Can the Bobcats lure Big Al to Charlotte?
As multiple sources have confirmed today, the Bobcats have scheduled a visit with free agent Al Jefferson on Wednesday to discuss him possibly joining the squad, news that has been met with a lot of opposition from the fan base. My only question is why?
I mean sure, I get the reasons for some of the concerns to this move. He's 28 years old, no one has ever accused him of being a great defender, none of the teams he's ever played on have had much success, and we all have to protect our precious draft positioning for next year right? I'll be brief, but here are a few reasons why I think we should pull the trigger on Big Al if the opportunity legitimately presents itself.....
We've Tanked Enough
Are you tired of being one of the jokes of the league? Cause I sure as hell am. Listen, in the past 3 seasons, the Bobcats have gone a pathetic 62-168, finishing 2 years ago as the worst team in league HISTORY and finished next to last as far as the worst teams in the NBA last year, only beating out the young and rebuilding Orlando Magic. And what have the years of being beaten into the ground gotten us? Never being in the conversation for a selection of Kyrie Irving, having Anthony Davis slip away to from us in the lottery, and then falling out of the top 3 in this one. Now, because there is an incoming draft class of Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, and a few others, it's in our best interest to tank again right?
Wrong. To me at least. With teams all up and down the East being in position to begin a massive tank themselves, including the Magic, 76ers, Celtics, Hawks, Bucks, and even possibly the Raptors now that Masai Ujiri is in charge, we'll probably need to begin deducting some of the talent already on the roster just to keep up with them. I for one feel it's no longer beneficial to our young core of players to continue to endure losing simply because we refused to fill the roster with players who could absolutely help in hopes of another rookie who will have to learn the ropes coming in, star prospect or not.
These guys aren't going to be cheap either when it comes time to renew everyone's deal. If we bring Gerald back, and then have Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo due for extensions, and then Michael Kidd Gilchrist, and then Cody Zeller, and then whatever top 5 pick we get, plus the added assets from the Pistons and Blazers it's going to start getting real tricky managing the salary cap. Even the good young teams that are managed properly cap wise have trouble keeping things together (see: James Harden and the Oklahoma City Thunder).
Tanking for the rights to some of these players is also absolutely showing no faith in the core we have put together already, especially MKG who plays the same position as Wiggins. That's not even throwing out the fact that a lot of these guys in the upcoming drafts simply won't be as good as advertised which is a cold hard truth.
What we can do is continue to reshape our franchise into this "winning culture" that has been mentioned so often while hoping from a distance that Detroit and Portland continue to falter and give us higher picks in return.
Raymond Felton at 25 years old was the youngest of our primary playoff core
This Core Cannot Be Compared To Our Last
I often see the argument that this team would max out as an 8th seed like our last squad did that made the playoffs. There are a few reasons why I disagree with that. For one, that team was actually the 7th seed that year, so at least give them their proper due. For two, if we went with the starting lineup as is without Jefferson included, we would have a starting lineup averaging under 22 years old, putting them at one of the youngest in the NBA. That playoff team? That consisted of a much older core with not much room for improvement. Raymond Felton was the baby of the starting lineup at 25 years old. Stephen Jackson was 32. Gerald Wallace was 27. Boris Diaw was 28. The center rotation was comprised of a 36 year old starting Theo Ratliff and a 27 year old Tyson Chandler coming off of the bench. Larry Hughes also played significant minutes and was 31 years old. That team really had nowhere to go but down. There is no legitimate reason to believe this team, if they add Jefferson and make the playoffs this year, will have maxed out already.
If tanking were the primary goal, we could have done a lot worse than Haywood and Sessions
Cho Has Other Plans In Mind
I think it's time that we get out of our heads that Rich Cho's plan is strictly to tank and build through the draft entirely. Though this may have been a result of the initial tearing down of the squad to create cap space and add a few starting caliber players on rookie contracts like Walker, I began to question this after reports came out that last year we were making a run at Brook Lopez, Carl Landry, and other players that would only come in and hurt our draft positioning. Hell, even with Ramon Sessions, what we were getting was a player that could possibly come in and start and averaged 12.7 PPG and 6.2 APG for a very competitive Lakers squad the previous year. Had our intentions been to tank, I also think we would have possibly gone with a younger, less experienced option than Brendan Haywood who we picked up on the amnesty wire. No, I don't think tanking is the plan here at all. When you bring in players like Sessions, Haywood and Ben Gordon (acquired by trade) on 2 and 3 year deals, it's not about tanking. It's about maintaining your flexibility with your cap and creating potential assets for yourself.
