The Charlotte Bobcats' small forward spot gave us a little bit of everything this year: the addition of a veteran counted on to score, the return of a young upstart, a smart new signing, and Jamario Moon.
Corey Maggette was penciled in as the preseason starter and envisioned to provide scoring for the Bobcats. Injuries derailed that hope. With Maggette unable chip in 20 per night Charlotte was left with too many unknown, unproven and incapable scorers.
It was fun to watch Derrick Brown for much of the season. He provides a lot of energy off the bench, but was moved into the starting five as the season wore on. Brown's energy and athleticism were a welcome sight, and he was the most consistent player over the last few weeks of the season.
Reggie Williams was an offseason addition that is hopefully a sign of things to come from this Charlotte front office. Williams, a deadeye shooter and gifted offensive player, was signed to a more than reasonable contract prior to the season. Unfortunately injuries kept him off the court until the first of the year. A slow start and fewer options in Charlotte led to more attention from opposing teams and a drop in his shooting percentage. But, this was a good signing. He is a quality player who is going to help teams, hopefully Charlotte.
Jamario Moon was also signed at the end of the year as the Bobcats were honestly running out of warm bodies.
The idea was to hand out grades for each of these players but the reality is, except for Brown, "incomplete" is really the most accurate assessment. That's a total copout so grades have been assigned based on play regardless of how often that occurred. Also, as long as we're talking grades I give myself a D at giving out grades. It always seems like the assigned grades are either too harsh or too lenient, (spoiler alert: there are no As) and this class from the seven-win wonders was especially tough to judge. But let's do it anyway.
Corey Maggette: 32 games played, 28 starts, 15 PPG, 3.9 REB
It is not Corey Maggette's fault the Bobcats only won seven games this season. Even putting those words together to form that sentence is unfair to the 13-year man out of Duke. But without Maggette's scoring for more than half the season, Charlotte had very little offensive punch. Maggette was essentially swapped out for Stephen Jackson in the off-season (here are the gory trade details provided by basketball-reference.com: He was traded by the Milwaukee Bucks to the Charlotte Bobcats; the Charlotte Bobcats traded Tobias Harris, Stephen Jackson and Shaun Livingston to the Milwaukee Bucks; the Milwaukee Bucks traded Jimmer Fredette and John Salmons to the Sacramento Kings; the Sacramento Kings traded Bismack Biyombo to the Charlotte Bobcats; and the Sacramento Kings traded Beno Udrih to the Milwaukee Bucks) and in theory that move was fine.
Maggette and Jackson had eerily similar career stats...when healthy. That's been the issue with Maggette in recent years and was again this year. Maggette and Jackson both averaged 16 points a game through the end of the 2010-2011 season. Maggette provided some great leadership (I would assume...for a team that won seven times) and when he played he averaged a decent 15 points. But the Bobcats really needed him to top out at that 20-point mark at least to have any hope of winning games. Maggette is probably a little past his days of scoring 20 a game, as he did from 2003-2010. The Bobcats simply couldn't score enough (not their only problem) but Maggette was expected to carry much of the scoring load.
Maggette ranks 9th among active players in all-time free throw attempts, and he was sixth in the league this year in free throws made per game. He was the only player ranked in the Top-10 in that category who did not average at least 20 points, and the lowest scorer in the Top-20. But the real dip in scoring was a result of his overall field goal percentage. Maggette shot a career worst 37% from the field.
A lot of things contribute to that obviously (almost no help, lack of a consistent presence at the point, and of course injuries) but the fact remains, Maggette did not produce offensively well enough for the Bobcats this year. That was a very real possibility given the injury concerns but not an awful gamble given the circumstances.
Maggette is on the backside of his career, and he carries a fairly hefty $10.9 Million price tag for Charlotte next season. He will have surgery on his knee in the off season and was recently the subject of amnesty rumors. While the Bobcats would clear that cap space by amnestying Maggette, it would seem just as productive to use that on Desagna Diop ( $7.3 Million), Matt Carroll ($3.5 Million) or surprisingly Tyrus Thomas ($8 Million, just next year). Of course they don't have to use that amnesty right now.
Maggette can still contribute and has talent. Keeping him around would mean paying that salary, but a sweeping roster overhaul doesn't seem likely. Maggette can provide some veteran leadership and production for one more year in Charlotte.
