Where Do the Charlotte Bobcats Go from Here?
A rebuild without a draft jackpot is often a long, thankless process. Not every NBA team can find a Kevin Durant or a Derrick Rose, after all, and those that go without are left to cobble together supporting parts in anticipation of that missing piece.
Occasionally, luck finds a team with a need and bestows a player that perfectly fills the void, but a more frequent case is one akin to the current Houston Rockets; try as Daryl Morey has to chase after this superstar and that, Houston has only managed to put together competent teams noticeably lacking in elite talent.
So often, the choice that rebuilding teams face is portrayed as one of a proper bottoming out (as a means of clearing cap space and ensuring as high of a draft pick as possible) versus striving for makeshift playoff contention, but that characterization is a bit obtuse.
Instead, teams are often faced with the reality of overpaying to keep quality players versus the painful possibility of losing them, and similarly, teams must choose whether to retain quality pieces or see them drift to another franchise simply because the timing isn't right.
Player value shouldn't be unique to a certain class of team that happens to be in a beneficial circumstance, and yet rebuilding clubs are made to forsake reasonable worth for the sake of flexibility.
Such looks to be the case with the Charlotte Bobcats—a team with fewer difficult decisions to face than most due to a barren roster, but with a precious few useful players and assets to spare. Every choice is made that much more difficult by scarcity, and GM Rich Cho must somehow avoid long-term financial commitments without sacrificing any productive players.
It's an order so tall that one wonders how rebuilds ever succeed other than the fortuitous bounce of lottery balls.
On top of that complication: How does one reasonably go about deciding a player's value in a league so heavily determined by fit?
Charlotte doesn't have a system, a star or even a fixture of a coach to build around; the Bobcats have hopes and dreams pinned to the long arms of Bismack Biyombo and faith that Kemba Walker will someday climb mountains.
Other than that, they're just picking up parts where they can, armed only with Cho's knowledge of how to deal and his considerable understanding of how team ecosystems function.
That's not nothing, but it's hardly a framework.
How, with that overwhelming scope and lack of an anchor, does Charlotte begin to understand D.J. Augustin's potential role in the team's completely nonspecific future, in light of his unrestricted free agency?
At what cost do the Bobcats look to retain D.J. White, who looks to have a future as a rotation player, but perhaps little more?
One could conduct a similar exercise with Gerald Henderson and Byron Mullens (two good players who will be free agents at the end of next season), Tyrus Thomas (who is under contract for some time, but holds an ambiguous place in the franchise's future) or even scoring stopgap Reggie Williams—even the best of the Bobcats are made walking question marks by a precise process with delicate timing.
Every single thing about this franchise (and, for that matter, about many rebuilding franchises) is up in the air, and although teams with star players now face more pressure than ever to compete and appease their centerpieces, we shouldn't envy those general managers with minimal assets and no secure direction.
All that's left to peddle is patience and hope, but even if the Bobcats happen to end the season with the worst record in the NBA, they're still statistically unlikely to grab the first overall pick and the right to select Kentucky standout Anthony Davis.
Another potential star could be in the cards, but will that singular talent alone be enough to grant a wayward franchise a tether?
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