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Rosterbation with a Twist

Since the end of last season, there’s been a great deal of talk about the next big trade for the Bobcats.  In fact, the introduction of quick draw Larry Brown created a constant drone of trade speculation comparable to the introduction of the vuvuzela at a world cup match.  The simple fact is we like to talk about trade.  Given the glaring weaknesses present on the roster and a coach with a penchant for upheaval, we’ve also come to expect them.

Trade talk on a blog is likened to the most shameful of private acts (rosterbation) for a reason; it’s often self-indulgent, steeped in fantasy, and may lead to some embarrassing moments.  Though I’m not one to judge – we all need a little self-indulgence – I do believe that a focus on the more tangible aspects of any potential trade is prudent.  We know our positions of need, but we can speculate all day and be right back where we started in terms of knowing who may be coming to Charlotte.  One thing we can discuss with some level footing, however, is what we’d lose. 

Today, I’d like to discuss a few of the players most likely to be involved in any midseason trade. What will the relative impact be with the loss of each player?

We’ll start the discussion with Boris Diaw since he’s widely assumed to be the most likely trade target (with a hearty "good riddance" from many).  Rick Bonnell’s been selling Diaw’s versatility – if not productivity – since he came to Charlotte.  Diaw’s stats this season are about what you would expect given his career averages with one exception; he’s shooting many more threes at a significantly worse percentage.  One of the knocks on Boris from last season was that he passed up open shots.  Well, he listened, but I’m starting to wish he hadn’t.  What the team loses in trading Boris is bad outside shooting and poor rebounding.  The problem is that Charlotte also loses their most versatile defender.  At the time, I welcomed the idea of trading Diaw for an upgrade at the point (Devin Harris).  In hindsight that deal would have been a mistake.  It would have been another blow to already horrendous defensive front court.  I hate Diaw’s lack of rebounding as much as the next person, but playing him next to Wallace and Thomas gives the team their best front court.  The Bobs can’t always get away with this, but when they can, they should exploit it.  If the Bobcats do trade Diaw, the deal has to bring a center back to Charlotte.

Next up is D.J. Augustin.  After five seasons of Raymond Felton, and now D.J., Charlotte is fast developing a legacy of polarizing point guards.  There’s plenty to like about D.J.’s game.  He’s a great shooter and he’s quick enough to get into the lane when he wants.  He can put up a lot of points, but he’s also showing a willingness and acumen for passing.  Despite this, he’s still not taking control of the offense the way a point guard should (maybe he will in time).  D.J. needs to call for the ball and execute set plays when Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace, and Tyrus Thomas are running amok on offense.  That will be the only way to cut down on turnovers.  He also needs to chew Jackson out when he’s shooting 20 foot jumpers out of double teams rather than finding the open man (maybe that’s asking for too much but one can dream).  Further, D.J.’s really bad on defense.  He’s so bad on defense, if he didn’t have a two year head start in LB’s system (and two healthy knees) over Sean Livingston, I’d want to see Liv take on the starting role.  Ideally, D.J. provides a fantastic scoring punch off the bench as the 6th man.  Right now, however, he’s the Bobs’ only viable option as a starting point guard.  Unless (perhaps until) a team like Denver decides it’s time to rebuild, and a truly better point guard becomes available, Charlotte really cannot trade D.J.  Getting worse at the point, even if it brings in a decent center, seems counterproductive.

We now turn our attention to Stephen Jackson.  Prior to the start of the season, the thought of trading the good captain was inconceivable (at least to me).  We all have Jackson to thank for Charlotte’s first ever trip to the playoffs.  However, the bad decisions that you live with on a winning team really start to grind the gears after a 1-5 start to the season.  There’s been talk of a bum wheel and even references to Victorian aesthetic literature to help explain Jackson’s early season performance.  He’s taking 5.7 3’s a game and he has almost as many turnovers as he does assists.  I can see why the "trade him while he still has some value" idea is knocking around.  But really, he’s hitting those 3’s at a rate that I can live with, and the turnovers should improve if/when we get more assertive play from the point.  Most importantly, Jackson is the player most capable of taking over a game on any given night.  That’s what we lose if we trade Jackson.  Gerald Wallace is a good leader, but Jackson is the team’s true champion.  If the Bobcats trade Jackson without returning a similar personality with the ability to score – I don’t care if we get a center that blocks 10 shots a game – say goodbye to he playoffs.

Now, we have to talk about Nazr Mohammed.  Nazr is easy to like.  He’s smart, hard working, and you can tell that he’s generally on the same page as coach Brown  His individual numbers are better than any center since Emeka Okafor.  On paper, he blows DeSagana Diop out of the water.  Nazr even rebounds better than Diop.  If you’re looking for a trade, however, he’s an obvious choice.  His expiring deal and ability to score in limited minutes make him an ideal for a team looking to shed future payroll or find some help at the 5.  Add that to his porous defense and Nazr may do well to start looking for a realtor.  His name gets thrown around in trade talk almost as often as Diaw’s.  But if Charlotte trades Nazr for a better center, then they’re probably taking on another bad contract.  So what does the team lose if Nazr leaves?  Further cap flexibility in the future (ay, there’s the rub).  This may not be such a bad idea depending on the player, though how many quality bigs with reasonable contracts get traded midseason?  Some teams stock pile bigs just to keep other teams from getting them (see Orlando Magic).  If the Bobcats trade away Nazr, they’re likely to pay a significant price (literally).                     

There are plenty of other players to discuss.  If Derrick Brown gets traded, the team loses an important part of their future.  Trade Gerald Wallace and the Bobcats effectively admit defeat while going into rebuilding mode.  If a package of Gerald Henderson, Matt Carroll, and Diop get traded, then we all exchange high fives and hope the other team’s GM doesn’t sober up before the ink dries.  The four players discussed in detail, however, appear to be some of the team’s most likely candidates as the season progresses.   

Despite the loss Saturday, the team it starting to look like it did last season.  That may quell some of the trade talk for the moment.  Though, if the Bobcats don’t start winning soon, the question is inevitably going to be: "who will we trade?"