Charlotte Bobcats Draft Retrospective | Part Three

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Part Three: ’11 and Beyond: From The Ashes, a New CHOpe

Having been so thoroughly fleeced in every trade and flummoxed in every Draft, Jordan & Higgins were at least humble enough to admit that they were clueless.

Just weeks before the 2011 Draft, Trailblazers general manager Rich Cho was fired after less than a year on the job. Blazers owner Paul Allen wasn’t thrilled with Cho’s “communication style” and decided to lay down the axe immediately. Portland’s loss was Charlotte’s gain as Jordan quickly hired Cho to run the Bobcats in the same capacity, “promoting” Higgins to President of Basketball Operations – supposedly due to his steller work as GM. The Cho hiring signified a major shift for Jordan as an owner and he deserves a great deal of credit for it. While Allen fired Cho for not being a “yes man”, Jordan sought out the strong-minded GM for the exact opposite reasons.

Cho’s pedigree instantly re-ignited the hardcore fanbase: armed with an accomplished academic resume in both engineering and law, Cho began his NBA career as a member of the Sam Presti-led Seattle/OKC organization during the mid-’90s. Cho was (and still is) regarded as one of the brightest front office minds in the game – an expert negotiator with a progressive approach towards talent evaluation via proprietary information gathering and advanced statistical analysis. The man’s resume was impressive but the task ahead of him – rebuilding an asset starved franchise – was monumental.

Kemba Walker Illustration by Mike S

The 2011 Draft: Bismack Biyombo C Congo, Kemba Walker PG UCONN.

Cho made an impressive pre-Draft move just weeks after being hired, somehow upgrading from the 19th overall pick (via Portland) to the 7th spot for the slim price of “downgrading” from Stephen Jackson to Corey Maggette. Armed with picks 7 and 9, Cho went the traditional route, nabbing a big man and a point guard to begin the re-building process.

How It Played Out: After two seasons it seems that Kemba Walker has All-Star potential. Whether he gets there or not depends on the front office surrounding him with some legitimate NBA talent. On any given posession Walker has been the team’s best offensive option; to pass to a teammate has been mostly a perfunctory exercise as no Bobcat outside of Gerald Henderson has managed any sort of sustainable scoring. We know that Walker can run the break, we know that he can get to his spot as well as anyone, we know that he’s a leader. Kemba has the heart to get to the next level but he’ll need help along the way. Regardless, he’s already become the Bobcats’ best draft pick since fellow UConn Huskie Emeka Okafor and for this franchise, that’s a bonafide win.

Bismack Biyombo illustration by Mike S

Then there’s poor Bismack Biyombo. Unlike his NCAA Champion “Thunder & Lightning” classmate, Biz entered the league as an extremely raw 19 year old project. He needed consistency, patience, veteran guidance and attention. What he got was a lockout shortened training camp, three coaching staffs in three years, an unearned role as starting NBA center and the youngest, worst roster in the NBA. Yet, through all of this, Biyombo has improved. Ironically, given Cho’s background in advanced stats, Bismack’s advancements are better evaluated with the naked eye than the spreadsheet. During Biz’s sophmore campaign we witnessed the following: at least three step-back jumpers (including a ridiculous call-off fadeaway on Thaddeus Young), dozens of baby hooks over both shoulders, vastly improved footwork, aggressive putbacks and transition buckets. Biyombo even learned how to go straight up for a dunk off the catch – did he even record a clean catch during his rookie season? Don’t get me wrong, Biz is still extremely limited offensively. The maddening habit of bringing the ball way down after an offensive board is still there. But between the elite defensive flashes, the intellect, the youth (Biyombo can’t legally order a drink until August) and the work ethic, we might be looking at an NBA All Defensive First Teamer in the next few years.

