Hornets Summer Shuffle : June Edition



Just two weeks removed from the closing game of the 2015 NBA Finals, and significant moves have quickly been made all around the league. Sparing little time, the Hornets kicked off the Summer as one of the most active clubs reworking their roster. At this point, GM Rich Cho appears to be ambitiously taking on major renovations, while hesitant to chisel at the foundation of last year’s disappointing squad.

Over the last decade, the Bobcats/Hornets haven’t hid their desperation to add legitimate talent. The results haven’t amazed, as they corralled rosters through free agency, drafts, or trades. The free agent market delivered a mixed bag of guys like Ramon Sessions, Al Jefferson, Marvin Williams, Brian Roberts, Jason Maxiell, and Lance Stephenson. Unfortunately, Charlotte’s habitual weakness – the NBA Draft – hasn’t counterbalanced their lack of free agent appeal (or cash). Their scouting and drafting practices have resulted in a young group of prospects that are living in the shadow of their own “potential” – Bismack Biyombo, Kemba Walker, Jeffery Taylor, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh, and the newest Hornet Frank Kaminsky. It’s a good bet that none of these guys will be wearing an All-Star uniform next February, but it’s possible that they can all contribute as pros somewhere in the Association.

If there’s one way to ease the anxiety or apathy of the fanbase, it’s a tool that Charlotte’s been leaning on for years – Trading. The Bobcats existed in a constant state of upheaval (internally and on the court). While the basketball product was underwhelming, they could always draw attention as we speculated on the next far-fetched (Allen Iverson) or bone-headed (Tyson Chandler) move they could make. Apparently, Michael Jordan decided to pivot from aimlessly swapping for dumb contracts and took an interest in shaping a balanced roster when he hired Rich Cho. Moving bad contracts and getting valuable, NBA-calibre talent through trades has proven to be Cho’s biggest strength as he’s rebuilt the club. Just a week ago, he surprised us by applying these skills to address his own mistake in signing Lance Stephenson last year.

After last season’s disappointing record, it should be no surprise that Charlotte is taking action to turn things around. Here’s a quick recap of what’s happened for the Hornets in June:

Moved Lance Stephenson (Guard)
Result: Saved us from watching him ruin every offensive possession while on the court.

Acquired Spencer Hawes (Center)
Result: Added a quality backup center with shooting range that opens up the floor, and gives Jefferson ten minutes of rest

Acquired Jeremy Lamb (Guard) for Luke Ridnour for Matt Barnes
Result: Now have a taller reserve guard with reliable shooting, and experience in a successful NBA offense. Rich Cho showed a little of his savviness to add talent in exchange for nothing.

Moved Gerald Henderson (Guard)
Result: Lost a captain and loyal teammate, but finally let Henderson see how things work outside of the ever-rebuilding Charlotte club.

Moved Noah Vonleh (Forward/Center)
Result: Gave away a promising young big man. Yet, allows us to watch him develop from afar without the risk of being let down by another failed developmental talent project.

Acquired: Nicolas Batum
Result: Kemba and Al will have room to work. Batum is enough of an offensive threat to spread defenses, allowing Charlotte to run a pro-style offense this season. As a bonus, MKG will have a handful more opportunities to slash to the paint with Batum drawing attention.

Drafted: Frank Kaminsky (Center)
Result: GM Rich Cho is going to have to defend this pick for a while. Charlotte just traded for Spencer Hawes, and Kaminsky will likely bring the same set of skills to the court. Who knew that Hawes was the prototype for the next generation of big man in the league?

Released: Bismack Biyombo
Result: The Hornets gave up on a project that wasn’t showing much return on their investment. This leaves the team without a real rim protector, and allows Biyombo to find a better fit elsewhere in the league. Rich Cho somehow gets a pass on this despite the obvious gamble.

Released: Jefferey Taylor
Result: More minutes are available for a wing behind MKG and Batum. Who will step up?

As a whole, these moves signal a concerted effort to address the team’s painfully unwatchable offense. This could be the wave that elevates the Hornets to the Playoffs, as they’ve already claimed the reputation as a top defense under Steve Clifford. The organization has yet to establish a “system” like some of the league’s most respected clubs, but this off-season has shown that they’ve transitioned away from simply clearing the books and acquiring young (cheap) prospects. This Summer, the Hornets look like they’re actually building toward winning.

– Mike

POLL : Best Move This Summer?

  • Trading Lance Stephenson (30%, 56 Votes)
  • Drafting Frank Kaminsky (5%, 10 Votes)
  • Getting Nic Batum (60%, 113 Votes)
  • Trading Gerald Henderson (3%, 6 Votes)
  • Releasing Biyombo (2%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 188

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10 Thoughts on the Lance Trade


Within hours of posting my Draft preview yesterday, news broke that Lance Stephenson had been shipped to the Clippers for Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes.
I really like the deal.

