Saturday, December 13, 2008

Charlotte Would Probably Like a Do-Over

What the hell are the Charlotte Bobcats doing?

This week’s indefensible trade is only the latest boneheaded move by an “NBA franchise” whose history is woefully short on good decisions. To offset the benefit of clearing Jason Richardson and the $40 million he’s owed between now and 2011 off the books, the Bobs agreed to take on more $46 million worth of Raja Bell and Boris Diaw- particularly Diaw, who’s still guaranteed $36 million over the last four years of his deal.

So, lemme make sure I’ve got this right: Charlotte traded away a legitimate 20-point scorer who while hardly a bargain, does not have a cap-killing contract, and a potentially solid young forward with a cap-friendly deal, in exchange for Bell, a 32-year old defensive stopper who is clearly on the downside of his career and Diaw, an inconsistent frontcourt guy whose remaining guaranteed money is 90% of Richardson’s ($36 million v. $40 million) and annual salary is 67% of Richardson’s ($9 million v. 13.3 million average for J-Rich)?

Really? What’s the defense here?

Charlotte didn’t get any younger, as Diaw, who will turn 27 in April 2009, is just 15 months younger than Richardson (I though he was older!). And throw in the fact that within a month, coach Larry Brown, Mr. “Play the right way”, will want absolutely nothing to do with Diaw, whose issues with consistency and motivation are likely to get him publicly called out and possibly buried on the bench.

Looking at Charlotte’s post-trade roster, other than DJ Augustin, who is an absolute stud and looks destined for great things, it’s extremely difficult to summon up any optimism. The top five players on the Bobs payroll (Emeka Okafor, Diaw, Gerald Wallace, Nazr Mohammed and Matt Carroll) are guaranteed a total of $183.4 million ($198.4 million if Wallace and Carroll exercise player options), with only Nazr Mohammed’s $6.9 million due to come off the books before the end of 2012. Of that crew, only Gerald Wallace, who with 5 years and $49.3 million left on his contract is not exactly a bargain, would look attractive to someone in a trade. Really? Okafor, Diaw, Wallace and Carroll at $32 million per year though 2012?

Sadly, the Charlotte Bobcats have not fared much better in the draft, and that’s quite a shame for a team that’s never won more than 33 games in a season, averaged just 27.3 wins in their 4 seasons in existence. The Bobs have had 8 first-round draft picks since entering the NBA in 2004:

2004- Emeka Okafor (#2 overall)

2005- Raymond Felton (#5), Sean May (#13)

2006- Adam Morrison (#3)

2007- Brandan Wright (#8), Jared Dudley (#22)

2008- DJ Augustin (#9), Alexis Ajinca (#20)

Of these eight players, only Okafor (14 ppg, 10.8 rpg), when healthy, and DJ Augustin (based on a VERY small sample) look like they are lottery-pick worthy- though it should be noted that Okafor was the incorrect #1 pick in 2004, when Charlotte went the “safe” route with the top pick, leaving Dwight Howard on the board for the Orlando Magic to grab at #2. Of the remaining six, Raymond Felton is potentially a solid point guard (though likely to be pushed out by Augustin), Sean May “may never” be in NBA game shape, Adam Morrison (aka “Kwame 2.0”) is a complete disaster, and Alexis Ajinca may one day be a decent NBA player, but there is little evidence of it thus far. That leaves just Brandan Wright and Jared Dudley, who were effectively traded for Diaw and Bell, since Wright’s draft rights were traded to the Golden State Warriors to acquire Jason Richardson on draft day in 2007.

Considering the money they’ve spent and committed to spending, along with the quality draft picks they’ve had, it’s inconceivable that the Charlotte would still be this bad, with no clear direction or identity, and little hope for dramatic improvement.

Despite the dream of every sports fan to be a professional GM, even in this economy, would anyone really want Rod “Tossed under the bus by Michael Jordan” Higgins’ job? By the way, check out the best/worst transactions- hilarious!

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