Tyson in Reverse | The Baseline Breaks Down the Dwight Howard Trade

Dwight Howard Traded to Charlotte
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Back in July of 2010 then Charlotte head coach Larry Brown and GM Rod Higgins made what is widely considered one of the worst trades of the NBA millenium.

The Bobcats were over the cap and in danger of breaching the luxury tax. They needed to dump salary fast. Their solution: trade Tyson Chandler (who had spent his lone year in Charlotte either hurt or in Brown’s doghouse) to the Mavericks for the immediate cap relief of Erik Dampier’s non-guaranteed deal and the bloated multi-year contracts of Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera.

Ten months later Chandler was helping Dirk win a ring while career 9th/10th men Najera and Carroll bloated Charlotte’s payroll and took up precious roster spots for years. It was a salary dump trade in which the dumper ended up taking on more salary in the longterm. This move all but cemented the Bobcats’ reputation as a league-wide joke.

A New Era of Competence

Seven years later Charlotte is no longer the laughingstock. In fact, they’ve completely turned the tables by becoming the fleecer in such a deal rather than the fleeced. And it’s all due to competence.

See what happens when your GM and Coach work together?

COMPETENCE: As a former assistant in Orlando, Steve Clifford has long had a great relationship with Dwight Howard. He understands Howard’s game and personality. Few other NBA staffs are in a position to maximize late career Dwight like Charlotte’s. If Dwight is going to achieve a renaissance anywhere in the league it will be as a Hornet.

MORE COMPETENCE: Rich Cho’s negotiating and cap management skills allowed the Hornets to upgrade their short term talent situation, dump seemingly un-dumpable salary and boost their 2nd Round pick to near 1st Round status all in one trade.

This single transaction encapsulates what can happen when both men – each the best this organization has seen at their respective positions – play to their strengths in unison. Bravo, gentlemen.

Worst Case is Still a Better Case

“Yeah, this is a great trade and all…if it was 2011 LMFAO!!!”
–Basic Twitter Troll

Let’s assume disaster for a moment: That the worst of Dwight’s childish antics distract and disrupt. That his soon to be 32 year old body breaks down before the final two years of his contract expire. That his fit on the court never materializes and that he essentially becomes a $50m version of last season’s Roy Hibbert.

The trade is still a win. Why? Let us count the ways:

I. Miles Plumlee is not only a worse player by any measurement but his 3 year contract ran a year longer than Dwight’s. By making the trade, a currently capped out Charlotte team will be able to play in free agency a year earlier than expected.

II. Which is great because guess who is due for a new contract during that time? Kemba Walker. Also both Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can opt out that summer so more flexibility in July of 2019 = a VERY GOOD THING.

III. Did I mention that they dumped Plumlee? It was widely viewed as one of the league’s least tradeable contracts and they did so without having to include a pick or prospect to sweeten the deal (see the Lakers and D’Angelo Russell as a counterexample of this).

IV. In fact, Cho was able to somehow move up in the Draft – going from pick 41 of a deep class to 31. That’s the first pick of the 2nd Round, a very interesting spot indeed (more on this later).

V. If Dwight becomes a major problem off or on the court, Charlotte can just tell him to stay home or try and trade him as an expiring next summer. His salary is still less damaging timing-wise than Plumlee’s.

Best Case is Insane

Ok. So what if Dwight isn’t Lance Stephenson 2.0? What if he accepts his role, plays (mostly) hard, takes his vitamins and says his prayers (brother)? Well then, things are suddenly bright indeed.

I. Suppose you have a center who is aging, struggles with back problems and can’t quite play 36 minutes a night anymore…wouldn’t you want to pair him with…

II. A younger center whose body type and strength also prevent him from playing big minutes at the five every night for 82 games. A player who is more mobile guarding on the perimeter, a player who is different in style just enough to give you another look but not so different that you have to change the way you play when he’s out there.

III. Yes I am talking about the potentially tremendous center platoon of Dwight and Cody. Should they be able to put their past feuds and egos (well, ego) behind them this combination should finally give Clifford 48 respectable defensive minutes at center for the first time in his 5 season tenure.

IV. Lack of backup center plagued the Hornets last season. When Cody sat, the team dropped from 3rd in the league in defensive efficiency to 24th.