How It Should Have Played Out: As nice as Cho’s inaugural Draft was, he did miss out on a couple of gems. Passing on Kawhi Leonard once can be forgiven (thirteen other teams committed the same sin) but passing on him twice? Selecting Leonard with the Biyombo pick would’ve freed up Charlotte to take Andre Drummond the following season, giving them a nice Leonard/Drummond/Walker core going forward. Cho also passed on smooth shooting Klay Thompson, the crazy energy of Kenneth Faried and do-it-all center Nikola Vucevic. But ultimately, when measured against the team’s lurid Draft history, none of these gaffes even register. A solid first Draft for Rich Cho and a solid start to the rebuilding process.

GRADE: B-


The 2012 Draft: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist SF Kentucky, Jeffrey Taylor SG Vanderbilt.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Illustration by Mike SHow It Played Out: When you build from the ground up, you need everything. Cho’s second Draft was all about solidifying the foundation, regardless of current skill level or position. After losing the Anthony Davis sweepstakes, the Bobcats ended up with whom many believe to be the leader of the 2012 NCAA Champion Wildcat team, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. His rookie season played out much as everyone expected. The shooting wasn’t there yet – opposing defenses needed only to protect the paint when MKG and the rest of his brick-laying squad came to town – but the on-ball defense, rebounding and transition offense were at times stellar. Kidd-Gilchrist achieved these modest feats despite being the youngest player in the league (he won’t turn 20 until September) and while playing for the league’s least credible coach (yet another Higgins catastrophe – but that’s another topic for another column). It was MKG’s relentlessness and work ethic that made him the obvious pick for a franchise in need of a massive culture shift.

With the first pick in the second round, Cho nabbed another defense-first wing stopper in Vandy’s Taylor. Armed with tremendous physical size for his position and a solid stroke from long distance, Taylor provides an intriguing “three & D” combination at the two guard spot. He’ll need to improve his handle to thwart close-outs but the defensive intensity is there. This guy could be a legitimate Danny Green-type player in two years.

How It Should Have Played Out: Given his age, it’s still way too early to second guess the MKG pick. Harrison Barnes or Bradley Beal would have immediately provided the spacing and scoring the Cats desperately need. Andre Drummond has the imposing size and hops to be a Dwight/Amare hybrid if he can kick the injury bug. Damian Lillard’s ceiling may have already been reached but he’ll remain one of the league’s top point guards nonetheless.
Regardless of how it all plays out, the 2011 and 2012 Drafts represent a massive shift for the franchise. Cho’s Drafts demonstrate a measured strategy and philosophy. The Bobcats are now in the business of drafting hard-working, uber-athletes with great attitudes and sky-high upsides. Two years later, we still don’t know if the strategy works but, for the first time in franchise history, we at least know there is one.

GRADE: B-

-ASChin


Up Next: The 2013 Draft – The Final Draft in “Bobcats” History!


POLL : Best Bobcats Draft Pick

  • Emeka Okafor (9%, 27 Votes)
  • Kemba Walker (62%, 188 Votes)
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (11%, 32 Votes)
  • Raymond Felton (4%, 13 Votes)
  • Gerald Henderson (14%, 41 Votes)

Total Voters: 301

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Dunlap’s Dilemma

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It’s late at night. Way too late to still be awake, but you just can’t sleep. These kind of nights are something of an addiction for you. You work harder than nearly anyone you’ve ever known, and that might just be the only reason you’ve got this job. You’ve let yourself dream about getting here. You should be proud of how far you’ve come. But that’s not you. You outwork your problems. There will never be an opportunity to grant yourself the rest you need.

You let the weight of your failures settle for the night, just details lost in the darkness. It’s time to rest, but there’s that sound. There’s always that sound. The steady, deliberate pace only gets louder and louder against the silence of the night. As if someone is turning the dial just to drive you mad –  Bounce. Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.

No Coach Dunlap, that’s not your favorite R. Kelly track looping in your mind. That’s your insubordinate, disrespectful, and arrogant offensive weapon trying to undermine your authority. His intentional disregard for your position only strikes harder each time the ball hits the hardwood court in your mind. No, it’s not going to stop. You can’t even make it stop. You question your abilities, you question your profession, and you question yourself. You’re powerless.

“You need to humble yourself.”

