Fixing the Bobcats
So…Wednesday night didn’t go quite as well as the Charlotte Bobcats would have liked. They lost out on the NBA Draft Lottery and, consequentially, the right to select Kentucky’s Anthony Davis as the building block of a new era for the franchise. Besides the not-so-subtle narrative that the league
may or may not have rigged the lottery in New Orleans’ favor, Wednesday night basically reminded everyone just how painfully screwed the Bobcats really are.
Or maybe not.
Don’t fear, for out of the goodness of my heart, I’ve laid out a perfectly reasonable plan of action that I think will actually leave the Bobcats in better shape than if they had landed the No. 1 pick.
I don’t always pretend to be an NBA GM, but when I do, I try to fix a team that can’t possibly get any worse. It would be like taking the stage after a Nickelback set. I really can’t go wrong. You want me on that phone, Michael Jordan…you need me on that phone.
First things first, I would openly shop the No. 2 pick and wait for the phone to ring. Sure, Davis is the crowned jewel of this draft class, but there is a collection of prospects with plenty of intrigue waiting behind him. Adding to the value of players like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Andre Drummond, Bradley Beal, Harrison Barnes and others is the fact that the 2013 class is going to be incredibly devoid of game-changing talent (especially if the NBA raises the minimum eligibility requirement another year, which has been discussed).
The best suitor for the second pick is Portland, which already owns two lottery picks as it is (Nos. 6 and 11). The Blazers are $9 million over the cap, but have Jamal Crawford (player option for 2012-13), JJ Hickson, Jonny Flynn and Nic Batum coming off the books this summer. They owe Wesley Matthews $18.3 million over the next three years, however, and could be persuaded to toss him into a package with the No. 6 pick in an effort to trade up with Charlotte.
The Bobcats, who badly need an actual shooting guard that can actually…you know…shoot, jump at the offer. Gerald Henderson shot 23.4 percent from three-point range this season — and that was above his career average. Matthews is long, durable, and best of all, a good shooter (career 39.3 percent from three).
That’s not all, though. The Bobcats took the “Best Player Available” approach when they picked Kemba Walker ninth in the 2011 draft, creating a major logjam at point guard with DJ Augustin. Charlotte was left with no choice but to play Walker and Augustin together this season, which was a lose-lose-lose…lose-lose-lose-lose situation.
Augustin began to blossom in 2010-11 when he averaged 14 points, six assists and shot 90 percent from the foul line, while starting all 82 games. He certainly has value, and Walker clearly isn’t going anywhere. With Augustin set to become a free agent this summer, he would have to be dealt in a proposed sign-and-trade wherever he goes. In a remarkably weak point guard draft class, Augustin could be had for the right price. Ironically, this brings us to the lottery team in the most need for a reliable point guard — the New Orleans Hornets.
Phoenix could be in the mix as it faces the departure of Steve Nash, but the Hornets own the 10th pick while the Suns are sitting at 13. New Orleans, still soaking in the glory of taking Davis, will suddenly have a fairly deep frontcourt and simply Jarrett Jack as its only viable point guard. The Hornets could make one of two moves to acquire Augustin and shore up their backcourt. They can either toss in Carl Landry as part of a double sign-and-trade, or jettison Al-Farouq Aminu and the 10th pick in exchange for Augustin. Realistically, Aminu would make a much fairer deal than Landry.
Let’s say the Bobcats settle for Aminu, who seems destined for a career as a 20-minute-per-game glue guy that can average 5-6 rebounds a night. And hey, maybe Charlotte gets lucky and he actually taps into the potential that made him a top-10 pick two years ago. Either way, Aminu adds legitimate depth to a Charlotte frontcourt that desperately needs it.
As it stands, Charlotte has picked up a quality two-guard in Matthews and a solid rebounder off the bench in Aminu in addition to two mid-lottery draft picks. This comes at the cost of the second overall pick, which is hardly more valuable than No. 6 in this draft, and DJ Augustin.
With the sixth pick, Charlotte is basically guaranteed either Andre Drummond or Thomas Robinson, barring a team or two trading up in front of them to take both (unlikely). ESPN’s Chad Ford has Drummond going fifth to Sacramento, so let’s say that happens and leaves Robinson to Charlotte. That gives the Bobcats a guy who just averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds and was the most dominant player in college basketball last season not named Anthony Davis. He instantly gives Charlotte a physical presence on the interior with the ability to explode around the rim and fight for rebounds. Charlotte was 29th in the league in both total rebounds and rebound margin last season.
With the 10th pick, Charlotte would have a handful of really interesting options. The Bobcats could really use a center to compete with, or at least spell B.J. Mullens. The No. 10 slot is a slight reach for Tyler Zeller, but he and Robinson would instantly revamp the worst front line in basketball. Otherwise, the likely options would be:
- Dion Waiters — combo wing with an assassin’s mentality as a scorer
- Perry Jones III — freak athlete, but probably too frail to play center
- Damian Lillard — top-rated point guard in an already noted weak group
- Wait for it…waiiiiiiiit for it….
- I give you…Kendall Marshall — Tar Heel PG desperately needs to enter the league in a backup role. The change of pace he would provide from Walker would be wonderful.
The more plausible choice here is Zeller. He’s more NBA-ready than Marshall and fills a bigger hole on the Bobcats’ roster. Either choice here is fine. Lillard is the better prospect at point guard, but you have to think MJ doesn’t sign off on a point guard here unless it’s a beloved Tar Heel. In all honesty though, Marshall’s ability to distribute the rock would make him a great fit in a reserve role on any team. If it’s me, I take Zeller.
Wow. All of a sudden, the Bobcats have a roster that’s not only full of young and extremely promising talent, but also features a group of extremely high character players who will approach the game the right way. Here’s what Charlotte’s rotation would look like in this situation.
PG - Kemba Walker …(insert veteran PG here)
SG - Wesley Matthews …Gerald Henderson
SF - Corey Maggette …Reggie Williams
PF - Thomas Robinson …Tyrus Thomas
C - B.J. Mullens …Tyler Zeller
You can fill out the roster with a few veteran pieces (ideally a point guard and small forward). As for what the Blazers/Hornets would look like…
PG - Raymond Felton …(Free agent PG)
SG - Jamal Crawford OR Bradley Beal (If Crawford opts out) …Nolan Smith
SF - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (if Crawford re-signs) … Nicolas Batum
PF - JJ Hickson … Kurt Thomas
C - LaMarcus Aldridge … Hasheem Thabeet/Free Agent
PG - Jarrett Jack … D.J. Augustin
SG - Eric Gordon … Xavier Henry
SF - Trevor Ariza … Free agent
PF - Anthony Davis … Carl Landry (if he re-signs) OR Free Agent
C - Emeka Okafor … Chris Kaman (unlikely to re-sign) OR Free Agent
I honestly think this scenario works out extremely well for all three teams. Portland adds an explosive wing in either Beal or Kidd-Gilchrist, depending on which direction they decide to go. Ideally, Crawford picks up his option and the Blazers land MKG.
For New Orleans, they obviously hit the home run with Davis while also shoring up the backcourt with Augustin/Jack as an outstanding 1-2 punch (which is working in Indiana).
See, Mr. Jordan, all hope is not lost! Anthony Davis wasn’t going to turn the Bobcats into a playoff contender. LeBron James would have a tough time making the postseason with the team as it was composed in 2011-12. The key for Charlotte now is to take this opportunity to balance its roster and put multiple pieces in place that can lay the groundwork for a bright future.
Hey, Mr. Airness…let me get them digits, please?