FanPost

Post Draft Lottery – An in Depth Offseason Plan for the Hornets

Coliseum_medium

via 1.bp.blogspot.com

This time last summer, the media was projecting the Bobcats to select pretty much anyone but Cody Zeller at the 4th pick in the 2013 draft. Little did reporters and fans know that while we were all watching Coach Dunlap implement multiple defenses and Byron Mullens jack 3.9 three point attempts per game, Richard Cho, Charlotte’s GM, was hanging out at Indiana practices. If fans had known this information, they wouldn’t have been surprised when Charlotte took Cody Zeller with the #4 selection in the 2013 draft.

This story tells a lot about Charlotte’s current front office. First things first, they're very good at keeping their intentions confidential. Secondly, Richard Cho does his homework. In interviews, he candidly talks about "the Database," his scouting department, and his analytics teams. Despite all these resources, he’s still personally attending college practices. Third, the team has fully committed to turning around the team’s culture. Under Cho’s guidance, the team went from Keep Getting Them Checks All-Stars: DeSagana Diop, Boris Diaw (Bobcat’s 2011 version), Tyrus Thomas, and Kwame Brown – to young, character proven draft picks such as Kemba Walker (national champion), Michael Kidd-Gilchrest (national champion), Bismack Biyombo, and Cody Zeller. Now it’s easy to get lost in a discussion on the value of these selections, but all I bring forth here is that these selections were vital in changing the team’s culture.

Admittedly Cho wanted to replicate the Oklahoma City Thunder method of success. Which is briefly summed up as: Hit a home run in the draft and build around young, cheap contracts. Unfortunately, despite their best tanking efforts, Charlotte sucked out in the 2012 draft by moving back and missing Anthony Davis. Had Charlotte been awarded the #1 pick that year, the franchise would look drastically different. Luckily for Cho and the Hornets, this bad fortune was still turned into something positive. After missing out on Davis, I think the front office decided to change course dramatically. Since that fateful night when Cho and MJ both visibly cringed upon hearing the "Charlotte Bobcats" at pick #2, the following has transpired for the Charlotte franchise:

1. Selecting Michael Kidd-Gilchrest #2 overall

2. Signing Jeff Taylor with the 31st pick in the draft

3. Signing Ramon Sessions 2/$10MM contract

4. Signing Coach Dunlap to a two year contract

5. Trading for Josh McRoberts mid-season

6. Letting Diop and Mullens contracts fall off

7. Evaluating Dunlap’s season and firing him

8. Bringing in Coach Steve Clifford to a three year contract

9. Announcing the application to change the franchise name back to Hornets

10. Drafting Cody Zeller at #4 in the 2013 draft

11. Signing Al Jefferson to a 3 year $41MM contract (final year player option)

12. Re-signing Josh McRoberts to a 2 year $5MM contract (final year player option)

13. Re-signing Gerald Henderson to a 3 year $18MM contract (final year player option)

14. Waiving Ben Gordon

Going through that list, everything on it points to a team looking to compete, not contend, in 2014/15.

Cho knew MKG was a multi-year offensive project, which is another reason why the Jeff Taylor selection was so complimentary in nature. Sessions was a quality signing but the short deal kept the cap sheet clean while also announcing that the starting PG role was Kemba’s to lose. The Dunlap signing was a failure, but again one quickly rectified. After a full season to evaluate Kemba, MKG, Biyombo, Taylor, and Henderson, Cho made his choice on Steve Clifford, who was sure to bring a core set of principles to the franchise, a few of which required multiple effort guys (which Charlotte had in the aforementioned young core). From there the target on 2014/15 was bold, teal, and glaring. In May of 2013, the team officially announced it would change back to the Hornets at the start of the 2014/15 season, so having a quality product that year became crucial for the team’s ability to sell season tickets, attract new advertisers, and make a beleaguered fan base forget some of the darker Bobcat seasons. With this hindsight like thinking, Cody Zeller’s selection makes more sense. He was taken over Nerlens Noel, who was sure to sit out 2013/14 and thus be a "rookie" in 2014, the first year Charlotte really had to be competitive. Then came the biggest move of all. Charlotte signed Al Jefferson to a big free agent contract and amnestied Tyrus Thomas in the process to clear the space. The contract was constructed so that his contract year (2014/15) and the year the name change was official (2014/15) were the exact same… that’s no coincidence. On top of that, Cho kept the locker room together by bringing back Henderson and McRoberts to similar contracts that incented them to perform in the 2014/15 season.