Those words resonate in your head. All you can do is close your eyes, undoubtably envious of Tyrus Thomas and the calm pond of bliss that ripples around through his skull.

-Mike

Reference Links:

Ben Gordon Incident – Adrien Wojnarowski

Tyrus Thomas Salary Info – HoopsHype.com


POLL : Most Overwhelmed Bobcats Rookie

  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (35%, 57 Votes)
  • Jeff Taylor (11%, 18 Votes)
  • Mike Dunlap (51%, 82 Votes)
  • Jeff Adrien (3%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 162

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Bobcats Mid-January Recap

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It’s been a little while since we’ve posted any recaps on Bobcats Baseline. Sure, plenty of excuses could be made for this. Really, it all comes down to a downturn in enthusiasm. It might be impossible to accuse any Bobcats blogger of being a fair weather fan, but this team sure does make it tough. December  was a pretty dark month, as the Cats only one 1 of their 20 games. So, the new year will be my time to re-energize or spirits and express some loose thoughts on the current state of the Charlotte-based club that we wish wasn’t so terrible at professional basketball.

Let’s Look at the Positives

Um, there are some positives right?

Gordon for Three!

We can celebrate the fact that the Cats have 2 more wins than all of last season! How about that for improvement. Actually, let’s be grateful that we no longer have to see Corey Maggette on the court. His ability to make basketball unwatchable has perfectly suited all of the teams that have paid him so much money. Now, we get Ben Gordon – gettin’ hot and doin’ Ben Gordon thangs. Oh, and we should be happy that none of the important guys have suffered any serious injuries so far this year, either. Don’t try to tell me that Byron Mullens’ counts as important.

Let’s give Mike Dunlap some credit. He worked hard to install a defensive attitude to this team all throughout training camp. While that’s not actually shown any on-court results for the Bobcats, he has a fine excuse for the team playing offense like a YMCA pick up game. Well, maybe they could use at least one player that could score in the half-court offense. But, that’s a whole other story for another day. Realistically, Dunlap gets credit for the way the team has kept up their effort. They might not look or play like winners, but they’ve fought and hustled through nearly every game this year. No one is hanging their heads despite their collectively horrible record.

Bright Spots

So, it’s been awesome to watch Ramon Sessions step on the floor and perform like a professional at every opportunity. He seems to do all that’s within his ability to give the team what it needs when he’s on the floor. Teams like the Spurs have 7 or 8 guys like this. The Bobcats have about 1.5.

Byron being ineffective

Remember when Byron Mullens was often the focal point of the Bobcats’ offense? Ugh. I know some folks like the unconventional, and seeing a 7-footer hitting long range shots sure was appealing. But Byron was failing at nearly every other aspect of the game. He’s no Dirk, and his teammates were punished for just about every minute he was on the court.

Now, we’ve got this weird platoon of Tyrus Thomas, Hakim Warrick, and Jeff Adrien. Where do you start with this squad. If we throw Byron in this pile, we still get one of the weakest performing collections of power forwards that the league will see for a long time. But I’ve got to admit that it’s fun to watch Jeff Adrien. His game is so old-school, and it’s great to see a D-League guy perform when he gets the chance. This might be one of his only seasons in the NBA, so let’s enjoy his stable, predictable style of ball. His game is so much more palatable than the 2013 Tyrus Thomas Jumpshot Clinic & Dribbling Exhibition.

Hmmm

What’s up with Gerald Henderson? He comes off the bench and seems pretty quiet these days. Somehow he always ends up in double digit scoring, and finds a way to never take it to the rack. I remember when jumping was one of the easiest things for him, and his shooting was shaky. By starting Jeff Taylor, I get the feeling that the Bobcats are feeling out what life without Henderson is like. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him traded or heading elsewhere this summer. Personally, I like his game a lot, but he might have a better role on another club.

