At this early stage of the season, there are only a couple teams that are completely and totally out of the playoff picture: the New Jersey Nets and Sacramento Kings. Every other team's fans can entertain wild-eyed dreams of playoff basketball. Can we benefit from their situations?
First, the Nets. The only player we have that makes sense for them is Raja Bell. He's got an expiring contract that fits in with their plan to clear cap space for this offseason and sign free agents to complement their interesting young players, like Courtney Lee, Yi Jianlian, and Brook Lopez. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, the Nets have done too good a job of clearing cap space. The only players with guaranteed contracts for next season are guys they'll almost certainly want to keep, and it doesn't make any sense for them to swap out an expiring contract for an expiring contract. We probably won't be able to even start a conversation with them unless, improbably, they grow weary of Yi and figure they'd rather cut bait.The Kings are a different story, though. They've got some messy contracts and fiscal pressure that we might be in position to massage with a calculated gamble. No one they'd be able to offer us is a game-changer who would guarantee us the playoffs, but if they want to get out from under a horrific contract, they can give us that contract and a very good player to fill out our rotation. I'd be most interested in Spencer Hawes or Jason Thompson to come off the bench and be a backup to both Diaw and Chandler. Unfortunately, it looks like we'd have to take back Beno Udrih in any deal, which makes no sense for the Cats, because Andres Nocioni's deal is only one year longer than Radmanovic's and Mohammed's (not worth it for Sacto), and Francisco Garcia's long deal is still subject to Base Year Compensation provisions, so we can't make that work.
Here's where I'm going with this: I don't see any trades that make sense for the Bobcats, even after other teams start dropping out of the playoff hunt. No, wait. I take that back. There's one. When the Warriors give up on this season, they might consider trying to clear out some space and trade Raja straight up for Ronny Turiaf. The big guy has an unwieldy contract, extending through 2012, but he would make the team better by being a defensive presence (and about the same scorer as Chandler, i.e. way better than Diop) off the bench at both the PF and C positions. Bell, as professional as he is, is primarily a contract figure at this point, and if we put Flip in at the two, we'd get better offense, probably making up for any drop in defense, and if we put Augustin or Henderson in at that spot, we'd be giving much needed playing time to a young player. I'd also argue that we probably wouldn't see much drop in production.
The biggest problem for the Cats is that every other team is either set for the 2010 offseason, set for the 2011 offseason, or will be looking for a player to help them this season, which Bell is not. Boris Diaw might be attractive to a contender, but his contract is extremely daunting. Gerald Wallace will be attractive to a contender, but I'm not sure it's such a good idea to trade away a guy who outproduces his pay scale. And Raymond Felton, of course, might be a bench upgrade for someone with the bonus that he's an expiring contract, but the contender that needs a point guard upgrade, either starter or bench, and sees Felton as said upgrade probably isn't a contender.
It's Rosterbation Monday! Are we stuck dreaming about John Wall? Or is there someone our there for the taking that we can steal? (See? I made it this far without mentioning Joe Alexander!)