Diaw Trade Redux

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

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

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

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

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

Post will be updated as more information is made available.

-ASChin

Twitter: @bobcatsbaseline

Beasley to Bobcats? Let’s Hope So

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Four Way Trade Supposedly in the Works

Michael Beasley ©NBA 2010

UPDATED:

According ESPN.com’ s Chad Ford and Mark Stein, the Bobcats are working on a four team deal that would net them former second overall selection Michael Beasley.  The deal would reportedly send out Tyson Chandler’s expiring to Houston, bring the Rocket’s Jared Jeffries and the Heat’s Beasley to Charlotte while allowing the Toronto Raptors and Heat conduct a sign & trade for Chris Bosh, handing Toronto a massive trade exception in return.

The Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen started the rumor by tweeting that three of the four teams are in with the Raps wavering (read: “we want something else besides cap space in return”).

If the trade goes through, it would be a massive upgrade in talent for the Bobcats who’ve never had a frontcourt scoring presence in their six seasons of existence.  Beasley would instantly upgrade a putrid offense that ranked dead last in the League last season in points per game.

Post will be updated as the story develops.

UPDATE: 11:57pm

Mark Stein is now reporting that Beasley will be shipped off to to the Timberwolves for a second round pick.  Wolves will absorb Beasley’s contract into their cap space and send a second rounder back to Miami.  Also the deal will reportedly offer a first round pick swap in a future draft.

ANALYSIS: Tough loss for the Bobcats who could have gotten Beasley for less than what they paid for Tyrus Thomas back in February.  Beasley has a higher upside and a smaller contract and wouldn’t have cost them a first round pick outright.  Furthermore, the Bobcats might be painted into a corner with Tyrus as a team flush with cap space (the rumor mill suggests New Jersey) will likely offer a front-loaded contract to him.  Hope MJ is prepared to pay the luxury tax because if not, he’ll have thrown away a first round pick for a three month rental of Tyrus Thomas.

-ASChin

Chander Opts Out of Opt Out

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chandler-returningOur (not-so) long, regional nightmare is over.  Tyson Chandler has reportedly decided not to exercise the option in his contract that would have allowed him to forego the last year on his contract and become a free agent tomorrow.  Tyson is due $12.6 million in 2010-11 to finish off the contract he signed years ago with New Orleans.

Caught up in the Summer of 2010 Free Agency Frenzy, Chandler’s camp leaked word to the media a few weeks back that he was considering opting out and testing free agency.  The argument for doing so was likely two-pronged.

1) So many teams have made so much cap space this summer that one or two are likely to whiff on the big name players (coughKnickscough) and then scramble to spend their money on second (or third) tier free agents.  So in effect, yes, Tyson was eyeing Lebron’s sloppy seconds.  Additionally, he may have been hoping the Cats would simply resign him to a new long-term deal, a la what Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce are doing this summer.  And…

2) A long term contract negotiated this summer may be better than one negotiated next summer, as the NBA’s current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is due to be renegotiated in time for next summer and will likely limit some of the financial/contractual perks that players currently enjoy.

Chandler opting out would have been a Catch-22 for the Cats.  Basically, it’s tough to lose a starter to free-agency without compensation, especially a starting big man.  Nazr Mohammed and Theo Ratliff played center-by-committee admirably last year when Chandler was out, and we’re all hoping we can get something out of Alexis Ajinca this year, but to lose Tyson outright to free agency would have left us weakened down low.

On a positive note, it would have opened up a chunk of room under the salary cap with which to sign a free agent.  But for what?  The position that the Cats most need to upgrade at is PG, and there aren’t any decent free agent PGs out there.

So it looks like Tyson will be collecting his $12.6 million from the Cats while roaming the paint at the Cable Box next year.

Or will he?

It’s been widely rumored that the Cats are looking to deal this summer.  Makes sense, it’s the only avenue we have to upgrade/remix the roster.  And a decent, reasonably useful, legitimately-sized center on a big expiring contract is just the kind of guy that other teams would likely be willing to trade for.

Chandler for Monta Ellis + a future pick, anyone?

-Dr. E


2 Reasons Why Tyson Might Opt Out

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Tyson Chandler is thinking about leaving $12.75 million on the table?  What???!!!

Ladies and Gentlemen...Tyson Chandler!

So let me get this straight, Tyson Chandler is owed almost $13 million for next season and he’s reportedly thinking about opting out of the final year of his contract and testing the open waters of free agency madness.  Hmm…

We are talking about the same Tyson Chandler who limped through fifty one games last season averaging 6.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, right?  The same dude who was unable to unseat the paleolithic Theo Ratliff during the franchise’s inaugural Playoff run in April and May?  The same player who OKC general manager Sam Presti  (the NBA’s equivalent of Steve Jobs) rejected in a deal for table scraps due to a lingering foot injury that was supposedly healed last summer?  Huh?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not ripping Tyson Chandler the human being or even Tyson Chandler the basketball player (he’s shown in previous seasons that he most definitely belongs in the League), rather I’m questioning the logic that would lead Tyson and his agent to walk away from an incredible sum of guaranteed money for a player of Tyson’s production level.  Is there brilliance hidden away in this seemingly illogical proposition?

