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Recognizing True Talent

One of the aspects of sports I like to emphasize is recognizing true talent versus actual performance. Since coming to the Charlotte Bobcats, Boris Diaw has been very good, compiling a 14/7/5 line per 36 minutes. Through roughly the first ten games, he was somewhere around 17 points per 36, too. Unfortunately for us, Boris Diaw is not that good.

In order to believe Diaw is that good and, by extension, that he deserves to be a core piece of the Bobcats' future, you have to believe that this his recent performance is now his true talent level, not the 11/6/5 per 36 that he put up over the rest of his career. Already, as the season progresses, his hot streak is fading into memory, and his season averages are dropping back to his career levels. Boris Diaw is no panacea.

Thus, it's sad that Larry Brown has suddenly decided to make an example of Gerald Wallace for, essentially, getting a little tired in the middle of a tough season in which Crash has outproduced Diaw. It's true Diaw outproduced Wallace at first, but now that things are settling in to place and the true talents are coming through, it's clear that Wallace is more valuable for about the same money. He outscores Diaw, outrebounds him, gets a few more blocks, a few more steals, and is generally more reliable on defense. Diaw gets more assists, but that's where he's exceptional. As his three point percentage comes back to earth, he'll go back to being exactly who he was with the Suns, and we'll be stuck with a three man miscast in a traditional offense as a power forward who plays up and down offense and adequate defense.

Wallace's true talent is much more valuable to the team than Diaw's. What scares me about this little brushup is that Larry Brown probably has never understood that because he doesn't like Wallace's style, and this is just a preliminary indication that Brown wants to move him.

The Diaw trade netted them roughly $5 million in the summer of 2010 which, with first round picks and other players, won't give them enough space to make any significant moves, and a $9 million year of Diaw in 2011-12, when they could have just let Jason Richardson's $14 million expire after 2011. All that's to say I have zero confidence in the Bobcats' personnel decisions. Larry Brown doesn't understand true talent. Nobody in the front office seems to understand how to manage a pretty simple salary cap. There is no discernible plan.

And it gets worse. Rick Bonnell reports that the Cats are talking to the Mavericks about trading Raymond Felton and Nazr Mohammed for DeSagana Diop. Maybe it'll look something like this. Whatever. If true, it's insanity, and I kinda like Diop. He's the mirror image of Nazr Mohammed: pretty decent on defense and pretty bad on offense. But he's also "only" 27, with some untapped potential, I suppose.

The insanity of it is that Diop is signed for the same length of time as Matt Carroll, but instead of a declining contract over time, it increases to over $7 million by 2013. Raymond Felton expires after this year, if the team is willing to let him go. Nazr Mohammed expires in 2011.

Notice the year? If the team would simply stop messing around and wait out their untradeable contracts instead of trying to look smarter than they are by trading for super high risk, somewhat high reward, contracts in an ill-advised attempt to win quickly, they will have a chance to rebuild by 2011-12, even including Carroll's awful deal. They can still pull it off if they're able to move Diaw for a deal that expires after the 2010-11 season, but the Knicks are their only likely trade partners, and sitting through an Eddy Curry Era might be the only way to achieve that goal of competing in 2011-12.

Getting Diop would be the other side of failing to understand what true talent is. Diop has been a middling reserve big man for a long time, and he is who he is, but he's paid as if he were a reasonable starter. If Larry Brown imagines he'll make a positive difference, he's horribly mistaken, and acquiring Diop's big money contract with the intention of keeping it will harm the franchise for years.