be problematic, Gana Diop has a sprained knee that may keep him out for two weeks, and Nazr’s been bothered by back spasms this week.
Phew! On the heels of the Tyrus Thomas trade, rumors started flying via NBA insiders on Twitter a little after 2 PM ET that the Bobcats were in discussions with the Indiana Pacers to obtain guard TJ Ford for DJ Augustin.
Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski was all over it via his Twitter feed, quickly following up that the proposal had expanded to TJ Ford + Brandon Rush for DJ + Nazr Mohammed + Gerald Henderson.
This seemed to me like grand larceny for a guy who was pretty much deemed untradeable in recent months. Ford has fallen to third on the Pacers PG depth chart and was benched for all of January before breaking back into the lineup in February, presumably to audition for prospective trade partners.
We’ve watched DJ go through a brutal sophomore slump this year, and we’ve known for several weeks that the Bobcats were dangling him in trade talks. We’ve also watched Gerald Henderson struggle in limited minutes in this, his rookie season.
But to give up both these young guards PLUS Nazr Mohammed, who has been so solid in this renaissance season, sounded way off to me.
Fortunately, as the trade deadline loomed closer and closer, Wojanarski’s tweets seemed to indicate that the Cats were pretty far away from making this trade a reality. Finally, ESPN.com’s Chad Ford stopped the madness with a Tweet just a few minutes before the 3 PM ET deadline that the trade wasn’t happening.
The post-mortem from Wojanarski and Ford clearly indicates that the Pacers would have been ecstatic to get this deal done, while the Bobcats, not so much.
It’s unknown exactly what the Bobcats saw in TJ Ford or Brandon Rush, if anything. But the Pacers (along with several other teams including the Knicks and Celtics, reportedly) certainly see something in DJ Augustin. Maybe the Bobcats should take their cue, even if it’s just as insurance with Raymond Felton’s free agency coming this summer.
NOTE: I’ve long included TJ Ford on my “All-Sourpuss Team” of guys who play with a perpetual scowl and just look like they don’t enjoy playing basketball (along with Rashad McCants and Steven Jackson), so I was stunned to find snaps of TJ flashing his pearly whites so easy to come by.