1. Tyson and Rod Higgins have a long-term deal worked out.

To me, this makes the most sense.  I couldn’t find any CBA restrictions against it (though some of our more cap versed readers may) but Tyson could very well opt out of his current contract in order to sign a three or four year contract for slightly above market value, say 4 years, $32 million.  I still think this is way too much to throw at a player who hasn’t been healthy in three years but if Higgins, Coach Brown and MJ think that Chandler will eventually return to NOHo form, then it’s at least justifiable.  A healthy Tyson Chandler at $8 million per as your starting center is far from the team’s worst case scenario.

Re-signing Tyson at this dollar figure would give the team an extra $4.75 million of wiggle room going into free agency, allowing the team more flexibility to re-sign Tyrus Thomas and add a point guard via free agency or trade.  In summary, the ‘Cats get some much needed short term cap relief and Tyson gets some extra fiscal security in case his foot never fully heals.

2. Tyson and his Agent are Genuinely Worried about the New CBA

The NBA is losing money and is intent on fixing the broken labor model as the League (and the country) heads into a new economic era.  The salary cap has already lowered in consecutive seasons and there is talk of reducing the maximum year and dollar limits on player contracts.  In this forthcoming scenario, only the very cream of the League’s crop (Lebron, Wade, Anthony) will receive massive contracts as their supporting cast members will be left to divvy up the leftovers of a smaller pie.

Chandler and his agent may see this future clearly and decide that after 2011, a third tier NBA starting center will be earning considerably less money.  In this scenario, Tyson “gets” while the “gettin’ is good.”  Sounds logical to me.

-ASChin

Offseason Prescriptions for the Capped-Out Cats (Part 1)

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capped-out

Chapter I: Diagnosis

First Number of Interest: $680,000.

It’s the number you get when you take the Bobcats $69.24 million in salaries for the ’09-’10 season and subtract it from last year’s $69.92 million luxury tax threshold.  Six hundred and eighty K.  That’s approximately how close the Bobcats came to paying the luxury tax last season.  I say approximately as I’m basing the figures on Hoopshype’s excellent salary database — a database that doesn’t included Derrick Brown’s two year rookie contract.  (For the sake of this column, I’m estimating his cap figure to be equal to Milwaukee’s Jodie Meeks, drafted one spot behind Brown in last year’s second round.)

Second Number of Interest: $1.6 million.

That’s how much NBA teams are expecting to come off the cap next year.  You read that right, the Salary Cap will shrink next year and with it the luxury tax threshold.  According to ESPN.com’s Chris Sheridan, the tax line will lower to around $68 million in ’10-’11 which would put the Bobcats at less than $8 million under the tax threshold before re-signing starting PG Raymond Felton (unrestricted), PF Tyrus Thomas (restricted) or valuable role players Stephen Graham and Theo Ratliff (click chart to see a larger image).

BobcatsCurrentCapSituation

Looking at next year’s salary commitments, three things are glaringly obvious:

1. THE CENTERS OF ATTENTION

The Bobcats have $27.5 million (roughly half of their cap space) committed to the center position and the last time I checked, none of those guys were named Howard, Duncan, Ming or Gasol.  Years of poor financial decision making have finally caught up: overpaying Emeka Okafor when they didn’t have to (Chandler), overpaying Matt Carroll when they didn’t have to (Diop) and bailing out Joe Dumars with the expiring contracts of Walter Herrmann and Primoz Brezec (Mohammed).
THE BAD NEWS: With the a possible lockout on the way in 2011, none of these guys are moveable unless the team is willing to take on another equally bad (if not worse) contract in return.
THE GOOD NEWS: Over $19 million will come off of the books for good in the summer of 2011 if the ‘Cats just hold tight and let Mohammed and Chandler play through their contracts.
Somebody take Larry Brown’s mobile phone privileges away pronto!

2. TYRUS THOMAS AND THE POISON PILL

The Bobcats didn’t send Chicago a future first round pick just to rent Tyrus Thomas for three months.  The intention was always to retain him for at least another season but given the Bobcats’ cap situation that might not be so simple.  As a restricted free agent, Thomas could command a salary north of the $6.2 million qualifying offer he’s due based on his rookie deal.  A team intrigued by Thomas’ potential and armed with enough cap space could offer Tyrus big money up front, signing Thomas to the dreaded “poison pill offer sheet” (see Milsap, Paul) during the summer.  Such a contract could offer Thomas $8 million in year one, $6 million in year two and only $4 million in year three.  The Bobcats would have the right to match but in doing so would essentially be “luxury-taxed-out,” unable to sign any other players (including a starting PG) without paying the dollar for dollar tax penalty — which is something Michael Jordan has repeatedly said that he will not do.  With so many teams flush with cap space this summer, the Tyrus Situation could get tricky.  Watch out for it.

