I get asked constantly these days to handicap whether the Charlotte Bobcats make a trade before the NBA’s Feb. 20 deadline.
Will they try to do something? Absolutely. Will they make some sort of deal? History says probably. Will it be something huge? I doubt it.
But just because something isn’t “big” doesn’t make it inconsequential. About a year ago the Bobcats dealt Hakeem Warrick to the Orlando Magic for Josh McRoberts. When I broke that on Twitter, I got an abundance of “so what’s?” in reply.
Now McRoberts is a starter at power forward, the player owner Michael Jordan calls this team’s “connect-the-dots” guy. McRoberts so improves the Bobcats’ ball movement that Jordan said he dreads the possibility of McRoberts opting out of his contract after this season.
So just because someone isn’t a “name” doesn’t mean he can’t help. The Bobcats tend to trade a lot. They’ve generally been more successful in that aspect of team-building than in their draft selections.
The obvious thing the Bobcats could use is another shooter/scorer. Good as they are on defense, they continue to be among the NBA’s worst teams in shooting, particularly from range. They’re 21st among 30 teams in 3-point percentage, with forward Anthony Tolliver the only really consistent shooter from 3.
One of the challenges in the Bobcats making a deal is most of the roster is either core players or spares without much trade value. The biggest chip the Bobcats can play is moving Ben Gordon’s expiring contract, with a cap value this season of $13.2 million.
That means a team looking to trim long-term payroll could move a veteran with additional seasons under contract for Gordon’s expiring. The Bobcats also potentially have extra first-round picks – owed by Portland and Detroit – that could be dealt for a veteran.
Adding at least some short-term help would improve the Bobcats’ playoff chances. But here’s the rub: They’d have to get back something really good to justify sacrificing the payroll flexibility Gordon’s expiring represents.
These decisions aren’t just about the next three months; they’re about the next several years. Point guard Kemba Walker becomes a restricted free agent the summer of 2015. Based on point guards of comparable ability (Atlanta’s Jeff Teague, Detroit’s Brandon Jennings), Walker would logically demand an $8-10 million salary to sign a long-term extension.
Using up the payroll flexibility that Gordon’s expiring represents could complicate the back-end ability to re-sign Walker. Sometimes you must value what you have over what you might get.
Five thoughts on the Bobcats and the NBA