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.

Bobcats Shut Down Streaking Nuggets

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Charlotte Bobcats vs Nuggets, 12/8/09

Can We Please Take This Show On The Road?

The Bobcats played perhaps their best game of the season on Tuesday night at the Cable Box in defeating the Denver Nuggets 107-95.  AP story here, box score here.  The Bobcats improve to 9-11 (8-3 at home) while Denver falls to 16-6 and has their four-game win streak snapped.

This was a well-played, fun-to-watch, close game that was played at Denver’s pace.  The stars were out as Carmelo Anthony went for 34 points and 7 rebounds, while Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace paced the Cats with 25 apiece.

The game was tied at 87 with 5 minutes left; the Cats went on a quick 8-2 run at that point, highlighted by two tough buckets by Raymond Felton.  The Nuggets were on the ropes at that point, but the Cats didn’t completely put them away until Stephen Jackson drew a shooting foul on Carmelo with under a minute left.  Carmelo eventually drew a tech for arguing the call, and Jackson hit all three free throws to extend the lead to nine.

The Nuggets missed the toughness of Kenyon Martin, who is out with a dislocated pinkie, and were a bit road weary after coming in from Philadelphia last night; but this was still an important win over a very good team.

I mentioned Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace scoring 25 points apiece above, but both stuffed the stat sheets in other ways:  Wallace had 16 rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block to stuff the stat sheet.  Better yet, the home crowd is starting to take notice of Gerald’s herculean effort on the boards this year, cheering the individual rebounds.  Jackson had seven rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals.

Raymond Felton played another strong game with 14 points (6-7 FG, 2-2 3PT) 3 assists vs 1 turnover, and 6 steals, while Nazr Mohammed continued his strong play off the bench with 15 points (9-10 FT) and 5 rebounds.

It remains to be seen whether the Bobcats can parlay this strong showing into some road wins this weekend.  The Cat are abysmal on the road (1-8) and have a dreaded Texas back-to-back coming up: San Antonio on Friday night, Dallas on Saturday.  While neither the Spurs nor the Mavs are as fearsome as they’ve been in the past, both are still formidable.

Bullets

  • DJ played 12 minutes after logging DNP-CDs in the previous two games.  It wasn’t the scintillating bounce-back game I was hoping for, though.  In his first half stint, DJ was outplayed and frankly bullied by Ty Lawson.  DJ’s stint in the second half was slightly better.
  • Roy Williams was in the “Bob Johnson Seats” again to watch Lawson.  And the Bobcats, I’m sure he really loves the Bobcats, too.
  • Tyson Chandler, in his 9th year in the league, apparently still does not understand what does and doesn’t constitute a foul.  He is an absolute magnet for picking up off-the-ball fouls, often when setting screens on offense or trying to play post defense.  The offensive ones are particularly troubling, because the Bobcats just can’t afford to give up possessions like that.  He can’t stay on the floor due to the foul trouble (only 13 minutes tonight), which is well and good, as the team looks better with Nazr in the post anyways.
  • The Cats were 31-37 from the free throw line tonight, with 3 players (Wallace, Jack and Nazr) all hitting at least 8 free throws.
  • The Bobcats get some love from Hollinger’s Playoff Odds Formula, which debuted on Tuesday and is currently projecting us as the 6th seed.
  • Is this the year that Gerald Wallace becomes the first Bobcats to make the All-Star team?  If he can maintain his status as the league’s leading rebounder (tough with Bosh and Howard nipping at his heels) there’s no way they can deny him, right?
  • I’ve got a couple extra tickets to the Saturday, December 19th game against the Jazz — good seats, too.  I’ll be giving them away via Twitter sometime this weekend, so you best be following me.
  • Next game is Friday night in San Antonio, 8:30 PM ET start.

-Dr. E