Rich Cho Report Card | April 2013 Edition

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On June 14, 2011 the Charlotte Bobcats hired former Thunder and Blazer exec Rich Cho as general manager. His task: to transform a capped-out, going nowhere roster into a perennial Playoff contender. Nearly two years later, his plan has slowly but surely come into focus. Let’s take a look at each of the team’s major transactions and see how he’s fared.

YEAR ONE: 2011-2012 Season

Traded Stephen Jackson and the 19th overall selection (via Portland) for the 7th overall selection and Corey Maggette.

Just a few days into his tenure, Cho was able to swing a three team deal with Milwaukee and Sacramento to move up twelve spots and select Bismack Biyombo – an amazing feat considering that the only cost was downgrading from Jackson to Maggette. Great maneuvering but the jury’s still out on the pick. Biyombo is a classic project; a potential defensive stud who has made modest improvements at the offensive end. But have a look at the players Cho passed up to draft him: Brandon Knight, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Kenneth Faried. Long term it’s still possible that Biz’s future is as bright as any in the 2011 Draft – his progress over the next two seasons will determine whether the move was a whiff or a home run swing.

GRADE: B

Drafted Kemba Walker with the 9th overall selection.

Walker may not have prototypical PG size or elite court vision but so what? Kemba is a leader, an amazing scorer and a player who has shown the ability to improve. If the 2011 Draft were held over today, he might go Top 3 and certainly Top 5. Relative to all of the Bobcats’ past Draft blunders, Kemba has been an unmitigated success.

GRADE: A+

Declined to match Dante Cunningham’s 3 year, $6 million offer sheet (third year team option) from Memphis, signed Reggie Williams to a 2 year, $5 million deal.

As the Blazers’ GM, Cho traded Cunningham to the Cats as part of the Gerald Wallace swap a few months prior – a not so subtle hint that he wasn’t a fan of Dante’s game. Add in a late season Mecklenburg County cannabis bust and Cunningham was as good as gone. Sad really, because Cunningham’s replacements, Williams and Derrick Brown, amounted to little more than cap fodder during their time in the Queen City. Meanwhile, Dante has honed his pick & pop shooting/pick & roll stopping game from Memphis to Minnesota, establishing himself as a legit role player in the league. Still only 25, Dante would’ve given the Cats everything they asked of Hakim Warrick and more, serving as a great screen and pop guy for Kemba and solid rebounder for a team that has desperately needed one.

GRADE: D-

Traded the team’s 2013 2nd Round pick (32nd overall) to OKC for Byron Mullens.

I’m not going to eat Cho’s lunch for this one. As frustratingly inconsistent as Mullens has been, it’s doubtful the team would have acquired a more intriguing prospect in this year’s early second round. Byron’s body language might be the worst in the league and when his jumper goes, he’s basically useless but it’s not hard to understand the intrigue. Mullens is a legit 7 footer with size who can stretch the floor and who has vastly improved as a rebounder and post player. On the downside, he doesn’t even try on defense (unless you count watching your man gain position and then fouling as trying) and can turn into a Ben Gordon-level ball stopper on certain nights (MVP! MVP!). Still, big men with Byron’s offensive skills are rare finds and I expect the team to at least extend him the qualifying offer this summer.

GRADE: B-

YEAR TWO: 2012-2013 Season

Traded Corey Maggette to DET for Ben Gordon and future 1st round pick.

Depending on who or what the Cats get with the Pistons’ first rounder, this may go down as Cho’s greatest move. Sure, Gordon tried to sabotage the team and is due a truckload of money next season but between the pick and Ben’s massive expiring contract, the Cats could have enough juice to land an All-Star via trade should one become available between now and next February’s deadline. Add in the fact that Gordon actually played okay for the Cats this season (11ppg in only 20 minutes per) while Maggette limped through just 18 contests with Detroit and you could see how Cho would have trouble “humbling himself” after a deal like this. Win-win.

GRADE: A+

Drafted Michael Kidd Gilchrist with the 2nd overall selection.

Much like Bismack Biyombo, MKG’s greatest crime is that he’s a defense-first prospect in a league that hasn’t been able to properly quantify, much less fully appreciate that side of the ball. Glance at the box score and Kidd-Gilchrist looks like an obvious mistake at the number two pick. Bradley Beal and Harrison Barnes were so much further along offensively than nearly every Bobcat this season that it was impossible not to second guess Cho’s decision. But if you go back and watch the games closely, you’ll see something beautiful and rare: a 19 year old kid who made opposing wings work for their money. MKG rarely bites on pump or head fakes, he stays in front of guys with his hips rather than his feet and he blocks and rebounds at an elite rate (5th amongst SFs in blocks per, 6th amongst SFs in rebounds per 48 minutes). Gilchrist’s jump shot is beyond busted and his inability to space the floor will handcuff the team until he can develop that part of his game but long term, I think Cho made a solid pick. Defense is half of the game and MKG plays that half at an extremely high level.

GRADE: B

Drafted Jeffrey Taylor with the 31st overall selection.