  1. Lance had to go.
    Stephenson is a ball dominant guard with a high turnover rate who can’t shoot. That’s basically every single Hornet pain-point bundled together into one human being. Clifford’s system is dependent upon minimizing giveaways and Charlotte has led the league in fewest turnovers committed for the past two seasons. The team already has a ball dominant lead guard (Kemba Walker) who has his own shooting issues. Benching Lance for another season both wastes a roster spot and creates a distraction. He had to go.
  2. Waiving him was worse.
    The team could’ve simply “Josh Smith’d” Lance and eaten the last year of his salary ($9m) for the season. But that’s one sixth of the team’s cap literally gone to waste. They also could’ve used the league’s Stretch Provision and paid out Stephenson’s salary over the next three seasons ($3m per) – which is a better option in some ways until you consider the next point.
  3. The $3m Backup Center.
    Spencer Hawes is owed approximately $5.8m per season over the next three. Once the team either unloads Matt Barnes’s contract or buys him out ($1m cap hit), Hawes’s salary is all Charlotte will be on the hook for. As Kevin Pelton noted in his excellent trade grade piece for ESPN Insider, once factoring in the stretch provision penalty – the Hornets are essentially getting a very good backup center for less than $3m per season. This is tremendous value.
  4. The fit.
    Nearly twenty five years of hoops geekdom has taught me a valuable lesson: Fit is just as important as talent. Every once in a while a Duncan or MJ or Lebron comes along who would dominate on any team in any era. That’s rare. How a franchise develops and uses the player is extraordinarily important for everyone else. Josh McRoberts was headed out of the league before Steve Clifford helped resurrect his career (and earn him another $25m). Is Draymond Green a max guy on the Timberwolves? Does Zach Randolph experience his wonderful second act if he doesn’t go to Memphis? The Hornets are desperate for three point shooting and playmaking. Hawes brings both. Seriously. Just watch some of these highlights:
  5. A Defensive Sieve.
    Steve Clifford built a Top 10 NBA Defense in back to back years with Al Jefferson at center. Think about that. The odds that this foundation will be destroyed with Hawes playing 16-18 minutes a night are quite low. The system remains the same: prevent penetration, get back on defense and commit as few turnovers as possible.
  6. Bismack Biyombo: Superstar.
    Everyone likes Biz. He works hard, is a super pleasant guy off the court and does a few very nice things on it. But some of the reactions after yesterday’s trade made it sound like we were talking about Bill Russell. Biyombo has become one of the top rim protector’s in the game. True. He also stinks at offense and his team struggles to score even when he’s on the bench. I’ve been saying for years that a good team can’t have both Biyombo and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the same rotation. You have to pick one. And if this trade was made with the intention of letting Biz walk in free agency, then so be it. I want Biyombo to succeed first, succeed on the Hornets second. Put Biz in a situation like Dallas and he can start and never touch the ball outside of a dunk.
  7. How the trade affects the Draft.
    Hawes is essentially a veteran version of Myles Turner or Frank Kaminsky. Expect Charlotte to pass on each of them and focus on finding wings or trading the pick entirely. There’s been some noise about a trade back to nab RJ Hunter and another asset. The team could also package Marvin Williams ($7m expiring contract) with one of Noah Vonleh or Cody Zeller plus the nine pick to grab an All-Star type veteran wing. Cho has been big on collecting assets versus consolidating them so I’d put the chances of this sort of trade at around 25%.
  8. They’re keeping Hawes.
    From Rich Cho’s comments post-trade, it sounds like they’re thrilled to have him and getting Hawes was just as big a part of making this trade as was unloading Lance.
  9. How the trade affects Free Agency.
    All will be revealed between June 30th and early July. Will Biz be extended his meaty ($5.4m) qualifying offer as the team’s third center? Will Gerald Henderson exercise his player option? Will the team turn their back on Jeff Taylor or give him one more shot? Until then, we won’t know for certain how much cap space Charlotte will have to play with. It certainly won’t be enough for a max-type offer.
  10. Cheer up.
    Hawes is going to help on the court and in the lockerroom. The Lance distraction is a thing of the past. The Draft is quickly approaching and the team’s young trio of Cody, Vonleh and MKG are getting better every year. The books are relatively clean and the team owns all of its first round picks going forward. All is good.


Bobcats Hold Off Kings in MLK Day Matinee


Charlotte Bobcats vs. Sacramento 1/18/10

Bobcats squeak past a pesky Kings squad at the Cable Box to notch their eighth straight home victory and fifth straight overall.  The team is a game over .500 in mid-January.  Final Score: 105-103  Boxscore here.