One-half of Thunder & Lightning

Wasn’t Bismack Biyombo supposed to get better? Out of all of the discouraging comments that the Utah Jazz broadcast crew spouted during their game, there was one that stuck with me. Continually, they stated their opinion that the Bobcats were loaded with athletes that weren’t actually basketball players. You could probably say this most accurately describes two of the Cats – Tyrus Thomas and Bismack Biyombo. Potential and “development” were the themes we heard when Bismack was drafted. Right now, it’s starting to seem a little unrealistic to expect much from the kid. Let’s hope that he maintains his work ethic and the team provides him with everything he needs to grow and understand basketball at a pro level. Maybe they can keep Tyrus around as a cautionary example for him. “Hey, Bis – you don’t want to end up like that guy.”

As I mentioned, I caught the Jazz-Bobcats game on NBA League Pass last night and it was quite a treat to hear the Utah broadcast team’s opinions on Charlotte’s team. Most times, I enjoy hearing an alternative to Charlotte’s homer duo of Steve Martin and Dell Curry. Usually, the other teams have a very balanced and straightforward play-by-play guy and some awfully unintelligible color commentator that provides a good deal of exclamatory oohs and ahhs. The worst of these might be Dominique Wilkins. Check out an ATL game sometime and you’ll enjoy listening to how bad he is at his job. Last night, the Jazz team had a pair of absolutely sober guys that continually bashed the Bobcats performance, roster, and organization. To add insult to injury while the Jazz piled on a barrage of unanswered points during the 3rd, the color commentary dude just went on an unprompted and disconnected tangent about how he “didn’t know what this club can do” and mentioned how Charlotte was such an exciting place for basketball back when “there was the Hornets and Alonzo Mourning…”  Ouch.

Let’s hope Charlotte can start to turn this thing around. We can’t let Mike Dunlap get the Paul Silas Blues. Things look to change over the next couple of years – David Stern will step down, the Hornets could be back, Gana Diop will retire, Tyrus Thomas should be gone, and Kemba might be good enough to threaten to take his talents to South Beach.

Go Cats!

-Mike 


POLL : Should Charlotte Trade Gerald Henderson?

  • Absolutely (43%, 30 Votes)
  • Only for a Great Return (51%, 36 Votes)
  • No Way (6%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 70

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Two Trades to Add Frontcourt Scoring and Rebounding

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charlotte Bobcats Salary Forecast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-ASChin

Eight Ways To Win Without Actually Winning – Part 1

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Bobcats Baseline 2012-2013 Season Preview

While the Lakers, Thunder and Heat fortify championship contending rosters, while the Pacers and Clippers set their sights on Playoff success and while the Warriors and Bucks attempt the leap from Lottery to postseason, the Charlotte Bobcats will aspire to a comparatively modest set of goals for the upcoming season.
Coming off an infamous seven win campaign, the team will not only strive to become more competitive but will look to further develop a long and grueling rebuilding project. Good news for the fans: The project is moving along nicely.

Win #1. The Return of Tyrus Thomas

Tyrus has replenished and re-nourished himself after last year’s celebutante crash diet, notching a couple impressive performances during the Preseason. A reinvigorated Tyrus would do wonders for the organization. The team owes him $26m over the next three seasons and with Andray Blatche having been amnestied by Washington, “T-Time” has become the league’s worst, most untradeable contract. The Cats would be forced to use their own amnesty clause on Tyrus if he continues to regress and one could only imagine Michael Jordan’s reaction to paying out $18 million on a player not even on the roster.
WIN SCENARIO: Tyrus proves last year a fluke and returns to previous form, cementing his place in the starting lineup by averaging a double-double and upping his trade value in the process. Amnesty, amnestied.

Win #2. Henderson & Mullens Prove Their Worth

Next July may seem like an early Christmas for GM Rich Cho, who will be pleased to find an extra $13m or so in cap space under the tree. The pygmy albatross contracts of Gana Diop ($7.3m) and Matt Carroll ($3.5m) will finally come off the books as will now redundant shooter Reggie Williams ($2.6m). But all will not be so simple. Cho could find a potential lump of coal in his stocking in the form of the team’s two restricted free agents: Gerald Henderson and Byron Mullens.
Henderson is coming off of his best season as a pro, establishing himself as one of the league’s better defensive two guards and a competent scorer. The problem? Try defining the ideal two guard in the modern game:
He is either

  • A.) a dynamic scorer of adequate size capable of both drawing fouls in the paint and stretching the opposing defense at the three point line (Eric Gordon, D-Wade) OR
  • B.) a dynamic, long, rangy defensive stopper who can punish defenses in transition and nail the corner three (Thabo Sefalosha, Avery Bradley).

