Offseason Prescriptions for the Capped-Out Cats (Part 2)


Chapter II: Prescription A (Simple & Clean)

In part one of my Capped-Out Cats column, I soberly laid out the current Bobcats salary cap situation in order to highlight the tight financial quarters which the team currently operates under. We as fans cannot realistically prognosticate the team’s ability to improve itself without first having a realistic understanding of what it is up against. Or, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put it, “Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.”

Thus far we’ve identified the team’s salary situation (nearly capped out with two key free agents yet to re-sign) and we’ve established the team’s needs moving forward into next season (starting PG, traditional low-post presence, bench scoring). The challenge is to find a way to accomplish them both:


Step 1. Charlotte trades Boris Diaw to Chicago for Kirk Hinrich.

Can’t think of a more eloquent trade for both teams. The Bulls currently employ only six players, three of which are starters (Deng, Noah and Rose) and will be making a run at one of the top free agents in the League this summer (potentially Lebron James or Joe Johnson). Diaw starts for the Bulls immediately (or is the team’s sixth man in case of a Bosh or Boozer signing) and allows Derrick Rose to play off the ball in certain situations. Also, Diaw and Hinrich have nearly identical contracts (Boris is due an extra million in ’11-’12) and nearly matching PERs (Hinrich: 11.61, Diaw: 12.80).

For Charlotte, the deal nets them a tough defending starting point guard without having to go over the cap to sign one on the open market. While Hinrich isn’t going to any All-Star games, he’s at least Raymond Felton’s equivalent (especially in the five seasons proceeding Derrick Rose’s arrival) and is big enough at 6’3” to move over to shooting guard for a few minutes a game when needed. Hinrich isn’t a pure point in the mold of a Steve Nash or Chauncey Billups but won’t need to be on a team that runs its offense through shooting guard Stephen Jackson.
Again, the overwhelming positive of this trade is that it allows the Bobcats to maintain a player of comparable quality at the point without having to add a dime to the payroll.

Step 2. Re-sign Tyrus Thomas.


At current market value, I can’t see Tyrus commanding anything north of 3 years $18 million. The Hinrich trade makes re-signing Tyrus much easier by a.) allowing the team to match a poison pill offer should another team extend one and b.) freeing up a starting spot for Thomas – thus making the idea of returning to Charlotte that much more enticing. A best case scenario would have Tyrus sign an incrementally escalating deal (see chart below) that would start at $5.5 million.

Step 3. Sign or trade for a backup power forward.

After making the moves for Hinrich and Thomas, the ‘Cats will have a little less than $4 million to sign a free agent backup PF. The team is in desperate need of a low post scorer who can battle for rebounds down low. At this price point, there’s not a lot of options. One could be Drew Gooden, who signed a one year partially guaranteed $4.5 million deal with the Mavericks last summer and was traded to the Clippers midseason for his efforts. A two year deal (either fully or partially guaranteed) at $7 million might get his attention. A more under-the-radar prospect would be New Jersey’s Kris Humphries who impressed often on a bad team. Humphries is a beast of rebounder down low (averaging almost six and a half boards in twenty minutes of action) and is a bit of a black hole when he gets the ball in the low post. Basically, he’s the anti-Boris Diaw and that sort of style could mesh well with Larry Brown’s Bobcats.
Another option for the Bobcats is to add power forward depth via trade. While I don’t like the idea of the team trading away expiring contracts in this Prescription, one such deal could have the team ship off Nazr Mohammed and the last remaining year of his contract ($6.8 million) to the Sacramento Kings for bruiser Andres Nocioni ($6.8 million in ’10-’11, $6.6 in ’11-’12).
The negative in this scenario would be adding another mid-level salary contract year for a mediocre player in 2011-2012 but Nocioni’s toughness and ability to play both forward spots combined with the cost savings of making a cap neutral trade might swing the Bobcats into making the deal. Add in the fact that the ‘Cats could then use the remaining $3.5 million on re-signing veterans Flip Murray and Theo Ratliff to minimum deals and the trade could provide much more than it costs.



