Over the past month or so, I've been trying to convince Ben that the Charlotte Bobcats are better off making the playoffs this season than they are admitting defeat and shooting for the lottery. It took some time, but I won him over a couple of weeks ago. Why, do you ask? There are a variety of reasons.
It's obvious that Michael's trying to blow the team up. He sent the second last original Bobcat (and best Bobcat yet) to Portland, leaving Matt Carroll as the last man standing. I'm as shocked as you are. MJ also tried to get a fair deal for Stephen Jackson (most notably with Dallas), but came up short. Cool. So we understand that the team's rebuilding, right? So the Bobcats should just tank, right? Get a better draft pick? Not quite.
Before I delve into detail, you should know that this entire post is under the assumption that there will be a lengthy lockout next season. In any other year, I'd be content with any team in this situation to sit back and let the chips fall where they may. However, because of the lockout, a lot of things change.
Let's do this.
This may be the first time that we can say there's a weak draft coming up and actually mean it. Expect the majority of the top 5, and maybe top 10 prospects to enter the draft. Their stock is good and the money they get will likely be good after the CBA is settled. Anything after that, though? Oh boy. With so much uncertainty regarding length and pay scale of the "new and improved" rookie contracts, most kids will stay in school for another year and assess their options later.
The Bobcats with the way they're playing would probably get a pick between 8 and 16. That area is far too gray to sabotage the remnants of the season. Bryan Colangelo of the Toronto Raptors traded Miami's pick (26-30) to Chicago for James Johnson (I like him, but if you said "who?" I've made my point). He said that Miami's pick will net a player with the talent level of a late second rounder in any other draft. I agree.
The playoffs are the ultimate tool in player evaluation. Some players flourish and break out under pressure (remember Dwyane Wade in '04 and '05? Tony Parker in '02?), while others crumble beneath it. The Bobcats will figure out which of their young players are keepers, and which ones are expendable. D.J. Augustin was destroyed by the playoffs last year, shooting 33% from the field and 29% from 3. Conversely, Gerald Wallace was monstrous, arguably better than he was in the regular season. Who can take their game to another level this year?
Also, I really hate to bring this up, but with the recent chatter about contraction being a possibility (albeit unlikely), the playoffs are a great way to show that the Charlotte Bobcats are a team that deserves to stay. Charlotte is currently ranked 21st in terms of attendance this year with an average of 15, 991 people showing up to each home game. Not a bad mark, but not good either. The Bobcats also lost approximately $20 million last season, and are projected to lose even more this year. Gerald Wallace is gone, and without a solid foundation for the future, things only look to get worse financially.
Which brings me to my final point: the playoffs make money. I've tried to understand the system for years, but it's no easy feat. What I do understand is that the players are "awarded" money outside of their contracts for each playoff game they appear in, as do their teams. The amount of money rises with each round (let's be honest, the Bobcats probably wont make it out of the first round if they get there), and that's why many teams strive for deep playoff runs without winning it all despite being over the cap. I won't point fingers, but we know who they are.
Look, it's not the end of the world if the Bobcats don't make the playoffs, and it's not the grand prize if they do. But when weighing the pros and cons of the situation, the playoffs look like the best option for the team. The idea that they're thinking of shutting down Jax for the season infuriates me. Why admit defeat? The goal is in reach. Let's get some consistency and grow some balls!