Considering the guys drafted after him, Taylor was probably the right pick at 31. He shot a reasonable 34% from beyond the arc and 43% overall in limited minutes – not bad considering fellow Second Round “Three Point Ace” Kim English only managed 37% and 28% respectively. The organization sees him as a low cost “Three & D” prospect ala Danny Green, Thabo Sefolosha, etc. Taylor certainly has the size to pester perimeter players but unlike MKG, seems to bite on fakes and get caught out of position on drives (especially around the baseline). He’s also old for a rookie (turns 24 in May) and has a maddening tendency to travel before launching on a drive. All that said, I could see Taylor enjoying a long career in the league, especially if he latches on with a team like the Spurs or Thunder as a wing stopper going forward. He’s just not dynamic enough of a scorer to play big minutes for an offensively anemic squad like Charlotte.

GRADE: B

Extended then rescinded a qualifying offer to D.J. Augustin, signed Ramon Sessions to a 2 year, $10 million contract.

Another little offseason gem. Cho understood that small point guards who can’t finish at the rim have little value in the league, promptly ditching Augustin for the much more versatile Sessions. Ramon was a major reason the team started the season 7-5, adding another inside-out threat to couple with Walker on the perimeter. Charlotte’s point guard combination was one of the best in the league until Ramon went down with a late season knee injury. Only complaint is that Cho should have negotiated for a 3rd year team option – Sessions will hit unrestricted free agency in July ’14.

GRADE: A

Claimed Brendan Haywood via amnesty waivers.

The Bobcats continued their fascination with Dallas bigs by claiming Haywood off waivers for the measly sum of $2 million per over three seasons. Brendan will likely spend the last two years of the deal as Charlotte’s emergency center slash unofficial big man coach. A self-professed hoops junkie, Haywood will at the very least provide Biyombo, Mullens and company with a real NBA center to go up against in practice.

GRADE: C+

Signed Jannero Pargo, Jeff Adrien as mid/late season replacements.

Signing street free agents in the middle of the season are rarely noteworthy but both of these guys played hard and helped Charlotte grind out a few wins.

GRADE: B+

Traded Matt Carroll to New Orleans for Hakim Warrick; Traded Warrick to Orlando for Josh McRoberts.

Had Cho been able to skip the Warrick stage and grabbed McBob from the beginning the team probably would have won an extra 3-5 games and the move would’ve been an “A+++”. Still, the fact that Cho was able transmute a 13th man into a starting PF for twenty games can only be seen as a win even if the team is unable to re-sign McRoberts in July.

GRADE: A

-ASChin

@bobcatsbaseline

 UPDATE: At publication of this post, the Bobcats have announced that head coach Mike Dunlap has been fired by the team. As coach hirings tend to be decided by a combination of ownership, team president and general manager, I haven’t listed the Dunlap hire/fire amongst Cho’s transactions. 

Rosterpalooza ’13 | Version 1.0

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No Lottery Luck for the Bobcats

Here’s what the Rich Cho era’s taught us thus far:

1. Full on tanking only works if you absolutely NAIL the Lottery.
The easy part is when Kevin Durant falls into your lap. The challenge is in the mid-Lottery and late rounds, where you find and groom a Russell Westbrook or Serge Ibaka. Charlotte hasn’t done that.

2. Full on tanking without NAILING the Lottery = Toxic Reputation = Lost Opportunities.
Think Brian Shaw would’ve been a better coach than Mike Dunlap? Think James Harden is a slightly better player than MKG? These two missed opportunities are the direct result of the team’s lowly reputation. Desirable free agents, scouts and executives aren’t going to risk their careers in a situation doomed for failure.

Dispelling the Myth

“But we have to be bad to get good!!!” Eh, not exactly. Bottoming out for a year can sometimes work in a Duncan or Lebron Once-In-A-Generation Lottery but good organizations can find and develop guys like Roy Hibbert, Nicholas Batum, Paul Milsap and Ty Lawson late in the first round. “But we want to build a championship team, not a mediocre one!” Newsflash: Only eight franchises have hoisted a Larry O’Brien since 1984, averaging out to a “new” champion every 3.75 years. At this rate, the Queen City can plan on throwing a parade sometime after June 2095. In the meantime, the Bobcats/future Hornets should strive for the more modest goal of being consistently competitive. With name-brand free agents and coaches refusing to lower themselves to the Bobcats current level, maybe we should be saying “You have to be relevant to have a chance at being good” instead.

Two Assumptions

Before I begin the shameless public rosterbating, let’s set the ground rules.

1. The 2013 NBA Draft is superstar-free. Like all drafts, there’s probably a couple of All-Stars tucked away but the mass consensus is that there is no instant franchise changer this year.

2. Big name free agents won’t sign with the Bobcats unless they SEVERELY OVERPAY them. The team will have up to $20m in cap space with little to no chance of signing anyone that matters. Again, if you’re a name free agent and the money was equal (or even slightly better) why on earth would you put yourself in a potentially miserable situation?

So the Bobcats will enter the offseason with $20 million that nobody (of substance) wants and a Top 4 pick in a Draft with no superstars. How in the heck are they supposed to improve?


