For the first part of our Friday Links, here's some good links to Bobcats pieces around the internet.
One of the best basketball scouts on the internet, Sebastian Pruiti takes a look at some of Walker's strengths and weaknesses.
Bobcats' Tyrus Thomas rehabbing his way through lockout | CharlotteObserver.com & The Charlotte Observer Newspaper
Rick Bonnell talks to Tyrus Thomas about his offseason, how much he likes Charlotte, and his wife.
An Interview With Charlotte Bobcats Broadcaster Scott Lauer on the NBA Lockout: Profiles: GQ
GQ speaks with Scott Lauer, the former Bobcats radio announcer who was recently let go after the lockout began.
Scouting Report: Stan Van Gundy | Hardwood Paroxysm
What you already knew: Stan Van Gundy has love handles. What you may not know: Stan Van Gundy has basketball handles.
After the jump, we'll look at the meat and potatoes of this post: five questions on the Bobcats, which were answered by assorted bloggers on ESPN's TrueHoop network.
Charlotte Bobcats offseason questions - ESPN
Have the Bobcats turned over a new leaf? We explore the possibilities in the Queen City.
1. Fact or Fiction: Walker will become the starting PG in his rookie year.
Ben: Fact. But I don't think it will be soon. It's hard to make an estimate since we have no clue when the lockout will end or how much of a season there may be. If there was a full season, I'd say late February or early March. Augustin is a competent pro and starter, which statistics can support even though the W-L record doesn't. He has an exceptional turnover rate and a decent assist rate, which translates to a well-above average assist to turnover rate (#6 in NBA in '10-'11, 3.21). His shooting around the rim has made marked improvement along with an incredible fall in three-point percentage. Walker hasn't played a minute in the NBA, so based upon what we've seen in his playing time leading up to this point, it seems that Walker is a more vocal leader with better scoring ability. I'm betting his ability to run the floor and make plays, whether that's in scoring or creating openings for teammates, persuades Silas to slide Walker into the starting five towards the end of the season. Regardless, I think minutes will be plenty and the starting role won't mean a whole lot, as Silas tends to play the hot hand during games. But if there is a much shortened season, I'd bet my money on Augustin starting every game night.
Connor: Fiction. As the season progresses, I expect Walker's role on the team to steadily increase. I think he'll spend much of the season in a sixth man role and may essentially split minutes at the point guard position, but I doubt he'll be able to wrestle the starter's spot away from D.J. Augustin, especially if a shortened season occurs. Augustin has recently displayed himself as a perfectly adept point guard. Though he's still developing as a player, Augustin had a 15.9 PER last year and averaged 15.4 PPG and 6.5 APG (per 36 minutes) last year. Though I'm sure Bobcats' fans would appreciate an increase in offensive efficiency from Augustin, he's very careful with the ball and generally avoids turnovers. In a league full of good starting point guards, Augustin falls somewhere in the middle. Though I have high hopes for the player Walker will eventually be (and think he'll transition fairly well), I don't believe he'll be effective enough in his first season to fully claim the starting role from the more seasoned Augustin.
David: Alright! Let's get right down to it! This might be the hottest topic facing the Bobcats should they ever play an NBA game again. This might surprise some of you, and I might surprise myself but I'm going to say that is FICTION. I assume, because I love making an ass out of you and me, that we're figuring both Kemba Walker and D.J. Augustin will both a) stay healthy and b) remain on the Bobcats roster the entire year. And if those two things hold true, I actually see Augustin starting from wire to wire. Surprised? I am. I have been waiting for Augustin to wow me with some part of his game that could be considered dynamic since he was selected out of Texas. But it never really happened on a night-in-night-out basis. Raymond Felton was able to hold him off from the starting spot and it wasn't until Felton left town that Augustin took the reigns. However, once he did, and after getting adjusted to new surroundings (read: After Larry Brown left) Augustin really came into his own. As I said, there hasn't been that bust out prolific aspect to his game but on a regular basis, you could pretty much count on D.J. to do what he does...something that is ironically very Felton-esque. Augustin was 10th in the league last year in assist-to-turnover ratio, dishing out a little more than six a game while averaging slightly more than 14 points. That's not going to blow your socks off but assuming he continues to progress, I think it's good enough to hold off another rookie in Walker. We are ALL excited for Walker to suit up, and suit up. But for all his positives he will still be a rookie. Granted, one with considerable experience, one that loves the spotlight, one that was born to take the big shot and one who's got heart...but a rookie all the same. And transitioning to the NBA from college as point guard is the toughest move in the sport. Don't get me wrong, Kemba is going to play, and play a lot. He will play a lot of point too, and the two will play in the same lineup as well. I just think this team will need something steady at the one and for next year, that will still be D.J. Augustin. This question would have been a lot easier if Larry Brown was still the coach.