Henderson doesn’t fit either of these molds. He’s closer to Wade than Thabo in stature but doesn’t have Dwyane’s scoring ability. And he’s not a three point threat (career high 47 attempts last season with only 11 hitting pay dirt). So either Henderson will need to add a deadly long range shot to his game or he is simply a decent starter on a bad team. Add Henderson’s cap hold ($4.3m) to Cho’s war chest and suddenly the Bobcats are in the market for an All-Star caliber shooting guard should the opportunity arise. If OKC stumbles in the Playoffs again, look for James Harden as a real possibility here.

Former Thunder first rounder Byron Mullens is another question mark. The seven footer looked the part of a young Dirk Nowitzki for two weeks last season until the advance scouts took notice. Still there were enough flashes in March and April to entice should the artist formerly known as BJ improve his matador defense and expand his offensive repertoire. (As it stands now, Byron’s best shot is Coach Dunlap’s least favorite: the long two.)
WIN SCENARIO: Henderson and Mullens either break out into potential All-Stars (unlikely) OR improve enough to be used as trade chips for an actual All-Star caliber player like James Harden (less likely) OR improve and re-sign with the team for reasonable money (most likely).

Win #3. Kemba Ascendant

Kemba Walker’s rookie campaign was a trick or treat sack of the tasty (surprisingly solid D, great handle) and the gross (dribbling by himself for 15 seconds of the shot clock, forced fadeaways) — Kyrie Irving he was not, but to blame this entirely on Kemba given the team’s severe lack of talent and coaching seems myopic. Coach Dunlap’s proposed fast-attack system is custom designed for Walker to exploit. No other Bobcat (and few others in the league) can get to their spot like Kemba; a reliable floater and smoothed out stroke could likely elevate Walker into Ty Lawson territory. However the season plays out, the Bobcats must determine if Kemba is their point guard for the long haul.
WIN SCENARIO: Kemba improves his shot and court awareness; takes sole possession of the starting gig by midseason and never looks back.

Win #4. The “O” in Biyombo

Biyombo lived up to his billing last season, putting the “smack” in Bismack while generally disrupting things on the floor for opposing offenses. The Congo teen sensation single handily made an all-time terrible team worth watching with his tenacity and enthusiasm on the defensive end. Never mind Biz couldn’t finish two feet from the basket or that he practically forced his co-workers to play 4 on 5 at their end. Those things could be looked over in a strike-shortened tank-fest (sans training camp) but Biyombo must further develop his game if the Bobcats expect to build something from this mess.
WIN SCENARIO: Coach Dunlap has asked Biz to be more than a one dimensional shot-blocker and Biyombo has looked a bit lost in the expanded role. He’ll need to continue to work towards a consistent short range game and further taps into his limitless potential on D. Charlotte has few difference makers on the roster. Bismack could certainly be one.

To be continued in Part 2…

-ASChin

High Ceiling, Low Results

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Will Tyrus Thomas Ever Figure It Out?

High draft picks are NBA gold. Score enough of them and even the most dysfunctional of franchises can attain relevance. Smart executives covet them like Gollum on a Ring binge, parting with their own about as easy as Chuck Heston lets go of a Smith & Wesson.

Which brings us to Tyrus Thomas. Turning just twenty-six years of age next month, Thomas has already cost two franchises high draft picks (Chicago’s #2 overall in ’06, Charlotte a likely lottery pick in ’14) and may well be on his way to costing the Bobcats another if management deems the $24 million remaining on his contract too big to amnesty. The ‘Cats desperately tried to unload him during the draft, dangling their highly coveted number two overall pick as trade bait but couldn’t score a single worthy bite.*

In retrospect, they shouldn’t have been surprised. This was the same player who would run a self-imposed, one man fullcourt press on routine inbounds plays. Who would regularly sky high for an offensive rebound then immediately follow it with a twenty-foot-hand-in-his-face fadeaway. Who forced a gentle old man into an act of unmistakable violence. Quirky personality? To say the least.