Bobcats Baseline Presents: Rosterpalooza ’13 – Version 1.0

Part I: The Draft

With the worst record in the league, the Cats are guaranteed to pick in the Top 4. The good news is that there are a few potential All-Stars (Marcus Smart, Ben McLemore, Nerlens Noel) and a few good starters (Otto Porter, Alex Len, Victor Oladipo), all guaranteed to be there when Charlotte picks. The bad news is that players like Porter and Noel basically duplicate what Charlotte already has in MKG/Biyombo so the organization better pray they score in the top two. For Rosterpalooza 1.0, we’re going to assume they pick 1 or 2.

The Case for Marcus Smart.

At one end of the Draft’s risk spectrum sits Noel, a seven footer with no real basketball skills coming off a major knee injury; at the other end a 6’4″, 225 pound, 19 year old point guard/artillery vehicle: Marcus Smart combines Russell Westbrook’s intensity and explosion with James Harden’s strength and handle, he has the potential to be an All-world combo guard in a league that caters to All-world combo guards. Like Westbrook coming out of UCLA, Smart’s shooting and court vision need work – which you can teach. What you CAN’T teach is Smart’s aggressiveness and size. He’ll figure the rest out. You can play him alongside Kemba Walker at the beginning and eventually transition Kemba to his perfect role of 3rd guard/6th man/Closer once Smart gets comfortable running the team. Boom. That’s a hell of a one-two punch.

The Case for Ben McLemore.

Imagine Ben Gordon if he were 6’5″, incredibly long and a plus defender. That’s Ben McLemore. He’s not going to put the ball on the floor and create but as a catch and shoot Ray Allen type, McLemore will open up driving lanes for Kemba and MKG, bust zones and double teams and roll off screens for set plays. AKA: all things Charlotte desperately needs.
VERDICT: McLemore’s elite skill (shooting) make him the slightly safer pick and yes, the Bobcats certainly could use some floor spacers but consider this: spot-up shooting is relatively cheap and fairly abundant – skip down to the free agent shooters list below to have a look – you don’t need to spend the 1st or 2nd overall pick in the draft on it. Most of all, Marcus Smart’s size and position could be franchise-defining. He could legitmately be the Westbrook of the Eastern Conference. You can’t pass up that opportunity. If he’s on the board, pick Marcus Smart.

RESULT: Charlotte drafts Marcus Smart, G Oklahoma State.


Part II: Trades

What’s the best way to fill up $20 million in cap space with quality players who wouldn’t sign with you otherwise??? Why, trading for them against their will, of course. But first, a little housekeeping…

$8,000,000.00 per season.

Amnesty Tyrus Thomas.

Like Thomas himself, this move is a no brainer – and also a litmus test. If the Cats don’t amnesty T-Time, we know that Michael Jordan isn’t serious about the team – which would work out just fine for us, we can all check out and follow the Heat, Celtics or Lakers like most NBA fans in Charlotte. That said, I fully expect Tyrus to be gone at the soonest possible moment. And to that I say, good riddance.

Trade Ben Gordon to Chicago for Carlos Boozer (and a little something extra).

A salary dump for the Bulls, shedding Boozer’s deal gives them big cap space next July to re-sign Luol Deng or another near max player. Even if Chicago refused to give Charlotte’s 1st round pick back outright, perhaps they’d be willing to tighten the restrictions to virtually guarantee the Bulls would never receive it in the Lottery. That may seem like small compensation for taking on Boozer’s final two years/$30 million but consider that:

A. The first year is only $2 million more than the Cats would have to pay Gordon anyway – a guy who has attempted to sabotage the lockerroom along with half the games he’s checked into AND…

B. Boozer’s skill set and position are exactly what Charlotte needs: rebounding and post scoring. Think of it this way, would you rather pay Al Jefferson $60 million over 4 years AND pay Gordon $13 million next season OR only pay Boozer $30 million over two? Not to mention that Boozer’s contract expires the very same July the Cats will need to re-sign Walker. Did I mention Boozer instantly becomes the best Power Forward in Bobcats history?

RESULT: Charlotte acquires PF Carlos Boozer via trade.

Trade Portland’s First Round Pick to OKC for Kendrick Perkins and Jeremy Lamb.

Perkins is a one-dimensional player overpaid by at least 40% and with the Thunder approaching the tax line, his final two years, $17.5 million will need to go. So why are the Bobcats giving up a first round pick to take him on?

One of the many photos of Kendrick Perkins squeezing a basketball really hard.

For one, Perk would help bring some real interior defense (as opposed to “defensive potential” defense) to a team that desperately needs to get better on that side of the ball. Again, his contract is perfectly timed with Bismack Biyombo’s extension so the team could make their decision after Biz learns a thing or two apprenticing under Kendrick (first lesson: “defense” is more than just trying to block every shot).

But the real prize here is Lamb. Charlotte gets a Ben McLemore without having to draft one. Long and rangy, Kemba’s former UCONN teammate, has vast defensive potential and can score off the dribble or in the mid-range game. Acquiring Lamb would allow Charlotte to let Gerald Henderson walk, replacing Hendo at around 1/6th the cost.
It’s a deal that nets the team two quality starters and all they have to give up is a mid-round pick and cap space nobody wants. Win-win.