It seemed like a safe bet to assume it would take Charlotte a year to incorporate their new franchise player, their new rookie coach, and their new rookie big man. Most media experts predicted a slight improvement for the Bobcats in their final season. No one saw the team putting up 43 wins, despite losing seven combined games to tankers like Orlando, Boston, Philly, and Utah. After a 23-30 start, no one expected them to go 20-9 the rest of the way, including 8-1 to finish the season. Despite playing like arguably a top 10 team the second half of the season (plus 4.7 Net Rating post all-star break, good for 7th best in the NBA), the Bobcats were rewarded with the Miami Heat, who smartly maneuvered their way into the #2 seed. Even though all Charlotte fans knew this was the worst possible match-up, most thought Charlotte had a fighting chance of getting their franchise’s only playoff victory (although as of this writing, Charlotte now owns the Hornet playoff victories of old, so I guess we got what we wanted after all). I personally predicted a six game series. But just like the rest of the season, there was an unexpected turn of events. Al Jefferson ripped his Plantar Fasciitis in the first quarter of Game 1.

Although the series ended in a convincing four game sweep, the NBA was given a brief look at a team that played smart and hard, a team with young players with potential to improve, a team with a quality coach, and a team with tons of NBA capital (cap space, picks, and good contracts).

Which leaves the team, and your faithful fake GM, staring at another critical offseason for the Charlotte franchise. It would have seemed unfair to try to look forward, without first looking back, however I’m confident I haven’t wasted your time because the information laid out thus far will play a large part in what Cho and the front office will do in the coming months.

From here I will do my best to provide the facts, explain my goals as the team’s hypothetical general manager, and lay out my step by step plan for the offseason.

The Facts

The Hornets have the 9th pick in the upcoming NBA Draft (owed from Detroit)

The Hornets have given their own pick, #16, to the Chicago Bulls to complete the Tyrus Thomas trade

The Hornets have the 24th pick in the upcoming NBA Draft (owed from Portland)

The Hornets have the 45th pick in the upcoming NBA Draft

The Hornets have the following contracts committed in the upcoming seasons

Player

2014/15

2015/16

2016/17

2017/18

Tyrus Thomas

$9,388,430 (A)

Gary Neal

$3,250,000

Brendan Haywood

$2,000,000

Jeffery Taylor

$915,243 (T)

Josh McRoberts

$2,771,340

Gerald Henderson

$6,020,000

$6,440,000 (P)

Bismack Biyombo

$4,086,453

$5,479,933

Kemba Walker

$3,452,183

$4,677,708

Al Jefferson

$13,666,667

$13,833,333 (P)

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

$5,016,960

$6,331,403 (T)

$8,262,481 (Q)

Cody Zeller

$4,030,560

$4,204,200 (T)

$5,318,313 (T)

$7,014,855 (Q)

Legend: (T) team opt; (P) player opt; (Q) qual. Offer; (N) not guar. (A) Amnesty

Assuming we pick 9 and 24 in the upcoming draft and Josh McRoberts opts out of his contract but we do not release his rights, we have the following cap space in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

2014/15

2015/16

2016/17

2017/18

Cap Space

$13,504,924

$11,918,513

$36,447,255

$41,166,760

Does not consider cap holds in years 2015 - 2017. There are large ones looming for Qualifying Offers and Expiring Contracts.

My Goals

  • Make minimal changes to the 2013/14 rotation
    One of our biggest strengths last year was execution. Familiarity and having guys that can play within the team system are keys to executing well. I don’t think that brining in two to three new starters is a good recipe for success.

  • Make no sacrifices to the locker room culture
    Another competitive advantage of this team was that they genuinely liked playing with each other. Therefore I will not risk damaging the culture for a perceived me-first or off-court issue type player. I also admit my knowledge is limited because I can’t meet these guys or talk to players who have.

  • Conserve long term flexibility
    As a small market team without a superstar, I feel it is imperative to always stay on the plus side of the asset ledger, as there is no future window for contention in sight. It therefore seems prudent to stay consistently good while also having the possibility of landing stars or B-listers via free agency, trades, or other team’s draft picks (like we did with Detroit’s).

My plan

Based on my goals and operating within the restraints of the facts, here is how I would attempt to execute the 2014 offseason:

Step 1 (#9 Pick): I never envisioned this offseason would include the #9 pick. I of course hoped it would, as I think there is potential to get a core piece at #9 this year, but with only a 16% chance, I had already started looking to the Portland pick. I care zero $#$@s about fit or roster need here when evaluating this pick. As my goals state, I’m thinking long term. If we pick someone who is technically behind another current starter, so what? We have zero non-rookie contracts officially on the books after the 2015 season. Charlotte will be good in 2014/15 regardless of who is picked at #9 and they’re not a piece or two away from a title, they’re a star or two away from a title. This seems like the clearest case for picking talent over need in the history of franchise management, so that’s the route I’m taking.


Now, it seems oh so Bobcats that in a draft with what most consider an elite top eight, Charlotte has the ninth pick. But since there was so little chance we would land this pick anyway, I’m seriously not complaining. A lot can happen between now and June 26th, so who knows who will be available. But I do know that I would only trade this pick for a super-star and I have nine players that I’d take without hesitation… In order of who I find the best prospects (again zero fit considered): Wiggins, Parker, Embiid, Exum, Vonleh, Smart, Gordon, Randle, Lavine.

