Where Do the Bobcats Go From Here?
After narrowly missing the playoffs just a season ago, the Charlotte Bobcats find themselves with the worst record in the NBA at 7-50 (.123 winning percentage) with nine games left in the 2011-2012 season. Charlotte has lost 14 straight games and could challenge the 1973 Philadelphia 76ers at 9-73 for the worst winning percentage for a season in NBA history (.11).
While finishing the season at the bottom of the NBA standings is not something any NBA player or team looks forward to, there are perks for the team that hits that porous mark.
With the record they have, the hope is Charlotte can luck out and win the Anthony Davis sweepstakes. Davis is the jewel of the 2012 draft and he would immediately legitimize the Bobcats.
The 6-foot-10 phenom out of Kentucky could end up being the superstar-caliber player this team has been yearning for since coming into the league as an expansion team in 2004. Finishing with the NBA’s worst record assures the Bobcats of a 25 percent chance of landing Davis with the number one overall pick.
Even if Charlotte doesn’t obtain number one, there are plenty of quality players to choose from among the top few picks.
Obviously there are many holes on the roster, but center and small forward – after acquiring power forward Bismack Biyombo and point guard Kemba Walker in the 2011 draft – would seem to be the Bobcats’ most pressing needs moving forward.
(Note: Biyombo played a lot of center this season but he’s too small at 6’9 to be a viable option at the position moving forward, especially if Charlotte can get a legit center in the draft or free agency.)
Centers Andre Drummond and Jared Sullinger, along with forwards Harrison Barnes and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, would all be viable options if the Bobcats fail to secure Davis at number one.
In terms of free agency, because of all the veterans that have been banished over the last few years, Charlotte has mostly young players under contract for the next few seasons. Aside from Eduardo Najera, who is solid off the bench, the Bobcats don’t have any real key contributors set to test free agency this offseason.
Even though there aren’t many Bobcats set to test the free agency waters, there are some high-priced veterans on the team that could be sent packing via the amnesty clause. Corey Maggette (due $10.9 million next season), Desagana Diop (player option for roughly $7.3 million), Matt Carroll (player option for $3.5 million) and Tyrus Thomas (over $26 million due over the next three seasons) could all be amnesty options for Charlotte over the summer.
Both Diop and Carroll have opt-out clauses for the final year of their contract but, considering the hefty salaries they’re due, it’s unlikely either exercises that option
The team also holds qualifying offers for both D.J. Augustin ($4.3 million) and D.J. White ($3 million) and it will be interesting to see how that situation, especially in Augustin’s case, shakes out.
At the start of free agency, barring any moves, Charlotte will have roughly $50 million tied up in players under contract if the Bobcats extend those qualifying offers to both Augustin and White. That’s just $8 million under the projected 2012-2013 salary cap of $58 million but, as I said above, there could be plenty of wiggle room if the Bobcats decide to amnesty a hefty contract or if Augustin and/or White are no longer with the team.
In free agency, while the likes of Dwight Howard and Deron Williams aren’t likely to become Bobcats, there are other options out there. Who Charlotte acquires largely depends on if and who they decide to amnesty, but the Bobcats could look to temporarily fill some holes with moderately priced free agents this summer.
Even with the allure of playing for Michael Jordan, because of how poorly the team has played this season, getting players to want to come and play for the Bobcats is going to be difficult. If the team is able to draft Davis, however, it could make the situation in Charlotte look all the more appealing.
On the bench, there hasn’t been a decision as to who will be coaching this Bobcats team next season. Bobcats’ head coach Paul Silas has done what he can with this team but there’s only so much you can do with the talent currently in Charlotte.
In speaking with Silas earlier this season, he told me that physically he feels better than he has in a long time.
Mentally, he joked, was a different story after going through the stresses and strains of this pitiful Bobcats season.
Going forward, Silas is 68-years old and Charlotte may be looking to go in a different direction with the Bobcats head coach’s contract expiring at the end of the season. His son, Stephen Silas, has been a key assistant since his dad became the interim coach of the team early last season.
An assistant coach for five years in Golden State for the Warriors before joining his dad in Charlotte, the younger Silas is pretty well respected around the league and is expected to become a head coach in the near future.
If Charlotte decides to go in a different direction from either Silas altogether, veteran coaches such as Nate McMillan, Mike D’Antoni and presumably Stan Van Gundy could all be available. Whether or not those coaches want to take the reigns of a rebuilding project with the Bobcats is a completely different story.
The departures of Raymond Felton, Gerald Wallace, and Stephen Jackson over the last few seasons suggested a year like this was inevitable. In fact, according to Silas, this has been Jordan’s plan all along: develop young players and hope to draft or acquire the next superstar in Charlotte.
But the depths the Bobcats have fallen to this season has to concern even the staunchest supporter of management in Charlotte.
One thing working in the Bobcats favor going into next season is the simple fact that they can certainly only go up from here.
Charlotte will likely get a top-notch player in the draft and with another year under the belt of players like Gerald Henderson, Biyombo and Walker; this team can only improve next season.
Having the luxury of drafting Anthony Davis number one in the 2012 draft certainly wouldn’t hurt either.
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