V. Did I mention defensive rebounding? Because Cliff is obsessed with that stuff and the Hornets (aside from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) have lacked a true rebounding beast since Big Al’s All-NBA season a few years back. Say what you will about Dwight’s declining game but the man can still ball-board (8th in DRPG, 8th in Contested DRPG). Oh yeah, Howard also ranked 2nd in offensive rebounds and contested ORBPG – so if Cliff finally allows a player to crash the offensive glass, Dwight can convert ‘em.

VI. Rim protection – while Howard is no longer the shot blocking golem he once was (nearly 3 blocks per 36 minutes during his prime, down to 1.5 last season), his strength and reputation will provide at least as much detterence as Cody when Zeller sits. This is a good thing.

VII. Given Dwight’s seniority and rep, it’s a near lock that he’ll be the starter with Cody coming off the bench. Which incidentally means that the Hornets will go from having one of the worst backup center situations in the league to one of the best.

What Next?

With the Draft a little more than 24 hours away, the Hornets roster makeup and motivation for next season is much clearer:

I. The team still has two primary positional needs: Backup PG and Backup Wing

II. After dealing Marco Belinelli in the Howard trade, Charlotte has exactly one player on the roster who shot greater than 36% from three last season (Kemba)

III. Which leads me to believe that unless a highly rated point guard drops (Dennis Smith), the Hornets will use that pick on Duke’s Luke Kennard – who is widely regarded as the best shooter in this class.

IV. While I still love Donovan Mitchell and his game, his shot is streaky and with the point guard market petering out league-wide (Russell to BRK, Fultz to PHI have started a chain reaction), it will be much easier to find a backup one via trade or free agency than a sharp-shooting wing.

V. Kennard’s play-making from the two would also give Charlotte some minor insurance should Batum miss any extended time (which would be a very, very bad thing).

2nd Round Scenarios

If the Hornets do indeed keep their newly acquired 2nd Rounder (they’ve sold or traded all but one in the Cho era) then they’re in prime position to get a potential rotation player on the cheap which would put Cho’s negotiation skills further to the test:

If Cho can uncover a quality player at 31 and then sign him to something like the famed “Hinkie Special” 2yrs + Non-Guaranteed Year + Team Option Year – or even a standard 2-3 year 2nd Round contractyou’re looking at possibly adding in a rotation guy for around $1m per over the next few seasons. For a team as cap strapped as Charlotte this would be HUGE.

As to who they could target with this pick – I have no idea. They worked out Terrance Fergusan and he may drop there. Harry Giles may scare teams off of longterm guaranteed money so could fall. Guys like Josh Hart and Frank Jackson will be there as well. This is strictly a best player available situation and given the depth of this Draft, Charlotte has a shot at a good one.

Give Rich Cho an Extension Already

Cho is in the last year of his contract and MJ has yet to extend him – this trade alone should get him one.

Even if Howard doesn’t play a game for Charlotte, the team was able to trade an untradeable contract while upgrading their draft position and cleared the books for an incredibly important 2019 Free Agency period.

Karmic payback complete. Tyson Chandler helped Dallas win a title. Cho, Cliff and Dwight helped win Charlotte some respectability.

-ASChin
@baselinebuzz

 

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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End of the Gana Diop Era

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Gana Diop Illustration

As NBA enthusiasts across the globe get ready for the exciting action and intense competition of the Playoffs, Charlotte Bobcats fans should take pause to reflect on the end of an era – The DeSagana Diop Era. It’s not often that a team says goodbye to one of its Big Three (salary bandits). So, this is a great opportunity to survey the impact that the giant’s departure will have for the club.

Oh, how time and paychecks fly by. It seems like it was just yesterday that the Bobcats were pressured by Larry Brown and duped by the Dallas Mavericks into swallowing Diop’s ridiculous contract in exchange for Matt Carroll and Ryan Hollins. Since then, ‘Gana has eaten up over 11% of the team’s salary cap with few contributions to justify it. Acquiring the Senegalese seven-footer immediately hamstrung the ‘Cats efforts to retain their much better Center, Tyson Chandler in the 2010 off-season. Regrettably, Charlotte had to take back Matt Carroll, Eduardo Najera, and Erick Dampier’s contract in a financially-driven trade, delivering Chandler to the Mavs where he went on to win the championship. Oh, and then Tyson picked up the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2012. But, those wiry ol’ Bobcats still had Diop on their bench! Another fun fact – Ryan Hollins is a contributor off the bench for the Playoff-bound LA Clippers and played over three-times as many minutes as ‘Gana did this season.

