From their financial troubles to a likely re-building project during the next couple of years, controlling owner Michael Jordan has his hands full in trying to turn the Charlotte Bobcats into a consistently competitive NBA franchise. His Airness failed in his attempt at running the Washington Wizards and enters a critical off-season in which the Bobcats have a long list of needs.
By: David Kay
Charlotte Bobcats (34-48 last season)
’10-’11 Season in Review:
Well that didn’t exactly go as planned did it? A year after making the franchise’s first trip to the playoffs, the Bobcats took a step backwards this past season. Their legendary coach resigned after 28 games and the new ownership led by Michael Jordan was forced to trade their best player in a needed cost cutting move.
Even during the transition, veteran head coach Paul Silas was able to keep the team in the weak Eastern Conference playoff picture, only missing out on the eighth spot by three games. A 9-16 record post-Wallace trade cost them a second straight post-season berth but is certainly not shocking when you look at the collection of players Silas had to work with the final two months of the season.
Of that group, Stephen Jackson was the most productive player, leading the team in scoring for a second straight year. After Jackson, there was quite a drop-off. D.J. Augustin was solid in taking the reins as the full-time starting point guard, replacing Raymond Felton who left last off-season, but certainly not solidifying his status as the floor leader of the future. Boris Diaw brought consistency to the power forward position but is not the typical physical presence at the four.
Production was scattered elsewhere across the roster. Gerald Henderson was much improved after a disappointing rookie season while Kwame Brown actually showed signs of life, taking over the starting center position from Nazr Mohammed who was eventually dealt to Oklahoma City. Injuries cost Tyrus Thomas half the season and DeSagana Diop went down with a torn Achilles in early Januray which sidelined him for the remainder of the year.
MJ has his work cut out for him and barring a miraculous move or two in the off-season, the Bobcats could be one of the worst teams in the league next season.
2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:
C: DeSagana Diop
PF: Boris Diaw/Tyrus Thomas/Eduardo Najera/D.J. White
SF: Stephen Jackson
SG: Gerald Henderson/Matt Carroll
PG: D.J. Augustin/Shaun Livingston
C-Joel Przybilla (UFA)
C-Kwame Brown (UFA)
F-Dante Cunningham (UFA)
G-Garrett Temple (UFA)
SF-Dominic McGuire (UFA)
’11-’12 Team Salary: Approximately $50.0 million
1. Gerald Wallace Replacement:
Bobcat fans are still pretty ticked that management traded away fan favorite Gerald Wallace especially since they did not get much value in return. As their roster currently sits, Stephen Jackson would start at small forward with Gerald Henderson at the two. Jackson is capable of playing the three but does not possess the all-around abilities that Wallace does and the way Wallace was able to impact a game without needing to score a bunch of points.
Charlotte should be able to address this need with either the 9th or 19th pick that they hold in the 2011 NBA Draft. But unless Kawhi Leonard falls to them at nine, no player they draft will have an immediate impact so they might have to search the free agent market for a cheap, short-term solution.
The only true big man under contract for next season is DeSagana Diop who likely will not be ready for the start of the season due to the aforementioned torn Achilles injury. That leaves Charlotte with a gaping hole in the middle especially since none of their power forwards are really capable of playing quality minutes at the five.
The 2011 Draft is very thin on true center prospects making it difficult to address this need with one of their first round picks. The Bobcats will have to try and find a capable solution with their mid-level exception, trade for a big man (which is even tougher since they do not have a lot of assets to offer), or dare I say, re-sign Kwame Brown for another year… Pick your poison.
3. 3-Point Shooter:
Charlotte had the second worst three-point percentage in the NBA. Matt Carroll is their only true outside threat but cannot find steady minutes due to the fact that he is such a one-dimensional player. Besides Carroll, Diaw had the best three-point percentage on the team. Jackson and D.J. Augustin shot almost 65% of the ‘Cats triples but only combined to make slightly more than three per game. Henderson is their likely starting shooting guard heading into next year and shot less than 20% from distance. THE FACTS DON’T LIE!
Paul Silas wants to play a more up-tempo style of ball and for that to happen, Charlotte needs to get more athletic and find players who can get to the rim. For a team that has finished, 30th, 28th, and 29th in scoring the past three seasons, a more exciting offense should be a welcomed change but will only be effective with the right pieces in place.
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David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.