RESULT: Charlotte acquires C Kendrick Perkins, SG Jeremy Lamb via trade.


Part III: Free Agency

Quick roster assessment after the moves:
Guards: Ramon Sessions, Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jeremy Lamb
Wings: MKG, Jeffrey Taylor
Power Forwards: Carlos Boozer
Centers: Kendrick Perkins, Bismack Biyombo, Brendan Haywood

There’s an obvious need for depth at Power Forward and you’d love to have a long distance shooter at the SF spot, thus…

Sign a Shooter.

Free Agent Gunners Available this Summer: Kevin Martin, JR Smith, Rip Hamilton, Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow, Nick Young, Carlos Delfino, Martell Webster and… RAY ALLEN HIMSELF! Who needs “the next Ray Allen” when you can get the original at a discount.

THIS IS ANOTHER REASON WHY YOU DON’T DRAFT BEN MCLEMORE!

Why not sign this guy?

All these guys can absolutely light it up from beyond the arc, all will be available in July and a few will come dirt cheap. Of the bargain gunners, I like Delfino. He’s 31 and probably has another season or two of quality game left. Carlos gives the team another ball handler who can play either wing positions and is an underrated defender who can absolutely stroke the 3-ball when he gets hot. He signed a one year $3 million deal with Houston last July, so another one year, $3.75 million overpay from Charlotte will probably get it done.

RESULT: Charlotte signs G/SF Carlos Delfino.

PF Depth.

Byron Mullens or Josh McRoberts? Do we even need to have this conversation? Josh McRoberts has been a perfect fit since his arrival. His abilities as a ball handler, floor spacer and playmaker have vaulted the former Dukie from the end of Orlando’s bench to Charlotte’s starting five. Two years, $7m should do the trick and you could even go three if the team was sold on him as their Nick Collison – Josh is amazingly only 26 years old.

RESULT: Charlotte re-signs PF/C Josh McRoberts.

Let’s Roster-Assess Once More:
Guards: Walker, Sessions, Smart, Lamb
Wings: MKG, Delfino, Taylor
PF: Boozer, McRoberts
C: Perkins, Biyombo, Haywood

That’s a quality 12 man roster that, depending on the young players’ development, could certainly challenge for a Playoff spot in the East and could be one of the Conference’s best teams for a decade. Check out the salary structure:

Nerd Numbers

In July of 2015, Charlotte could have up to $30 million in cap room. Some of the money will go towards re-signing Kemba but the team will have enough prospects and wins under their belt to lure the big name, max-players that they can’t today.

In the meantime, Charlotte goes into next season with:
+ An incredible young backcourt of potential All-Stars Walker and Smart, a veteran playmaker in Sessions and a major prospect in Lamb.

+ Gerald Wallace 2.0 (MKG) improving at the 3 spot with a change of pace ballhandler/shooter in Delfino to back him up.

+ A real deal post presence slash double-double guy in Boozer with McRoberts as a solid backup at Power Forward.

+ One of the league’s elite defensive centers (Perkins) mentoring a still young defensive prospect (Biyombo) with Haywood staying on as an emergency big.

+ Better protection on their 1st round pick owed to Chicago should Charlotte not make the Playoffs and a likely Lottery selection from Detroit still owed to them. They can use either of these picks on a young big to eventually replace Boozer/Perkins.


Part IV: The Final Step

Decide if Dunlap is the guy.

I don’t know the specifics of Mike Dunlap’s contract but it’s doubtful someone at his experience level has any guaranteed money in year two. Dunlap has done his best and is obviously someone who works hard and loves the game but this franchise must decide if he’s the leader this young squad needs or if the job is better left to a veteran coach like Jerry Sloan, Mike Brown, Nate McMillan or Stan Van Gundy: All of whom may find this much-improved Bobcats roster to be surprisingly enticing.

-ASChin
@bobcatsbaseline

Stay tuned for Rosterpalooza ’13 Version 2.0 aka “The Re-sign Gerald Henderson Edition”

Charlotte Bobcats Post-Trade Deadline Blueprint

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Byron Mullens, Kris Humphries and Ben McLemore are key Bobcats offseason targets

The NBA’s Trade Deadline has come and gone with the Bobcats keeping most of their 13-win roster intact. They are still young, they are still inexperienced and they are still pretty bad. There is reason for hope however as the team’s lack of major activity at the deadline essentially telegraphed the front office’s plans going forward. Let’s take a look at the potential blueprint:

First order of business: Roster Assessment (Now – May)

The Bobcats front office must determine what they have and what they need heading into the offseason.

  • PG: Kemba Walker is awesome. Ramon Sessions is very good. Next.
  • SG: Gerald Henderson becomes a restricted free agent in July; Ben Gordon enters into the final year of his contract.
  • SF: MKG is potentially awesome; Jeffrey Taylor is signed for two more seasons at around $800k per. Next.
  • PF: Byron Mullens becomes a restricted free agent in July. Tyrus Thomas is, well, let’s get to that later.
  • C: Bismack Biyombo is young, good at many things on defense, bad at many things on offense. Brendan Haywood is a cheap backup signed for two more seasons.
  • Jeff Adrien, Gana Diop, Reggie Williams and Josh McRoberts are expiring contracts.

