Early Recommendations for Charlotte Bobcats' 2013 NBA Free Agency Plans

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Early Recommendations for Charlotte Bobcats' 2013 NBA Free Agency Plans
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You would assume a team that has doubled its win total from last year would be satisfied.

Then again, we're talking about the Charlotte Bobcats. A year after having the worst winning percentage in NBA history—.106 after going 7-59—the Bobcats have seen a slight improvement in their record, which is currently a league-worst 16-52, although they have won their past two games.

With another lost season under their belts, the Bobcats now face a pivotal offseason. They need to begin surrounding their young core with veterans who can put up big numbers.

It's bewildering to think the Bobcats were a playoff team not even four years ago. What's even more surprising? They had a winning record.

Yes, they actually had more wins than losses.

Charlotte went 44-38 in the 2009-10 season and earned the privilege of being swept in the first round by the Orlando Magic.

Three years later, the Bobcats are once again at the bottom of the NBA. They're not nearly as putrid as they were last year, but they're still the worst.

Basically, there's no reason to celebrate.

None.

The Bobcats are wasting $57 million on one of the league's worst rosters and are currently paying off underachieving role players with the worst contracts in sports.

Ben Gordon, averaging 12.3 points on 42 percent shooting, is currently making $12.4 million and has a player option worth $13.2 next year. Tyrus Thomas will be making upwards of $25 million over the next three years, despite playing in 18 games this season and averaging 4.8 points on 32 percent shooting.

DeSagana Diop is making $7.3 million this year. His contract finally comes to an end this year, and the NBA world still questions why the Bobcats gave such an enormous contract to a backup center at best.

Gordon, Thomas and Diop are the three highest earners on the Bobcats. Gordon is the only who sees minutes, and he will only live up to his contract if he and James Harden switch bodies.

Thankfully, the Gordon and Diop deals are ending soon. The Thomas contract, however, still has three years, and it would be a shock to see any team trade for someone as inefficient as the former No. 4 pick.

What are Thomas' player efficiency ratings the last two seasons? Nine and 7.3, respectively.

It's not all horrendous for the Bobcats, though. They have a solid GM in Rich Cho, who is preparing to make moves. Charlotte's roster is set to bring in only $40 million next year, and the team is chock full of young talent.

Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo have both improved. Walker has upped his rookie shooting percentage from an abysmal 37 percent to 42 percent this year.

Meanwhile, Biyombo's rebounding totals have increased, and he's giving up 0.88 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports, which has him ranked 217th. He ranks 95th in points given up per possession in post-up settings, yielding only 0.79 PPP.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been quiet, but he's still averaging 8.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in his rookie season. The verdict is still out on the former Kentucky Wildcat, who doesn't turn 20 until September.

Ramon Sessions and Gerald Henderson provide a sound perimeter game, combining for 28 points, six rebounds and six assists per game. Byron Mullens has also proved to be a spark, contributing 11.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, but he also has his shortcomings when you look at his 39 percent shooting.

The Bobcats have the youth on which to build a foundation. Now they need to make the proper moves in free agency and the draft, where they'll most likely end up with one of the top three picks.

Unfortunately for them, this year's draft class may be the worst since the days of Kenyon Martin and Stromile Swift going No. 1 and No. 2.

Building for the future is going to fall on free agency. Charlotte will have money to throw around this summer, but it will be hard to convince free agents to join a franchise that will most likely end up with the NBA's worst record for the second consecutive season.

Michael Jordan's association with the Bobcats isn't pulling names. NBA players know history, and they know Jordan the team president pales in comparison to Jordan the player.

That's what drafting Adam Morrison over Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay did to his reputation.

Before dipping in the free-agency pool, the Bobcats have to take a look at their own roster's free-agent situation.

This summer, the Bobcats will have to make decisions on restricted free agents in Henderson and Mullens, as well as unrestricted free agents in Diop, Gordon, Josh McRoberts and Reggie Williams.

It would be tough to imagine the organization allowing Henderson to walk—his 16.1 PER this season is the highest of his career. Mullens may even get a contract because of his potential as a stretch big who can knock down shots from the perimeter.

McRoberts may be playing for a contract, too. Since being traded to the Bobcats for Hakim Warrick, McRoberts is averaging eight points and six boards in 13 games, six of which he started.

Diop and Williams (shooting 28 percent from deep in 34 games) have been enormous disappointments. It will be a shock to see them retained.

Gordon has that pesky player option, and it would be difficult to believe that he'll become a free agent rather than play another year with the Bobcats and make $13.2 million to underachieve.

Charlotte has yet to use its amnesty clause, however. While it seems obvious that the Bobcats should use it on Gordon, they may end up utilizing it on Tyrus Thomas. Gordon can at least contribute, whereas Thomas has been causing Bobcats fans to cover their faces in agony.