Gana Diop Era Highlights

Okay, let’s take a moment to look at some Gana Diop highlights:

Next Step for Diop

It’s highly likely that Diop will step away from the NBA, and walk off into the sunset (after he collects the last of his $7,372,200.00 from the Bobcats this month). Despite the pain that he’s caused Michael Jordan’s wallet, it looks like the guy has actually done some pretty good things off the court with the NBA Cares program.

Nevertheless, ‘Gana is gonna leave a big hole on this team’s payroll. It’s fair that fans have concerns about how the team will use their salary cap numbers to improve this summer. But, when the time comes to announce the next signing, Charlotte’s front office needs to measure their offer and ask, “Is that guy worth Gana Diop money?”

-Mike

Bobcats Drop to 0-14 All-Time Against Dallas, Lose 101-92

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Shaun Livingston: "Derp." (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Recap | Box Score

Another game against Dallas, another loss.

The Bobcats moved to 0-14 all-time against the Dallas Mavericks with tonight’s 101-92 loss.

The Bobcats, on the tail end of a back-to-back, were stuck with a consistent 12-point deficit (give or take, obviously) for most of the game as their offense only managed to shoot 37.1% from the field while the Mavs shot 46.5%. Dirk Nowitzki headed the Bobcat-Killing Committee once again, with 25 points, including some clutch shots in the fourth quarter. The quintessential Bobcats-Mavs game, if you will.

A slow start for the Bobcats was quelled by an unusual 11-point scoring flash by Boris Diaw. However, after the Mavs compensated for his offensive outbreak, the Bobcats couldn’t find anyone to step up for a while. D.J. Augustin and Stephen Jackson’s shots were off early and the Bobcats fell to a nine-point deficit after the first quarter.

Luckily in the second quarter, Shaun Livingston came alive and had 10 points on six shots. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to help cut into Dallas’ lead as the rest of the Bobcats were wholly ineffective. And that especially extends to the defense, which was atrocious. I can’t even remember how many dunks Tyson Chandler had in the first half (eleventy-jillion?). Augustin could shoulder much of the blame as he couldn’t defend Jose Juan Barea because of Barea’s quick first step. And once Barea, or another Dallas player, got to the interior, the defense again collapsed. The Bobcats weren’t talking to each other, which is an incredibly important part of defensive cohesiveness. Furthermore, Tyson Chandler (in his first game back in Charlotte since being traded) dominated from a rebounding perspective in the first half, grabbing 11 rebounds in the first half alone. Kwame Brown was simply not strong or quick enough to rebound against Chandler. And to make things seem worse, I found that Jackson seemed disinterested.

The third quarter was more of the same for the most part. Barea and Dirk were still hitting their shots. Tyson Chandler was slowed down though, en route to only four second-half rebounds. D.J. Augustin did make an encouraging turnaround after hitting a three-pointer which seemed to instill some confidence in him. He ran with it, completing a three-point play on the next offensive possession and pulling the Bobcats back into the game, somehow. On the other side of things, Stack Jack was doing the opposite. In the third quarter, Jackson was getting quite fussy and even drew a technical foul. I was fairly confident he would get tossed by the end of the night (he didn’t). The third quarter ended with the Bobcats down 16. As Dr. E noted, it just felt like the Bobcats weren’t in it.

In a pleasing turn of events (especially to those who paid to watch this game in person), the fourth quarter was much more entertaining and competitive. Playing much better defense and utilizing better ball movement on offense, the Bobcats cut the Mavs’ lead to six with a minute left. It could have been even closer than that, but the Mavericks had seven offensive rebounds between 10:22 and 5:01 left in the fourth quarter. And even though some of those did not lead to any points for the Mavs, it took time off the clock from the Bobcats’ comeback effort. And in the end, the Bobcats couldn’t muster the energy to complete a comeback, losing by nine.

The Bobcats, now 21-29, play their next game at home against the Celtics (37-12) on Monday at 7 p.m. EST.

Plays of the Night

Shaun Livingston dunk!

There was also a very nice Shaun Livingston to Gerald Wallace alley oop that you can find here.