Zach-levine-windmill-slam-against-missouri-b_medium

via pachoops.com

Link to Lavine DraftExpress Video

If my board holds (they never do, but humor me), then Zach Lavine, the way too skinny, awkward looking 19 year old from UCLA, will be available at #9, in which case I sprint to the podium. Although I really like the next group of players (Stauskas, Young, Hood, Harris, Nurkic, etc), I don’t see the upside in any of those guys that I do in Lavine. And fortunately for Charlotte, they’re in a position to sit back and develop him, because he’s by no means NBA ready right now. He needs probably two offseasons to put on weight and work on one or two things that will translate to the NBA. If I were Clifford, I’d have him working on his 3pt shot and his handle. He should come in day one as a plus in transition, but other than that, he didn’t display anything consistently in college other than crazy athleticism and a streaky shot. But if he reaches his potential… watch out. So for the sake of this exercise, assume I took Lavine, although it will have very little bearing on the rest of my offseason. However, as the GM, I'd definitely have tiers set up. Good read on draft tiers here: The 2014 Draft Tiers. I'm not sure if I have Lavine and/or Nik as Tier 2 (potential all-star) or Tier 3 (starter quality). If it's Tier 2 I'm not trading this pick for anything short of a star and if it's Tier 3 then I'm open to some more flexible trade ideas. Decisions like those take months of scouting and analysis so I'm leaning on gut here. I think I have Lavine as a Tier 2 player.

Step 2 (#24 Pick): Now it’s still draft night and I have the #24 pick. I just landed a guy I see as a long term prospect with multiple all-star level upside. At this pick, my goals are entirely different. A small amount of fit should be considered and I am furiously fielding calls for teams trying to trade their way into the first round. However assuming that doesn't work out, I’m drafting the best non shooting guard available. Draft Express 20 – 28 as of 5/26/2014 for reference: Payne, Porz, KJ, Anderson, PJ, Grant, Adams, Payton, Shabazz.

Again, I’m operating under the assumption that this pick, no matter who it is, will not enter the main rotation, and therefore will have no bearing on my main free agent signings. A guy I have my eye on is Elfrid Payton. A very intriguing long term PG project that is being compared to Rajon Rondo. Not that it matters much, but that’s who I pick in this alternate reality.

And it should be mentioned that Charlotte also has the 45th pick in this draft. I’m choosing to pick a foreign talent and stash it overseas or trade this pick in this hypothetical scenario.

Step 3 (Manage Relationships): Before July and the start of free agency, I’d sit down with Josh McRoberts and tell him I want him back. I’d explain the facts, my goals, and my plan to him, giving him as much detail as legally and logically possible. He would be aware that I’m trying to make the team much better for the next three to four years and I want him to be a part of that. I’d also tell him that in order for that to happen; per the rules of the CBA, I have to make the big moves first. Although I don’t plan on matching any offer he gets in free agency, I will be glad to offer him a fair deal that gives him a substantial raise over his 2013 salary. And yes, I am expecting him to take a little less money if I can’t quite match another team’s offer. I justify this to him because it was me (hypothetical Cho) that gave him the chance for this raise. It would also account for the fact that I was offering him a stable environment in which he could continue to be a leader, a producer, and a member of a strong locker room. Once he knew where I stood…

Step 4 (Big FA Target): I would go guns blazing to pursue Gordon Hayward. Before going too much into the why, let me back up a little to last year… Prior to the 2013 season, it was obvious Charlotte lacked front court scoring. Henderson and Kemba Walker combined for close to 40 points per game post all-star break and the little scoring that was received from the frontcourt was really Byron Mullens shooting from outside the paint. Most fans expected Charlotte to make a play at one of Milsap, Jefferson, or Pekovic because it was so obvious the team needed a player to take the scoring load off the back court. What did Charlotte do? As mentioned, they signed Al Jefferson, the league’s most consistent and prolific post up scorer (six seasons prior to Charlotte: 19ppg on between 49.2% and 50.0% shooting). Cho proved to be a great internal and external scout with this selection, and I really think having Clifford on board helped with this decision as well.

Now back to today…. Going into 2014, the team’s needs are once again pretty obvious to the casual observer. The team needs more scoring and playmaking from the wings without giving up anything defensively. Henderson and MKG combined as one of the league’s best defensive duos (10th best defensive rating for two man lineups with over 1,000 minutes, link). They were part of a Charlotte starting lineup that finished as the third best 5-man lineup* in the league with a 10.9 Net Rating (*out of teams in the top 25 in minutes on the year, link). So to truly upgrade the wing, on both sides of the ball, it’s going to take a very good player. Also, it’s my goal to provide a player who fits the team motto...

D0cf04f81604f98cf747da9cff4460ab_crop_exact_medium

via img.bleacherreport.net

That all adds up to the following: a plus defender with size and smarts that is a significant offensive threat with shooting and playmaking abilities.

