Bobcats State of the Roster: Summer 2013 Edition


It’s been a while since we’ve done a proper “State of the Roster”. Granted, this is due mainly to the fact that the “state” has been (purposefully) terrible since the Gerald Wallace trade two and half years ago. But here we are in the sunny summer of 2013 and the Charlotte Professional Basketball Team is finally back on the road to relevance. Let’s break down the most incredible offseason in “Bobcat” team history and ponder what the team’s next moves will be:

May 21st: The Bugs Are Back

Michael Jordan didn’t waste any time cranking up the hype machine. The team officially announced its intent to rebrand as the Charlotte Hornets. It was a slam dunk, no-brainer of a move. Needless to say, the fanbase has been reinvigorated. Opening night, 2014 is going to be INSANE.

May 27th: The Best Coaching Staff in Charlotte Hoops History

A week later, Charlotte introduced new head coach Steve Clifford. A former Lakers, Magic and Rockets assistant and a product of the Van Gundy coaching tree, Clifford is respected and highly regarded by people who matter. Head over to and check out any video that features Clifford – you’ll be amazed at how impressive this guy is. Three weeks later, the team announced Patrick Ewing as associate head coach and added former Cavs sharpshooter Mark Price and former Hawks HC Bob Weiss to the staff. An embarrassment of riches.

Cody Zeller illustration by Mike S.June 27th: The Big Handsome

On Draft night, GM Rich Cho shocked everyone by selecting Indiana sophomore Cody Zeller. An uber-athletic seven footer, Zeller possesses the skill level and work ethic to become a legitimate NBA stretch four-high post machine ala Chris Bosh or Lamarcus Aldridge. Zeller showcased this ability in July’s Summer League by averaging a near double-double (16ppg/9rpg thru July 20th).

June 29th: Mullens Mulligan, The Return of Henderson?

Two days after the Draft, Charlotte extended Gerald Henderson his qualifying offer, making him a restricted free agent. The artist formerly known as BJ was set adrift, finally washing up on the SoCal shore a month later.

Al Jefferson illustration by Mike S.

July 4th: The Biggest Free Agent Signing in CLT Hoops History

In an unprecedented move, Charlotte agreed to terms with Big Al Jefferson on a three year, $41 million deal, amnestying headcase Tyrus Thomas in the process. The move was a signal to the rest of the league that the team was finished with the D-league Tank Squad and ready to compete.

July 5th: Bring Back McBob

Last year’s feel good player of the year, Josh McRoberts will be back as he and the team agree to a two year, $5.5 million deal. The hashtag’s job is now complete: #BringBackMcBob = #McBobIsBack!

What Happens Next

Henderson, the Bearded Swede and The Humbler

The last big item on the team’s offseason to-do list is Gerald Henderson’s contract situation. He’s been extended the qualifying offer, so will be back in some capacity unless another team offers up a pricey deal Charlotte is unwilling to match (not likely). Reports are vague as to the specifics of the impasse but I’m guessing the Cats are offering somewhere between $4.5-5.5 million per while Henderson’s reps are looking at something closer to the $8-9 million per deals that Demar Derozan and OJ Mayo have signed. Note to Gerald: You aren’t getting that kind of money from Charlotte. Mainly because Rich Cho is top-tier cap strategist and negotiator but also because of….
Jeffery Taylor. The guy has has been blowing up the Summer League and it’s a near certainty the team views him as potential Henderson replacement long-term. Already 24, Taylor isn’t much younger than Gerald but he’s on a minimum contract for the next two seasons and has shown the ability to be a big-time “Three & D” player going forward. With Jefferson and Zeller in the mix, Charlotte isn’t going to be as desperate for Henderson’s “Kobe-lite” type of offense; a spot up shooter like Taylor makes much more sense as a part of the projected starting five. Also, Henderson has built his halfcourt game on isos, post-ups and baseline twos – those types of shots will eventually go to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as he matures.
This isn’t to say that Henderson won’t return. Ideally, he’d come back on a reasonable two year contract, allowing the team to audition both he and Taylor in the SG role until both hit their contract summers in July ’15. A two year, $10 million deal would also be very tradable should a team make an offer for Gerald over the next couple of deadlines.
Gordon the Expiring. Ben is entering a contract year and will definitely be auditioning for his next team. At $13.2 million, he’s a tough number to fit into a trade but not impossible. A contender faced with bench scoring issues and armed with a couple of expiring contracts of their own would be the ideal candidate. If Cho has a shot at squeezing yet another asset out of that Stephen Jackson > Corey Maggette > Ben Gordon salary slot, I’m sure he will.