Fluke or Freak?

Thomas seemed to take training queues from Christian Bale’s “Machinist” last offseason, stripping his body down to skin and bone — it was a sight rarely seen: An NBA veteran showing up to camp underweight. Thomas struggled to guard anyone stronger than Austin Daye, played most of the truncated season out of position as a small forward and generally stunk it up whenever he was on the court. The entire episode was a disaster within a disaster, culminating in Paul Silas’s reverse Spreewell choke-out April 15th.

One Last Shot

By choosing not to exercise the amnesty provision this summer, the Bobcats gave themselves an out should Tyrus prove last year no fluke. That’s the worst case scenario. A better version would have Thomas arrive at camp closer to his 240 pound playing weight, mentally focused and prepared to listen, where he’ll find a coach perfectly suited to enhance his game.

Mike Dunlap wants to create turnovers, push the tempo and lock-down anything that drives. Tyrus’s long 6’10” frame, lateral quickness and shot-blocking ability are perfect for such a system. He can guard either forward spot and hang with most of today’s centers. Put a re-focused Tyrus, Bismack Biyombo and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist on the front-line and DARE opposing wings into the paint.

The strategy for Coach Dunlap seems obvious: play Thomas 20 minutes a night, simplifying his accountabilities: Block Shots, Rebound the Ball, Deny Position Underneath. If you do that, we’ll run a few pick ‘n pop/kickout sets your way. Basically, be our version of Serge Ibaka. He does this with consistency and the team can trash the amnesty. Tyrus will be bargain and the Bobcats will be a much, much better team. If not? Tyrus becomes yet another cautionary tale in the book of High Ceilings, Low Results.

-ASChin

*Some perspective: Just last month former Executive of the Year Joe Dumars tossed a high first rounder Charlotte’s way as renumeration for Ben Gordon’s ’13-’14 salary. Just one season. For a player who can still contribute. Who isn’t a locker room problem. One can only imagine the price for taking back T-Time’s contract.

Being Bad Has Never Felt So Bad

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’11-’12 Charlotte Bobcats Quarterly Report: Vol. 1

The Charlotte Bobcats have started nearly all of their first seventeen games deficient in talent; they’ve ended most of them deficient in effort. Not exactly the sort of problem you would have expected from a young, Paul Silas-coached team. So who or what is the culprit for this early season malaise?

Issue Number One: The Diaw Dilemma

Out of shape, neurotic and enigmatic, Boris “Ladyhips” Diaw has been the poster-boy for the Bobcats ennui. His 27 point outburst against the Knicks  notwithstanding, Boris has been relegated to the bench as his perpetual disappearing act had driven the coach, ownership and fans one step too far.

Worse yet, Diaw’s mere presence has constipated the Bobcats frontcourt situation:

  • DJ White has clearly outplayed him thus far.
  • The team is committed to Tyrus Thomas for another three seasons.
  • Bismack Biyombo isn’t ready enough to play center full-time.

The Cats would love to rid themselves of Diaw’s expiring contract in order to allocate precious developmental minutes to the other three but how many teams in the league have both the need and the expiring contract Charlotte would require to make a deal?

The Knicks and Suns would seem the logical answers but neither of those teams have the types of players/assets the Bobcats would need in return. Baseline’s own Ben Weinrib postulated a Clippers scenario that could work but Charlotte may have to resort to benching Diaw for the remainder of the season and wait for his contract to expire in July.

Issue Number Two: Maggette Looks Done

@Baseline DrE noticed it from game one: Corey Maggette looks spent. His jumper isn’t falling, he’s not getting to the line,  he’s consistently a step slow on D and a strained calf has sidelined him for most of the month. This is all bad news considering that Silas practically designed the entire offense around him before the season started.