Josh: Fact. I appreciate everything that Augustin does and is capable of. He's a fantastic shooter when he's on and one of the better point guards in the league when speaking of limiting turnovers. That said, he lacks a very desirable attribute that all successful point guards have: leadership. Augustin, as unfortunate as it is, is not capable of leading a team, especially one that looks to make the playoffs in the future. Walker, while not nearly the shooter that Augustin is, possesses natural leadership ability and the dynamics necessary to star in this league if he is given the chance and capitalizes on it. I believe that at first, Augustin will undoubtedly command the starting position due to his experience and Walker's lack thereof. That said, once Walker adjusts to the NBA game, he should flourish if given the opportunity to prove himself. You'd think this would be the case with a rebuilding team like the Bobcats. If I had to guess, I'd say that Walker will be starting around February, assuming there is a season in 2011-2012.
2. Fact or Fiction: Michael Jordan is the right owner for the Bobcats.
Ben: Fact. Well, it's not like this is much of an option anyway. Owners aren't politicians that can be impeached (otherwise Donald Sterling would be long gone). Anyhoo, if you had asked me right after the end of the season, I'd probably have some major doubts. I still have a few, like his eye for talent, but for the most part, my fears were quelled by his hiring of Rich Cho. Jordan has filled the Cable Box with his allies for years, which isn't to say they aren't qualified. They are. The main problem for me has always been whether there's been people in the front office who can go against Jordan's word if needed. That seems to be the case in the hiring of Cho. Cho, whose firing in Portland has been rumored to be due to his unwillingness to give owner Paul Allen is way. Cho's independence and cap smarts give the franchise an unseen force to broaden the front office's abilities in finding talent and managing the roster. Outside of that, it seems evident that Jordan is committed to the team and the city to bringing the best product he can. With so much invested into the team, both financially and personally with his reputation, he dang well knows he can't rely on just his basketball sense to further this club., as shown by the Cho hire.
Connor: Fact. Jordan doesn't have a perfect track record as the owner of the Bobcats, but he's recently taken significant steps to move the Bobcats in the right direction. He recently hired Rich Cho, a savvy, smart GM. Cho then drafted Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker (both terrific choices in my opinion) and began the necessary transition towards a full rebuilding stage. With the combination of Cho's (expected) smart choices going forward and Jordan's investment in the team and his experience, the Bobcats' future should be bright.
David: FACT. ONE MILLIONS TIMES, FACT. Michael Jordan and company have not gotten a lot of credit for some of the good things they've done with this franchise since he became majority owner. Somehow he got his sales team to top out and sell tickets to a town that, for the most part, really didn't want anything to do with the NBA. The playoffs helped. And I will maintain forever that getting to the playoffs that one year was a must. It rejuvenated the energy and passion for the NBA, and reminded a lot of people how much fun going to an NBA basketball game in Charlotte can be. I am equally in agreement with what happened immediately after that lone playoff appearance: cleaning house. It's taken while (and I don't think the job is done) but the move to move on started right after the Orlando Magic swept the Bobcats. Felton was not retained, Tyson Chandler was traded for a promise from Mark Cuban to mention the Bobcats on Entourage and a chance to pitch an idea on Shark Tank (I'm fine with this trade by the way), Gerald Wallace was dealt during this past season to Portland, and Stephen Jackson was traded to the Bucks so the Bobcats could move up and grab Bismack Biyombo. The core of that team is gone. What does all this mean? It means there is a plan in place and has been for a while. Bringing in new GM Rich Cho from Portland was perhaps the best move Jordan has made as an owner, and further indicates the team's plan to rebuild. Jordan has been an easy target for basketball observers since his reign in Washington and through his early days in Charlotte when many felt he wasn't around enough. But since going all in, Jordan's franchise has made great strides in establishing a presence with social media, implementing new marketing ideas around the are, and ticket sales. On top of that, he's Michael Jordan, he's still the face of the franchise. That has to change and I'm sure he know that. But he's the right owner without a doubt.