Enter Gordon Hayward


Drafted #9 by Utah in 2010, Gordon Hayward has had an interesting career so far. You can point to his 41.5% 3pt shooting two years ago when he flanked Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap… or point to his 30.4% 3pt shooting this year when he was Utah’s primary playmaking option. In order to get an idea of what I think Hayward will bring to the offense in replacing Henderson, I’ve prepared the following:

Rdkuh7u_jpg_medium

via i.imgur.com

If you’re familiar with Charlotte’s offense, the right break 3 is the most opportune shot there is. Lacking a threat from that spot makes it far too easy for teams to crowd the paint against Al. McRoberts, despite his quality production from the top of the key this year, never scared good teams enough for them to help off him in the average set, and all teams left MKG and/or Henderson open anywhere outside of 15 feet. Adding Hayward, a player that can strike fear into a team with his shooting from the right side, will make Charlotte’s offense much harder to slow down. Also, considering his handle and play-making ability, he should be able to break down teams on the close out, forcing bigs to rotate and creating dump off opportunities for Zeller, Biz, and Al.

Despite the apparent positives on offense, there is still the question of defense, which both Clifford and I value dearly. Anyone we bring in must fit Clifford's pack the paint and contest defensive scheme on the wing, and be able to survive stretches on an island. A little known fact is that when Charlotte was without one of MKG or Taylor last year, their record was 2-10. But with at least one of Taylor and/or MKG to compliment Henderson (or CDR), Charlotte was 41-29, which prorates to a 48 win pace. In summary, without two strong perimeter defenders, Clifford’s scheme fell to pieces. Despite Tolliver’s solid contribution offensively, when asked to start he struggled mightily (starter: negative 8.2 plus/minus. reserve positive 5.8 plus/minus). Despite having the paint packed behind Tolliver, his man could usually drive past with ease and was not afraid to attack the frontcourt duo of Josh McRoberts and Al Jefferson. Strong perimeter defense has proven to be instrumental to Charlotte’s success.

Giphy_medium

via media.giphy.com


It’s always hard to judge a player’s defensive stats like rating or win shares when they play for a bad team. And Utah was pretty bad last year. I’m putting a lot of my faith in what I’ve seen on tape, having watched all 109 of his steals last year and a bunch of his defensive rebounds (available on NBA.com). Now I chose to watch the steals and defensive boards so I could watch 100+ defensive possessions, not because I value those stats. I watched for body language, awareness, where he was looking, did he know the location of the ball and his man at all times, did he make rotations, how he fought threw picks, how often he got in a defensive stance, were his closeouts under control and were they quick enough, how did he fair in ISO situations especially against good drivers… basically just like I watch every game. Here’s what stood out: He’s very aware. His heads always on a swivel. Utah’s other players were constantly lost on defense. He was incredibly good at running the break after a steal. Great footwork in preparation of the screen defending the PnR ball handler. He knows his personnel (switch in transition from Kawhi to Belinelli, he guards him past the 3pt line. Against GSW he never leaves Klay to help). Versatile defender: good clips guarding 2s like Monta and monsters like Durant.

In conclusion, he’s a willing, smart defender with a good stance that uses his overall size to discourage drives. Despite the short arms, they’re always away from his body and active. I think he’d really shine in our defensive system, but he is a slight downgrade from Henderson in isolation against opposing 2s.

Another thing Hayward brings to the Charlotte offense is the ability to handle the ball and run a legitimate PnR. Now any Charlotte fan has seen Gerald Henderson attempt this play on the weak side, while Al and Kemba draw the majority of the defense’s attention on the left side of the court. This play was very predictable as Henderson lacks the ability to pass and handle like most NBA 2 guards, so he was always likely to either drive or pull-up. Watching Hayward run this play is a breath of fresh air. He sees the whole floor and has the ability to handle under duress. He also has a legit 3pt shot that he can fire off screens, hand-offs, and in isolation.

In theory, Hayward shares in most of Henderson’s strengths and adds shooting, handling, and playmaking at an above average level. Also, he can fill multiple needs on the wing, which will allow Clifford a tighter rotation come playoffs where Henderson/MKG/Hayward could technically take all 96 minutes on the wing. Although not the most athletic player ever, he plays as if the game has slowed down for him, making his aggressive movements seem faster and more explosive than they would be in a vacuum. In summary, Gordon Hayward is a strong fit for the roster, by all accounts he’s a strong fit for the locker room, and he’s young enough at 24 years old to continue improving throughout the length of his contract.

The one wrinkle with this plan is that Hayward is a restricted free agent this offseason, meaning Utah can match any offer that Hayward gets. The maximum salary for a player with less than six years experience is 25% of the cap, but actually per Sam Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ document, it’s actually more like 22%. This puts the rookie max contract at approximately $13,860,000 in year one for 2014/15 assuming the reported $63,000,000 salary cap. Also, Charlotte can only offer a four year contract with 4.5% annual raises, where Utah can offer a five year contract with 7.5% annual raises. Now it was reported that Hayward and his agent (Mark Bartelstein) turned down a 4 year $40MM extension offer from Utah prior to the 2013/14 season (link). Now Bartelstein is the guy who got David Lee paid and also the guy who pre-draft landed Bradley Beal, Hardaway Jr, both Plumlees, Reggie Jackson, and Isaiah Canaan. He obviously knows basketball and has some quality talent that could transfer to power down the line, but he’s not like Arn Tellem, a guy who holds major influence over NBA front offices. Still, I expect Mark is starting negotiations with the max salary and it’s the one price I’m not sure Utah is willing to pay.

