The Cats have made great strides this year, getting away from the vicious cycle of playing for ping pong balls and a visible increase in national respect have been refreshing. But as Zach Lowe, one of my favorite NBA writers, recently expressed in a nice Bobcats piece, that despite these recent successes we have a long way to go to be truly competitive in the improving East. The following is just my 2 cents on what I believe could be a successful offseason plan that could put the team formerly known as the Bobcats firmly within the top 5 of the conference:
Priority #1: A two way upgrade at the shooting guard position
As a Carolina student I may be a little biased, but I believe i can look at this team objectively and our weakest link is the 2-guard and Gerald Henderson. "Hendo" is not a starter in this league. He can be a very decent contributor off the bench as he moves the ball well, plays solid D, and can get his own shot. But in a league obsessed with floor spacing and as a post iso heavy team, he does not belong with our starting unit. Also I hate him.
Option #1: Go for broke on Lance Stephenson
I have no doubt the front office will entertain this thought and likely draw up an offer sheet for the Indiana Shooting Guard, but I don't believe it is our best move. To get Stephenson to come to Charlotte we would have to break the bank and his mercurial attitude gives no guarantees that he will continue his improvement and may even regress. Although he is a spectacular defender, can hit outside shots, and may one day be an all-star--outside the watchful eye of Larry Legend he may not reach his ceiling. I would not be mad at this signing as it would excite the fan base and we would be getting a quality player, but I do not believe this is the course of action we should take as it has a high risk of strapping us long term despite our current cap situation.
Option #2: Sign Gordon Hayward to fairly big contract
$10 mil a year 4-year deal with a player option in the 4th ought to do it if he sees us as potential contenders. Hayward will have suitors as well, especially Boston and his old coach Brad Stevens, but with our cap space he is in play for us and we be the perfect match skill wise. Hayward can get his own shot and move the ball just as well if not better than Henderson, he also has a much better outside game and the ability to become a great defender under the teaching of our coaching staff. He is a young, smart and skilled player that has proven he can play and score in this league but has not had the chance to perform in big games and is far from his ceiling. This would be the darling signing for me and usher in the Hornets era in a great way.
Option #3: Draft the 2 way guard of the future
With the Pistons pick looking more and more unlikely it is unlikely we will get an instant contributor in this draft, but more on that later.
Priority #2: A Replacement at the PF spot
With McBob a free agent and Cody Zeller, despite improvement, not looking ready to start just yet, the 4 spot will be our second most important priority in free agency.
Option #1: Resign Josh McRoberts to a team friendly deal
McBob has been great for our team and really turned into a consummate professional. We should definitely strongly consider bring him back for the right price as he fits well and is probably a good tutor for Cody. However, there is no reason to spend more than market value for him. He has more value on this team than many other and his market this offseason will not be extremely active. Bringing Josh back on a 2 year deal would be a good move if it is not too expensive. See my Duke hate isn't that blatant.
Option #2: Gamble on Ed Davis
Stuck behind staple guys in Memphis, Davis has not had the chance to showcase his skills. He definitely has talent and will have suitors this offseason, but he is largely an unknown commodity. Likely he would want a bigger and longer contract than McRoberts so a Davis signing would be a bigger cap hit. Davis could prove to be just another guy and his signing is a risk, but with some insurance at the 4 with Cody I think gambling on the bouncy 4 and former Tarheel would be just the kind of calculated risk we need to take if we want to move into the top four of the East.
Option #3: Pray like hell the Detroit Pick and Noah Vonleh fall into our laps
Priority #3: A backup Point Guard
Resign Luke Ridnour Sign Darren Collision
The UCLA product was once a starter in this league and had at one point showed great promise. He since has been relegated to backup duty and washing Chris Paul's socks on a cheap one year deal. He would be a great fit he as a good defender and quality ball handler to spell Kemba and lead the second unit. He is still young so a two to three year deal would be ok if it can secure him at a good price.
Option #2: Bring back DJ Augustin or Ramon Sessions
The two former Bobcats are both adequate 1 guards, although their return to the Queen City would not be accompanied by a parade either signing would make sense.
The Blazers are in a delightful little slump right now and we can hold out hope that we get a pick at around 22. Unfortunately Detroit is in a slump/tank job of their own and will likely keep their pick, but there's always hope.
Detroit Pick: Gary Harris, Noah Vonleh, or Marcus Smart
Three players that all fill needs and clearly have the talent to succeed in this league. Vonleh has the highest ceiling and if he is available if we have this pick at 9 I would love to take a chance on him. He's showed a deep stroke late in the season and is an elite athlete and defender. Either Smart or Harris would be good back court mates for Kemba, I would lean Harris based on fit and attitude but Smart has a lot on talent. Others here could be Rodney Hood or Aaron Gordon, but they both have their flaws (Duke player and MKG like shooting range, respectively).
Portland Pick: PJ Hairston, Nik Staukus, TJ Warren, Zach Lavine, Cleanthony Early
Tons of prospects here that could still be available. Although hype at the top of this draft has cooled I still believe it has a chance to be one of the deepest drafts in a long time and if we hit our pick(s) we could really help out our future. Here I am partial to Hairston or Lavine. Both are great athletes with range and high ceilings. Hairston being more of the sure thing and Lavine having whispers about being the next Westbrook. I'm going with the Cho OKC connection and saying if Lavine is around at 22 or 23 we pull the trigger quicker than Gary Neal.
SG: Gordon Hayward
PF: Ed Davis
C: Al Jefferson
PG: Darren Collison
SG: Gerald Henderson / Gary Neal / Zach Lavine (lots of guys here but Hayward can easily be a SF and you can put these three all over the place, including playing two on the second unit instead of the clowns at SF)
SF: Jeff Taylor / CDR (no burn)
PF: Cody Zeller
I believe these guys could really make a run at the 3 seed if current roster improvement continues at the pace it's on and Clifford continues to improve the D. Let me know what you guys think.