Josh: Fact. The difference between Michael Jordan and other owners? He's not in this to make money. Sure, he isn't trying to lose money, but he purchased a team, the Charlotte Bobcats of North Carolina, for a reason. He loves basketball. He adores North Carolina. At first, people were very skeptical of his ability to manage a team, and rightfully so. He made many questionable decisions early on, but has slowly developed into a capable owner. What really intrigues me about Jordan is his personal investment in the team. He wants the final say in everything, he wants to teach guys what he knows, he's signed numerous players to Jordan brand. Jordan does not have what it takes to be a coach; his personality simply does not allow it. But as an owner? I've been pleasantly surprised.
3. Fact or Fiction: Jordan could beat any Cats player in one-on-one.
Ben: Fiction. He could probably beat many of them, but unless he gets back into shape and somehow shakes off some hurting parts, a 48-year-old isn't going to beat men half his age that are quicker, more athletic and stronger than him. He still has it, though. Jordan's as smart with the ball as he's always been and can take someone into the post, but I have trouble seeing him beat a healthy Gerald Henderson's defense or being quick enough to stop Augustin.
Connor: Fiction. The one opponent that eventually can't be beat is Father Time. Jordan is middle-aged now, and it's difficult to content physically with any NBA (a league which includes some of the best athletes in the world) player at such an age. Jordan clearly still retains some of his skills (he even dunked at a Bobcats' event recently), but he isn't ready to match an NBA player. That being said, if I played for the Bobcats, I'd be hesitant to handily beat the man who could someday be negotiating my contract. I'd also be hesitant to beat him because it might also ruin your chances at a guest spot in a Hanes commercial.
David: If Corey Maggette was still in Milwaukee, I would be very tempted to say yes on this but I have to say this is FICTION. Maggette is big enough, strong enough, and quick enough to give Jordan trouble on the defensive end (please let MJ never read that). MJ's basketball knowledge, or as he would say, knowledge of "the game of basketball" would give him two points right out of the gate against most Bobcats on the roster. His psychological advantage combined with his early and often smack talk would put him up 5 points. Jordan is too strong for D.J. and Kemba, but they are obviously much quicker. Still, you give Jordan jumpers and you're dead. He's going to shoot over everyone, or take them to the block and fade away. If he gets going you're not going to get the ball back. Henderson would be an interesting matchup...but that would be another victim of the low-post game.
But Maggette would be able to get by him because...he's a 48 year-old man. That lateral movement can't be the same as it once was...there's no way. Right? That has to be right. How confident am I about this? Not very. Am I going to bet on this? No. In fact, if we involve wagering anything on this to make it interesting I want to change my answer. MJ would kill 'em.
Josh: Fiction. We'd all love to believe that Jordan is still the guy we saw in 1993. But he isn't. He's dreadfully out of shape and old. Even as recently as 2003, Jordan's play with the Washington Wizards was okay at best, and that's putting it nicely. He struggled to reach any statistical norm in his career. He was old then, and he's even older now. He couldn't hang with Gerald Henderson. Heck, he may not be able to handle Kwame Brown. They're just bigger, stronger, and much quicker. That isn't to say I wouldn't like to see him try.
4. Biyombo and Walker aside, does Charlotte have any keepers?
Ben: Yes. This Bobcats team is weak, but there are definitely some players I'd like to keep around. I've been saying that this team is a decent supporting cast. It needs a star at the small forward, an elite scorer - Kevin Durant, basically. And even then, they're a ways off. But there are some fine pieces here that could contribute for years. Gerald Henderson can become an adequate starter that can drop 15 or so points per game while being a more than solid defensive guard. Tyrus Thomas, assuming he can stay healthy for around 70 games each season for the next couple years, is a strong rebounder and defensive presence that just needs to stay healthy and improve his decisions with the ball. I'd say Augustin is on the fence. He's not an great playmaker or distributor, and his defense is a major liability. And interestingly, I'd like to see D.J. White develop for a few years here. I didn't get to see as much of him on the block as I'd like and I think he has some good ball I.Q. He's not an expensive player, so why not?
Connor: Absolutely. While the Bobcats are in a full-fledged "rebuilding" stage only recently, there are players on the roster deserving of a chance to be part of the team's future. Before he was injured last year, Tyrus Thomas posted an 18.25 PER (which is very good) and was a terrific defensive presence. Though some fans have a tendency to give up on the injury-prone Thomas, he's still fairly young (he'll presumably be 25 years old when the season starts) and has played very well when healthy for the Bobcats during the last two years. Gerald Henderson also vastly improved last season, and has the skill set to be a quality scoring rotation player or starter in the future. Other than the previously mentioned players, the Bobcats have three other players that could be possible key components of the franchise going forward: D.J. Augustin, D.J. White, and Dante Cunningham. How next season (whenever it is) plays out will determine the future of these players, especially Augustin. White has significant potential due to his physical presence and competent offensive repertoire, and Cunningham has shown himself to be a reliable rotational player (preferably an 8th or 9th man going forward).
