Could the Bobcats Make the Playoffs Next Year?

Ok, this seems to be the time of year to either offer your award choices, or write playoff previews, or speculate about your woeful team's offseason. And this year, the awards are boring (the only reason you are voting against LeBron for MVP is because you are bored with voting for LeBron for MVP, and who DOESN'T think Harden was best sixth man, and if not, can I smoke some of that stuff you're using?).  And honestly, I'm so busy lately that I can't write articles timely enough to cover the playoffs (as my publishing frequency lately will attest).  So, let's talk about what some team(s) will do next offseason.

In an email, Dre brought up that you could probably turn the Pistons into a playoff team in a year or two with some smart moves. Well, duh, this is true of every team. All I have to do is get Joe Dumars to make smart decisions!? NO PROBLEM. I'll just wire him up to an electroshock therapy machine, and every time he thinks about spending money on a guard or small forward, BZZzZzZzZT!! I mean, if we're going to play the "well-if-the-GM-made-smart-choices" game, I bet we could get the Bobcats in the playoffs next year! That's right, THE BOBCATS.

In fact, turning around the Bobcats is probably easier than Detroit, because the Pistons' contracts are terrible, and every other GM in the league agrees (and thus unfortunately correctly evaluates your position). I mean, make no mistake, Charlotte is chalk full of guys that are horrible at basketball, but at least none of them are making Ben Gordon money, right?  So here's my rapid-fire "rebuilding" plan for Charlotte. Be warned that it involves letting go of sunk costs. It's also banking on the fact that this year's draft is deep and many of the player we will want will go in the late 1st or 2nd round.  Also, this isn't well researched so if I get details wrong, well, ooops. Aren't you supposed to be watching the playoffs, anyway?

  • Amnesty Tyrus Thomas. Thomas isn't terrible but he's very overpaid and is the only Bobcat with an awful contract (I know, Maguettte, but that's now an expiring).
  • trade Byron Mullens for two 2nd round picks (someone will like his POTENTIAL). Also, does anyone else wonder whether Jordan acquired him because he wanted to say "Hey Byron DON'T-CALL-ME-BRYON" to somebody, just to get that old 1998 feeling?
  • trade Kemba Walker to someone who will over-value his potential for a late first round pick and a 2nd-rounder or something. I know you just drafted him.  But he isn't very good. He might get good, sure. So might a lot of folks in this just let go, Michael.
  • use the ETO on Matt Carroll
  • waive Cory Higgins
  • In case I missed anyone, this part of the plan is to cut all your ties; let all the free agents go, and don't pick up any options. Why spend money on terrible players when you can gamble on 5-6 rookies for much cheaper?

At this point, we have just shed a shitton of cap room and freed up about 8 roster spots. How do we fill those spots?

The Draft

Pick 1, Plan A:

Draft Jared Sullinger.  Sullinger is the best center in the draft behind Davis, yet he's currently only at number 6 at Draft Express's Mock draft.  This is because people overvalue Drummond's youth and other players' scoring. So, if the Bobcats have the #2 pick, they should consider trading down to get him and another piece. This is risky, though, if whoever drafts Sullinger doesn't value Drummond -- you do NOT want to be stuck with Drummond. I'd rather pick Gilchrist #2 than risk being stuck with Drummond. Gilchrist is certainly not a bad choice anyway, because of the big men we're going to get in any case (see below).

Pick 1, Plan B:

Draft Anthony Davis. Duh.

Why is Davis Plan B. Are You high???

Ok, Davis isn't really plan B. But because of the odds -- Charlotte only has a 25% or so chance to land him -- you need to consider it plan B. Fortune favors the prepared, and you should prepare for the scenario that's more likely (which, conveniently, is also the least desirable outcome, which you should always have a plan for). Don't worry, I'm sure even Charlotte's management can easily change the plan if they get Davis. I really just did this to make the point that Charlotte needs to do its homework and be ready for getting the #2 (or 3!) pick and research the possibilities of trading down to get Sullinger + someone else. Sounding out what other teams that are likely to be in the pick 4-7 range are looking for now (before the lottery takes place!) would be wise. That helps you avoid, as mentioned, getting stuck with Drummond.

The Other Picks

Try to draft Crowder, Jones or CJ McCollum. Hell, draft all three (with those extra 2nd round picks from Mullens). 