Second order of business: Draft Lottery, 2013 NBA Draft (May-June)

The Bobcats have THREE different scenarios which they could explore heading into the draft, one VERY likely, the others less so.*
DRAFT SCENARIO ONE: Shooting Guard (80% Likely)
With Henderson looking for a big raise, the Cats could leverage the Class of 2013’s strengths by drafting his replacement. If Charlotte nets the 1st or 2nd overall pick, they’ll likely have a shot at Kansas guard Ben McLemore. If not, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo or UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammed would be the runners-up.
DRAFT SCENARIO TWO: Center (10% Likely)
The Bobcats determine Biyombo’s lack of offense outweighs his defensive potential and select either Indiana’s Cody Zeller or Maryland’s Alex Len.
DRAFT SCENARIO THREE: Power Forward (10% Likely)
The Bobcats get the feeling that Byron Mullens would rather play elsewhere or is looking for far more money than Charlotte is willing to pay. In this case, the Bobcats select Larry Johnson-lite, UNLV’s Anthony Bennett.
LIKELY RESULT: Charlotte selects Ben McLemore, SG Kansas.
(*I’m presuming Portland’s pick owed to Charlotte falls inside the Top 12, allowing the Blazers to keep it)

Third order of business: Pre-Agency, Free Agency, Offseason Trades (July)

FREE AGENCY Step one: Once the team has drafted a SG, they’ll attempt to find a sign & trade partner for Gerald Henderson, if only for the trade exception. Should the process become drawn out, Charlotte could opt to simply renounce Henderson’s rights, freeing up his sizable cap hold ($7.75m).
FREE AGENCY Step two: Enter into negotiations with Byron Mullens. Rich Cho has always been high on the artist formerly known as BJ, the question is how much is he going to cost. Anything less than $6 million per season is probably a bargain. More than $7.5 million is overpaying. 4 years, $26 million or 2 years, $13 million sounds about right.
FREE AGENCY Step three: Amnesty Tyrus Thomas. This will be a bitter pill for Michael Jordan to swallow as he’ll have to pay Thomas $18 million over the next two seasons to play for another team (presumably overseas or in another dimension) but removing T-Time from the payroll would put the Bobcats around $9 million under the cap AFTER signing their Top 3 pick and Mullens.
FREE AGENCY Step four: Aggressively shop for an All-Star or future Lottery pick using Ben Gordon’s expiring contract ($13.2m) and the $9 million in cap space. With the new CBA penalties for luxury tax payers, someone is likely to bite. For example: a Gordon for Carlos Boozer swap could alleviate tax problems for the Bulls and return Charlotte’s future 1st round pick owed to Chicago.  If this fails…
FREE AGENCY Step five: Absorb an expiring contract with cap room (ala Kris Humphries) and parlay both Humphries and Gordon into a very real $20-$25 million in cap room the following summer (July 2014). This prevents the team from overpaying UFAs this July when half the league’s teams will have cap space with few high-level free agents to spend their money on (aka overpaying).

 

Bobcats Salary Blueprint

Select Image to Enlarge the Chart

Re-Assess: Training Camp (October)

Worse case scenario, the Bobcats enter camp with:
PG: Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions
SG: Ben McLemore (or Victor Oladipo), Ben Gordon
SF: MKG, Jeff Taylor
PF: Byron Mullens, Kris Humphries
C: Bismack Biyombo, Brendan Haywood.
On the surface this is basically the roster they field today, behind the scenes however – between the draft picks owed and the unbelievable amount of cap space the team will have in July of ’14 (the year BEFORE they have to extend either Kemba or Biyombo) – the team could be setup for a near decade-long Playoff run. This is a far cry from where the roster was just two short seasons ago when Larry Brown left the team capped out with precious few assets.
Cheer up, Bobcats fans. It may take another 36 months but the team is on track to generate some serious Buzz for a very long time.

-ASChin

Bobcats Baseline Season 9 | Week 3 Recap

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Charlotte’s luck of catching injury-riddled teams finally ran out. Week 3 saw an elite Grizzlies squad, two probable Playoff teams (Milwaukee/Atlanta) and a desperate one (Toronto) trying to turn their season around – all at full strength.

The good news is that Coach Dunlap was able to keep his team playing hard even when things went bad. The Memphis game (84-97) never reached blowout status despite the Grizz’s massive talent advantage and the Cats had multiple chances to get back in it. Wins against the Bucks (102-98) and the Raps (98-97) came despite Charlotte being down late in the fourth quarter. Even last night’s home loss to the Hawks was (91-101) winnable late – until a rash of mental errors finally caught up to them.

Three Thoughts on the Week

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Byron Mullens Creates Bi-Polar People

We hated him. Then he started posting up and driving and we liked him. Then he went back to hoisting threes and fadeaways and we hated him again.
Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote a great feature on NBA Gunners earlier in the week which breaks down the importance of the high-volume/low efficiency scorer brilliantly (yes, BJ makes the list). See, the reason Mullens keeps chucking up shots is because, well, there’s really no one else on the team who can. The Cats desperately need a centerpiece to run their halfcourt offense through and “oh lord, it’s Byron” is the only man on the roster currently up for the job. Unfortunately, until the front office can find a suitable replacement, Mullens will continue to shoot like there’s no tomorrow.