2014 Draft Fetishists Rejoice!

After the Josh Smith signing (and rumors of a Brandon Jennings sign & trade in the works), the Pistons seem hell-bent on making the postseason in 2014 – meaning that Charlotte will very likely possess that Top 8 protected pick Detroit owes them. I have the Pistons as a probable 7th seed, placing the selection at around fifteenth overall. Mitch McGary, come on down!
The first rounder Portland owes is a little more dicey. The pick is Top 12 protected and the Blazers have actively improved their roster over the summer but the Western Conference is brutal. Portland will have to battle the T-Wolves, Pelicans and Lakers for that final spot and if a key injury takes them out of the race early, look for Rip City to morph in to Tank City.
As much as I love Charlotte’s offseason, I still can’t see them making the Playoffs in 2014. MKG, Taylor, Zeller and Biyombo will need at least another year under their belts before they’re ready for prime-time all the time. Expect the team to win just enough games (30-32) to keep that Top 10 protected 1st Rounder they owe away from the Bulls.

State of the Roster: July 2013

After a fast and furious offseason, the team’s roster has taken shape…

Point Guard: Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions.

Call them the Ty Lawson/Andre Miller of the East: Both guys notched big-time PERs last season and offer different looks at the position. Clifford wants a third point guard on the roster, so expect the team to bring in a veteran deep bench guy like Jannero Pargo or Keyon Dooling. Seth Curry will likely be given a camp invite as soon as he’s back to full health.

Shooting Guard: Jeffery Taylor, Ben Gordon.

Obviously, Henderson will start here if/when he’s re-signed. Taylor has shown flashes but he’s still at least a half-season away from shouldering a starting gig. Gordon is a nice weapon when used in limited minutes.

Small Forward: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeffery Taylor.

MKG played around 25 minutes a game last season but should see a bump this year. If Henderson doesn’t return, it’s likely the team will sign a veteran wing with some range and move Taylor to SG full-time. Also, look for MKG to take a big leap offensively playing alongside Jefferson and Zeller. Putbacks and back door cuts should be the order of the day every day.

Power Forward: Cody Zeller, Josh McRoberts.

Depending on Cody’s development, McBob may get the early starts at the four. Still, this is a big upgrade over the Tyrus Thomas/Byron Mullens combo that started last season. Call it both an addition and an addition by subtraction.

Center: Al Jefferson, Bismack Biyombo, Brendan Haywood.

If the Cats can stay around .500 by January, expect Jefferson to get major All-Star consideration. He’ll be the unquestioned focal point of the team’s offense and should swallow up a ton of boards. Biyombo will have two more seasons to develop before his rookie deal is up, pairing Biz with Zeller or Jefferson gives the still 20-year old a much better chance to succeed as he’ll only be asked to play to his defensive strengths. Haywood’s light contract (2yrs, $4m) combined with his experience should make him prime trade bait for a contender in need of a two-way backup center. If Brendan is moved, look for Summer League invite Henry Sims to compete for the sixth big man spot.

In Conclusion

Forget the moaning and whining about Jefferson’s contract or where Zeller was selected and think of it this way:
The Bobcats replaced the historically bad frontcourt of Gana Diop, Tyrus Thomas and Byron Mullens with Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller and Josh McRoberts. Larry O’Brien contenders? Of course not, but they’re also a big step up from the league-wide punchline they’ve been over the last two and a half seasons. Combine that with another year of development from Kemba, MKG, Taylor and Biz, up to three 2014 first round picks, around $12 million in cap space next summer and a Buzzworthy name change and it’s safe to say that Charlotte’s NBA team is finally on the road to respectability.



Offseason Prescriptions for the Capped-Out Cats (Part 3)


Chapter III: Prescription B (Not for the Faint of Heart)


Alright.  We’ve made it this far.  First I stated the problem.  Next was an easy and elegant solution.  Now we go all in.

Quick Recap:
1.    The Bobcats are capped out before re-signing Tyrus Thomas or Raymond Felton.
2.    Team needs more consistent play from the PG position, more scoring from the low post, and more scoring in general.
3.    Team has no draft picks and few assets outside of their core players to trade in order to improve.

On the evening of June 24th, the Washington Wizards will select Kentucky PG phenom John Wall with the first overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft.  It’s a no-brainer.  After trading away stalwarts Antwan Jamison, Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler during the season, the Wizards are marching confidently along the rebuilding path.  Wall will step in and immediately be the team’s poster boy for the future.  With one timely drop of a ping pong ball, things suddenly look rosy in the District.  There’s just one small, $80 million, gun-brandishing problem.  His name: Agent Zero.



