by Dave Fuller
Current Record: 14-23, 4th (Southeast), 12th (East)
Predicted Record: 31-51, 4th (Southeast), 13th (East)
Predicted Playoff Outcome: NIP'd (Not In Playoffs)
NIP'd, you know, like nipped in the bud? Nevermind. Brandan Wright was dealt to the Golden State Warriors, Jason Richardson left Warriors fans booing (wrongly) at the move that brought him to Charlotte, and the Bobcats suddenly became an interesting team. Fans (not the diehard ones who really analyze every facet of a deal of this caliber) were ecstatic to see such a tough swingman enter the starting five and give the Bobcats what they needed: a strong outside shooter with the ability to switch gears and slash to the hoop. Not to mention a very solid rebounder at the 2. J-Rich came short of guaranteeing a playoff spot for the young but talented Bobcats, although he did state that he thought they could.
Perhaps Richardson should have. The last time he guaranteed a playoff berth was following Golden State's unsuccessful '05-'06 season (missing the playoffs for yet another season). The next season, the Warriors made it into the post-season as the No. 8 seed and knocked off the West's top seeded Dallas Mavericks.
The Bobcats were badly hurt by the loss of former Tarheel big man Sean May, but even he wouldn't have been able to cure this team's woes. What they realized after softie Primoz Brezec didn't pan out alongside Emeka Okafor is that they just have no perimeter defenders. Okafor is limited to the low post and its immediate vicinity, and neither player could effectively defend the outside game of most skilled offensive power forwards. What the trade for Nazr Mohammed did was exacerbate that deficiency by acquiring another relatively immobile big man while giving up athletic F Walter Herrmann.
Admittedly, the Bobcats did need another presence in the paint, but they were just not able to acquire the perimeter defender they needed. And now, they're stuck with Jeff McInnis as a starting G and Mohammed coming off the bench to spell Okafor or whoever else needs it. As we've seen thus far, however, those two do not combine well in the front-court when it comes to defense outside the paint. And, not a single player on the Bobcats can currently combine with Okafor to form a formidable defensive presence in the front-court that protects both the basket and the perimeter. I'd say these trades were likely if they were competing, but really, their focus should be on developing their youths and finding as many expiring contracts as humanly possible to clear cap space in the off-season.
Potential trades (in order of relative likelihood):
None? That's all I'm going to say? I must be taking the easy way out. However, looking at the top perimeter defenders in the league, there are really no trades that would possibly get done. Names such as Tayshaun Prince, Shawn Marion, Bruce Bowen, Raja Bell, Josh Smith, and Shane Battier come up when discussing the top players in that category. Prince, Bowen, Marion, and Smith are integral to their teams' success. Marion's contract is also way too big for the Bobcats to take on. The same goes for Battier's and Bell's contracts. The Bobcats are not in the playoff hunt and should be going forward with that mindset, so taking on the contract of any of these or similar players would just be unwise.
I will, however, propose a potential scenario that has arisen from an NBA rumor. The Bobcats have apparently offered a package to the Memphis Grizzlies for FC Pau Gasol, which just has me shaking my head. It's extremely unlikely that a deal involving Gasol would go down this season, but it's just mind-blowing that the Bobcats are looking to deal for yet another big man who can't defend the outside (let alone dominate the inside). Charlotte does not need to go into rebuilding mode, and really, with their current contracts, they can't afford to. So, a move involving Gasol to the Bobcats should be out of the question, and I expect Charlotte to stay with their current roster for the remainder of the season (unless a deal comes along to clear up cap space or acquire draft picks).
Good luck next season, MJ.