It's safe to say the Bobcats are set on wing talent. Walker and Sessions form an excellent tandem at the point, Henderson has improved at nearly every facet of the game in the first four years of his NBA career and Kidd-Gilchrist has the athleticism and potential to become a reliable swingman.

However, he will need to improve on the 30 percent he is shooting in the range from 16 feet out to the perimeter, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

Jeffery Taylor has been a pleasant surprise. The late first-round pick is averaging 6.2 points and making 35 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. However, the Bobcats should be disappointed that Taylor isn't providing the perimeter defense they envisioned.

The former Vanderbilt star was touted as a standout perimeter defender but ranks 395th in points given up per possession. He ranks 338th in defending spot-ups by giving up 1.18 PPP, according to Synergy Sports.

Charlotte needs is big who can provide a scoring touch in the middle. The Bobcats are currently relying on the likes of Biyombo, Mullens and Brendan Haywood as their top frontcourt contributors.

The reliance on Biyombo, Mullens and Brendan Haywood in the frontcourt is ultimately the reason why Charlotte has won 16 games this year.

Think Dwight Howard wants to make a return to the Southeast division? Charlotte can certainly offer Dwight a max deal, but it's highly unlikely that Howard would depart from the Los Angeles Lakers.

Why would he leave a team with a slim chance of winning it all, to join a team that has no chance of winning at all?

Plus, does Charlotte really want to go through the headache of dealing with Dwight Howard? If he was displeased with Stan Van Gundy, Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis, then he's not going to be ecstatic with Mike Dunlap, Kemba Walker and Byron Mullens.

The free agents of the Utah Jazz may be the most enticing to the Bobcats.

The Jazz failed to shed Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in the past trade deadline. They are stuck with a logjam in the frontcourt that features developing bigs in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, who are not getting as much playing time as they should. 

Why was the move to keep Jefferson and Millsap unwise? Because they are going to be unrestricted free agents. With Utah unlikely to make the postseason, the team may go in a direction to rebuild around Favors and Kanter while allowing either Jefferson or Millsap, or possibly both, to test the waters.

Adding a scorer like Jefferson would be a monumental step in the right direction for the Bobcats. They currently rank 26th in points per game, near the bottom of the league in total rebounds per game and dead last in shooting percentage.

Take this into consideration: The Bobcats don't have a single player shooting over 50 percent. McRoberts is leading the way at 48 percent. The best shooting percentage for a big man, outside of McRoberts, is Biyombo, who is converting a mere 43 percent of his shots.

That's depressing for a team that's only taking 16 three-pointers per game.

Jefferson is averaging 17.3 points on 48 percent shooting and 9.2 rebounds. His minutes are at their lowest since he joined the Jazz, and he, as well as Millsap, have been aggressively shopped by Utah.

He is making $14 million this season and will be one of the most coveted big men during this summer's free-agency period. With Dwight likely to stay in LA, Jefferson, Millsap, David West, Chris Kaman, Josh Smith, J.J. Hickson and Emeka Okafor are the quality power forwards/centers set to be wooed.

Jefferson is only a suggestion, since it seems he would be the free agent who would be the most significant to Charlotte's struggling offense. He plays like the traditional centers of the past, who used to own the league through excellent footwork and a soft touch around the rim.

Over his nine-year career, he averages 16.3 points on 50 percent shooting and 9.8 rebounds. He averaged 23.1 points and 11 rebounds when he was the focal point of an awful Minnesota Timberwolves team.

Putting Jefferson in the middle and surrounding him with shooters like Henderson, Walker and Gordon could make Charlotte's offense suddenly one of the most dangerous in the East. "Big Al" would be playing in a conference where he would be the most offensively gifted center next to Brook Lopez.

Unlike Lopez, however, Jefferson is a quality rebounder. Like Lopez, unfortunately, he is a horrid defender. One of the few knocks on Jefferson's game has been his defense.

He currently ranks 329th in points give up per possession and 111th in post-ups, according to Synergy Sports.

The Bobcats won't exactly be contenders with Jefferson, but they'll at least be respectful with a proven interior presence.

Although the Miami Heat are far and away the best team in the East, the rest of the conference has seen better days. Every team outside of the playoff picture has 26 wins or less, and the current eighth seed, the Milwaukee Bucks, are sitting comfortable with a 34-34 record.

Not much in the East has changed. Teams that are incredibly average and would be 10th seeds or worse out West will take up at playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

With six players on the current roster set to be free agents this summer, the Bobcats must make use of some flexibility concerning their spending habits and become a team that's more than the squad every other team wants to face to end a losing streak.

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