3. WHO’S THE POINT?

Ray Felton is the best point guard available in a weak PG free agency class.  Again, it is entirely possible that a team flush with cap space could offer him $18 million or more over three years and in that situation the ‘Cats would have to fold.
Doubt that the team would let it’s starting point guard walk this summer?  The organization fiercely pursued a T.J. Ford trade during February’s trade deadline and weren’t even close to coming to terms on a long-term offer with Felton’s agent last summer.  If Raymond was a better shooter from outside and could finish with a little more consistency inside (not to mention stay in front of Jameer Nelson) maybe the team would go out of it’s way to sign him but I just can’t foresee it happening.  The ‘Cats will most likely have to acquire a starting PG via trade or from the free agency discount rack.

Yes, Bobcats fans, your team is in a major salary cap quagmire.

To further complicate the issue, the Bobcats can’t afford to simply allow their free-agents to walk and replace them with low-cost scrubs or cheap rookies.  The team doesn’t have any draft picks (instead they have Alexis Ajinca) and from a business perspective, the organization must improve their on-court product (or at least repeat last year’s success) in order to expand fan support and capitalize on their inaugural Playoff run.

TEAM NEEDS:

The Bobcats head into the summer with three major needs:

STARTING POINT GUARD
D.J. Augustin is clearly not ready to start and the Bobcats are too capped out to pay Raymond Felton market value.  They’ll need to make a trade or find an undervalued bargain replacement in Free Agency (see Blake, Steve).

LOW POST SCORING/REBOUNDING
Boris Diaw has a few low post moves but plays mostly on the perimeter and doesn’t concern himself very much with the art of rebounding.  Tyrus Thomas (if he’s re-signed) is a solid rebounder but has limited abilities as a post scorer.  The team will need to either trade for or sign a traditional low-post power forward to team with Thomas or Diaw.

CONSISTENT PERIMETER SCORING/SHOOTING
Larry Hughes turned out to be an inconsistent version of Flip Murray.  Sure, Hughes was a better defender but what the Bobcats really needed was offense from the bench.  Murray has said that he’d happily return to Charlotte next season.  If the ‘Cats could bring him back for a similarly low priced deal next season, they should.

THE PRESCRIPTION:

So how does a Capped-Out team retain talent and, dare I say it, even improve heading into next season?

Part II: Prescription A (Simple and Clean) — Coming Soon
Part III: Prescription B (Not for the Faint of Heart) — Coming Soon

-ASChin

Quick Thoughts On Game 1

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Doug Benc/Getty Images/ESPN.com

Doug Benc/Getty Images/ESPN.com

The Charlotte Bobcats fell 98-89 to the Orlando Magic in their playoff debut Sunday night.  We’ll have a more in-depth recap up later, but I wanted to post some quick thoughts and have a place for you guys to make some comments as well.

  • Here’s the AP recap and box score.
  • That first half couldn’t have gone worse.  The Bobcats were attacking the paint, but in a half-hearted manner that allowed Howard to rack up 8 blocks.  Meanwhile, Jameer Nelson was frying Raymond Felton (see above picture) and the Magic were draining three after three (9-18 3PT in 1st half).
  • However, the Cats showed some resolve in battling back in the second half.  Gerald Wallace beasted it (25 and 17), Stephen Jackson gutted it out on a hyperextended knee, and the Cats were able to cut the lead to as low as 4 late in the game.
  • The Cats got nothing beyond Gerald, Jack and Felton.  Diaw or someone from the bench is going to have to step up in order for us to take a game or two.  Chandler did have a nice stretch in the third quarter to key a Bobcats run, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
  • We’ve noted how rusty Nazr has looked in the couple of games he’s played since returning from back problems.  But rusty just ain’t cutting it anymore.  As fellow Baseline contributor Deesdale noted in a text message during the first half: “I think Nazr gave up on life.”
  • Game 2 on Wednesday.  Thank goodness for the 2 day break in between Games 1 and 2 — Jack’s knee is sure to swell and tighten up, but hopefully he’ll be ready to go again by Wednesday.  Let’s hope it’s not too bad.  Make sure you’re following us on Twitter in the meantime.
  • UPDATE: At halftime of the Spurs/Mavs game, the TNT guys indicated that Jack will have an MRI on the knee (no brainer) and showed a quick post-game interview of Jack in which Jack dismissed any concerns, saying he’d be ready to go if Game 2 were tomorrow.

