About 140 NBA players were to become free agents Sunday some restricted, some unrestricted. This summer the Charlotte Bobcats have the salary-cap room to be a player in that process.
Cap room is no problem: It appears the Bobcats could be $14 million or more under next seasons projected cap ($58 million or higher per team). The question becomes whod be interested in signing with a team rebuilding from the worst season (7-59) in league history.
This summers unrestricted free agents include a glamorous name (Nets point guard Deron Williams), a familiar name (Charlottean Antawn Jamison) and some guys who are far from household names (capable forward Ersan Ilyasova from the Milwaukee Bucks, for instance).
The Bobcats surely will put out feelers to various agents, but theyre also realistic about their situation. As team vice chairman Curtis Polk told the Observer, If we dont land the big fish theres not a lot of (player) movement and were not a big glamor market right now then we need to use this in a lot of different ways.
That process started Monday night when the Bobcats traded small forward Corey Maggette to the Detroit Pistons for guard Ben Gordon and a future first-round pick. Swapping Maggette for Gordon adds about $1.4 million to next seasons payroll and $13.2 million to the Bobcats 2013-14 payroll.
The Bobcats found that move wise both because theyll get a first-round pick from Detroit and because Gordon fills a pressing need. He has made 41 percent of his career 3-point attempts, and the Bobcats were last in 3-point percentage (29.5 percent) this season. New coach Mike Dunlap said better 3-point shooting was a must-fix priority.
Even with the additional salary for Gordon, the Bobcats are in decent shape to make free-agent signings or trades.
They are on the books for about $44.7 million in guaranteed salary for next season. Add about $4million for No. 2 pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, based on the rookie scale, and $800,000 or so for second-round pick Jeffrey Taylor. Add $5.4 million in qualifying offers to restricted free agents D.J. Augustin and Derrick Brown.
That brings the Bobcats to about $55 million, snug against the salary cap. Except not really. Consider:
• The Bobcats can use the amnesty clause, which would allow them to cut a player and stop counting that players contract under the cap. Three potential amnesty candidates: Tyrus Thomas ($8 million next season and about $26 million over three seasons), Gana Diop (nearly $7.4 million next season, last on the contract) or Matt Carroll ($3.5 million, last season on his contract).
The Bobcats could rescind one or both of those qualifying offers. Or if Augustin is signed to an offer sheet by another team, the Bobcats could choose not to match.
So if they had a compelling reason to do so, they could knock another $12 million or more off their payroll plenty of flexibility to shop the market or to explore more trade opportunities.
Bottom line, they have means, just as they still have needs. Trading for Gordon and drafting Kidd-Gilchrist and Taylor improved the 3-point shooting and reloaded their small-forward position with young talent.
Thursday night following the draft, general manager Rich Cho was asked what holes hed still like to fill. He mentioned two:
• At least one more big man to join Bismack Biyombo, Thomas, Byron Mullens and Diop. The Bobcats passed on addressing their inside rotation when they chose not to use the No. 2 pick in Kansas Thomas Robinson.
• A big backup guard who could play both positions. Right now the Bobcats have two relatively small point guards in Kemba Walker and Augustin. A bigger guard with some playmaking ability to match up defensively with players the size of a Deron Williams or Jason Kidd always has been a need here.