Final Grade: B-
Derrick Brown: 65 games, 17 starts, 8.1 PPG, 3.6 REB
Derrick Brown was picked up off waivers last year by the New York Knicks after the Bobcats release him in February of 2011. Many Charlotte fans were disappointed he didn't remain on the team and glad he made his return for this season. Brown provides a nice, athletic burst off the bench and was quite reliable for Charlotte, especially down the stretch.
During the death rattle of this season, when the title for worst NBA team of all time was wrapping it's cold, dead hands around Paul Silas and crew, Brown was quietly giving those of us insane enough to watch the carnage the smallest glimmer of hope.
Brown had the second highest PER rating on the team, behind Kemba Walker, at 14.7. The league average is 15, and no Bobcat broke that ceiling...sigh. He graded out tops on the team in offensive rating, effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage. Advanced stats aren't for everyone but in a season such as the Bobcats' they're a nice way to sift through the muck and see who actually did some nice things. It just so happens you could see that about Brown from watching the games as well. But then you of course had to watch the games.
Brown would make a nice addition to a good team, and can be an impact player off the bench. The issue with Brown is that he's a bit of a tweener. He looks more like a four but has the size of a three. And to fill that role at the small forward spot he's got to improve on that shooting (yes, even though he was basically the best offensive player in Charlotte based on advanced stats I know!) He shoots a paltry 67% from the free throw line; the "good" news is he only got there twice a game. That obviously has to improve as well.
Brown was really likeable as a rookie, stayed level through his second year and then produced more this past year because he played a lot more. He provided some exciting energy plays that were sorely needed at Time Warner Cable Arena, but consistency on offense will really help Brown make more of an impact moving forward. He only signed a one-year deal with the team for this year so he could get some looks from other suitors, but I would imagine Charlotte wants to keep him again if the price is right.
Final Grade: B+
Reggie Williams: 33 games, 13 starts, 8.3 PPG, 2.8 REB
Reggie Williams was my favorite free agent signing by the Bobcats last year not named Derrick Brown. Let me just double check here...yeah...he was the only free agent signing by the Bobcats least year not named Derrick Brown. Honestly that's fine. There were a lot of questions around the beginning of the year about what moves the Bobcats might make to shake up the roster for the shortened season. The obvious and correct answer was: not many.
This team had no real intention of challenging for anything, no real attraction to potential impact free agents, and honestly not a ton of extra cash to throw around. This was just the start of the climb up so there weren't going to be big names coming to town.
But solid scorers (the only thing the Bobcats needed more than rebounders) at bargain prices definitely had a place here. And Reggie Williams was just that. Signing Williams to a two-year deal worth $5 Million was a great move by Rich Cho and company.
Williams averaged nine points per game in just over 20 minutes played for the Golden State Warriors a year ago. He appeared in every game but two, and sizzled from beyond the arc hitting 42% of his three-point shots, ninth best in the league. That type of production would have been a welcome sight in Charlotte but an injury before the first game of the season kept him sideline until January 31, 2012.
Williams was a little rusty at first but had a nice February averaging just over 11 points per game hitting 33% from three-point. As you might expect on an awful offensive team, Williams' shooting percentage dipped in Charlotte after playing with several more capable scoring options in Golden State. The defenses no doubt knew Williams could hit from deep and probably paid him more attention.
He never got anywhere near the 42%, shooting a career-worst 30% from downtown. Still, Williams was often the Bobcats' best and most consistent three-point threat it seemed. When active, he was good for a three a night and sadly...that was about as good as it got for Charlotte. D.J. Augustin was the only Bobcat who averaged "more" at 1.3 per game. Not god-awful but not good enough to be your best three-point shooter.
Ideally, Williams is offense off the bench and he should be able to really excel at that. He is a very good offensive player and uses his skill well. His left-handed jumper is honed almost to perfection and he was a nice addition to this team this year, he was just asked to do too much.
Final Grade: B
Jamario Moon: 8 games, 0 starts, 2.3 PPG, 2.8 REB
Jamario Moon was signed on April 14 and only appeared in eight games. At this point in the season the Bobcats were either going to be the worst team in NBA history, or the second worst. I'm sure he was happy to be back in the league, but I'm not positive.
His time in Charlotte was essentially an extended tryout. He averaged about 15 minutes per, and was 100% from the free throw line this season (2-2). He was only signed through the end of the season so whether he's invited back next year or lands somewhere else in anyone's guess.
Final Grade: C