Step 1. Charlotte trades Boris Diaw, Nazr Mohammed and Gana Diop to Washington for Gilbert Arenas, Javale McGee and a first round draft selection (2012).

The Wiz are posturing something ridiculous about having Gilbert move to the off-guard position in anticipation of John Wall.  Uh, yeah.  Does anybody really think that Washington wants The Outlaw anywhere near their new Savior?  Sure, taking on a poo-poo platter of Diaw, Diop and Nazr while giving up a potential star in McGee and a high draft pick would suck but let’s face it, having Arenas anywhere near the Wiz bench pretty much negates any new excitement that Wall would bring to the team.  Gilbert is a 28 year old Point Guard with $80 million dollars left on his contract who was just released from a halfway house and has had three knee surgeries in the past three seasons.  If somebody is willing to take a guy like that off their hands AND save the organization $35 million in the process, you gotta make the move, right?

So why would I propose such a trade for the Bobcats?
First off, let me just say that Gilbert is a PR nightmare for certain but if Charlotte fans were willing to accept Stephen Jackson (y’know, the guy who charged into the stands and attacked fans only to later one up himself by unloading a gun at a strip club), then I think we can deal with a some of the Arenas quirkiness from time to time.

Secondly, well, there’s quite a few positives so let me just list them:
1.    Bobcats get to unload The League’s Worst Contract a.k.a. Gana Diop a.k.a. Black Shrek.
2.    Diaw’s exit clears space for Tyrus Thomas to start.
3.    Team replaces Raymond Felton with an electric scorer (and, when motivated, an underrated defender) in Arenas.
4.    Javale McGee is one of the League’s best offensive prospects at the Center position.
5.    The draft choice that the Bobcats receive would recoup the one that the team traded away in the Tyrus Thomas trade.
6.    The trade would save the Bobcats over $3 million in cap space next season, allowing the team to add depth via free agency.

Obviously, the biggest drawback to the trade is long term money.  Gilbert will be 32 years old when his deal expires in the summer of 2014 (see chart).  He’ll be paid over $22 million for that season alone.  Ouch.  Yeah, the numbers are ugly.  The move is overly aggressive and could either propel the team deep into the Playoffs (if Arenas stays healthy and focused and McGee develops) or could cripple them for the next three seasons.  MJ is known as a gambler, I think he’d be inclined to make the move.

Step 2. Charlotte Re-Signs Tyrus Thomas.

Same as in Prescription A.  Three years, $18 million sounds about right.  A starting spot might pique his interest in returning.

Step 3. Sign a backup Power Forward.

As discussed in Prescription A, possible low-cost candidates include Drew Gooden or Kris Humphries.  I like Humphries potential.

Step 4. Fill out the bench.

Arenas’s scoring abilities sort of negates the need to bring back Flip Murray.  The team could go in another direction here and sign a veteran “pure-playmaking” PG in the mold of Eric Snow as well.  Theo Ratliff has at least another year in him and could serve as a mentor to McGee and Ajinca.

Prescription B Chart


The move is ballsy. Could a volatile nucleus of Arenas, JAX, CRASH, Tyrus and one or two of their youngsters (most likely McGee and Henderson) be enough to propel the Bobcats into contention in the East over the next few seasons?
The risks are HUGE.  Zero could play another stupid prank or blow out his knee(s) again.  Jax could unload one of Gilbert’s guns in a public place.  Crash may wonder openly why he’s the only sane person in the locker room.  The team would be capped out until 2013.
But take a look at the depth chart going into next season:

PG: Arenas, Augustin, Murray
SG: Jackson, Henderson, Murray
SF: Wallace, Brown
PF: Thomas, Humphries, Ajinca
C: Chandler, McGee, Ratliff

If the ‘Cats can win 44 games with last year’s squad then upgrading via Arenas and McGee while having Thomas and Chandler (contract year) for an entire season could very well propel the team to 50 plus wins and home court in the first round of the Playoffs.  The team would also have enough draft picks and young prospects on the roster to make a move for a veteran during the following summer if they so choose and make a run for local favorite (and certain turnstile mover) Seth Curry after he completes his second and final year at Duke in the 2012 NBA Draft.

As for Prescription C, I’ve decided to save that one for later.  Let’s see how the Draft and the early days of free agency play out first.