Stats Leaders:

Bobcats

D.J. Augustin: 7-17 FG, 21 PTS, 2 AST

Gerald Wallace: 6-15 FG, 13 PTS, 11 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK

Stephen Jackson: 5-17 FG, 17 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST, 2 BLK

Mavs

Dirk Nowitzki: 10-19 FG, 25 PTS, 4 REB, 4 BLK

Tyson Chandler: 4-10 FG, 9 PTS, 15 REB, 2 BLK

Jason Terry: 7-14 FG, 21 PTS, 3 AST

– Cardboard Gerald

You can follow Cardboard Gerald, Dr. E, and ASChin on Twitter at @CardboardGerald@BaselineDrE, and @BobcatsBaseline. You can find more of Cardboard Gerald’s writing at Bobcats Break and now at Stacheketball.

What If George Postolos Owned The Bobcats?

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Postolos giving Gerald Wallace financial advice

Way back in February, the future ownership of the Bobcats was on a teeter-totter with Michael Jordan and former Houston Rockets President George Postolos on opposite sides. While Postolos had more funds, MJ had a friendly relationship with Bob. As such, I didn’t even think Jordan would get the team. I figured Postolos’ advantage in funds would overcome whatever favoritism Bob Johnson had for Jordan. However it did not, as after Postolos made his final offer, Johnson gave MJ “one last shot,” which Jordan was more than eager to jump on (ESPN).

The rest was history: Jordan became the first former player to own an NBA team; he sat courtside for just about every game, including the playoffs; he led a community-centered tour throughout North Carolina, and yada yada yada.

However, seeing as how incredibly close this team was to being George Postolos’, I couldn’t help but wonder what this team and organization would look like under George Postolos.

Coaching and Other Staff

  • Larry Brown would be gone – Sources had said that George Postolos was prepared to clean house if Jordan couldn’t raise the necessary capital to buy the team. Due to this, it was reported that LB was looking into finding other teams willing to offer him a job in case Larry was let go, including the Clippers (SLAM).
  • Coaching staff – I’m not going to lay out my whole thoughts about Larry Brown here, but I will say it seems he’s past his prime and at times even uninterested. Had Postolos bought the team and cleaned house, we would have needed to get a new coach. The odds for getting a coach better than LB would have seemed bad but in hindsight, it might have been a better option than keeping him, based on what we’ve seen of our Bobcats so far. I would have been completely in favor of Avery Johnson. Byron Scott would probably have been next on the list, or even Tom Thibodeau. While the pool of replacements would be somewhat deep in talent at the top (those mentioned above, Jeff Van Gundy, Doug Collins) there’s a drop off and who knows who would have possibly come out of the woodwork for the head coaching spot (Paul Silas? Allan Bristow?)
  • Other staff (scouts, etc.) – I would expect Postolos to get top notch talent as far as scouts and other staff members, not to mention those in the front office. It is a widely known fact that Jordan often favors his buddies when it comes to job openings (see Higgins, Rod) and while the Bobcats have proven lately to be trade aficionados, they have never been good at drafting. Seeing as how drafting well is most often a must for a franchise, I would expect Postolos to grab some excellent talent.

General Outlook

  • Commitment to the future and not the present – Sometimes I tend to get the feeling that Jordan is in a half-assed form of a “Win Now” mode. He obviously does not want to lose money on a yearly basis like his predecessor, so he knows this team has to win to bring in revenue. This means he has to spend money to bring in some good players. But he can’t spend too much money or the team would go over the luxury tax level, requiring him to pay even more money. So he brings in some mediocre players to fill some holes in the roster while having more than a considerable amount of salary tied up in veteran contracts. However, with Postolos steering the ship, I think he would be okay with getting rid of some terrible contracts in favor of gaining cap space for the future. That would mean trading Tyson Chandler, Boris Diaw and/or maybe Stephen Jackson (maybe even Diop in conjunction with one of those players if we were lucky) to be able to rid the team of some bad contracts. I believe Postolos’ bigger bank account would allow him to be okay with losing now and being a better team in the future. In other words, it would be putting off minor success in the present for possibly even better results in the future.

The Team/Players

  • While Postolos is probably no Mark Cuban in terms of his wallet size, I think he would be more committed to building a team that would have a greater chance for success in the future resulting from a rebuilding process. As well as drafting well, this means ridding the team of bad contracts. If Postolos’ staff acts how I think they would be instructed, which is à la the late Supersonics/early Thunder, we might have seen a big trade where we dump one of our top players as well as one of our lousy contracts for young talent, a huge expiring contract and/or a good draft pick. Raymond Felton would not have been offered a new contract; Gerald Henderson and D.J. Augustin would have been given extensions just like they have gotten. Overall, we’d most likely be looking at an ugly-to-watch, young Carolina Panthers-esque basketball team.