In this Prescription, the Bobcats manage to re-sign Tyrus Thomas, add a comparably talented starting Point Guard in Kirk Hinrich, find a low post bruising backup forward in Andres Nocioni and make good on last year’s mistake of trading away Flip Murray. Amazingly, they could do all of this while CUTTING SALARY (nearly $2 million) from last year’s payroll while keeping all of their young players (Augustin, Ajinca, Henderson and Brown) and key veterans.

The team’s depth chart looks like:

PG: Hinrich, Augustin, Murray
SG: Jackson, Hinrich, Henderson, Murray
SF: Wallace, Brown
PF: Thomas, Nocioni
C: Chandler, Ratliff, Diop, Ajinca

NEXT UP: PRESCRIPTIONS B + C (Not for the Faint of Heart).


CP3 in CLT?


MJ hangs with an interesting crowd

This Can Still Happen

Back in the June of 2005, the Bobcats had an opportunity to draft local legend Chris Paul with the third pick in the draft.  The Blazers held the pick and offered the selection to Charlotte for the 5th and 13th choices in the draft.  The ‘Cats turned them down and the rest is history: Blazers dealt the pick to Utah, and New Orleans (picking 4th) scooped up the the NBA’s best under-30 PG.  It was rumoured that Paul wanted to play in Charlotte.  He was from Winston-Salem and had played college ball just up the road at Wake Forest.  The Bobcats needed a point guard.  They needed a star.  This can still happen.

Watching the New Orleans game on Wednesday night, it struck me: Chris Paul is going to be traded.  Maybe this summer.  Maybe sometime during next season but soon.  Here’s why:

  1. New Orleans is a small market team that’s losing money almost as fast as the Bobcats.
  2. George Shinn is in “SELL“-mode.
  3. Chris Paul is due $49 million over the next three seasons.  His replacement against the Bobcats, rookie phenom Darren Collison, is due just $5 million in the same time span.
  4. The Hornets have more than a couple of holes on their roster to fill.
  5. Hometown hero D.J. Augustin is way “OVER” (You bet he’s Over) with the local crowd.
  6. Anybody ever seen those Nike Air Jordan CP3s?

So what kind of a deal could the Bobcats put together to entice New Orleans to let go of their superstar???

The Trade

Well, from a salary perspective, the ‘Cats are going to have to return a few things in exchange for Paul’s $14.9 million dollar cap number.  They’ll also have to offer the Hornets some attractive pieces in exchange.  Here’s my proposal:

  • D.J. Augustin.  Again, hometown hero.  Still on a rookie deal until ’12-’13.  While not remotely in Chris Paul’s league, D.J. could form a great combo with Collison and help stretch the floor with his long distance shooting.
  • A Sign & Traded Tyrus Thomas.  Something like 3 years, $18 million sounds about right.  Another local product (high school in Baton Rouge, later LSU).  Thomas not only turns the local turnstiles, he would be a welcome athletic addition to a fairly unathletic frontcourt (Emekatron 2000 and David West).  The Hornets could then shop West (who has a great contract that declines in salary) for a physical starting two guard.
  • Gerald Henderson.  Let’s face it.  If Larry Brown is coaching the Bobcats, The Sequel is never seeing any PT and that’s not good for a young player’s game (just look how Darko’s skillz atrophied in Detroit).  The Hornets need a tough, defensive minded 2-guard to pair with Marcus Thornton and Gerald Henderson just may be that guy.
  • Salary Relief.  New Orleans currently has $73 million committed in salaries for next season.  This before factoring in any draft picks or filling out the roster.  The assumption around the league is that the luxury tax will lower to around $69 million.  By trading Paul for Thomas, Augustin and Henderson, the Hornets will save $4.5 million next season (putting them under the tax threshold).