We So Excited About Jeff Taylor

His three looks like its starting to fall regularly (5-8 over the last two games) and his on-ball defense is a thing of absolute beauty. Taylor hounded Demar Derozan all Wednesday night – so much that Demar “got up in his face” for a double-technical psueda-spat. I’d be frustrated too, Taylor hasn’t even learned to keep his hands up regularly yet still wreaks havoc against his covers. Offensively, he’s slowly but surely figuring it out. His release is still extremely slow (Mike Dunleavy, Jr. of all people swatted one of his jumpers); this makes him hesitant around the rim and on fast breaks where he hasn’t yet developed a feel for NBA-level shotblockers. Ultimately, I think he’ll figure this part out and when he does, the Bobcats are going to have a major question on their hands: There’s only 96 wing position minutes to go around per night. Taylor and MKG should play 65-70 of those. Gerald Henderson and Ben Gordon won’t be happy dividing up the rest and that’s before some of those SG minutes get eaten up by a Kemba/Sessions dual PG lineup. With Henderson in line for a big contract extension come July, don’t be surprised if Taylor’s excellent play translates into a Henderson trade between now and February’s deadline.

“We Need to be Bad” Nurtures a Culture of Losing

I keep hearing the old doctrine rehashed on Twitter, “we need to be bad – we can’t be this good this fast, we need more lottery picks! We trade for someone like Carlos Boozer and we’re mediocre again!!!”
Everybody, relax. Seriously.
1. If Lottery Picks equaled winning, the Sacramento Kings would have more banners than any organization in sports. Even better, the Bobcats themselves have had more lottery picks than nearly everyone else over the past decade. What did that buy them? A seven win season. Compare the number of Charlotte lottery picks over that time to San Antonio’s (10-1) or the Lakers (10-0). Just because one contending team in the past 25 years have built themselves entirely through the Lottery (OKC) doesn’t mean that’s the only way to do it.
2. “But free agents are overpaid and expensive!!!” Well, I have great news for you ladies & gents, there are other ways to acquire talent in the NBA! Also, not all free agents are overpaid. OJ Mayo is making $4 million this season and is in the top 5 in League Scoring. Carl Landry has been Golden State’s most consistent offensive threat on an identical contract. Our own Ramon Sessions has become the stabilizing force behind the team’s 6 victories yet is paid just $5 million over two seasons. Brook Lopez signed a max contract with the Nets over the summer but has been playing lights out and very well may be the best offensive center in all of basketball.
Also, ask Memphis fans how they acquired Zach Randolph. Or Marc Gasol. Or Mareese Speights. All via well calculated trades. And need I even mention all of the mid to late round draft picks who are/have been dominating the league: Ginobli, Parker, Ibaka, Kobe, Steve Nash, Al Jefferson, Josh Smith, Varejao, Ellis, Ty Lawson, et all. Then there’s Euro talent like Pekovic, AK47 and Shved that can be found every year. Fact is, there is MORE talent outside the lottery than in it – it’s just a little harder to find.
3. Finally, keep in mind that Charlotte still has high draft picks from Portland and Detroit owed to them. The Detroit pick in particular will likely be a top 10. Packaging one of these with their own to move up in the lottery is always a possiblity if worthy talent is there. In the meantime, the Bobcats need to build a culture of winning – with Kemba, MKG and Sessions, they may as well do it now, winning a Top 5 pick in a weak 2013 Draft isn’t much of a consolation.

-ASChin

Which Bobcat Will Be Traded? [November 2012 Edition]

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Introducing a new semi-regular feature on which Bobcats jerseys you should buy and which ones you’ll be able to catch on a discount rack.

GROUP ONE: NOT GOING ANYWHERE

Brendan Haywood
Haywood was acquired via amnesty waivers so can’t be traded until July but after that things get interesting. At just $2m per season, Haywood will be an extremely enticing asset – especially for a cap-constrained contending team in need of a solid big man. Haywood won’t be going anywhere soon but the story could change after the season.

Bismack Biyombo
His minutes may be down but don’t let that fool you, “Project Smack” is developing as planned. The moment Charlotte drafted Biyombo they knew it would take several years before the kid would know how to play. His on ball defense and shot-blocking are already near elite. Better rebounding and defensive awareness will come next. As one of the few Bobcats with star potential, Biz isn’t going anywhere.

Kemba Walker
If Walker isn’t an early candidate for league’s Most Improved Player, he’s certainly the team’s. Kemba is shooting nearly 10% better from the field than last season, playing more under control while maintaining the elite speed and ellusiveness that make him a tough cover. At this point, it’s tough to imagine the Bobcats trading Walker – his ceiling seems to be getting higher every game.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
He’s a stud whose relentless effort energizes his teammates as much as the fans. And he’s 19 years old. Next.