The Team’s Image and Marketability

  • One of the great things Jordan has done for the Bobcats is that he has made them more visible than ever. By that, I don’t mean that the team is visible on more televisions, because I don’t get them on my T.V., like many people in the Carolinas. Rather, I mean that there is a lot more national interest in the team now. After it was announced that Jordan was to become majority owner, some fantastic things happened. The team got 40 new corporate sponsors, renewed 91% of season ticket holders and sold 1,575 new season tickets (Charlotte Observer). In addition, the purchase of the team gave the Bobcats more time on national television. Jordan was giving interviews on NBA TV and TNT, not to mention on whatever Fox Sports affiliate they are shown on. No one can even act like Postolos buying the team would get anywhere near the same response. Example: name the two men that the Golden State Warriors were sold to. Unless you’re a huge NBA junkie or a Warriors fan, in all likelihood you probably didn’t know the new owners are Joe Lacob and Peter Guber. The simple fact is that unless your owner is eccentric or famous, they’re not getting a lot of attention. And when your owner is (arguably) the greatest basketball player of all time, the team is going to get more attention than ever – from fans, locals, business, sponsors, the media – you name it. Postolos just can’t get the job done in the same regard. However, as his track record shows, he is excellent at maintaining good community relations with the organization. But Jordan is no slouch in this category either,  as shown by his 2010 Summer World (read: state) Tour, where he traveled across the state, making stops at Fort Bragg and talking to schoolchildren. He also donated a cool quarter mil to help fund middle school sports. Neat.

I don’t think either owner is a bad choice and honestly, I’m not sure which I’d prefer. On the one hand, if Postolos’ organization would act how I think they would act, they could make winning a more long term plan but at the expense of the present. On the other hand, Jordan would have the team try to win now. Jordan’s method of retaining most of the current roster, which would probably have more talent than Postolos’, would build up a bigger fanbase in the present, which could make it easier on the team later on when they undoubtedly have to rebuild (I just didn’t think it would be so soon). The possible Postolos plan could alienate and exasperate fans, both ones that were so happy to get to the playoffs and fans on the fence by sending off our best players to free up our books. It’s a tough decision that I’m glad I don’t have to make.

But don’t feel bad for George Postolos. He is reportedly interested in buying the Pistons and if that doesn’t go down, he’ll still be a really, really rich man trying to buy an NBA team. So he’s got that going for him.

– Cardboard Gerald

2010-11 Bobcats Season Preview: Front and Center

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Bobcats Grizzlies Basketball

Will the Bobcats’ center-by-committee approach work again?

The Charlotte Bobcats have a number of pressing issues/weaknesses to deal with as the regular season looms.  Chief among them is probably the point guard dilemma, but close behind is the five spot.

Despite projected starter Tyson Chandler’s disappointing and injury-riddled campaign last year, the Cats actually got decent play from the spot.  Out of necessity, Larry Brown went with a center-by-committee approach and it worked.

Out of necessity, he’ll do the same this season.  Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that we’ll be as pleasantly surprised by the results.

Nasty Naz

When Chandler was ineffective at the start of last season, Nazr Mohammed saw increased minutes and impressed.  When Chandler had to completely shut it down for a big hunk of the middle of the season, Nazr assumed the starting role.  Fortunately, he was in great shape and had an exquisite, veteran’s understanding of Larry Brown’s system.

Mohammed turned in a career-best 19.64 PER, largely due to hitting the boards hard and hitting a high percentage of his shots (55.3%).  The league average for PER is 15, and Dwight Howard notched a 24.07 last year, so that gives you an idea of how good Mohammed was last season.

Mohammed enters the season as the projected starter, and will probably be called on to play more minutes than the 17 per game he averaged last year.  Great, right?

Probably not.  As ESPN.com’s PER-father John Hollinger has explained, players who suddenly have a big jump in their productivity/efficiency late in their careers rarely sustain it in subsequent years.  He calls it the “fluke rule” and the 33-year-old Mohammed certainly qualifies for it.

Hollinger’s statistics suggest there is over a 90% chance that Mohammed’s play will regress by about 3 PER points.  This would put Mohammed back around his career PER average, so if it indeed happens, it would serve as a regression to a personal mean as well as an example of Hollinger’s fluke rule.  To conclude, statistics imply that Mohammed will return to being a slightly-above-average player this season.

