It seems like every time I read an article about the Bobcats prospects to improve over the summer, it's always about what we can't do. We have no draft picks, no salary cap room, and may end up losing Raymond Felton, Tyrus Thomas, or even both. One thing we can take comfort in is knowing that we are just like how 29 other NBA teams will end up, not champions.When's the last time you seen a conference, or even semi-conference finals as bad as these have been. You've got sweeps all around the league. I mean, the Spurs being swept by the Phoenix Suns? What? The Cavaliers being basically destroyed by the Boston Celtics. The Orlando Magic killing the Atlanta Hawks, and now being killed by the Celtics themselves? The Lakers vs the Suns? Where's the competition? It makes me feel as though I am a prophet. I always said, L.A. will win the western conference this year, and that Boston, if healthy, would win the East.
The lack of parity frustrates me to an extent. I mean, but for me, it never really stretches beyond "a Charlotte NBA team will never contend for a championship". Although I don't believe that anymore now with Michael Jordan at the helm, I still have a love/hate relationship with how easy it is to predict who will win. And the sweeps that have (probably, not over yet) come in the conference finals are enough to have fans of the other 28 non-participants thinking they never had a chance. And then, even the losers of the Finals will probably be feeling that way. Why? Let me explain:
Take the Atlanta Hawks for instance. For much of the year, they were viewed as either the 3rd or 4th best team in the conference and may finally have turned into contenders. Then what happened? They ran into the same "unstoppable" Magic that we ran into and we're humiliated even worse. Now, what's next for this team? Well, they have already chosen to fire head coach Mike Woodson, may end up losing all-star guard Joe Johnson, and, regardless of whether Johnson chooses to stay or go, won't have cap much cap room to work with. All of the promise that once existed in the ATL disappeared with one series. The team went from "rounding the corner" to facing the possibility of having to rebuild, over 1 series.
Problems extend way beyond the Hawks though. Other "very" successful teams will find themselves in full transition as well. For instance, let's think about the Cleveland Cavaliers who won 66 games last year and still lead the league in victories this year with 61. This was really supposed to be the year (once again) that LeBron carried the team to the Finals. However, look at the mess now. After being beaten by a more experienced and well put together Boston team, the Cavs are facing the biggest problems in the league at the point. Will LeBron stay? How do the Delonte West rumors play into the decision?
Imagine if he actually decides to leave. You still owe Anderson Varajeo, Antwan Jamison, and Maurice Williams a LOT of money over the years. Shaq's contract is coming off the books, and no one knows what he will end up doing. Big Z is close to retiring. I mean, this could realistically in 1 year, go from being the best team in the NBA to one of the worst. I mean, think about that, a team winning 61 games one year and then failing to make the playoffs the next.
But what about other teams? Just for brevity, let's get to the nitty gritty. The Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns. Both teams were built good enough to get to their respective conference finals, but may prove not even good enough to get a victory in their series. So what do these teams do? I know they won't be content with where they are at. Steve Nash and Grant Hill aren't getting any younger, Amare Stoudemire is still talking about leaving. What do they do to get better? Or, how about the Magic. Just last year alone, they were built good enough to get to the Finals. But, since they didn't win, felt the need to make major changes resulting in the leaving of Hedo Turkoglu and the arrival of Vince Carter. Can they really afford to make another major overhaul? It's not like they are getting any younger either. Carter, Rashard Lewis, and Matt Barnes are all entering crucial points in their career as far as age goes. Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard are still young studs improving, but can the Magic improve? They're also capped out, just like us.
Or how about this, what happens to the loser of the (what looks to be) Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics finals? Let's say Boston wins. L.A. was able to sign Kobe to an extension and now doesn't have to worry about that, but does have to worry about Phil Jackson. He's been asked to take almost a 50% pay cut despite winning titles, so that could turn out bad. L.A. will still have a solid roster, but they have free agents like Shannon Brown who are going to want money. Ron Artest is getting old. If they lose the Finals this year, they could go from a team that was supposed to compete for titles for years to a team in transition well. And what if Boston loses? What happens with Ray Allen? Does Doc Rivers stay? They were hinting at the trade deadline of getting into rebuilding mode if the team wasn't a title contender. Everything looks good now, but if they come out flat against L.A. (or even manage to lose this series against Orlando) then Boston will have a lot of new faces next year.
Basically, I'm saying, there is no need to panic. The Bobcats are actually one of the few teams in position to stay reasonably solid next year without making moves. Even if the Bobcats lose Tyrus Thomas and Raymond Felton, signing Steve Blake and Drew Gooden for the low to replace them could probably be enough to get them back in the playoffs next year. I mean, even with no draft picks or salary cap room, we have two big expiring deals we can upgrade the team with. I mean, Nazr Mohammed and Tyson Chandler are great, but from what I'm seeing, are very expendable. I mean, not too many other playoff teams are going to really have the same opportunity to be better than they were this year. We do. Think of everyone else. The Cavaliers traded for Shaq so he could help on Dwight Howard come playoff time. Never got the chance. The Magic traded for Carter to have a better shot against the Lakers in the finals. Never got the chance. For all of the success these teams are having, they are still just one series away from being a team in transition. As a matter of fact, the only teams I will say have a bright future right now are whoever ends up winning the NBA title, and the Oklahoma City Thunder (a good young team with cap room to actually be better than they were this year). As the old saying goes, misery loves company. Fear not Bobcats fans, things aren't as bad as they seem. Well, maybe they are. But that doesn't mean that thing are good for everyone else.
P.S. We should bite on the Sixers/Elton Brand or Gilbert Arenas trades. Those are realistic ways I see us improving our roster.