As is stands, the team is paying him $10 million this season and still owes him another $10 million for next. While the entire concept of “amnesty-ing” a player must stink to a small market squad like the Bobcats, one could only imagine that’s it’s being discussed, especially if the team can somehow convince a big name FA to take their money. That’s probably not going to happen so look for Maggette to remain in Cat-stripes until the summer of 2013.

Issue Number Three: Kemba Keep Your Head Up

Classic Bobcat conundrum: Your strengths are your weaknesses. D.J. Augustin has really elevated his game this season, thus putting rookie point Kemba Walker in a primarily off-guard role. This works ok about 30% of the time, meaning the 30% of the time Kemba makes his “head down, Monta-Ellis-inspired” step-back jumpers. The problem isn’t that Kemba isn’t a good enough a shooter yet, it’s that he’s learning a lot of bad habits that may come to limit his impact and future growth.

Kemba will need to play PG in the NBA. A decent team simply can’t start a six foot two guard and expect to win many games. He’ll need to learn how to distribute first, work the opposing defense and manage the game, shooting only when necessary. I don’t think the damage is irreparable but Coach Silas will need to transition Kemba to the role of PG sooner rather than later in order for Walker to rise above his current ceiling as “a rich man’s Nate Robinson”.

Issue Number Four: Mullens Gives As Much As He Gets

Mullens-mania has been one of the few bright spots over the past month. The young man has a nice shooting touch, good offensive feel for the game and seems to give half a crap about improving. That’s fine. The problem is that Byron is a textbook turnstile on defense with the opposing offense going right at him as soon as he checks into the game. Weak-side help defense? Fuh-get about it.

Unless BJ can bulk up and learn some killer mano y mano D during the offseason, his primary role in the league will be that of a 20 minute a night backup/change of pace center — which, by the way, isn’t a bad thing at all. It sure as heck beats playing in the D-League.

Issue Number Five: Silas Senility

This is the most surprising issue of all. Paul Silas’s mission for the season should be clear: LOSE GAMES, DEVELOP YOUNG PLAYERS.

Simple, right? While Sugar Bear has a proven adept at losing, his most recent rotations suggest ignorance or obstinacy in the face of facts. Both Kemba and Biyombo need to be receiving as many developmental minutes at their NATURAL positions as possible. Same can be said for Henderson, Augustin, White and Mullens. Instead Silas has been trotting out a “F.U.” lineup featuring:

  • Matt Carroll (12th man, near expiring deal)
  • Eddie Najera (14th man, expiring deal)
  • Derrick Brown (11th man, expiring deal)
  • Boris Diaw (discussed, expiring deal)
  • Cory Higgins (13th man, expiring deal)

Good for tanking games? Yes. Good for developing prospects? No. Good for desecrating the sport/wasting fans money? Absolutely.

FIRST QUARTER PLAYER TIERS:

TIER ONE – THE KEEPERS

1. Gerald Henderson.

Still only 24 years old, “Hendo” has become the rare sequel better than the original. While he’ll probably never develop into a team’s go-to scorer, Henderson’s gifts as a shut-down defender and his ever-improving jump-shot make him a bona-fide starter in the league. Henderson started driving to the lane more in the last few games, getting to the line and drawing fouls. His ho-hum PER might not reflect it at the moment but Henderson is THE LONG TERM solution at two guard.

2. D.J. Augustin/Kemba Walker.

You gotta love the fact that Augustin has stepped up in the face of a challenge. Kemba should be taking notes: D.J. notched a near 3:1 assist to TO ratio during the first sixteen games of the season, nailing 38% of his three balls while averaging 15 ppg.

He’s a restricted free agent after the season and I don’t see a scenario in which the team doesn’t re-sign him. Fortunately with Rich Cho running the negotiations, Charlotte fans needn’t worry about the team overpaying.

The issue of course is what to do with Walker. Kemba has an incredible set of intangibles and is already a much more dynamic scorer. With a couple of seasons learning the position, Walker could be in line for the starting gig. If Cho can ink Augustin to an attractive contract, the Bobcats may find themselves with an ideal trading chip a year plus down the road.