Don’t buy dorky statistical arguments?  How about the simple age/health argument?  Not evident amongst last year’s sparkling PERs and percentages is that Mohammed did eventually break down.  After a particularly strong 5-game stretch to begin last February in which he averaged over 31 minutes a game, Mohammed began suffering back spasms.  He gutted out a few more games, but ultimately sat out about two months.  He returned late in the season looking nothing like the guy who had started 29 games earlier in the season.

Now as anyone who follows Naz on Twitter knows, the guy is serious about keeping himself in shape in the offseason, so we can hope for the best.  But at 33 years old and with a history of back issues, logic dictates that it is unlikely that Mohammed will be able to offer more than 15-20 minutes per game and/or more than 60-65 games this season — which brings us to our next subject.

Theo Ratliff vs. Gana Diop

Due to a combination of foul trouble, injury concerns, and general ineffectiveness, Tyson Chandler wasn’t able to provide more than 20-25 minutes per game even when he was available.  So when Nazr’s back went out, Larry Brown was faced with the possibility of giving Gana Diop big minutes.  The horror.

Fortunately, Brown’s buddy Gregg Popovich had Theo Ratliff collecting dust on the end of his bench in San Antonio.  Essentially given to the Cats for free at the trade deadline, Ratliff was key to the Bobcats stretch run as they held on to a playoff spot.  The ageless wonder/freak of nature stepped in and competently manned the middle.  Ratliff was thus rewarded with a guaranteed $1.3 million dollar one-year contract with the Lakers for the upcoming season, his 16th in the league.

Which leaves Larry Brown again facing the possibility of giving Gana Diop significant minutes.  The horror.

Gana Diop is unspeakably bad on the offensive end.  I’ll spare you the statistical analysis because I think we can all agree that it’s like playing 4-on-5 when the Cats have the ball.  Diop may be an above average shot-blocker and decent rebounder on the defensive side, but it doesn’t make up for the brutality of his offensive game.

Nonetheless, I expect that in the upcoming season, Diop will easily top the 262 total minutes he played last season, if only because he’s one of only two true centers on the roster.  There has been a little noise during training camp about Diop being in better shape, maybe even showing some improvement on the court.  But if Diop has to regularly average more than 8-10 minutes per game, the Cats are in huge trouble.  I figure he may be able manage about 5 minutes per game, depending on the matchups.

So who do the rest of the minutes at the five go to?

Going small with Boris & Tyrus

No surprise here.  The Cats frequently ended games last season with a smallball lineup featuring Boris or Tyrus effectively playing center.  Though he is one of the least athletic players on the roster, Boris is one of the better on-ball defenders.  He’s big, smart and patient, and can handle many of the other centers in the league.  Tyrus, on the other hand, is one of the most athletic players on the roster.  He’s not a great on-ball defender at this point; instead his specialty is coming from the weak side to block and disrupt shots in the paint.

My guess is that Larry Brown will usually end games this year with a lineup of DJ (or Livingston?), Jack, Crash, Boris and Tyrus.  And the difference is, this year I would expect to see Boris and Tyrus as the only bigs for stretches in the first half as well.  Maybe Dominic McGuire as well.

Boris was mentioned in a couple different trade rumors this offseason.  There were several reasons those trades didn’t go down, but one that was whispered a few times was that Brown was reticent to give Diaw up.  Boris is one of the top five talents on the roster, but that’s not reason alone to be so particularly averse to trading him; you have to give to get in a trade.  No, the reason is that, due to the Bobcats lack of a true, 30-35-minute-a-game, #1 center, Boris is going to be playing a lot of minutes at the five this season.

So there you go.  The Bobcats are thin at the five.  Larry Brown will again try to cobble decent play at the spot out of the available talent, but there’s even less there than last year.  Our playoff aspirations rely upon Mohammed replicating his 2009-10 season while staying even healthier than he did, and the Cats being able to play smallball for around 15-20 minutes per game.

-Dr. E

What To Do with Dampier? – Part 1

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Mo Williams ©2010 NBA

Michael Jordan bragged openly last month that the team had acquired the League’s “most valuable contract” when they sent bust Tyson Chandler to Dallas in return for Erick Dampier and a couple of overpaid 12th men.  How valuable exactly?  MJ and GM Rod Higgins will have at least another month and a half to mull over the decision as they wait the mandatory 60 days before Damp, Eduardo Najera or Matt Carroll can be traded again in a package.

So what will they do with all of this “value”?
In order to answer the question, we need to first look hard at the team’s present situation.

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