Crowder and Jones are both horrifically undervalued rebounding machines that score efficiently that are getting a bad rap for being "undersized", and as I said before (and am quoted in that article), it doesn't matter if you ARE 6'10", it only matters if you rebound AS IF you're 6'10". Both of these guys are going to be starter material in the NBA, and both are going to be cheap. Crowder will probably be fine at small forward, too, because, as James says:

If Crowder is so bad at creating shots, why does he shoot such a high percentage with the second highest usage rate on his team?

As for his below average ball-handling and difficulty in isolation settings, I have a simple solution: don’t make him your point guard and don’t run isolation sets for him! To build on the ball-handling criticism, I can’t see how you can be concerned about a guy who turns the ball over 1.60 times per 40 minutes and only 7.1 times for every 100 possessions he uses.

C.J. McCollum is the next Jermey Lin. Ok, this is an oversimplification, but the truth is that he's a scoring machine who coincidentally is a fantastic rebounder, passer, and defender (3.2 Stl40 are you kidding me?). If this guy played for a big name school with these numbers he'd be the #1 pick. There's something to be said about a weaker schedule packing your stats, but this kind of dominance simply cannot be overlooked just because he played at a small school in a weak conference.

Free Agency

Here's where things are rough. OK, so the problem is, you're the Bobcats.  No one in their right mind wants to play for the Bobcats, and they won't know yet that we're making smart decisions now. This means we have to overpay for talent, or find players that are underappreciated (or both). For this reason, the team should not try to sign any long term deals -- overpaying on short deals is fine; remember that there's a minimum salary and this plan involved drafting late 1st picks and 2nd round picks that we won't have to pay much money to. Gotta spend the money on someone.

And obviously a lot of this depends on who we just drafted (in particular getting Davis changes your priorities).  Here are some ideas:

  • Throw about $11 million at Kris Humphries.  He's a fantastic rebounder and efficient scorer.  It will be hard for NJ to keep him if they want to sign Williams and stay in the race for Howard in 2013-14, and given that he had to pull teeth to get $8 million this should be more than enough to grab him. Be willing to overpay more if you can get him on only a one year contract. Forget this plan if we got 2-3 bigs in the draft.
  • Throw $4-$5 million at Matt Barnes (no one thinks he's worth this much, so steal him). He's a very solid wing player who doesn't get enough minutes in LA. Prioritize this even higher if you got 2-3 bigs in the draft
  • Throw about $11 million at Ryan Anderson and see if Orlando matches. Given that they didn't bother to extend him (I mean, why would you want a PF who shoots 3s like Kevin Love playing next to Dwight anyway, amirite!?), this seems unlikely. I'd spend a bit more on him if I got Davis, because he synergizes so well with a big defensive-oriented center.
  • If you didn't get Davis and everyone matches your offers to Humphries/Anderson, throw $12 million at Marcus Camby for a one year deal (I think it is unlikely anyone outbids you given his age).
  • If you still haven't gotten any bigs, offer $12 million to JaVale McGee for 3-4 years. You can get him at this price because everyone thinks he is a fool. And, yes, he is a fool, but who cares if the production is there?
  • sign Jodie Meeks for $3 million or so

If your roster still needs help after all that:

Returning players

First, there is some hope that Maguette returns to form, or at least sucks less. If not, bench him completely. In either case, look to trade his contract during the year at some point.  Furthermore, the Manimal showed some improvement during his rookie year, and was an above-average rookie (average rookie WP48 is about .050). If you see the usual 2nd year improvement from him, you could be on your way to having a dominant front line.

I'm pretty sure this club could play .500 (and more if the rookies are as good as I think they'd be), which gets you a conversation in the last couple of playoff spots. And all without spending too much money! 

And here's the best part: you get yourself a reputation as an up-and-coming young team with "a great core" and "lots of potential" and the next year Diop's and Maguette's salary come off the books.  If you have Davis on the roster, you're at a point where free agents really want to play with you.  Like, hey, Mr. Paul, I know Griffin is great but how much does it suck to play for Donald Sterling? Do you really want to re-sign with that shmuck? And who else ya got on that roster?  Anthony Davis is a pretty good alternative to Griffin and we have like 5 other sub-25 guys who all are great. Why don't we build a dynasty? Oh hey, say, by the way, don't you have family around here somewhere?