The most a non-Utah team could offer would be $13,860,000 in 2014, $14,483,700 in 2015, $15,135,466 in 2016, and $15,135,466 in 2017. There is also the possibility that Charlotte could complete a sign and trade with Utah keeping his Bird rights intact and allow a 5 year contract with 7.5% annual raises. Now, if Utah isn’t willing to match a max offer, then they have to be willing to sign and trade him or be prepared to lose him for nothing. A sign and trade is the most likely way Hayward ends up on a non-Jazz roster next season. Figuring out the exact ins and outs of how this would work is why Cho makes the big bucks. However, in this hypothetical, no sign and trade is completed.

Assuming Hayward accepts and Utah refuses to match, Charlotte would be slightly over the cap for the rest of the offseason. Leaving the Mid-Level Exception and Bird Rights as the only exceptions available for further signings (outside of trades).

Note we'd be about $350,000 above the cap and technically unable to offer a true max, but this isn't enough to make much of a difference.

Plan Bs

Now it would be silly to look this deep into the offseason and not consider some alternatives if this offer fails to go through. Now as I mentioned before, timing is important, if we don’t go the sign and trade route and Hayward accepts a straight offer sheet, Utah has three days to match, during which time, a hold is put on Charlotte’s cap space in the amount of the offer. So while Utah mulls it over, Charlotte is basically on Free Agency lock down. At the same time the following Plan B options could be moving to other Eastern Conference competitors…

Loul Deng

Season Age Tm Lg Pos G GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% 2P 2PA 2P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2011-12 26 CHI NBA SF 54 54 39.4 5.8 14.0 .412 1.5 4.0 .367 4.3 10.0 .430 2.4 3.1 .770 1.4 5.1 6.5 2.9 1.0 0.7 1.8 1.5 15.3
2012-13 27 CHI NBA SF 75 75 38.7 6.2 14.6 .426 1.0 3.1 .322 5.2 11.5 .455 3.1 3.8 .816 2.2 4.2 6.3 3.0 1.1 0.4 1.9 1.4 16.5
2013-14 28 TOT NBA SF 63 63 35.1 5.9 13.7 .431 0.9 3.0 .302 5.0 10.7 .468 3.4 4.3 .791 1.6 4.2 5.7 2.9 1.0 0.1 1.8 1.8 16.0
2013-14 28 CHI NBA SF 23 23 37.4 7.0 15.4 .452 0.7 2.7 .274 6.2 12.7 .490 4.4 5.4 .815 1.7 5.1 6.9 3.7 1.0 0.2 2.6 2.3 19.0
2013-14 28 CLE NBA SF 40 40 33.8 5.3 12.7 .417 1.0 3.2 .315 4.3 9.5 .451 2.8 3.6 .771 1.5 3.6 5.1 2.5 1.0 0.1 1.4 1.5 14.3
Career NBA 677 631 35.8 6.2 13.6 .457 0.6 1.9 .329 5.6 11.6 .478 3.0 3.9 .773 1.7 4.6 6.3 2.5 1.0 0.5 1.8 1.7 16.0

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/27/2014.

All the early warning signs are there for Charlotte to pursue Deng. One, the Duke connection between Josh, Gerald, and Deng. Two, he knows Charlotte’s defensive system having played under Coach Clifford’s mentor Tom Thibadeu. Three, he fills a huge need as an above average defender who can certainly score as a team’s third option. A lineup of Kemba, Hendo, Deng, Josh, and Al would be quite well-rounded. Although not sexy or explosive, that starting five could likely out execute most NBA teams. Also, Deng is an unrestricted free agent, who might be happy to accept say a two year $28MM deal after his poor stint in Cleveland. A short, yet high dollar contract would fit in nicely with the rest of the roster and keeps the franchise flexible going forward.

Lance Stephenson

Season Age Tm Lg Pos G GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% 2P 2PA 2P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2011-12 21 IND NBA SG 42 1 10.5 1.1 3.0 .376 0.1 0.7 .133 1.0 2.3 .453 0.2 0.4 .471 0.3 1.0 1.3 1.1 0.5 0.1 0.9 0.7 2.5
2012-13 22 IND NBA SG 78 72 29.2 3.5 7.7 .460 0.8 2.4 .330 2.7 5.3 .520 1.0 1.5 .652 0.6 3.3 3.9 2.9 1.0 0.2 1.4 2.1 8.8
2013-14 23 IND NBA SG 78 78 35.3 5.5 11.2 .491 1.1 3.1 .352 4.4 8.0 .545 1.8 2.5 .711 1.2 5.9 7.2 4.6 0.7 0.1 2.7 2.5 13.8
Career NBA 210 151 26.6 3.6 7.8 .467 0.7 2.2 .325 2.9 5.5 .524 1.1 1.6 .682 0.7 3.7 4.4 3.1 0.8 0.1 1.8 1.9 9.1

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/27/2014.