3. Bismack Biyombo.

He didn’t exactly burst onto the scene but in limited appearances, the big man has shown flashes of incredible defensive potential.

First off, he’s a physical freak. Apparently the “strongest” and “toughest” guy on the roster, Biyombo’s build is deceivingly slight. During warmups last week I saw him stand next to D.J. White, a legit 6’9″ PF. Same height but while White’s arms dangled around mid-thigh, Bismack’s fingers nearly touched his kneecaps. Jay Bilas just climaxed reading that.

Opposing offensive players are noticing too. Biyombo is averaging nearly 5 blocks per 40 minutes of play and subjectively you can see players alter shots, launch high floaters or avoid the lane altogether when he’s in the game. I honestly thought it would take a couple of seasons for him to have any impact but thus far, in limited minutes, he’s done much more than advertised.

4. OKC’s D-Leaguers

If D.J. White is your backup PF, giving you 14-20 minutes a night, you’re in good shape. If Byron Mullens is your backup C, giving you 14-20 minutes a night, you’re in good shape. If either of these two are your starters, you are in bad shape.

Lesson: Re-sign both players to cap-friendly deals (White this summer, Mullens next summer), play them as upside backups and win games. Start them and lose games. The end.

TIER TWO – WHAT DO WE DO WITH YOU?

1. Tyrus Thomas.

Tyrus gets his own sub-category. The team owes him another three years, $24 million AFTER this season. Mentally he’s as lost as ever (we expected that) but physically he looks borderline emaciated after an apparent offseason working out with Austin Daye and Angelina Jolie.

This has all conspired to make Tyrus virtually untradeable. He’s owed too much for too long to amnesty so it looks like the team is stuck with him for at least the next two or three seasons. Sadly, the Bobcats still owe Chicago a first rounder in that time for his services.

TIER THREE – “MEH”

1. Derrick Brown.

I want DBrown to be better than he is but the team is simply much worse while he’s on the floor. It’s hard to justify this with actual plus/minus numbers on a team that loses by twenty every night but anecdotally, Brown just doesn’t seem to understand the basics of the game - every other play he’s involved in ends with a turnover, missed shot or a foul.

2. Cory Higgins.

I’ve seen more than a few plays that tell me he’s a legit NBA player but Cory will absolutely need to work on a consistent jump shot to have any chance of staying in the league as a role player.

3. Reggie Williams/Edwardo Najera.

Have very high hopes for Williams once he comes back in March. The team desperately needs a hot hand off the bench and that fits Reggie’s MO. Najera will be gone next offseason when his contract expires. In the meantime, he looks like a guy who took a wrong turn out of the YMCA locker room and ended up in TWC.

TIER FOUR – GET ‘EM OUT OF HERE

1. Boris Diaw.

Already discussed.

2. Corey Maggette.

See above.

3. Matt Carroll/Gana Diop.

Called on and paid well to do exactly one thing each and neither does that thing all that well. Fortunately, they’ll both be off the books come July ’13 and Diop at least has value as a semi-tough big in the meantime.

Two STARters Away

With Augustin/Walker, Gerald Henderson and (eventually) Bismack Biyombo, the Bobcats are just two starters away from fielding a solid playoff contender. Unfortunately, those two starters will need to be ALL-STARs.

The good news is that they’ll probably get one in this year’s draft. KU’s Anthony Davis, UCONN’s Andre Drummond, Baylor’s Perry Jones and Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger could all blossom into big-time NBA players and would fit quite nicely next to an emerging Bismack Biyombo at PF. UNC’s Harrison Barnes and KU’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could become the dominating offensive force on the wings the Bobcats desperately need.

Combine Augustin/Walker, Henderson, Biyombo and one of the diaper-dandies above with max cap room this summer or next and the Bobcats could find themselves in a very favorable position sooner than later.

Until then, Enjoy the Rebuilding Bobcats Fans…

-ASChin

Twitter: @bobcatsbaseline