Running Diary Recap:

First half can be summed up simply as: Gerald Wallace.
19 points on 5-9 with 9-9 from the charity stripe.  Two blocks, three boards and a steal.  Bobcats up by twenty plus points for most of the half.  Damn.  If Crash isn’t an All-Star this season, then the All-Star game is a joke.*
(*Insert Bill Walton Voice for emphasis

As some of you may have deciphered from my PF trade column yesterday, I’m not a big fan of Tyson Chandler.  Why even bring him back?  NaGana Diophammed is a nice little Under-The-Radar platoon.  No reason to ruin a good thing.

Anybody realize that Paul Westphal is coaching the Kings?  What?  Were Bill Fitch and Dick Versace booked?

Classic Boris Diaw sequence between 5:30-5:00 in the 2nd quarter:

  1. Slow on weak side switch, lazily fouls Kevin Martin for an And 1.  (Should have clobbered him Anthony Mason-style or at least Kurt Thomas-style)
  2. Martin misses the freebie, Felton finds Diaw on the perimeter during the resulting fast break: Three Point Swish.
  3. Boris out position as the Kings push the ball the length of the court, offensive rebound Sacramento.
  4. Boris replaced by Derrick Brown.

Brown, btw, was spectacular in the first half.  7 points in 6 minutes and two of those came on a rad Everybody Loves Raymond assisted Phi Slamma Jamma.

2nd QTR, Raymond has 8 assists in the first half.  Is he winning me over?  In reggie language, “methinks he is.”

Also early in the second, DJ nails a long two after the ball loops around the rim and finally drops.  Steve Martin and DC4THREEEEEE! wax nostalgic about how WarDell never needed these new soft Spalding rims to knock down shots.  I get as misty-eyed as Ron Green, Sr. at an Arnold Palmer/Andy Griffith Charity BBQ.

FINAL SECONDS, 2nd QTR, Spencer Hawes with a throwdown putback to send the game into halftime.  I finally figured out why I keep thinking “Spencer Hawes” is a professional wrestler:

  • a. He looks like some local dude that works dark matches when the WWE tours through the midwest.  All he’s missing is some “tribal” tattoos** criss-crossing his rhomboids down to his wrists.  **BONUS NOTE: I was just informed recently by a good friend that this style of tattoo is affectionately known as a “Turd Jacket” amongst the serious Ink community.
  • b. The name “Hawes” sounds a lot like “Hoss” which, of course, is one of Jim Ross’s favorite descriptors of large human beings.  “Oh my gawd King, that hoss Spencer Hawes just Turd Jacketed Jon Brockman right onto his spine!!!

3RD QTR, Tyreke Evans at 6’6″ is just unfair.  If he and Derrick Rose are the future at PG, then the Bobcats need to unload Augustin right now.  Immediately.  Take anything for him.  Anything.  Even a Turd Jacketed Jon Brockman.

3RD QTR, Stephen Jackson a non-factor thus far with 2 minutes to go in the third with four fouls and nine points.  Sacramento goes on a 14-0 run.  Strangely, for the first time in franchise history, I’m absolutely not in the least bit nervous at this.  Bobcats have turned into one of those good teams that’ll toy with you at home.  I like it!

And just like that, the run is broken up by a MONSTER Derrick Brown MAN-DUNK to take us into the 4th.

Bobcats playing their third game in 72 hours by the way.  AND THEY’RE STILL TRAPPING like an obsessed college team making a run into the Sweet Sixteen.  Wow.  Nice effort.

Oh crap7:29 LEFT IN THE GAME and Gerald is down, staring at his ankle.  Not good.   Andreas Nocioni just pulls a Tully Blanchard by stepping on Crash’s heel and then nails a three that cuts the Bobcats lead to ten.  Ouch.  Then nails another one a minute later to cut it to three.  Tyreke cuts it to one and I’m catching up on my nervousness at light speed.  How important is Gerald Wallace to this team?  You’re seeing it right now.

4:30 to go in the fourth, Gerald Wallace back from the locker room and Raymond nails a three.  Udrih fires back with a long two–that’s later deemed a three.  What happened to the 24 point cushion?  What’s the deal with the King’s and massive comebacks?

3:02, Crazy series ending with a Stephen Jackson fast break “Goal-tended” hoop that has Westphal acting like Bobby Heenan on the sidelines (I promise that will be the last 80s wrestling reference in this 2010 NBA game recap).  Meanwhile, Dell Curry is insisting that this is the time of the game when Raymond Felton wants the ball in his hands.  I’m more than a little scared.

2:00 – 1:12, Jon Brockman screws up Every Which Way But Loose (then again, he did get Turd Jacketed in the spine) culminating in a offensive goal-tend.  Raymond comes through with a huge running layup after JAX whiffs on an easy basket and the Cats are up by four.

:24, Tyreke with a sweet sweep to the hoop for his 34th point.  What’s this guy’s ceiling?  Durant?  Lebron???

FINAL SCORE: 105-103. Raymond came through.  I’m going to reserve comment on this.  For now.

Enjoy the win Bobcats Fans.