GROUP TWO: IF THE PRICE IS RIGHT

Ramon Sessions
Total professional. Call him The Chaperone – you just feel better knowing he’s out there with the kids. Currently ranking second on the team in PER (20.15), his $5 million salary over the next two seasons is starting to feel like a bargain. The Bobcats would only deal him if it brought back a considerable asset (prospect or pick).

Gerald Henderson
Four years into his career and I think we know what GH2 is all about: Tough, full-on effort defense (especially on-ball) and solid, complementary offense. His shooting has improved tremendously from where he began as a rook and we saw a few glimpses of long distance capabilities before he went down with a foot injury. All good news. But three factors put Henderson’s Bobcats future in doubt:

  1. He’s in the last year of his rookie deal, thus up for a raise. If his agent is asking for anything like Demar Derozan’s ginormous $40m deal, the Cats will almost certainly balk.
  2. One of the top 3 prizes in the draft is teenage SG sensation Shabazz Mohammed. ‘Bazz projects to be at Henderson’s level defensively but with a much higher offensive ceiling aka exactly what the Bobcats need.
  3. See the next guy on this list.

Jeff Taylor
It’s only been a few games so I don’t want to get too excited but in watching Taylor, you can’t help but think, “he looks like a younger, taller Gerald Henderson with better range”. Also he’s playing on a three year deal that pays out under a million per. If the choice is between Gerald Henderson and Jeff Taylor over the long haul, I’d bet on Taylor as the one who stays.

Byron Mullens
I understand the front office’s fascination. Really, I do. Floor spacing seven footer with three point range. Improved rebounder, potential post-up nightmare. The problem is that Toronto fans have gone through this same song and dance with Andrea Bargnani for nearly seven seasons. Tens of millions, hundreds of losses and an untold number of “f-bombs” later, Bargnani and the Raps are still a fringe Playoff contender and just a terrible team to watch. Mullens is up for a new contract in July, I’d love for the Cats to trade him beforehand – but I’m not holding my breath. Expect Mullens to be with the team all season.

GROUP THREE: TAKE MY WIFE, PLEASE TAKE MY WIFE

Ben Gordon
Friend of the Baseline (and Yahoo! Sports columnist) Greg Dinkin posed several “Ben Gordon to a Contender” trade scenarios via email. This was my response:
I’ve watched Air Gordon for five games now and realize exactly why the Pistons gave the Bobcats a lottery pick to take him off their hands:

  1. His official height of 6’3″ is high by at least an inch or two, making an already small SG even smaller.
  2. His handle is BAD. Gordon turns the ball over all too often when getting into the paint. He’s basically only usable as a perimeter player – and most useful off the ball in catch and shoot situations – yet he insists on having the ball in his hands and keeps driving. Go figure.
  3. Combine his handle with merely adequate court vision and you have a 6 foot dude who can only play SG.
  4. Defensively PGs run right past him and SGs shoot over him. His upper body is strong enough so SGs can’t post him up regularly but there’s a reason that Dunlap has had to implement so much zone D and Gordon is a big part of that.
  5. He makes a ridiculous amount of money. $11m this year, $12m next. That’s borderline All-Star money.

You absolutely can’t argue about his stroke though. He’s still one of the best shooters in the league and when he gets hot, can shoot a team back into the game. But as a specialty player who’s a major defensive liability (and who is paid like an All-Star) – there’s just no way the Cats are getting anything of value for him this season.

Tyrus Thomas
Bobcats fan Bradford Coombs via Twitter:
@drapht00: @bobcatsbaseline Tyrus is painful. Something just isn’t right in his head.
I honestly can’t think of a better way to describe him. With over $25 million due between now and 2015, don’t expect any bidding wars over T-Time’s services.

GROUP FOUR: MOST LIKELY

Gana Diop, Matt Carroll, Reggie Williams
Yes, these guys get their own tier. Aside from not playing much, you know what else they have in common? Expiring contracts. Diop and Williams have the most left in the tank – and I very much expect Reggie to be dealt by the deadline. He’s a good shooter and underrated scorer who would be playing a lot more if his skills didn’t overlap so much with Ben Gordon’s.
Diop’s cap number ($7m+) makes him a little harder to move but could come in handy in order to facilitate a larger trade in a three team deal.

Carroll is by all accounts an awesome individual but his future is more likely backing up Dell Curry in the broadcast booth than Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. Of the three, expect Carroll as the one most likely to stay.

UPDATE: Carroll Traded

Literally minutes after this column’s original posting, the Bobcats traded Matt Carroll to New Orleans for Hakim Warrick. The deal comes at little risk to the team as Warrick’s contract effectively expires in July via team option. In the meantime, Cats fans will be treated to a combo forward who could be best described as “Derrick Brown but not as good”.

–ASChin

Bobcats To Cut Derrick Brown, and Teammates

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Yahoo! Sports has posted a report that the Charlotte Bobcats will waive reserve Point Guard Sherron Collins, in addition to Forwards Derrick Brown and Dominic McGuire.