From a Bobcats salary perspective, this trade would put them at EXACTLY the tax threshold ($69.8 million) with only eight players under contract.  The question is, would Michael Jordan spend an extra $5-$10 million if it meant bringing in a superstar like Chris Paul?  I think he just might.  The Bobcats would enter next season with:

  • PG: Chris Paul
  • SG: Stephen Jackson
  • SF: Gerald Wallace, Derrick Brown
  • PF: Boris Diaw, Alexis Ajinca
  • C: Tyson Chandler, Nazr Mohammed, Gana Diop

Now, there’s obviously a crowd at Center but the good news is that both Nazr Mohammed ($6.8 million) and Tyson Chandler ($12.75 million) represent expiring contracts in a year in which those will be very, very valuable (free agent summer ’11 looks like it’ll rival summer of ’10).  Could the Bobcats trade Mohammed for someone like Kirk Hinrich?  Maybe.  Take one or both centers off of the roster and run a platoon of a re-signed Theo Ratliff, Gana Diop and a (hopefully) developed Alexis Ajinca and then resign everyone’s favorite utility players Stephen Graham and Larry Hughes to veteran minimum deals and you have:

  • PG: Chris Paul, Kirk Hinrich
  • SG: Stephen Jackson, Larry Hughes
  • SF: Gerald Wallace, Stephen Graham
  • PF: Boris Diaw, Derrick Brown, Alexis Ajinca
  • C: Tyson Chandler, Gana Diop, Theo Ratliff

Not bad.  And considering that Larry Brown will run basically an eight or nine man rotation throughout the season, 10-14 depth isn’t that big of an issue.  This team could go deep into the Playoffs and finally bring star power to the CLT.


Bulls Stampede Bobcats in Chicago


Charlotte Bobcats @ Chicago 4/3/10

Without Stephen Jackson for most of the second half, the Charlotte Bobcats still managed to lead the game until midway through the 4th quarter but a motivated Chicago Bulls team stormed back from a six point deficit to win the game 96-88 to move just three games back of the Bobcats in the Eastern Playoff race.

AP recap here | Boxscore here

The Undisputed Alpha

Those of you who suffered along with me during the Bobcats Opening Night Massacre in Boston (92-59) will remember how painfully lost and dysfunctional this team looked pre-Captain Jack.  A team of selfless role players was in desperate need of an alpha.  Just a few games after he was acquired, Stephen Jackson assumed that role and the Bobcats never looked back, going 37-27 since November 22nd.  While Gerald Wallace might be the clubhouse leader and an NBA All-Star, there’s no doubting who is more irreplaceable.  During a three game absence in mid-March, the Bobcats beat the OKC Thunder and the Magic in Orlando as Wallace recuperated from an ankle injury.  Tonight against the Bulls, in a tough-fought game with postseason ramifications, the ‘Cats were without their Alpha for the final quarter when they desperately needed some clutch buckets to counter the Bulls run.  But they couldn’t do it.  Captain Jack was sitting on the bench, seemingly wrapped head to toe, nursing a variety of injuries.  Pressure was not made love to this evening.  Pressure had a TV dinner, a half-pint of Häagen Dazs and fell asleep reading a cheap romance novel.


  • Just three home games and three road dates remain for the Bobcats.  None of them gimmes.  Home against the Hawks (tough), at New Orleans and Houston (not easy) on a mini road trip and then home dates against the Pistons and Bulls sandwiched by a final meeting with the Nets in Jersey.  Obviously, the Bulls season finale is important but if the ‘Cats win at least three of the next four, they should have their first Playoff birth locked up for good, regardless.
  • Kirk Hinrich torched the ‘Cats tonight with 24 points on 9-12 shooting but this was an aberration — Hinrich is only averaging 10ppg on 39% shooting for the year.  Still, if the Bulls could get Rose and Hinrich to play consistently together as they did tonight, they’d have a hell of a backcourt rotation.
  • Charlotte’s heralded free throw opportunity advantage disappeared tonight.  Chicago won the battle with 21-16 shots from the stripe.
  • If Larry Hughes is supposed to be Flip Murray’s replacement, he did a good job keeping up with him tonight.  Murray: 2-10 for 5 points, Hughes: 4-14 for 14 points.  Hughes won the headband contest as well 1-0.

Enjoy the Loss, Bobcats Fans…