Friday, October 29, 2010

Charlotte Bobcats: What To Look For In 2010-11

2009-10 Regular Season: 44-38
2009-10 Playoffs: #7 seed; lost in Round 1 to the Orlando Magic in four games
Additions: Shaun Livingston
Key Losses: Raymond Felton,
Projected Rotation Players: Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw, D.J. Augustin, Nazr Mohammed, Tyrus Thomas, DeSagana Diop, Shaun LivingstonGerald Henderson, Eduardo Najera

Look for the Charlotte Bobcats’ 2010-11 season to be slightly less depressing than that of the New Orleans Hornets- but only slightly.

Not really a whole lot to say here. After five seasons without a star or a season of more than 35 wins, the 2009-10 Bobs put together a few versatile pieces, played fantastic defense under an elite coach, won a franchise-best 44 games and made their playoff debut. That they were swept in he opening round by the Orlando Magic is disappointing, but hardly worthy of shame.

Ordinarily, when a six year-old franchise’s first trip to the playoffs is accompanied by a great deal of optimism and excitement. But then, ordinarily a six year-old franchise making its inaugural trip to the playoffs is presumably on the upswing, with a collection of young players that have yet to peak. Not the case here.

That four-game cameo in the 2010 playoffs may be the only taste of NBA postseason hoops (they still have the ACC tourney, right?) in the Queen City for some time to come. The Bobcats will pay out more than $110 million in salary over the next two seasons and, with the exception of Gerald Wallace, not a dime of it will go to an improving young player with star potential.

Over the next three years, the Bobs will pay a combined $33 million to DeSagana Diop and Matt Carroll (they should just exercise their player options for Year 3 right now). They’ve committed $40 million over the next five seasons to Tyrus Thomas- an awesome athlete with questionable maturity and basketball IQ, an extremely limited offensive game and the potential to turn into a total headcase following Larry Brown’s inevitable exit. They’ll be cutting $35 million worth of checks to Stephen Jackson, an awesome spark plug on a good team, a potential cancer on a bad one, and chunky Boris Diaw- with another $10+ million guaranteed to Jackson for 2012-13.

Looking for promising young players? Look elsewhere! In addition to the aforementioned Ty Thomas, injury-plagued PG (and HUGE Hype favorite) Shaun Livingston, potential lottery bust Gerald Henderson and D.J. Augustin- a potential career backup starting at the point- are the only 25-and-under rotation players.

The only big-money value on this roster is Gerald Wallace, the only All-star in franchise history, who’s got three years and $32 million left on his deal, but even that one’s got a strong attached. The third of those seasons is a player option, which Wallace will likely decline in favor signing a longer-term deal with a more competitive team.

All this, and we haven’t even mentioned the fact that Hall-of-Fame coach and catalyst for Bobs’ improvement on D, Larry Brown, is a lock to be eyeing the exit in April- if not sooner.

Not a pretty picture!

Bottom line: Poor attendance, a less-than-sparkling relationship with the fan base, a reputation for unabashed cheapness from ownership… Had this franchise not been purchased by the consensus greatest player ever (a player personnel debacle in his own right) in a deal personally blessed by David Stern, it would be a PRIME candidate for contraction.

This season promises to provide a brutal hangover to 2009-10’s playoff campaign. With a dearth of young talent, a roster full of overpaid veterans and the potential for meltdown from multiple players and a head coach that loves to hit the “eject” button, this season (and probably a few more to come) is poised to get ugly. Vegas has the over-under on regular seasons wins for the Bobcats at 39.5. This number is laughably high. Look for the 2010-11 Bobs to win no more than 25-30 games.

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