Contract Grades: Charlotte Bobcats
In this next installment of Contract Grades we take a look at the Charlotte Bobcats. In the past year the Cats have completely revamped their team, switching it up from a possible playoff contender to a team trying to rebuild around youth.
The Charlotte Bobcats (team salary info)
This past June the Bobcats hired Rich Cho, recently fired by the Portland Trail Blazers, as their general manager and Rod Higgins moved from GM to President of Basketball Operations. Cho proceeded to make a major trade, sending out veterans Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston, and the rights to Tobias Harris for veteran Corey Maggette and the rights to big man Bismack Biyombo. He then chose point guard Kemba Walker in the lottery. Where does that leave the Cats? That is unclear, since Cho also inherited a team with quite a few overpriced long-term deals. How quickly the team can turn around from cellar dweller to playoff contender will be in a large part due to Cho’s future decisions.
Corey Maggette (one year, $10.9 million) – By sending out Jackson and Livingston in the same deal that netted the Cats Maggette, they cut off about $2.8 million in possible salary in 2012-13. That said, Maggette has played in more than 70 games just three times in his 12-year career and his numbers have steadily decreased for the past few seasons. Even his ability to get to the free throw line has decreased by half since 2004-05, a higher rate than his decrease in minutes. On the positive side, Maggette is a respected veteran presence, can still score in the mid-range, and only has one year left on his deal.
Tyrus Thomas (three years, $26.1 million) – This contract is the one with the most time still on it. Higgins signed Thomas to a five-year, $40 million deal as a restricted free agent in 2010. The deal was widely panned at the time because of Thomas’ inconsistency and because the team had him for just 25 games (with no starts) before the deal. Yes, he is still relatively young (25), but if he can’t break a starting lineup his average salary is too much. He can rebound and block shots, but hasn’t developed a reliable offensive game and seems to not quite fit at either small forward or power forward. As a starter this grade goes up, but as a reserve without a true position it’s too much money.
DeSagana Diop (one year, $7.4 million) – Back in July of 2008 the Dallas Mavericks signed Diop to a five-year, full MLE deal. At the time the deal was way too much, and Dallas realized that and shipped him to Charlotte for Matt Carroll and Ryan Hollins. In two and a half seasons with Charlotte he has played in 84 games, starting one, and really hasn’t contributed much. This deal has been an albatross on the Cats for two years already, so not paying it for 2011-12 is probably somewhat of a relief. The only positive is it ends in 2013.
Matt Carroll (one year, $3.5 million) – The Cats signed Carroll to a six-year, $27 million deal back in 2007, then included him in the trade for Diop a year later. Carroll’s deal is a rare one in the NBA – it scales downward, about $400,000 each season, making it cheaper at the end. He ended up back in Charlotte when Dallas traded Erick Dampier to Charlotte for Tyson Chandler in July of 2010. A career 39% shooter from three-point range, Carroll is a smart player and a decent guard for spot minutes off the bench. However, when it comes to replacement cost the Cats could easily get the same production for a third the price (or less).
Bismack Biyombo (2011 first-round pick) – The estimate for his four-year rookie scale contract is about $13.5 million, though that could change with the next CBA. Right now he is a very raw talent, but if he can develop into a consistent contributor and maybe even a starter his salary will seem dirt cheap, as tends to be the case for first-round picks who become rotation players.
Kemba Walker (2011 first-round pick) – Walker’s salary estimate over four years is $11.4 million, cheaper than Biyombo. Why is that noteworthy? Walker will be expected to contribute in the rotation from day one and will be given every opportunity to take the job of starting point guard. Incumbent D.J. Augustin could be a restricted free agent in 2012 and should the Cats elect not to bring him back, Walker will be running the show. At an average of less than $3 million per season, that’s a deal.
Gerald Henderson (one year, $3.1 million) – Henderson will be in the last year of his rookie scale contract. He became a starter in the second half of the 2010-11 season and if he continues that growth when NBA basketball returns, remaining a starter, that’s a very good deal. Of course, in 2013 he will also be looking for a raise.
The Charlotte Bobcats have some misguided contracts they still need to rid themselves of, but it’s noteworthy that the one contract they have that is not rookie scale and extends beyond 2013 belongs to a super athletic forward (Thomas) who still has a chance to really put it all together. Even if he doesn’t fulfill the promise of his contract he will still be a valuable contributor and given the state of the rest of the contracts probably not hold the team back too much. In fact, in 2013-14 and 2014-15 Thomas is the only player under contract right now, but will be joined after the lockout by Walker and Biyombo. With over $35 million available under any kind of cap in 2013 – barring acquisitions and signings that will eat up that space – the Cats are in an excellent position to allow Rich Cho to set a new course for the franchise.
Overall Grade Looking Forward: B+