Another unrestricted free agent, Lance brings a lot to the table and at the young age of 23, the potential to be even more throughout his contract. He can play defacto PG, make contested jumpers from 10 to 28 feet, get to the rim and finish, and play strong defense within a rigid system constantly finishing top 5 in the league the last 2 years. However, he also resorts to isolation far too often, is the king of the highlight turnover (a huge no-no in Charlotte’s system), and he may or may not have been one of the big reasons for Indiana’s epic mid-season collapse. It’s very hard to disprove that there was some big "me first" ball being played by Lance this season if you go watch the tape. And for that reason alone, I’m steering clear of offering him what is likely $10MM per year in free agency. As of this writing, in the ECF, Lance has shown why he's such a roller coaster. From Game 1 to Game 4 the headlines have turned from "Lance Make em Dance" to "No Regrets."

Random other potential targets

FA targets:If Rudy Gay opted out, he’d be a great fit at SF but if he’s willing to leave $19MM on the table next year, his price tag would likely be a 4/$48MM type figure (exactly what Iggy got last summer). Trevor Ariza, an unrestricted free agent, also makes a lot of sense as a target. However I’m weary of paying him big money after he took Houston to the cleaners five years ago. Still he’d bring similar defense as MKG and if he played contract year basketball, would be a great floor stretching wing. I personally would be skeptical to take too much risk (aka give too much money) to Ariza and therefore would likely lose out to either Ernie Grunfeld (Washington’s recently extended GM) or some other SF needy GM with cap space (Cleveland and Detroit come to mind way too quickly).

Trade targets: Afflalo (only 1 year at $7.5MM left on his deal followed by a player option for the same amount) is a good fit, but the contract and the lack of a similar contract to send back make a trade hard to figure out (although ROF’s own PoAshton had a very intriguing idea… #9 and Henderson for #12 and Afflalo). Jeff Green has two years left at $18.4MM with the last year being a player option (aka an undesirable contract). His lack of consistency makes me question his ability to mesh with Charlotte’s system and culture seamlessly like Deng hypothetically would. Also, without sending a young player or Henderson in this deal, it’s hard to make the salaries work.


Step 5 (Kemba's Step Back-Up): After I’d upgraded the wing position and checked on Josh McRoberts, I’d turn my eye to the point guard market, which if you hadn’t heard… is quite deep this year. There are 26* unrestricted free agent point guards available this year. *I’m going ahead and including Darren Collison who is almost 100% likely to exercise his $1.9MM player option. But that list excludes guys like Vasquez who are RFAs with qualifying offers that could be renounced. Just like the #1 free agent target, it is important to have a target and pursue them aggressively, and I’m going in armed with a very attractive contract for a backup PG (the Mid-Level Exception, up to 4 years ~$5MM per year).

Now, with an improved wing rotation and thus more scoring for the second unit (either Henderson or Haywayrd should be on the court at all times now), I move to add even more scoring and defense to the roster with this PG selection. A true floor general isn’t a requirement for me as I see players like Neal, Hayward, Henderson, Zeller, and Josh as all capable playmakers against NBA 2nd units. We rarely played a full bench unit this year, especially with Zeller playing more with the starters and Josh playing point forward with the 2nd unit. Therefore, I think adding scoring and defense to the PG position will allow Biyombo to play more, which in addition to giving the team much needed rim protection and screen setting, has the added benefit of giving Jefferson more rest this year. I think the following second unit would mesh nicely.

PG: free agent shooter/defender
SG: Henderson
SF: MKG
PF: Josh or Zeller
C: Biz

With the why hammered out, it’s time for the who. And it turns out, I’m not as confident with who to target as I was with Hayward. However I think process of elimination will help me whittle it down.

I like the shooting of Patty Mills and he appears like a pesky defender, but he doesn’t bring enough size to avoid mismatches against an ever growing swarm of tall NBA point guards. I like the size of Shaun Livingston, but he doesn’t bring any real outside shooting. Ramon Sessions would be quality considering the upgrades around him on the 2nd unit, but he’s still doesn’t try on defense and can’t shoot. Mario Chalmers is probably my number one choice, but I just don’t see him coming to Charlotte to be a full time back up. Kyle Lowry is a starter obviously. Kendall Marshall is a miserable defender. Steve Blake is too old and isn’t stopping anyone these days. Rodney Stuckey just doesn’t seem to fit Charlotte for whatever reason I can’t shake. Luke Ridnour we’ve seen before. D.J. Augustin looked great in Chicago but the team was still far better defensively without him on the floor (105 DRTG off vs. 112 on, a big drop) and he also likely still holds a grudge with Cho after we let him go for nothing starting a spiral that almost ended with him out of the league. Quick No’s: Fisher, Harris (love him but injuries scare me), Maynor, Price, Fredette (no D), Beno, Pargo, Farmar, Watson… that leaves the following four guys that I’m high on: Jerryd Bayless, Toney Douglas, Aaron Brooks, and Darren Collison.