The team is set to receive veteran guard Morris Peterson and Forward D.J. White from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for veteran Center Nazr Mohammed (who holds an expiring contract). With replacements arriving at their positions, the Bobcats will discard the young talents of Derrick Brown( Forward) and Sherron Collins (Guard). While Derrick Brown showed a few glimpses of ability, the other pair of Bobcats rarely fit into the team’s rotation. McGuire was valued to previous head coach Larry Brown, but had made little impact after the coaching change.

While Charlotte sent fan-favorite Gerald Wallace on to a winning club in Portland and Mohammed to a contender in OKC, the team is set to cast off Brown, Collins, and McGuire in order to make room for the load of unimpressive ballers. It’s unknown if the team will retain or has plans to resign any of the waived players in the event of a retirement or buy-out of newly-acquired Center Joel Pryzbilla.

Link: Yahoo! Sports Story on Bobcats Trades

Injured Felton Hits Clutch Shot To Beat Wizards

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FELTON-GAME-WINNER

Raymond Felton – Swishes A Contract Year Shot

Charlotte slips by the Wizards 94-92 to return to .500 on the season.  AP Recap | Box Score

Despite injuring his ankle a day earlier in practice Raymond Felton was determined to play Tuesday night. The Washintgon Wizards probably wish he’d stayed on the sidelines in a suit. With just seconds left on the clock and the teams tied at 92-92, Felton handled the ball, drove left and stepped-back for a  jumper contested by Wizards guard Randy Foye. With the release of his shot, Raymond made sweet love to pressure – in front of the 7,000 or so fans at the arena, Michael Jordan, Alexis Ajinca, Stephen Jackson, and the rest of his teammates. The shot had put the Bobcats up 94-92, giving Felton’s agent a video clip to play on repeated loop while negotiating his deal with Charlotte this coming off-season. Washington was left with 1.9 seconds and a failed scoop shot attempt from Antawn Jamison before the buzzer sounded, their loss was official, and Rufus celebrated on the court for the last home game before the All-Star break.

Considering their recent woes, it was surprising that the Wizards showed some fight in this game. Both teams took turns making runs and neither club looked to control the game for more than a minute at any point in the contest. Washington’s big men are surprisingly good.  Jamison (16pts), Haywood (12pts), and Blatche (15pts) can all hit from the inside and work their way in the paint. Those skills proved to be a bit of a problem for Nazr Mohammed and Boris Diaw early in the game. Over the last couple of weeks, most Cats fans have become exhausted by watching Diaw pass up good shot attempts to find his teammates for lesser opportunities.  This game showed the kind of performance Diaw should aim for on a consistent basis.  Boris was able to knock down outside shots to help spread the floor for Charlotte, and he made smart moves without the ball for easy buckets around the rim. It should be noted that he even threw down a two-handed jam at one point!

Tyson Returns

Going into the game, the Bobcats made the decision to activate Tyson Chandler after the foot injury that had shelved him since late December.  While Tyson wasn’t the difference maker in this one, he showed that he can contribute to the squad. Some of his mistakes were more mental than physical, improperly switching on the Wizards high pick-and-roll to leave DJ or Flip guarding a big man in the paint. With the addition of Stephen Jackson, this team has found a better flow on offense and Chandler may have an easier time of finding his place in their pecking order as he returns to action at this stage of the season. During the second quarter, it was nice to see DJ work to find looks for Chandler. One one possession, Augustin slid past two defenders into the paint and had an open look at the rim. He chose to lob a pass for a Tyson throw-down rather his own score.  The crowd definitely appreciated those two points a bit more than a DJ layup.

Raymond Felton surely gets the player of the game for his toughness to suit up and hitting a mega-clutch shot to close the game.  Gerald has become so steady that his 17pts / 13 rbs seemed expected. He never took over the game, but he did pose a threat throughout each quarter. The Bobcats had 5 players in double digit scoring, led by Stephen Jackson’s 22pts. Ronald “Flip” Murray put in a strong offensive performance (16pts), and once more proved how much the team needed points from their bench.

Final Notes

Check out the blocky cartoon version of Crash on the Fan Face Off online video game! Also, there’s a new Gerald Wallace video about the Dunk Contest on NBA.com.

About the game – the Washington Wizards seem to hate each other. Maybe the team has rid themselves of the rumored divisiveness caused by Gilbert Arenas, but the guys don’t seem to enjoy each other one bit.  Like a married couple that everyone knows should be divorced, they had some great times a couple of years ago. They had some laughs in the past, but these days everyone can see that they despise each other.  Each party involved would be happier going their separate ways. Caron Butler, who took over the game during the fourth, doesn’t even stand near his teammates during the breaks in the game. Only a few players even got in the huddle to listen to Coach Flip Saunders (no relation to Flip Murray).  The Wizards need to bust this up and build upon the big men they have in place. Trade rumors have swirled around Jamison and Butler. From an outside perspective, it looks like this is the best time for those guys to leave.

Speaking of trade rumors – ESPN and The Charlotte Observer have posted speculation of trade talks with Boston on their web sites. Supposedly, there is some type of DJ Augustin for Glen Davis deal in discussion.  Additionally, the Observer’s Rick Bonnell reports that the Cats might be more inclined to deal with NY (Jordan Hill) or Chicago (Tyrus Thomas).

Let us know what you think about these possible trades.

-Mike