They traded away a 32-year-old malcontent who could shoot, but do little else. There’s a reason he’s played for six teams in 11 years. They drafted an electrifying point guard who was the best player in college basketball for the last month of the season. They drafted a wildly athletic (but extremely raw) mystery man from the Congo who I think could be more Serge Ibaka than Ben Wallace.
What’s not to like about where the Bobcats are headed?
Financially, the Bobcats are in better shape, too. Yes, there’s still that silly Tyrus Thomas contract on the books (4 more years, $33 million), but after next season (assuming there is one), they’ll shed Boris Diaw ($9 mil), unless they’re able to package his expiring contract and something else (Diop? Amazing that he’s making $6.9 mil next season) and trade him away first.
That being said, forget about the 2011-2012 season. Charlotte will stink. Free agency-pending (I wouldn’t expect any moves unless they can get a shooter on the cheap), they’ll field this lineup (with age in parens):
PG – Augustin (23)/Kemba (21)
SG – Henderson (23)/Carroll (30)
SF – Maggette (31)
PF – Diaw (29)/Biyombo (18)
C – Thomas (24)/Diop (29)
This is probably a 20-25 win team, at best.
You think the OKC Thunder were built overnight? (Something nobody talks about: The Sonics won 20 games in Durant’s rookie year, then 23 year in year two – they started 3-29 – with Durant and Westbrook before turning it around in KD’s third year.)
The Bobcats have nothing resembling Kevin Durant (yet). Charlotte’s awful 2011-2012 season will net them a top five pick in a stacked 2012 draft. To add offensive punch, perhaps they’ll grab UNC’s Harrison Barnes, who really came on strong late in the season (here’s a 40-point outburst against Clemson).
It’s obviously way early, but I think Jeremy Lamb could be the 2nd best wing player in next year’s draft (he was Walker’s teammate at UConn who blew up in March), and not a bad fall-back option to Barnes.
Let’s look ahead to July 2012 – assuming they land Barnes in the draft – just for kicks:
PG – Kemba Walker
SG – ?
SF – Barnes
PF – Biyombo
C – Thomas
They’ll have some decisions to make next summer. Gerald Henderson (who finished last season strong, but still has no jumper) – pick up his option, or let him walk? Would it be wise to roll some of that Diaw money into a free agent shooting guard with experience? Will Walker’s rookie year be enough for them to not keep Augustin in the long-term plans? Would it make more sense to bring in a veteran point guard (Andre Miller?) to mentor Walker? The number I like best about this lineup: Four starters under the age of 25.
Rich Cho definitely seems to be on the path to building OKC-East.