Charlotte Bobcats: Breaking Down the Latest Offseason Buzz
The Charlotte Bobcats offseason makeover has taken the team out of the NBA dumpster. They are making the right moves at the right time, and for once, Michael Jordan can relax and go play some golf (wait, he was doing that anyway last year).
The Bobcats have created a lot of buzz in Charlotte, and for the first time in a while, it isn’t negative.
Here is a break down of the latest offseason moves the Charlotte Bobcats have made.
1. Brendan Haywood
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Pop-Quiz: What do Matt Carroll, Eduardo Najera and DeSagana Diop all have in common?
Yes, they all averaged less than three points per game last season, but can you think of anything else? Each of them made the transition from Dallas to Charlotte at some point in their careers.
It’s not great company (I can’t believe I even used the word great), but former Mavericks center Brendan Haywood will be joining the club.
Before discussing Haywood’s potential impact with the Cats, does anyone have an explanation for Charlotte’s strange obsession with the Dallas Mavericks? Replicating their uniforms is one thing, but scrounging off the talent of their bench?
Anyway, two days ago the Charlotte Bobcats continued their offseason makeover by claiming Haywood off waivers, winning the bidding process by offering the North Carolina native $2.05 million. Haywood became available once Dallas decided to amnesty Haywood’s three-year/$27 million contract.
The Bobcats already have two centers under contract (Byron Mullens, DeSagana Diop, and Bismack Biyombo would make a third, but I still think he’s more of a power forward) for the 2012-2013 season, but Haywood will serve as an upgrade in practically every category at that position.
Think about what that says about the state of this team. Haywood’s averages have been declining for the past five seasons, and he’s an upgrade? As if you haven’t heard it before, here it is: 7-56, a .106 winning percentage.
Head coach Mike Dunlap should have an interesting preseason battle between Mullens and Haywood, but Mullens will likely remain Charlotte’s starter at center. Nevertheless, expect Haywood to split a significant amount of time with Mullens; I’m thinking each will average about 20 MPG, while Diop and Biyombo sweep the leftover crumbs off the floor.
At 32 years old, Haywood is well past his prime, but his role as a backup frees up Charlotte’s obligation to throw any random body in at center. Signing Haywood means Biyombo can finally test his skills at the No. 4 spot, a position where the Bobcats are incredibly thin.
If Biyombo can find a way to produce there, that means the Bobcats could potentially have two defenders with seven-foot-plus wingspans. For the last ranked defense in the league last season, that’s a major improvement.
Above all else, what fans in Charlotte have to be thrilled about is that Diop might never see the light of day again. Finally, no more missing free throws by five feet!
2. Ramon Sessions
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It’s no surprise that D.J. Augustin was told to pack his bags this summer. Last year, when Charlotte drafted Kemba Walker, they were practically booking Augustin’s flight.
Walker and Augustin are identical players. Both are undersized point guards. Both are exceptional ball handlers. And both lack the ability to knock down the open jumper.
So when Augustin failed to produce for a fourth straight year in Charlotte, the option was simple. He had to go.
Replacing him this fall will be former Los Angeles Laker Ramon Sessions. Sessions was traded to LA at the deadline last year, and at 6’3’’ he will add some much needed height to the Bobcats’ backcourt.
With Sessions, Charlotte will no longer have to rely on two pass-first point guards running their offense. Now, Sessions can help spread the floor and also diversify the skill set on the court when he’s paired with Walker.
Sessions may have a lower assist/turnover ratio than Augustin, but the increase in rebounds, and more specifically, the increase in shooting percentage, will escalate Charlotte’s offense significantly.
Sessions averaged 12.7 points per game with LA last season, and that’s with Kobe Bryant taking more than 20 shots a game.
Sessions shot 43 percent from the field last season compared to Augustin’s 38 percent and Walker’s 37 percent. What’s most noteworthy, however, is Session’s remarkably high 44 percent from behind the arc.
Sessions is the third sharp shooter that the Bobcats have acquired this offseason, trading for former Detroit Piston Ben Gordon as well as drafting Jeffrey Taylor out of Vanderbilt.
Three-point shooting was one of the three areas Mike Dunlap felt needed the most improvement from 2011, and with Sessions, that progress has officially been made.
3. Las Vegas Summer League
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In last Friday’s summer league opener, the Charlotte Bobcats were able to accomplish three incredibly rare feats all in the same game.
1. They scored more than 100 points.
2. They allowed less than 100 points.
3. (It tends to occur when both 1 and 2 are accomplished in the same night,) They won a basketball game!
Sure, it’s the summer league, but this is unfamiliar ground here. Charlotte just landed on the moon for the very first time.
And while it may have been one small step for the Heat or the Thunder, this was one giant step for the Bobcats.
Charlotte slaughtered the Sacramento Kings 121-87, and perhaps even more promising is the fact that all five starters scored in double-figures. Check out these stat-lines:
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: 18 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four steals
Byron Mullens: 20 points, seven rebounds
Jeffrey Taylor: 17 points (shooting 75 percent from behind the arc)
Kemba Walker: 16 points, seven assists
Bismack Biyombo: 12 points, six rebounds
Who said they wanted Jerry Sloan or Brian Shaw to coach this team? Mike Dunlap is the man.
I don’t care who we were playing or when the game took place. Dunlap found a way to score 121 points with the worst NBA franchise in the history of the game.
It was the first step in resurrecting the organization, and while many feel preseason basketball means nothing, the Bobcats sure disagree.
4. One More Move
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As free agency winds down, the Charlotte Bobcats will look to make one final move before the 2012-2013 season. With Tyrus Thomas as the current starter, power forward will likely be the position of their focus. Right now, the two names being mentioned in Charlotte are Kris Humphries and Antawn Jamison.
The only way the Bobcats will land Humphries is if there is significant progress made in a Dwight Howard trade, and since that idea seems to be dissolving, Jamison will be GM Rich Cho’s top prize.
Jamison grew up in Charlotte, later playing his college ball at UNC Chapel Hill, and much like Brendan Haywood, the Bobcats can provide him with a homecoming contract to close out his NBA career.
Jamison, however, will have to weigh his options. Does he prefer to be closer to his family as basketball winds down in his life? Or does he want one last shot at an NBA title?
Obviously, the Bobcats can’t offer both.
If the Bobcats can land Jamison, they receive a flat-A for their work this offseason. Without him, I still give them a B+.
This team is light years away from 2011. The team has completely transformed in less than two months and the results will show in 2012. I guarantee that much.
Seven-win seasons are a thing of the past.