In a player's last year of a deal, their values jump immensely, especially under this new collective bargaining agreement where tax offenders are going to really have to start paying for some of the moves they make. Gordon and Sessions could potentially net us first round picks or impact players on longer salaries from other teams after last year just being 2 small pieces of the puzzle that ended up in a 21-61 record. The plan the whole time has been to maximize flexibility to make such moves as the one we could potentially make this off-season with Jefferson.
Championships Can Be Won With Solid Basketball
Though a lot of us want to continue to follow the Oklahoma City Thunder way of rebuilding, I think it's more realistic for us to take a look at what the Indiana Pacers have been able to accomplish with playing sound basketball and building their roster fundamentally, taking the eventual NBA Champion Miami Heat to a Game 7 and actually being in great position to have had them eliminated had Frank Vogel not benched Roy Hibbert in the closing seconds of Game 1. Paul George was the 10th pick in the draft. George Hill was acquired in a trade for the 15th pick in a draft. Lance Stephenson was a 2nd round pick. David West was a free agent signing. Hibbert was the 17th pick in the draft. This was a team that took the champions to a Game 7. It doesn't take high draft picks to win titles. It takes smart draft picks. Even if we were to make the playoffs and give our pick up to the Chicago Bulls, at best, due to us making it, it would only be the 15th pick in a draft so it's not that big a loss. We will have other picks owed to us that can compensate for this loss. And as long as we continue adding to our team, filling holes with players that we KNOW will come in and produce, we have a shot at becoming a good team, especially in this watered down East. Just continue to follow the Pacers. What they did was went from the a loss in the first round, to a loss in the semis, to a lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to possibly a championship berth next year considering how shaky the Heat actually were. This is the path we'll need to take. It's very rare for a team to jump from not being in the playoffs to immediately a championship contender which I feel a lot are unrealistically hoping for. These are still baby steps here. Making the playoffs isn't going against the plan. It's a sign that it's actually working.
Let's Make An Offer
So, have I convinced you to take on Al Jefferson? Probably not. But let's talk numbers to conclude this. To bring Jefferson in at all, that would mean that we're amnestying Tyrus Thomas which would be an overall win for the franchise, eliminating his salary from the books and continuing in an effort to improve the team's culture. The deal I would offer the 28 year old Al Jefferson would be 4 years at $13 million apiece with the fourth being a player option. I choose this number because as I mentioned in an earlier thread, my rule of thumb for signing free agents is don't sign them to a contract you can't unload if you need to. We aren't giving up any assets to offer this deal, so the worst overpaying someone can do to you is taking up space on your cap that other teams don't want to pursue (i.e. Tyrus Thomas). This takes us out of the running for facilitating trades or probably taking on bad contracts for more draft picks, but how many will we possibly need? We have 4 players under contract now who are on rookie deals and will more than likely have Gerald Henderson back to round out what could be the starting 5 with them. With possibly 3 picks next year, we could have an overload on youth.
Lebron James could potentially headline the next class of free agents
Assuming Thomas is amnestied, as constructed, we are currently only committed to about $18 million of cap space next year. Add Jefferson to the mix and we are still only at $29 million. Bring back Henderson and McRoberts on deals paying $8 and $4 million annually, and we are still only around $41 million which leaves us enough room to sign a max-level player in a class that could potentially include LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Luol Deng, Zach Randolph, Andrew Bogut, Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and restricted free agents such as DeMarcus Cousins, Larry Sanders, Derrick Favors, and Greg Monroe, you suddenly have room to add depth to our lineup by bringing in someone off the list to push a guy to the bench or to become part of the bench mob themselves (though the players listed aren't bench level players)
PG Kemba Walker
SG Gerald Henderson
SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeffrey Taylor
PF Cody Zeller, Josh McRoberts
C Al Jefferson, Bismack Biyombo, Brendan Haywood
This roster, with possibly $17 million in cap space (depending on if we receive the Portland and Detroit picks) is one that could potentially do damage in the East. So what do you say? Are you afraid to win? Because it looks like the front office isn't.