David: ABSOLUTELY. The Bobcats aren't considered a very formidable team. Because the Bobcats aren't a very formidable team. But that doesn't mean they don't have some nice assets aside from their two most recent draft additions. Tyrus Thomas is a keeper in my opinion but he desperately needs to stay healthy and contribute more consistently to maintain that status. Gerald Henderson's progression was a joy to watch last year. Think back to the end of last season and name me a more reliable shot than his jumper coming off a high screen; that thing was just about automatic. It will be fun to watch if he can take that big step from improved role player to legit starting two-guard. I'd think having Maggette there will make things a little more interesting for him, but perhaps the two former Duke Blue Devils will be able to compliment each other and Maggette can teach Henderson a few scoring tricks. However, is there anyone on the roster that's untouchable? Absolutely not. This team, this franchise, does not have a face on the floor. They've got the face of their franchise next to the bench in baggy jeans. And as we mentioned before, that needs to change.
Josh: Depends how you define keepers. There are no stars on this team, that's a given. There aren't any truly promising prospects that may be able to command a max contract in the future. But role players that deserve rotation minutes? Plenty. Obviously there's Gerald Henderson, who I believe is and will be a solid role player and fringe starter for most of his professional career. I feel the same about Augustin. He's not the guy you'd want to start for your playoff team, but he's a great shooter and won't shaft you with his usage rate. There's Tyrus Thomas. He may be something, he may be nothing. Hopefully he can stay healthy for an entire season and we can finally gauge his worth and ability. Then you have two 9th men: Dante Cunningham and D.J. White. Neither is great at any one thing, but they're solid in what they do. Both can offer 10 solid minutes a game for most teams.
5. Fact or Fiction: The Bobcats are now on the right track.
Ben: Fact. Things are looking like they'll focus on developing the young players this season, which would help show who to keep for the future and could possibly get them a good shot at a great draft pick coming up. After that, the bad contracts will start to fall and they could be right in it with, hopefully, a star from the 2011 draft and the decent supporting cast that they have now. The front office is the best it's ever been, they have a good coaching staff, and they've finally decided to look to the future. When Rich Cho had his press conference, he likened the Bobcats' current situation to that of the Seattle SuperSonics after trading Ray Allen. It's a very fitting comparison, though the Bobcats have a few bad contracts that Seattle didn't. The Bobcats just need to get lucky and find that superstar to lead them to a brighter tomorrow.
Connor: Fact. Right now, the Bobcats are in the early stages of building the "right track". They made a quality trade and drafted two lottery-picks. They hired a smart, young GM. They're a young team that will likely struggle next season, but those struggles will only likely lead to another high-lottery pick next season, in a draft stocked with terrific prospects. If the Bobcats can manage to make a decent choice with that selection and continue to sign players to reasonable contracts in free agency, the team's future will continue to look bright. It won't be easy for the Bobcats to achieve significant success as a small-market team, but it's entirely possible if they stay on their current path.
David: That's a FACT. The Bobcats know that the plan is now. I have actually been a fan of most of the significant trades Jordan has made since he started wheeling and dealing. I liked the trade for Raja Bell and Boris Diaw (for Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley). I liked the trade for Tyson Chandler. I loved the trade for Stephen Jackson (with Acie Law for Raja Bell and Vladimir Rodmanovich), and most basketball people outside of Charlotte ripped that at the time. I loved the Tyrus Thomas trade (for Flip Murray, Acie Law and a future protect first round pick) I liked the thinking behind the aforementioned trades that started the rebuilding movement. That's not all the trades Jordan has made...there are a lot more. But especially now, with Cho on board, they have a pattern to follow and someone who is familiar with it. Cho worked with Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder as they built one of the most exciting young cores in the league. Bobcats fans should be very excited for what the future holds, if we ever get to the future.
Josh: FACTION. It's really hard to give a concrete answer on this one. They've taken some great steps in the past year: firing Larry Brown, hiring Silas, trading Crash, hiring Cho and drafting Walker and Biyombo. All of these things signified a change of perception within the organization: this team cannot go the distance, and we need to start over. The roster is severely lacking, Silas may not be the long-term answer, and maybe neither of this year's draftees pan out. But given the circumstances, they've definitely positioned themselves for a brighter future.