Player

Status

From

Age

2013 Cap Hit

Jerryd Bayless

UFA

BOS

25

$3,135,000

Toney Douglas

UFA

MIA

28

$1,600,000

Aaron Brooks

UFA

DEN

29

$884,293

Darren Collison

PO Decline

LAC

26

$1,900,000

Coincidentally all of these guys have shot between 35% and 36.5% from 3 point land over their entire careers.


Jerryd Bayless is more shooting guard than point guard, but again I’m looking for PG capable here, not a floor general. He’s a very diverse scorer that can play spot up or pick and roll with the size to be a quality defender. A half year with Brad Stephens and a few years with Grit n’ Grind has me intrigued with his potential as our full time back up PG.

Toney Douglas is lost behind serious talent in Miami, but I think he’s got some very good value as a spark plug off the bench. He’s really a 3&D point guard that would likely be much cheaper than the $5MM per year I’ve got in my back pocket.

Aaron Brooks has had some monster games in his career and one season in Houston averaged 19 and 5 on 39% three point shooting on six 3PA/game. He can ball. But he’s been on team after team the last few years and hasn’t been able to stick. He’s my number two option though after a very nice stint in Denver to finish the season.

That leaves my choice, Darren Collison.

Strengths:

  • How he played as a starter
    With Chris Paul out this year for 35 games with a shoulder injury, he slid right in and started all of those games for one of the top five teams in the league. He was +8.2 net rating in those games shooting 41% from three point land and averaging 14.8 and 5.3 assists.
  • Productive as a reserve
    As a reserve he was still +1.6 shooting 31% from three point land and averaging 8.7 and 2.5 in just 19.7 minutes per game. Now if you don’t know the Clippers, they have this guy Jamaal Crawford who does a lot of their 2nd unit scoring, so don’t be worried about Collison’s bench production. Think more about what he can do when given the green light (like he did as a starter). He’d be the 2nd units #1 or #2 option, just like Sessions was, but he could play off Hayward and the PF, just like he did with Reddick and Blake in LA.
  • Plays defense far bigger than his 6'0" listed height
    Watching him take on Westbrook in this year’s playoffs was enough for me. Charlotte didn’t have a PG who could defend Westbrook last season, and in the East, the big PG is going to be a thing (MCW, Exum likely, Chalmers, Hill, etc). If he can bother Westbrook, then he can do fine against any of the other guys I listed. He was very good against the PnR ball handler (0.72 points per possession according to Synergy ranked #54 in the league) but just ok against isolation (0.91 PPP), although limiting attempts to just a 39% field goal percentage.

Now Darren’s stint as a starter might have earned him a starter spot somewhere, but I’m just not sure there are enough job openings. With the Clippers already at $73MM committed next season, they won’t be armed with much more than the tax payer’s exception to bring him back (~$3MM per). I’d offer him three years $12MM with the final year a team option. This would use up the majority of Charlotte’s Mid-Level exception. But I feel requiring the team option justifies the likely overpay. If that doesn’t get the job done, fine, I just resort to plan B, C, or D at likely half the cost. But Collison would be, in my mind, a top 3 back up PG in the league next year, which Charlotte was sorely lacking after Sessions was traded

Step 6 (Taking Care of the Framly): With all of that taken care of, it’s time to address Josh McRoberts. At this point, Charlotte would be approximately $4.3MM over the $63MM salary cap. But as Josh is our own free agent, we can use the Early Bird Exception to go over the cap to sign him. I think Josh deserves a 3 year $13MM contract, but I want a little bit of flexibility so I’m pushing for a team option in the final year. This represents a 59% raise and a two year extension. Because he’s unlikely to start or play 25+ minutes for most good teams, I think this is actually a fair price. Could you see a playoff team without cap space offering Josh the full mid-level exception (around $5MM per year annual salary)? I couldn’t. If a team that is rebuilding saw him as their glue guy (like Cho did for Charlotte), could you see them offering a 3 year $15MM contract? Now in that situation I could see that. However, if you’re Josh McRoberts do you want to go through another rebuild? Another roll of the dice? Or do you want to keep with Clifford, Al, Kemba, Hayward, MKG, and Richard Cho? If I’m him I choose the latter. The contract sets up perfectly for the Zeller/Josh synergy to continue for at least two more years. If by that time Cody is breaking out, the team option allows me to clear Josh for space to extend Zeller. Or if Cody’s not ready, I can keep Josh and begin looking for my long term starting power forward elsewhere. It really seems like a win-win contract.

