The Charlotte Bobcats potentially have a ton of room under the salary cap the next two summers. Tuesday night they started putting their financial flexibility to work.
The Bobcats have traded small forward Corey Maggette to the Detroit Pistons for combo guard Ben Gordon and a first-round pick the Bobcats will receive sometime between 2013 and 2016.
In essence, this is a salary dump for the Pistons, who exchange two remaining seasons on Gordons contract (at $12.4 million next season and $13.2 million in 2013-14) for Maggettes one remaining season at just under $11 million.
The first-round pick has various protections. The Bobcats get the pick in 2013 if its outside the top 14 picks. In 2014, outside the top eight. In 2015 only the top pick would be protected for the Pistons. And if the pick still hasnt been conveyed before then, its unprotected in 2016.
This deal is consistent with what Rich Cho envisioned when he came aboard as Bobcats general manager a year ago. Cho has talked frequently about acquiring extra draft picks, and using cap space and trades as a means to leverage in that direction.
When Cho was in the Oklahoma City Thunder front office, the Thunder accepted the contract of Kurt Thomas off the Phoenix Suns payroll, receiving two first-round picks as compensation. One of those picks eventually became power forward Serge Ibaka, arguably the best defensive player in the NBA.
President of basketball operations Rod Higgins said in a prepared statement, By acquiring a young and proven talent in Ben Gordon and a future first-round draft pick, we have both addressed our need for three-point shooting and acquired an additional asset to help continue to improve our team in the future.
The Bobcats shot 29.5 percent from 3-point range last season, worst in the NBA by about two percent. New coach Mike Dunlap said Monday his first roster priority was improving that. Gordon, age 29, has shot 41 percent from 3-point range over his eight-year NBA career.
Maggette, 32, was with the Bobcats one season, coming over in the draft-night trade a year ago that sent Stephen Jackson to the Milwaukee Bucks and acquired the first-round pick that became rookie Bismack Biyombo.
In his 13th NBA season, Maggette averaged 15 points on 37 percent shooting from the field as a Bobcat. He had a variety of injury problems that limited him to playing 32 of last seasons 66 games.
Had Maggette not been traded, its possible the Bobcats would have used the amnesty clause on the last season of Maggettes contract. That would have allowed the Bobcats to cut him and not count his salary against their cap.
Gordon has played for Chicago and Detroit since being drafted third overall in 2004, the Bobcats first draft. A Connecticut teammate of original Bobcat Emeka Okafor, Gordon could have been here from the outset of his career. Then-coach/general manager Bernie Bickerstaff gave Gordon serious consideration before drafting Okafor second overall.
Last season Gordon averaged 12.5 points for the Pistons on 44 percent shooting from the field and 43 percent from 3-point range. The Pistons are in a youth movement, rebuilding around big man Greg Monroe and guards Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight.
Gordon has been both a starter and a sixth man over his NBA career. Hes not a pure point guard and is a relatively small shooting guard at 6-3. But hes a proven scorer, which cant help but be of benefit to a team that finished last in points per game (86.9) and field-goal percentage (41.4 percent).
The Bobcats have the second and 31st picks in Thursday nights NBA draft. With Gordon on the roster, this could signal a lean toward using the No. 2 pick on a big man, such as Kansass Thomas Robinson.