-Dr. E

Bobcats vs Magic Playoff Preview Part I

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Bobcats Baseline 2010 Playoff Preview: Round One BOBCATS VS MAGIC

Welcome to Bobcats Baseline’s preview of the Bobcats first ever playoff series.

First, some general stuff.  The Magic finished the year 59-23 (34-7 home).  They posted the best overall point differential in the league this year: +7.5.   Hollinger’s formulas have them ranked as the second best in the league in terms of offensive efficiency (behind only the Suns) and tied with the Bobcats for first in defensive efficiency.

Head to head, Orlando won the season series over the Bobcats 3-1.  The Magic took the first game in Orlando back on November 10, 93-81.  Game two just six days later in Charlotte turned out to be Stephen Jackson’s Bobcats debut, but the game went to the Magic again, 97-91.

The Cats took Orlando to overtime in Charlotte on January 23, but the Magic once again prevailed, 105-95.  Finally, in the last matchup on March 14, the Cats broke through for a 96-89 win, despite playing in Orlando without an injured Gerald Wallace.

Now lets get down to the matchups.  ASChin and I decided to do a collabo for this, and we’ll start by breaking down the battle in the paint.

Dr. E: In the middle, Dwight Howard creates problems for every other team in the league.  He led the league in rebounding and blocked shots for the year. It’s almost universally agreed upon that Orlando could be even more dominant if they made a more concerted effort to get him the ball on the offensive end (which they don’t always do, especially in the fourth quarter).

But it’s almost as if Larry Brown knew this matchup was coming.  He’s collected a cadre of serviceable big men to play center-by-committee. Theo Ratliff is like an older, wiser version of Tyson Chandler, who has shown signs of life himself in recent weeks.

Nazr Mohammed has looked rusty in two games since returning from back problems, but was a revelation earlier in the season with his ability to score in the post. And Gana Diop is, well, Gana Diop (or Joey Crawford’s avatar).

Together, they represent four bodies and 24 fouls that could be deployed to wear Howard down.

ASChin: Agreed.  They’ll try to win the war of attrition, throwing 24 fouls at Dwight and making the other 4 Magic players beat them one on one.  The last thing that you want to do is play into the Magic’s hands.  They want you to defend DHO for 40+ minutes, using up fouls at the center spot.  Fortunately, the Bobcats have enough bodies in the middle to combat this somewhat but as you see in the breakdown vid below Dwight can now make you pay for single coverage.

Dr. E: The other way the Bobcats may try to neutralize Howard will be to get him into foul trouble himself.  In this blog post from Rick Bonnell (once you get past the nonsense about how Rick and Gerald Wallace are like peas in a pod) Wallace stresses that the Cats need to take it straight at Howard to have a chance.

Howard averaged 3.5 fouls per game this year, fouling out four times and getting to five fouls more times than I bothered to count.  Of course, if Howard gets into foul trouble, backup Marcin Gortat is more than capable of becoming an X-factor.

ASChin: This is a big deal.  The Bobcats aren’t a great jump shooting team.  They’ll have to continue to go to the hoop to have any chance in this series.  With Dwight down there, it’ll be tough but I’m guessing that Coach Brown will try to run a lot high screen pick and rolls with Chandler and Ratliff to try and get Howard out out of the paint.

Lets move on to the 4 spot.

Rashard Lewis is having far from his best season as a pro.  His FG%, ppg, rebounds and blocks are way down.  Not exactly want you want from an $18 million a year guy.  He still shoots lights out from beyond the arc so the ‘Cats will again have to prevent the Magic from forcing a double team on Howard down low.

I think a platoon of Tyrus Thomas and Boris Diaw matches up well against Lewis.  Diaw in particular is going to force Lewis to guard him on those little post jump-hooks and when Howard comes over for the block, Boris is crafty enough to be able to find Chandler or Mohammed for a dunk or layup with a quick pass in the paint.  Also, look for Crash to play some minutes at the four if Brown decides to turn the tables and go small.

Dr. E: By the way, was it ever fully explained what Lewis’s 10-game PED suspension to start the year was all about?  Ironic that he’s clearly fallen off this season, isn’t it?  Some may write it up to missing training camp and never getting in the groove, or missing Hedo Turkoglu’s point forward drive-and-dishes, but has anyone measured his head circumference-to-testicle ratio serially over the years?

No?  Okay, jussayin.

Anyways, yes, between Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, Tyrus Thomas and Boris Diaw, the Cats are better suited than most teams to guard and switch out onto Rashard Lewis at the three point line.

Alright, that covers the bigs.  Next up, we’ll discuss the wings and guards.  After that coaching and intangibles.

ASChin: Wait, did you just mention Rashard Lewis’s testicles?

-Dr. E & ASChin