The Results

With my major moves completed, here is how the roster looks going into August…

PG: Kemba / Collison / Payton
SG: Hayward / Henderson / Neal / Lavine
SF: MKG / Taylor
PF: McRoberts / Zeller
C: Jefferson / Biyombo / Haywood

Salaries, approximately $4.7MM over the cap:

Player

2014/15

2015/16

2016/17

2017/18

2018/19

Tyrus Thomas

$9,388,430 (A)

Gary Neal

$3,250,000

Brendan Haywood

$2,000,000

Jeffery Taylor

$915,243

Gerald Henderson

$6,020,000

$6,440,000 (P)

Bismack Biyombo

$4,086,453

$5,479,933 (Q)

Kemba Walker

$3,452,183

$4,677,708 (Q)

Al Jefferson

$13,666,667

$13,833,333 (P)

Josh McRoberts

$4,333,333

$4,333,333

$4,333,333 (T)

Darren Collison

$4,000,000

$4,000,000

$4,000,000 (T)

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

$5,016,960

$6,331,403 (T)

$8,262,481 (Q)

Gordon Hayward

$13,860,000

$14,483,700

$15,135,467

$15,816,562

Cody Zeller

$4,030,560

$4,204,200 (T)

$5,318,313 (T)

$7,014,855 (Q)

2014 #9 pick

$2,103,500

$2,198,100

$2,292,800 (T)

$2,921,027 (T)

$3,957,992 (Q)

2014 #24 pick

$1,032,200

$1,078,700

$1,125,100 (T)

$1,967,800 (T)

$2,876,923 (Q)

2015 Draft Pick

$1,400,000

$1,680,000

$2,016,000 (T)

$2,419,200 (T)

2016 Draft Pick

$2,000,000

$2,400,000

$2,880,000 (T)

2017 Draft Pick

$2,000,000

$2,400,000

Salary Cost

$77,155,529

$68,460,410

$44,147,494

$34,136,244

$14,534,115

Amnesty

($9,388,430)

League Salary

$67,767,099

$68,460,410

$44,147,494

$34,136,244

$14,534,115

Salary Cap

$63,000,000

$64,260,000

$65,545,200

$66,856,104

$68,193,226

Cap Space

($4,767,099)

($4,200,410)

$21,397,706

$32,719,860

$53,659,111

Does not include cap holds for Qualifying Offers or Bird Rights (think Kemba & Biz 2015, MKG, Zeller, and Jefferson/Hendo).

That’s 14 players. Include the 45th pick and that’s the roster limit. But I’ve already hypothetically stashed or traded pick #45, so I have one open roster spot to play with. Now it may seem smart to pursue a buyout of Haywood’s $2MM expiring contract, but actually that is going to be a crucial contract for mid-season trades. If Haywood would have been expiring last year, we could have hypothetically traded him straight up to Milwaukee for Neal, and avoided the PG drop off that was Kemba -> Sessions -> Ridnour. Expiring contracts of that size are valuable, making Haywood and Neal appealing midseason trade targets allowing you to trade for need as the roster dictates (be it because of injury or a missing piece). Also it shouldn't have to be mentioned, but no way I drop Taylor. He'd be an intriguing trade asset to tie to Neal and/or Haywood to avoid including future picks, but no way I refuse his cheap Team Option.

Each team can hold 15 players, but for the sake of this exercise, I’m keeping 14, as that last spot is probably going to be a D-league call up or a frequently rotating depth piece.

Going into the season, I have all summer to try to trade Neal and/or Haywood for future assets (unlikely) or a better fitting vet on a one to two year salary. Looking at my current roster, I’m looking for a legit back up PF/C and potentially a vet at the 3. Trading Neal and Haywood combined could technically bring back about $7MM in salary.

Assuming a small depth altering trade, I feel pretty good going into next season. Clifford is set up to run almost the exact same offense and defense as last year. The major wrinkle being he now has the flexibility to play Hayward at the 2 or 3, either way giving the team a great ball handler and shooter at the wing which was sorely missed last year. Also, he could potentially give Zeller even more time with the starters because with Hayward you no longer need to rely on the PF position for spacing and passing. Not to mention the Zeller/Hayward PnR could turn into something rather deadly.

With these moves in place, I could see the Hornets pushing for the 3rd or 4th seed in the East next year, with 50 wins a legitimate prediction. Also, I think this team could stay together for two or three more years and continue to get better, especially when considering the young age of the majority of the players on the roster past 2015.

2015 offseason tid-bits

Before the start of the season I’m exercising MKG’s 2015/16 team option at $6.3MM. Kemba extension time is upon us next summer. New contract for Jefferson? Let him walk? What will Hendo do? If they both walk we have ~$10MM in cap space next summer. Still have our first round draft pick next year. Biyombo’s qualifying offer situation. MKG’s looming $8MM QO in 2016.

If you’ve gotten this far, your boss should consider firing you. However, I hope you’ve enjoyed this and feel free to grade the offseason in the poll below.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join At The Hive

You must be a member of At The Hive to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at At The Hive. You should read them.

Join At The Hive

You must be a member of At The Hive to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at At The Hive. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker